Social Media and Purgatory

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:11 AM

I must confess I didn't see this coming:

The Vatican has taken another step in its efforts to embrace social media by offering “indulgences” to followers of Pope Francis' (@Pontifex) Twitter account. Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reports that the church will reduce the time Catholics have to spend in purgatory if they follow official Vatican events on TV, radio, and through social media.

Can't you just imagine @DrMLuther nailing an iPhone with the #95Thesis displayed onto the door of the Wittenberg cybercafe? Charles V would have had a much easier time if he could have just tracked trending hashtags.

Is the Reformation Over?

By Tim Butler | Posted at 8:01 PM

Mark asked me about Mark Noll's Is the Reformation Over? in my last post. I respect Noll quite a bit, so I figured I'd probably agree with him, but I am not familiar with that book, so I decided to look around a bit about it. I found a speech from last year in which Noll summarized the book.

I think Noll seems to be right that Evangelicals (in the broad sense that includes those of us who are Reformed) and Catholics have more in common than we have in differences. Primarily, he isolates the views of the Church (do believers come before the church or the church before believers) and tradition. I'd tend to agree. Most other differences (such as views of the nature of Holy Communion/the Eucharist, the authority of the papacy, and the importance of Mary) draw out of the realm of tradition. For instance, as the Orthodox Church did, pre-schism, I think many Protestants will gladly give the Pope a great deal of respect, but we won't elevate him to a position of the final authority of the Church. That is a view supported by Catholic Church dogma, not Scripture — at least in my view as a Protestant — and thus so long as I look with suspicion on tradition in and of itself, I obviously will not support that view of Pope (even though I really respect the pontiff).

These differences are significant, but not a barrier. As Noll says,
The “mere Christians” in all of these traditions believe very similar things about the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, the Trinity, the centrality of the work of Christ for human salvation, and the power of the Holy Spirit as the motive force for holy living in the world. But each tradition expresses these realities with characteristically different emphases:
Orthodoxy, the mystical mysterious of God
Catholicism, the power of God to build his City
Protestantism, the civil society shaped by individual choice
Pentecostalism, the direct empowerment of the Holy Spirit
I personally am attracted to the mystical character of Orthodoxy, the grandeur of the Catholic Church and the emphasis of the priesthood of the individual believer in Protestantism (I won't reject Pentecostalism, but have a harder time picking out anything I am particularly appreciative of in that case). That is to say, I do not look down on the other two great wings of the church for their distinctives; in fact, as a Protestant, I envy them for those things that we lack. I think this is key to the question of if the Reformation is over: I think it is. I think the lessons of the Reformation are still valid and that is we should always reform and be on the lookout for unscriptural dogmas, but that does not necessitate continued isolation between Protestants and Catholics. As Noll says,
We have gathered here today as people who not so very long ago looked upon each other as orcs and elfs, and were as repelled by orc-speech and elf-speech as it was possible to be. Today, it is more like ents and hobbits, not yet speaking the same language, but nonetheless getting quite a charge from hearing the other tongue and actually getting along quite well together. Might God do even more? Look around you. Listen. It is happening right before your eyes and ears.
Amen.