One might imagine that to write an article with this title is presumptuous in the extreme. But I do not make this assertion based on the wicked acts of Martin Luther — his division of Christendom, his hatred of the Jews, his licensing of polygamy, his accusations of adultery against the Savior, his railing, his curses or his insults — but upon the simple principle of faith alone. For faith has the power to wipe out any sin by the precious blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but without faith we are lost.
It may surprise many readers to know that the Catholic Church teaches, as Dogma, justification by faith alone. She teaches this in the sense that she holds it to be impossible for anyone to be rendered acceptable in the sight of God unless and until they receive the supernatural virtue of living faith.
Furthermore, she teaches that nothing done before receiving this virtue can in any way merit justification in the sight of God nor can anything done apart from faith do so. What then is faith? Considered in itself faith is defined by the Catholic Church as “a genuine assent of the intellect to truth received by hearing from an external source by which assent, because of the authority of the supremely truthful God, we believe to be true that which has been revealed and attested to by a personal God, our Creator and Lord.” It is for this reason that Blessed John Henry Newman felt able to say, “Protestants, generally speaking, have not faith.”
A shocking statement, you might suppose, but it follows from the definition of faith just given. If the reason that we believe what God has revealed is that God can neither deceive nor be deceived, then knowingly to doubt or deny a single proposition thus revealed is implicitly to deny that God has spoken at all and so to divest oneself of the saving virtue of faith. So that we might know what God has revealed and assent to it upon the strength of God’s own veracity, it is necessary that the means by which His revelation is conducted to us be endowed with infallibility. The Church teaches that every statement consigned to writing by the human authors of scripture, in the sense they intended when they wrote these books, is inspired by God and free from all error.
Nevertheless, for us to believe the saving words of this holy text on God’s authority, we must also have a divinely guaranteed interpreter. Otherwise, the one who receives Holy Scripture will be believing nothing more than his own interpretation guided by his own speculations; he will not have faith and he will remain in his sins. Catholics therefore “accept Sacred Scripture according to that sense which Holy Mother Church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures” nor do they ever “receive and interpret them except according to the unanimous consent of the fathers.” To stand alone without this authority is to have faith in oneself alone.
Martin Luther stood upon two principles: justification by faith alone and the Bible alone as the principle of true doctrine. The second of these principles betrays the fact that what he meant by faith is not the faith the Church proclaims, not the life-giving message of Jesus Christ, but a figment of his own invention. No doubt this is why he felt able to remove books from scripture itself and to falsify his translation of St. Paul’s greatest epistle with no better excuse than “Dr. Martin Luther will have it so.”
While we pray for God’s mercy upon Luther, we must conclude, in the words of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, that whosoever “knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.”
Dr. Alan Fimister is assistant professor at Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary.
Views expressed in op-eds are not the views of The Daily Caller.