Was the Reformation a mistake? A Catholic and a Protestant debate

Source: Religion News Service

Matthew Levering, a Catholic perspective

In my book “Was the Reformation a Mistake?: Why Catholic Doctrine Is Not Unbiblical,” I aim to show that even if one disagrees with judgments made in the course of Catholic doctrinal development, the Catholic positions on nine disputed doctrines (Scripture, Mary, the Eucharist, the Seven Sacraments, monasticism, justification and merit, purgatory, saints and papacy) should not be rejected as unbiblical or as lacking in biblical grounding — at least given the Catholic view of biblically warranted modes of biblical reasoning.

Before proceeding, let me make some additional observations about whether the Reformation was a “mistake,” as my book’s title asks in light of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary.

I hold that the Reformers made mistakes, but that they chose to be reformers was not a mistake. There had to be a Reformation, and it is good that the Reformation shook up a status quo in Rome and elsewhere that was unacceptable and untenable. In this sense, the Protestant Reformation cannot be dismissed as a mere “mistake,” even if in my view it mistakenly deemed some Catholic doctrines to be unbiblical and church-dividing.

Protestants and Catholics agree that Scripture is God’s authoritative Word. The disputed question then is how God’s scriptural Word is handed on and interpreted. Having discovered to their dismay that (in their view) several of the Catholic Church’s doctrinal teachings were not in fact scripturally grounded, Luther and the other Reformers sought to renew the church on better doctrinal foundations.

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