Did the split between Protestant and Catholic originate in a misunderstanding?

The two sides did disagree about the relationship between faith and works, they both agreed (1) that faith is absolutely necessary for salvation and (2) that we are absolutely commanded by God to do good works. Both these two points are unmistakably clear in Scripture. When Luther taught that we are saved by... show more The two sides did disagree about the relationship between faith and works, they both agreed (1) that faith is absolutely necessary for salvation and (2) that we are absolutely commanded by God to do good works. Both these two points are unmistakably clear in Scripture.

When Luther taught that we are saved by faith alone, he meant by salvation only the initial step, justification, being put right with God. But when Trent said we are saved by good works as well as faith, they meant by salvation the whole process by which God brings us to our eternal destiny and that process includes repentance, faith, hope, and charity, the works of love.

The word faith was also used in two different senses. Luther used it in the broad sense of the person’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. It included repentance, faith, hope, and charity.

But in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul uses it in a more specific sense, as just one of the three theological virtues, with hope and charity added to it. In this narrower sense faith alone is not sufficient for salvation, for hope and charity must be present also.

Faith is the root, the necessary beginning. Hope is the stem, the energy that makes the plant grow. Love is the fruit, the flower, the visible product, the bottom line. The plant of our new life in Christ is one; the life of God comes into us by faith, through us by hope, and out of us by the works of love. That is clearly the biblical view, and when Protestants and Catholics who know and believe the Bible discuss the issue sincerely, it is amazing how quickly and easily they come to understand and agree with each other on this, the fundamental divisive issue.

The split of the Protestant Reformation began when a Catholic discovered a Catholic doctrine in a Catholic book. It can end only when both Protestants and Catholics do the same thing today and understand what they are doing: discovering a Catholic doctrine in a Catholic book.


Martin Luther said, famously, "We are compelled to concede to the Papists that they have the Word of GOD, that we received it from them, and that without them, we should have no knowledge of it at all.
Update: Mawia: The origin of the Reformation is often said to be Luther’s act of nailing ninety-five theses against the sale of indulgences to the door of the church in Wittenberg. Luther’s decision to go public was occasioned by the scandal of Tetzel, a Dominican monk who shamelessly peddled forgiveness of sins for a... show more Mawia:
The origin of the Reformation is often said to be Luther’s act of nailing ninety-five theses against the sale of indulgences to the door of the church in Wittenberg. Luther’s decision to go public was occasioned by the scandal of Tetzel, a Dominican monk who shamelessly peddled forgiveness of sins for a fee.
But the scandal of selling indulgences was only the catalyst, not the cause, of the Reformation. The Church soon cleaned up its act and forbade the sale of indulgences at the Council of Trent, agreeing with Luther on this point. But one does not split the Church over a practice; one splits the Church over a doctrine, for the Church can change its practice but never its doctrine. To change a practice, one stays in the Church; to change a doctrine, one must start a new Church.
Update 2: The terms of the dispute are ambiguous or used in two different senses. When terms are ambiguous, the two sides may really disagree when they seem to agree because they agree only on the word, not the concept. Or the two sides may really agree when they seem to disagree because they agree on the concept but not the... show more The terms of the dispute are ambiguous or used in two different senses. When terms are ambiguous, the two sides may really disagree when they seem to agree because they agree only on the word, not the concept. Or the two sides may really agree when they seem to disagree because they agree on the concept but not the word. The latter holds true here.
When Luther taught that we are saved by faith alone, he meant by salvation only the initial step, justification, being put right with God. But when Trent said we are saved by good works as well as faith, they meant by salvation the whole process by which God brings us to our eternal destiny and that process includes repentance, faith, hope, and charity, the works of love.
The word faith was also used in two different senses. Luther used it in the broad sense of the person’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. It included repentance, faith, hope, and charity.
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