The Protestant Reformation: A critical assessment

The Reformation is a religious movement that began in 1517 as a reaction to medieval Catholic doctrines and practices, which broke up the institutional unity of the church in Western Europe and established the third great branch of Christianity, called Protestantism, which can be distinguished for its emphasis on the absolute and sufficient authority of the Bible and on justification by faith alone.

Many factors such as feudalism, social, political, economic as well as religious life of several countries paved the way for the conditions that resulted in the Reformation. Furthermore, nationalistic fervour, rise of lay piety, theological awareness and humanism also contributed to the development of the Reformation which led to the renewal of morals, worship, liturgy, spirituality as well as study of Christian doctrines.

Several fundamental doctrines can be found in the four Solas that are stated in the Augsburg Confession of 1530 that was edited by Philipp Melanchthon, a professor at the University of Wittenberg and close friend of Martin Luther sums up the theological thrust of the Reformation movement.

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The Scandal of partiality in the Epistle of James

Part 6: Occasion of writing

Audience: the twelve tribes in Dispersion

At first glance, it seems that James is writing to Jews. After all, to translate literally, James addresses his epistle “to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.” The twelve tribes traditionally represent Israel, and the dispersion signifies the Jews scattered throughout the pagan world. But there are reasons to think James is writing for Jewish Christians, not Jews in general. As “dispersion” can serve as a metaphor to indicate that believers are never fully at home in this world. So there is reason to believe that James, like other New Testament writers, envisions a wide audience[1].

The addressee, “the twelve tribes in dispersion,” seems to indicate metaphorically to Christians that are scattered throughout the world.  Since the phrase “twelve tribes” was continued to be used as a metaphor for the Israel as the people of God, long after twelve distinctly identifiable tribes were more of a memory and ideal than a visible reality.

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The Scandal of partiality in the Epistle of James

Part 5: Authorship

In the prescript of the letter the author merely identifies himself as James, “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This self-designation raises the question of James’ identity.[1]

Several schools of thought abound with regards to the identity of this James, because several people bearing the name abound in Scripture[2]. Traditionally authorship of this epistle has commonly been attributed by Church Fathers such Jerome, to James the brother of Jesus.[3]

This is the one whom the Apostle Paul designated as “the brother of the Lord” (Gal. 1:19), who also appears other places in the New Testament as the leader of the early church in Jerusalem. Internal evidence seems to support this view. The author’s knowledge of synoptic tradition is not surprising in one who was a close relative of Jesus and became his disciple.[4] Verse 1 of the epistle shows James stating his office as  “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” here James puts forward to whose authority he is speaking from but also implying that it is not of his own accord that he is writing to his audience, but of his Lord Jesus Christ,  while at the same time implicitly shows his Jewish roots by speaking of the “twelve tribes in the Dispersion” to which he is writing to and later on in the passage he would refer to as his brothers (Jas. 1:16).

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The Scandal of partiality in the Epistle of James

Part 2: James in the Christian Canon

With the many diverging perspectives with regards to the identity of the author of James has led it also to become subject to scrutiny with regards to its canonicity –that is its place as to whether or not it is to be considered rightly as Scripture.

In fact church history itself testifies to several disputes over the place of the epistle in canon Scripture, which is prominent in Martin Luther’s consignment of it as an ‘epistle of straw’ to which he wrote: “Therefore, St. James’ epistle is really and epistle of straw, compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it[1].”

Luther’s supposition of the epistles’ worth finds substance in his conclusion that: in comparison to books such as Romans and Galatians, the Gospel of John and 1st Peter. James bears “nothing of the nature of the gospel about it.” As according to Luther it does not bear witness to Christ or to such cherished Reformation themes of salvation that one appropriates by faith alone, in Christ’s accomplished work of redemption in contrast to that of the Pauline epistles of Romans and Galatians as well as to that of John’s Gospel and 1st Peter which Luther considers as documents that were to be prized as the “true kernel and marrow of all the books,” because they would “show you Christ” and “teach you all that is necessary and salvatory for you to know[2].”  As a consequence such an appraisal, Luther deemed James unfit to qualify as a book that is to be considered as Scripture, consequently marginalizing the epistle along with its message from the rest of Reformation movement that burgeoned later.

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Overcoming the poverty of memory | Studies in church history

Part 2: The blood of the martyrs

The 12 Apostles of Jesus “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”

– Tertullian

The church begins and ends with Christ; this is an important truth that we all must struggle with as we study the history of our faith. At the same time the church is an extension of the communal life of those who followed Christ, his disciples, and I believe in order for us to start the journey of knowing the origins of our faith it is important to get ourselves acquainted with the people who according to Sacred Scriptures paved the way for the spread of Christianity in the known world.
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Overcoming the poverty of memory | Studies in church history

Part 1: The need to remember

The church

“Surely one of the remarkable aspects of Christianity today is how few of these professed believers have ever seriously studied the history of their religion.”

– Bruce Shelley

A friend of mine, Red Constantino wrote a book entitled: The Poverty of Memory and one of the main theses of the book is that the reason why the Philippines is what it is today is because it is guilty, of one particular sin – the sin of forgetting.

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