Of Royals, Reformers, and Romans (Or Remember, Remember the Fifth of November!)

Don't worry, this post isn't actually about the
finer points of the British constitution.
Nearly 500 years ago Luther, Bucer, Calvin, et al. wanted to reform the church. Nowadays Messrs Cameron, Harper, Key, et al. (not to forget Miss Gillard) want to reform the monarchy.

Last week the Commonwealth heads of government met (along with Her Majesty the Queen) in Australia, a realm with both a female monarch and a female Prime Minister. In fact, even the Governor-General of Australia (the Queen's representative in the realm) is a woman. So perhaps it was fitting that Australia be the place where the Commonwealth Realms agreed to introduce (and coordinate) legislation to change the royal succession so that daughters are treated in the same way as sons.

Yet, that wasn't the only change they agreed to the royal succession. The other change the Prime Ministers agreed was to remove the ban on a monarch married to a Roman Catholic.

A few years ago Autumn Kelly converted from Roman Catholicism to be received into the Anglican Communion. She had to convert before her wedding, as otherwise Peter Phillips would have had to renounce his right to the succession (despite being only 11th in line to the throne). In 1978 Prince Michael of Kent forfeited his right to the throne by marrying a Roman Catholic.

So what's the big deal about Royalty and Roman Catholics?

The last time a Roman Catholic sat upon the British throne (in those days 3 thrones, that of the Kingdom of England, that of the Kingdom of Scotland, and that of the Kingdom of Ireland), was during the reign of James II & VII, whose reign did not end well. It was in response to his reign that the Act of Settlement was introduced, which, among other things, barred Roman Catholics and those who married Roman Catholics from the throne.

But, I hear you say, the Jacobite Wars were a long time ago. What's it all got to do with the monarchy today?

Well, it all boils down to the Coronation Oath. When a British monarch is crowned he or she swears an oath, the last part of which is as follows:

Archbishop: Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel? Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them 
Queen: All this I promise to do.
Some of this is to do with the Queen being Supreme Governor of the Church of England, but not all. The Queen has sworn to maintain 'the true profession of the Gospel' and 'the Protestant Reformed Religion.' That's why the monarch can't be a Roman Catholic nor marry one.

Why not marry a Roman Catholic? Because the Catholic spouse in a mixed marriage must, by decree of the Roman Catholic Church (Ne Temere, 1908; Matrimonia Mixta, 1970), do everything in their power to have any children of the marriage baptized into and raised in Roman Catholicism. That would mean that a Catholic consort would by duty bound to raise any princes and princesses as good Catholics. Eventually one of those good Catholic princes would come the throne and have to promise to maintain 'the true profession of the Gospel' and 'the Protestant Reformed Religion'.

'But surely, after all these years', you protest, 'there's not all that much difference between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformed religion? Yes, we all know they have some odd ideas about Mary and their priests aren't allowed to get married, but surely that's not the be all and end all! Protestants and Catholics seem to have all sorts of causes in common. After all, it's the Roman Catholic Church that seems to be speaking out the loudest against the Scottish government's plans to bring in same-sex marriage, and evangelical Protestants would certainly be on the side of the Cardinal rather than the side of Mr Salmond.'

Well, yes, there are some things Catholics and Protestants agree on. But there are also many areas where we disagree, and not just about Mary and married ministers, but even more substantial things.

So let's 'remember, remember the fifth of November' by remembering the key difference between Roman Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism.

The big key difference between us is what we believe about salvation. How are we justified? It all comes down to two big words beginning with I. Infusion versus Imputation. The Roman Catholic Church teaches infusion, whilst we evangelical Protestants believe that the Bible teaches imputation.

So what on earth are infusion and imputation?

First Infusion. Think of your cup of tea, or, if you're too trendy for tea think of your cup of Rooibos or lemongrass and ginger infusion (you see, there's that word again),  You put your teabag in the cup and then, as soon as the kettle boils, you pour in the boiling water. (Note to American or Belgian readers: you can't make tea with hot water, it needs to be boiling water! Although, strictly speaking, that bit has nothing to do with Justification.) Now, as the teabag sits in the boiling water, gradually the water turns into tea. By the time you come to drink it, you've got rid of the teabag, because it's not the presence of the teabag in the cup that makes it tea - it's tea in it's own right now without the teabag because the water has been changed.

Now, no doubt by this stage you're wondering if I've gone mad. What's the method for making tea got to do with the RCC and Justification? Sure, everyone knows you can't even get a decent cup of tea in Rome!

But, tea making shows us what infusion is. Infusion is all about gradually turning one thing into another. It isn't tea when the tea bag and boiling water first meet. It's only tea after the water has been infused with tea from the bag. It gradually becomes tea as it's properties change. And that's what the RCC teaches about justification. In Catholic dogma, a person becomes righteous gradually as they are changed; you are righteous as you actually become righteous. (Oh, and what's the tea bag? How is the righteousness supposed to get into people? Through keeping God's commands, confession and penance, and the sacraments.)

This is not what evangelical Protestants believe. Instead of Infusion, we believe in Imputation. This one doesn't involve any tea (because if you made tea by imputation, well frankly,it wouldn't be a very good cup of tea!). This one is more like the Prime Minister (no, I don't mean Mr Cameron, but Prime Ministers in general).

When we get a new Prime Minister, he has never led the country before. He has never demonstrated his ability to get bills through the House of Commons. He's never shown his incredibly diplomacy in meetings with the German Chancellor and the French President. He's never proven his capacity to lead the nation through times of crisis. One minute he's got no power whatsoever, then suddenly he kisses hands and, voila, he's the Prime Minister. And then, as a result of the Queen's declaration, he can now lead the Commons and lead the country. In other words, becoming Prime Minister doesn't depend on already being able to do the job, but just on a declaration (of the country in the General Election and then of the Queen). First he is declared Prime Minister, then he (hopefully) grows into the role; he becomes what he is.

That's sort of like imputation. Imputation means that something is declared to be ours when we don't have it. In justification Christ's righteousness is imputed to us. We're not righteous: we're sinners. But God declares us righteous by crediting Christ's righteousness to our account. Then, after we've been justified, we grow in righteousness; we become what we are.

For Rome then, salvation depends on God recognising a righteousness in us (the righteousness which is gradually infused into us). But in the Protestant faith, salvation doesn't depend on anything in us: salvation depends wholly on Christ and what He has done. God imputes to us what we don't have, and then, after saving us, goes about transforming us so that we become like Jesus.

This means that in Catholic teaching, justification depends partly on us, on our cooperation, for the righteousness that is gradually infused is 'according to each one's proper disposition and co-operation' (Council of Trent, Session 6, Ch. 7). But for Protestants, justification depends only on Jesus' blood and righteousness; God justifies us when we are still sinners, because Christ died for our sins.

And, in Protestant theology, we are justified by faith alone. But the RCC believes that 'the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith, without which no man was ever justified' (Council of Trent, Session 6, Ch. 7).

So ultimately, the key difference between the Roman Catholic Church and evangelical Protestantism boils down to the question of how are we saved. Rome says that God saves us because, through Christ, He infuses righteousness into us and so helps us to become righteous. So, for Rome, we're saved because of something in us.

We Protestants on the other hand say that there is nothing in us that could lead to salvation. We're dead in trespasses and sins, but God acts for us. He does something outside of us to save us. So we're saved only because of what Jesus has done. Only because of His blood and righteousness which is imputed to us by faith alone.

P.S. This post was a friend's idea, but it might not be anything like he had in mind when he made the suggestion, so he can't be held responsible!