The vigor and freshness displayed by Roman Catholic theology in response to the changing theological climate, more particularly on the European continent, are specially interesting features of the modern period. How far the movement has gone, or is likely to go, it is premature to say. But at least we may be thankful for its serious attempt to break out of the impasse of static dogmatizing peculiar to the Roman system, and for evidence in several areas of new and challenging lines of thought.
One may note, for instance, the emergence of a new attitude to past formulations such as those of the Council of Trent. Superficially, it might appear that Trent has fettered constructive theology—for example, in relation to an issue so thoroughly and carefully debated as that of justification. More recently, however, it has been suggested that Trent dealt only with a particular facet of the doctrine, in view of Luther’s sharp insistence on justification by faith alone. Hence, while Trent allegedly makes the “necessary correction” in the circumstances of the time, it does not bind Roman theologians who no longer face this threat, nor does it forbid common ground with other Protestants who find a more substantial place for sanctification. In other words, Trent is the last word only in a particular situation, but not for theology set in the changed or changing situation of a different epoch.
Hand in hand with this development reference must also be made to the more sympathetic handling and criticism of non-Roman theological works, both past and present. The Reformers are no longer condemned point-blank as impious and wicked heretics, but their writings are weighed with care and attention even though they may not command final approval. ...1
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