Monday, October 30, 2017

The Reformation: God's Glory Alone

God's Glory Alone
   Since God is God, he does all things for his glory and receives all the glory. God is glorious in his being. God is all-glorious. God is glorious in his works. Therefore, God is worthy of all glory. There is nothing left over for any creature, nor can there be. Nothing is worthy of glory except God. This is why sin is so sinful. What is sin but taking the glory that belongs to God alone and giving it to self, others, creatures, or creation? Horrifically, the Catholic church has done this for ages and continues to practice this very thing. In Catholicism God does not get all of the glory.
   The Catholic church has elevated a mere man to the place of Christ on earth. The pope is viewed as the vicar of Christ, or Christ's priest. As such, the pope is the pastor of the entire Catholic church. He is seen as supreme and possesses universal power over the church. This explodes into such heretical doctrines as papal infallibility, the power of life and death, power to forgive sin, and the ability to lessen sentences of those in purgatory. It seems that he receives glory that belongs to God alone.
   Mary is revered in the Catholic church. She is given special devotion. What Protestants call worship, Catholics call reverence. Either way, no creature deserves a cult following or the veneration that is given in Catholicism. Mary is called the Mother of God, something that an ordinary, sinful woman should never be called. Not to mention, she did not mother God, but the human nature of Christ. She is also seen as a co-Mediatrix. That is, Mary is a mediator along side of Christ. Statues are made in her honor and bowed before. Prayers are offered to her. The Catholic church teaches that she was conceived immaculately, is without sin, and ascended into the heavens. Again, it seems apparent that God does not get all of the glory. Glory is given to Mary.
   The saints play a major role in Catholicism. Saints are those who are more closely united to Christ. They intercede with the Father for believers and proffer or give their merits that they earned while on earth. God does not get all of the glory. Christ is our intercessor, not the saints. All Christians are united to Christ. The Bible knows nothing of these super-spiritual Catholics who are closer to Christ, able to intercede with the Father for the living, and who are able to give their merit to men on earth. If this was not bad enough, Catholics pray to certain saints! Trinkets are made and worn as superstitious charms. It would appear that God does not receive all the glory. Men and women are adored, worshiped, invoked, revered, elevated, esteemed, and trusted more than God, Christ, and the Spirit.
   Does the Catholic church actually teach this? There own sources reveal that this is indeed what they teach. Let us look at the very sources of the Catholic church. The Council of Trent met at several points between 1545 and 1564. This happened during the height of the Reformation. Vatican II met between 1962 and 1965. Both of these produced sources that Roman Catholics hold as authoritative statements of their faith and practice. Then, in 1994, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (will be abbreviated as CCC) was published. These were chosen because they are both historical and contemporary. They represent the official teaching of the Catholic church five hundred years ago and today. I will offer no commentary on these passages; none is needed.

The calamitous of the times, and the malignity of the increasing heresies demand, that nothing be left undone which may seem in any wise capable of tending to the edification of the people, and to the defense of the Catholic faith. Wherefore the holy Synod enjoins on patriarchs, primates, archbishops, bishops, and all others, who, of right or custom, ought to be present at the provincial Council, that, in the very first provincial Synod that shall be held after the close of this Council, they publicly receive all and singular the things that have been defined and ordained by this holy Synod; as also that they promise and profess true obedience to the Sovereign Roman Pontiff; and at the same time publicly express their detestation of and anathematize all the heresies that have been condemned by the sacred canons and general councils, and especially by this same Synod. (Trent, Session XXV, pg. 233-234)

But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope's power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff. For our Lord placed Simon alone as the rock and the bearer of the keys of the Church, and made him shepherd of the whole flock; it is evident, however, that the power of binding and loosing, which was given to Peter, was granted also to the college of apostles, joined with their head. (Vatican II, pg. 30)
In this Church of Christ the Roman pontiff, as the successor of Peter, to whom Christ entrusted the feeding of His sheep and lambs, enjoys supreme, full, immediate, and universal authority over the care of souls by divine institution. Therefore, as pastor of all the faithful, he is sent to provide for the common good of the universal Church and for the good of the individual churches. Hence, he holds a primacy of ordinary power over all the churches. (Vatican II, pg. 283)

The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful. For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered. (CCC, 882)

The Lord made St. Peter the visible foundation of his Church. He entrusted the keys of the Church to him. the bishop of the Church of Rome, successor to St. Peter, is head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the universal Church on earth. The Pope enjoys, by divine institution, supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls. (CCC, 936-937)

This same holy Synod doth nevertheless declare, that it is not its intention to include in this decree, where original sin is treated of, the blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary, the mother of God; but that the constitutions of Pope Sixtus IV., of happy memory, are to be observed, under the pains contained in the said constitutions, which it renews. (Trent, Session V, pg. 23)

If any one saith, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, during his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial,except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard of the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema. (Trent, Session VI, pg. 45)

The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and Mother of the Redeemer. Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. At the same time, however, because she belongs to the offspring of Adam she is one with all those who are to be saved. She is the mother of the members of Christ... having cooperated by charity that faithful might be born in the Church, who are members of that Head. Wherefore she is hailed as a preeminent and singular member of the Church, and as its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity. The Catholic Church, taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and piety as a most beloved mother. (Vatican II, pg. 80-81)

It is no wonder therefore that the usage prevailed among the Fathers whereby they called the mother of God entirely holy and free from all stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature. Adorned from the first instant of her conception with the radiance of an entirely unique holiness, the Virgin of Nazareth is greeted, on God's command, by an angel messenger as full of grace... Rightly therefore the holy Fathers see her as used by God not merely in a passive way, but as freely cooperating in the work of human salvation through faith and obedience. (Vatican II, pg. 82-83)
Finally, the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all guilt of original sin, on the completion of her earthly sojourn, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe, that she might be the more fully confirmed to her Son, the Lord of lords and the conqueror of sin and death. (Vatican II, pg. 84)

Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into the happiness of their true home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix. This, however, is to be so understood that it neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator. (Vatican II, pg. 85-86)

But while in the most holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she is without spot or wrinkle, the followers of Christ still strive to increase in holiness by conquering sin. And so they turn their eyes to Mary who shines forth to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues. Piously meditating on her and contemplating her in the light of the Word made man, the Church with reverence enters more intimately into the great mystery of the Incarnation and becomes more and more like her Spouse. For Mary, who since her entry into salvation history unites in herself and re-echoes the greatest teachings of the faith as she is proclaimed and venerated, calls the faithful to her Son and His sacrifice and to the love of the Father. Seeking after the glory of Christ, the Church becomes more like her exalted Type, and continually progresses in faith, hope and charity, seeking and doing the will of God in all things. Hence the Church, in her apostolic work also, justly looks to her, who, conceived of the Holy Spirit, brought forth Christ, who was born of the Virgin that through the Church He may be born and may increase in the hearts of the faithful also. The Virgin in her own life lived an example of that maternal love, by which it behooves that all should be animated who cooperate in the apostolic mission of the Church for the regeneration of men. (Vatican II, pg. 87-88)

Placed by the grace of God, as God's Mother, next to her Son, and exalted above all angels and men, Mary intervened in the mysteries of Christ and is justly honored by a special cult in the Church... The various forms of piety toward the Mother of God, which the Church within the limits of sound and orthodox doctrine, according to the conditions of time and place, and the nature and ingenuity of the faithful has approved, bring it about that while the Mother is honored, the Son, through whom all things have their being and in whom it has pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, is rightly known, loved and glorified and that all His commands are observed... Let the faithful remember moreover that true devotion consists neither in sterile or transitory affection, nor in a certain vain credulity, but proceeds from true faith, by which we are led to know the excellence of the Mother of God, and we are moved to a filial love toward our mother and to the imitation of her virtues. (Vatican II, pg. 88-89)

But while in the most Blessed Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle, the faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness. and so they turn their eyes to Mary in her, the Church is already the "all-holy." (CCC, 829)
“All generations will call me blessed”: The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship. The Church rightly honors the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of 'Mother of God,' to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs... This very special devotion... differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration. The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an epitome of the whole Gospel, express this devotion to the Virgin Mary. (CCC, 971)

We believe that the Holy Mother of God, the new Eve, Mother of the Church, continues in heaven to exercise her maternal role on behalf of the members of Christ. (CCC, 975)

The holy Synod enjoins on all bishops, and others who sustain the office and charge of teaching, that, agreeably to the usage of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, received from the primitive times of the Christian religion, and agreeably to the consent of the holy Fathers, and to the decrees of sacred Councils, they especially instruct the faithful diligently concerning the intercession and invocation of saints; the honour (paid) to relics; and the legitimate use of images: teaching them, that the saints, who reign together with Christ, offer up their own prayers to God for men; that it is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them, and to have recourse to their prayers, aid, (and) help for obtaining benefits from God, through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is our alone Redeemer and Saviour... Moreover, that the images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints, are to be had and retained particularly in temples, and that due honour and veneration are to be given them; not that any divinity, or virtue, is believed to be in them, on account of which they are to be worshipped; or that anything is to be asked of them; or, that trust is to be reposed in images, as was of old done by the Gentiles who placed their hope in idols; but because the honour which is shown them is referred to the prototypes which those images represent; in such wise that by the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover the head, and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ; and we venerate the saints, whose similitude they bear. (Trent, Session XXV, pg. 215-216)

The intercession of the saints. Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness... They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.... So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped. Communion with the saints. It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself. Communion with the dead. In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and 'because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins' she offers her suffrages for them. Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective. (CCC, 956-958)

The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype, and whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it. The honor paid to sacred images is a "respectful veneration," not the adoration due to God alone. (CCC, 2132)

The veneration of sacred images is based on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. It is not contrary to the first commandment. (CCC, 2141)

   As can be seen from the sources of the Catholic church, they pay lip-service to giving God all the glory, but that is not the truth of the matter. Sadly, men, women, and even statues get revered and worshiped. But, thank God for the Reformation! God will get all of the glory. Religions, popes, institutions, statues, etc. will not rob God of his glory in the end!
   The reformers taught, because the scriptures taught, that God it all the glory. There is no glory reserved for man, the church, the dead, other erroneous sacrifices, sacraments, a man, a woman, or anything else under the sun. God does all things with his glory in view. This includes creation, salvation, the gospel going to the ends of the earth, the eternal destinies of mankind, the life of Christ's bride, the defeat of Satan, and the conquering of sin, evil, death, and the grave. Away with the teachings of demons. There is no room for the elevation of a man to Christ's vicar, or the invention of another sacrifice, or the making of Mary a redeemer along side of Christ, or the deifying of Mary, or the false doctrine of Mary being sinless and ascending, or salvation by works, or suffering in purgatory, or the treasury of the saints, or images, or pilgrimages, or penance, or prayers to the dead, or prayers for the dead, or the traditions of men, or other canonical books. All of these rob God of his deserved glory.
   Why do sinners think that the Lord Almighty is willing to sacrifice his glory to secure the personal, depraved, ungodly interests of their selfish whims? The glory of God is of infinite more importance than the interests of any creature. He is just in making his glory the supreme object of his focus and governing his creatures according to his will to promote it. And when his creatures disobey, pervert his truth, or sin against him and besmear his glory, he is just and righteous in punishing them. Let God be glorified and man abased.
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Ex. 20:3-6)

I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. (Is. 42:8)

I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. (Is. 43:6-7)

For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. (Is. 48:9-11)
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:33-36)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Eph. 1:3-14)

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities---all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Col. 1:13-17)

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, 'Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!' And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 'Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.' (Rev. 4:8-11)

   It is readily apparent from Scripture that God is jealous for his glory. He does all things for his glory. All of history is for God's glory. History is moving to the culminating moment when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father. Salvation is for God's glory. He takes rebels and makes them sons, beggars are transformed into princes, the spiritually dead are made alive, the dirty are cleansed, the guilty are forgiven, all so that his marvelous glory may be demonstrated. What is creation but God's theater where his glory is manifested and displayed for all to stand in wonder and awe at the beauty and majesty of a holy God?                                                                                                                                                Protestants, although imperfectly, strive to glorify God in all things. The glory of God is at the center of our worship, preaching, teaching, giving, loving, serving, going, sending, listening, working, and everything else we do. Because of this, if we are true to our roots, we will continue to reform the church. We must continue to reform the church. The precious bride of Christ for whom Christ died is in desperate need of constant reform. We are not perfect; we have not yet arrived. There is always an idol to be purged and a false doctrine to combat. The Reformation is not over. It cannot be over. False religion still abounds. False gospels are still being proclaimed. False converts are still being made. The Reformation is not over... not every knee has bowed to the Lord of Glory! Soli Deo gloria.