18.10.10

Synergism and Catholicism

"If we ask how it is possible that the 'tradition' of the sacrifice of the mass could arise, and gain such an authority that up to the Reformation practically no theologian and no Christian, except a few Waldensians, had any doubts about it, our answer can only be this: The whole idea is another expression of that synergism which entered the church so early, and which became the most characteristic feature of Catholicism, Eastern and Western. Just as the sola gratia and sola fide of the New Testament were abandoned in favour of the theory that in the process of salvation God and man, divine grace and human freedom must cooperate; just as Mary's fiat(Luke 1:38) was regarded as the necessary human answer to God's redeeming will, so the mass became a sacrifice in which Christ the High Priest and the human priest work together."

From This Is My Body, Luther's Contention for the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar (Augsburg Publishing House 1959; publication rights assigned to Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide 1975; qoutation taken from the Revised Australian Edition 1977, page 17.)

As I write this, Mary MacKillop, Australia's first Roman Catholic 'saint', is being canonised in Rome. It seems to me that if Sasse were writing today, he would be pointing to the continued practice of canonising saints as evidence for Rome's continued adherence to synergism. For Rome the saints, through their exhibition of "heroic virtue", have perfected grace and merited final justification, and thus gained immediate entry into heaven upon death.

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