07 June 2018

Convivium 2018 Part 2: Defining Catholic (2)

(For "Defining Catholic (1)" go here. For earlier Convivium 2018 posts go here ("It's Ecclesiology, Stupid") and here.)

Mark Olivero titled his paper The Catholicity of Reformed Confessions in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Olivero's thesis is simple: despite differences in national identity, language, culture, and ecclesial commitments in their various regions, the manifold Reformed confessions "display a vibrant catholicity." He considers confessional statements from Reformed churches across fourteen nations and at least five ecclesial traditions over the course of nearly two centuries. Despite this range of resources, Olivero identifies four aspects of common catholicity: a high regard for the early church councils, affirmance of the early creeds and the early church fathers, the principial authority of the Scriptures, and a love for the Church. I won't take the time to develop the support Olivero cites for each of the elements of early Reformed catholicity but suffice it to say that it is extensive.

One might concede that there are significant aspects of catholicity among the Reformed confessions but nonetheless assert that there many discordant, non-catholic elements as well. Anticipating this objection, Olivero observes that the "fact, across the 200 year span ... that there are so few oddities is further witness to their catholicity."

Olivero acknowledged that he could have pursued more aspects of catholicity in these documents (specifically the classical doctrines of God and the doctrine of grace) but what he did goes a substantial way toward establishing that the early confessions of the many Reformed churches were well within the historic catholic tradition.

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