Throwback Thursday: Is the Reformation Over?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on January 5, 2016 and has been revised.

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Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism
By Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom
Baker Academic, 2008, 272 pp.

The title of this book is strictly rhetorical. For “evangelical,” Mark Noll, the Reformation is not only over, but it’s doubtful, in his opinion, whether it had all that much value. Along with Chuck Colson, Noll was one of the prime architects of the ecumenical initiative – Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) – so he begins this book with the presupposition that, yes, the Reformation is over and that Catholicism is a Christian entity. He argues that, while evangelicals and Catholics still differ on “secondary” doctrinal issues (the papacy, Mary, purgatory, sacerdotalism, sacramentalism, etc.), they now mainly agree on justification, the prime catalyst of the Reformation, and that “salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.”

“If it is true, as once was repeated frequently by Protestants conscious of their anchorage in Martin Luther or John Calvin that iustificatio articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae (justification is the article on which the church stands or falls), then the Reformation is over” (p.232).

But Catholicism has NOT changed its views on justification since the Reformation. While Catholics will cautiously agree to salvation “by grace through faith,”* the vaguery of that term masks the unabashed works-righteousness precepts of their religion, as Noll knows full well and strategically alludes to only briefly in this book. As an integral part of their salvation system, Catholics must “cooperate with grace” and perfectly obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church laws in order to merit Heaven. Catholics object to accusations that theirs is a works-righteousness gospel, claiming that it’s only by the grace administered through their sacraments that they can possibly obey the commandments and church rules so that they can ultimately present themselves without the stain of a single “mortal” sin on their soul at the time of their death in order to merit Heaven. But the Bible says no one can become righteous by obeying the Law. It’s absolutely impossible. The Law only shows us we are sinners in need of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” – Galatians 2:19-21

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” – Romans 3:20

One day when I stand before a Holy God, I will not have a single plea other than the imputed perfect righteousness of my Savior.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Ecumenical compromisor, Mark Noll

Noll and fellow “evangelical” ecumenists have swept aside the Reformation and judge evangelicalism’s Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone and the post-Vatican II Catholic church’s gospel of sacramental grace AND merit to be “something close to the same thing” (p.232).  He dismisses evangelicals who continue to object to Catholicism’s works-righteousness soteriology as sectarians stuck in the 19th-century.

My soul weeps for “evangelical” ecumenical Judases like Mark Noll who betray the Gospel of grace and bid others to follow. Noll currently teaches at Notre Dame Catholic University** where I’m sure he fits in quite well. I suggest he stop the pretense and join the pseudo-church he clearly loves.

*When Catholics refer to “faith” and “grace” they’re generally referring to faith in their institutional church and sacramental grace.

**Noll left NDU in 2016 after teaching there for ten years.

54 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Is the Reformation Over?

  1. “… that’s only part of their salvation equation.” And that’s the problem. Excellent post, Tom, and just proof that it’s not about what a person says, or writes, but what he or she TRULY believes. Noll’s belief is as millions of others: “Salvation by grace alone! Oh, and …”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, David! Noll and other “evangelical” ecumenists are impossible to figure out. On the one hand they profess salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. On the other hand they embrace the RCC as Christian entity when it unapologetically teaches works-righteousness and merited salvation. It’s intellectual incongruity, a leap over the facts as they are clearly presented.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I have been thinking about this for hours. The more one is removed from the Five Solas, the more one is opening themselves to align with mistruths, making exceptions where lines need to be drawn. I cannot reconcile this conundrum. I had many Professors who received their PhDs at places like Penn, Catholic University of America and Sheffield Univeristy. At NO point did any of my Professors adhere to the theology, philosophies etc of said school but went to learn from the best in their respective fields. On lecture breaks, many of my professor spoke about what it was like to be a Bible believer in their program and how while it was challenging God really used that time to grow and stretch their character and faith. God is never please with adherents of religious syncretism.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts and experiences, Mandy. As an ex-Catholic who was saved by Jesus Christ according to the genuine Gospel, it totally boggles my mind that some evangelical pastors, theologians, and para-church leaders assert that the RCC teaches the same Gospel. It can’t be explained intellectually. The RCC unapologetically admits that it teaches salvation via sacramental grace and merit. There’s a spiritual block, a spiritual blindness at work. Evangelicals theologians, pastors, and seminarians are under tremendous pressure to acquiesce to the ecumenical steam roller. To object and not go along with the program is to invite being called a “fundamentalist” and marginalized.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If I am completely honest (it’s moments like these where I do not like online discussions) what grieves me is how sick Christ’s Body really is. The infighting between Evangelical Calvinists and Arminians grieves my heart. The fact that Evangelicals on both sides show more grace and charity to the RCC and show no grace or charity for secondary differences is just beyond what I can comprehend/process. Maybe I really am misunderstanding things or overthinking things. I am going to start The Gospel According to Rome this weekend.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You make a good observation regarding the heated debates within evangelicalism re: Calvinism vs. Arminianism while apostate Roman Catholicism is largely given a pass.
        Corinne and I just had a discussion about Calvinism vs. Arminianism last night. We’re somewhere in the middle and expect to remain there this side of Heaven.
        I am excited that you will be reading TGATR! Such an excellent book. I’m looking forward to your reactions.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s encouraging that you and Corinne have these discussions!! Before I met Nathan his Pastor who was mentoring him told him to research Calvinism vs Arminianism. The Pastor proceeded to ask him which side of the debate he fell and why. From what I gather he never answered his Pastor.

        Do you have a contact page on your blog?! I only ask because I don’t want my responses to the book to clutter or be irrelevant to whatever blog you’ve written.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. The debate over free will vs. election boggles my mind. I have books from Arminians and Calvinists which all include plenty of Scriptural proof texts to defend their particular position. Scripture incongruently (from our vantage point) supports both free will and election. To totally accept one of the viewpoints is to deny the clear Scriptural support for the other. It’s a mystery known only to God.
        I have an “official” email for this blog that I normally don’t check. The addy is excatholic4christ@yahoo.com. Just let me know via a comment when when you send something there and I will reply back with my regular email. Looking forward to your thoughts on McCarthy’s book!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Hi Mandy! Yup, I’m certain I lean more towards Calvinism than Arminianism, e.g., I don’t believe a genuine believer can lose salvation. But I can’t reconcile the election and free-will texts so I don’t try. Where are you on the A-C scale?
        RE: email
        Sure thing! But just remember that I never check that addy so you’ll have to let me know via comment when you write me initially.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I would be considered a 4.5er, my view of the atonement is under construction at the moment. Christ died for the world but has not redeemed all or it is not effectual to/for all. So for me, I use to find the idea of election repugnant and that God doesn’t send people to hell, people reject God and send themselves to hell. My personal view on that has completely changed due to all my studies and research in Seminary (I did A LOT of studying and research on Jesus’s Farewell Discourse in John 14-17 and on Ephesians 1) and have changed my position to election over free will. I also had to ask myself, “if people have free will to accept or reject Christ, why do we pray for God to save xyz, would that not override their free will?” Even if I/we prayed for unbelievers will to be changed, it is still God doing it. Now, for what it’s worth this is how I “reconcile” this issue (I also use the word reconcile!!!) NO ONE roams around with a big “E” over their head! I have absolutely NO clue nor does any human being on earth know who is the elect/chosen/called/free will responder to the Good News so I just share Jesus and live for Jesus in a way that is honoring and pleasing to Him! For those who hold to the view of election the fact that we don’t know the elect should motivate us to share Christ with the same passion and enthusiasm as that who hold to free will! I hope you don’t regret asking me!
        I will let you know when I email you!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Thanks for sharing your A-C views! I started out as a new Christian at an independent fundamental Baptist church that leaned heavily to free will, but also taught eternal security of the believer. I remember the pastor mocking Calvinism’s “tulip” from the pulpit. The last two churches we attended were Reformed Baptist according to their statements of belief, but the pastors didn’t bring up election in sermons. The IFB church relied heavily upon guilt as a motivator (which precipitated my 23-year prodigal “season”) so I really appreciated the RB churches’ emphasis on God’s grace rather than on my sinful ineptness and guilt. All that said, I’m content to be in the middle of the A-C debate. Oops. One more thing. A concern I have about Wesleyan Arminianism (and it’s progeny) is it seems to me to have opened the door to emotion and experientialism trumping Scripture and doctrine.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. So, I grew up in the Methodist Church. Now with that said from the time that I was born until I was a sophomore (1998, I’m almost 39) and then my mom switched to another UMC from 1998-2010. I have to say both UMCs that we attended were VERY conservative, highly exegetical with no talks of Calvinism vs Arminianism. In 2010 my mom and I left our church because of some behind the scenes stuff and started attending a nondenominational mega church. My mom and I at this point had grave concerns over the state of the Methodist church as a whole. We still have friends at our former Methodist church, they will remain conservative even if that means getting booted out of the church building next year. I had no idea what it meant to be UMC nor Arminian or Calvinist so my first Christian Theology class was VERY eye opening and stretching for me!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Thanks for the background insights. I saw in news reports how the UMC is planning on splitting over same-sex marriages.
        In 2014, towards the end of my 23-year prodigal “season” I began reading books about spiritual topics and then a couple invited us to a service at their Free Methodist Church, a conservative offshoot of the UMC if you haven’t heard of it. I’m grateful because I turned back to the Lord at that service, but we couldn’t stay there because it was still too liberal and liturgical/sacramental for me.
        Yeah, I had a lot to learn when I came out of Catholicism and was saved. The guys who witnessed to me at work were from a very hardcore KJV-Only IFB church and I didn’t want to get involved with that so I searched the yellow pages and found a more “moderate” IFB church, which was still very conservative.

        Liked by 1 person

      10. The state of the UMC is an absolute mess. African Methodists are the only reason why they didn’t split sooner. I have not heard of the Free Methodist Church; however, I am glad that was the catalyst the Lord used for you to return to Him!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Re: being called a “fundamentalist”

        John 15:18‭-‬19 ESV
        “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

        Liked by 1 person

      12. That’s right, SB. The decision on whether or not to accept Roman Catholicism as a Christian entity boils down to either submitting to God’s Word or kowtowing to the ecumenical steamroller.

        Like

    1. Thanks! My internet is running like a well-oiled machine! I had to scramble today to get caught-up on WordPress! What’s the fire situation near you? This morning’s news was focusing on the fires near San Fran.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t even know how they came up with October 15th. But this year it’s taking the authorities a long time to put out all the fires. Guess it’s that many and also I suspect government budget cuts with firefighting…sigh

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I took a virtual Google Earth “trip” from LA to San Fran along the coast the other night and I was amazed by the mostly-uninhabited, tree-covered, mountainous terrain. I had no idea.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah California seems to have quite a diverse ecosystem and I feel a hundred miles drive within our home range from desert, the beach and big tree forrests and rolling valleys agricultural land and of course urban areas.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. RE: Marked Null and Void

      Very appropriate! I remember being sooooo disappointed, actually “staggered” would be more accurate, while reading this book, like a Continental soldier reading about General Benedict Arnold’s betrayal, although even worse because the Gospel and Catholic souls are at stake.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I watched about ten minutes of the Chiefs-Texans game on Thursday night and there were a good number of fans were in the stands. I googled it and they allowed 20K fans into the Chiefs’ 80K capacity stadium. I wouldn’t want to gather with a large crowd of people like that, many of whom would be yelling and screaming. Entering and exiting would still involve a lot of tight jostling in line.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. The People in the house next door to where I am moving to are Catholics I can tell because if the huge statue of Mary in the front yard
        May God allow me to share the gospel with them one day 🙏
        Blessings for your weekend Tom

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We have a few homes in our town with Mary shrines in the front yard. I pray you are able to share the Gospel with your new neighbors!
        Thanks, Crissy, and enjoy your weekend, too! Although I imagine you’re very busy.

        Liked by 1 person

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