For many Protestants the doctrine of the Council of Trent that was, and still is, the central point of the Reformation, is the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
This Trent question, it seems to me, comes down to this – did the Council of Trent reject a caricature of the Reformation view of sola fide and sola gratis or did it totally and completely reject the full blown doctrinal emphasis entirely? Or, have opponents misrepresented Rome’s position all along because they never denied the Reformation gospel in the first place?
The late Dutch Reformed theologian G. C. Berkouwer wrote in 1958:
People generally had the feeling that here was a decision of extremely far-reaching importance and that the entire controversy concentrated on this focal point. Does sola fide not imply a clearly drawn boundary which must be acknowledged by both sides? Does sola fie not function critically, just as do “only through Christ” and “only through the Holy Scriptures”? (G. C. Berkouwer, Recent Developments in Roman Catholic Thought, Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1958, 58).
It should be acknowledged that for centuries Rome understood the Reformers to teach the doctrine of salvation in a way that was one-sided and dangerous. But now we have Catholics confessing that this reaction to the Protestant Reformation was a misunderstanding. We have The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church (1999) to prove just how far we have come when we seriously work at this contentious issue together. This 1999 document makes it quite clear that the respective churches believe that this doctrine was the “crux of all disputes.” It acknowledged, further, that both sides put forward “condemnations
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