Roman Catholic Response to the Reformation (Council of Trent)

The Response of the Roman Catholic Church to the Protestants on Justification (The Council of Trent on Justification)


Protestant and evangelical churches have ideas on justification that greatly differ from those of their Roman Catholic and Orthodox counterparts. Being that the Protestants broke from Roman Catholicism it is necessary to look at the early response of the Roman Catholic Church to get a better understanding of the great difference of understanding on this topic. This article is set out to show the early response of the Roman Catholic Church to the Protestant’s asserted beliefs on justification.

Faith Alone

One of the biggest pillars of the Protestant understanding of justification is the teaching of faith alone. The idea that Christians are justified by faith is not a new teaching, nor is the understanding that Christians are justified by faith alone (Canon 9). The details and conclusions of how one is justified by faith alone as asserted by the Protestants is one that is indeed incompatible with the prior understandings of the faith, which is not confidence alone (Canon 12). Also the idea that one must adhere to faith alone in faith alone or be absolutely sure he is justified in order to be justified is also condemned (Canons 13 and 14).

Selected Canons

Canon ix. If any one shall say, that by faith alone the impious is justified; so as to mean that nothing else is required to co-operate in order unto the obtaining the grace of justification, and that it is not in any respect necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

Canon xii. If any one shall say, that justifying faith is nought else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or that it is this confidence alone by which we are justified; let him be anathema.

Canon xiii. If any one shall say, that it is necessary unto every one, for the obtaining the remission of sins, that he believe for certain, and without any hesitation arising from his own infirmity and indisposition, that his sins are remitted unto him; let him be anathema.

Canon xiv. If any one shall say, that man is absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself to be absolved and justified; or that no one is truly justified save he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are perfected; let him be anathema.


Canons 15 and 17 due away with the introduction of reformed predestination. That is the ideas that God predestined evil and good for those whom He chose to receive grace and not to receive respectively and that those who have faith are to be confirmed that they are of this type of predestinate.

Selected Canons

Canon xv. If any one shall say, that a man, who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinated; let him be anathema.

Canon xvii. If any one shall say, that the grace of justification only befalleth those who are predestined unto life; but that all others who are called, are called indeed, but receive not grace, as being, by the divine power, predestined unto evil; let him be anathema.

Free will and Total Depravity

Canons 4, 5, and 6 condemn the idea that free will is entirely done away with from Adam’s fall and that man’s free will does not co-operates with God to receive justification.

Selected Canons

Canon iv. If any one shall say, that the free will of man moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates to the end that it should dispose and prepare itself for obtaining the grace of justification; and that it cannot refuse consent, if it would, but that, like something inanimate, it does nothing whatever, and is merely in a passive state; let him be anathema.

Canon v. If any one shall say, that, since Adam’s sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing with a name only, yea, a title without a reality, a figment, in fine, brought into the Church by Satan; let him be anathema.

Canon vi. If any one shall say, that it is not in the power of man to make his ways evil, but that God worketh the works that are evil as well as those that are good, not by permission only, but properly, and of Himself in such wise that the treason of Judas be no less His own proper work than the calling of Paul; let him be anathema.

Perseverance of the Saints

The idea introduced to the church that everyone who receives the grace of justification will indeed persevere unto the end and not fall away from the faith is condemned by canons 23 and 26. Canon 24 does away with the idea that good works are a “fruit” of faith only. It is said to build up the faith he has and is necessary.

Selected Canons

Canon xxiii. If any one shall say, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, throughout his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial, except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds respecting the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema.

Canon xxiv. If any one shall say, that the justice received is not preserved, and also increased in the sight of God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of justification received, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema.

Canon xxvi. If any one shall say, that the just ought not, for their good works which have been done in God, to expect and hope for an eternal recompense from God, through His mercy and the merit of Jesus Christ, if they persevere unto the end in well doing and in keeping the divine commandments; let him be anathema.


No matter what sect of Christianity one finds himself to be in I believe this information is helpful for the understanding of early Protestant and Catholic relations on the theology of justification. There are other canons on the topic of justification and one can read, as I have, the Council of Trent’s canons here.

What the Church Should Seek

What the Church Should Seek


The zeal and desire of the church to be faithful to Jesus through the teachings and traditions of the Apostles are traits that have sprung many divisions and sects in the church. The desire and zeal are both worthy. With the desire to be faithful to Jesus we have many ways presented within reality to peruse this. The writings we have from the Apostles present some of reality’s clearest written record of God’s desire. The tradition of the Church holds many answers and many questions in regard to God’s will in practice. It is the clearest visionary representation of the practices of our Lord. The Spirit of God which is within the Church presents the clearest form of revelation. Other points of reality are presented to us that reflect God’s will such as the creation and its ordered laws. The trouble we have with all of these realities is when we begin to translate them into practice. Our perception and the various variables about these realities that need to be assessed and processed by the human mind can cause us trouble. Man’s mind is not complete and there is no system of perfection that can aid it in perfection of understanding and knowledge. The image of God can then find itself only attempting to accurately perceive the reality around him. Perfection is unattainable, but the reality may be understood better and better as we move along in our study. The implications of our inability to fully understand humbles us to rely on the principles of faithfulness in honesty. The church then in its pursuit of faithfulness should seek to understand the reality which comes from God humbly in the lens of church tradition, Scripture, and revelation of the Holy Spirit and prayer. The creation is something to consider in aiding our understanding, but the Church focusing on the teachings of Christ has a lower need to try and understand the difficult and unknowable tenets of God’s creation.  

Holy Spirit and Prayer: Our Individual Relationship with God

The Spirit of God is God. That which He reveals through dreams, visions, and all types of communication is absolute communication from God. In attempting to understand God’s desire and will there is simply nothing better for the Church than for God to speak through and to them. This is the most obvious and should be the greatest desire of the Church. The obvious problem of this is that no man can manipulate that the Spirit, cause Him to speak when they will, and squeeze the divine mysteries from Him. Therefore, the church is subject to His desire and timing to reveal to the Church what He wills to reveal. Here are some other obvious variables that need to be taken into account in regard to this reality. 

Obvious variables

Untrue claims  

An extremely messy truth for an organization desiring both truth and acceptance of one another.  

Lack of Miraculous for long periods of time

When God doesn’t speak in the Church then there is no settlement for the Church on that which they are seeking. 

Questionable Practice

Tradition and Scripture contain no decisive way on “how to” the Holy Spirit. 


When you want to learn something about someone you look to their students, to their friends, and to their family. The Apostles are largely responsible for the churches existence and they themselves were the friends of our Lord. Looking at the faithful who came from the Apostles is a good way to understand what the Lord willed and taught while on the planet. This principle is true and reality, but what are the obvious variables that exist and need to be understood to have a better view of this reality?  

Obvious variables

Human fallibility and the passing of time

We all make mistakes and it if it’s possible for the church to have made mistakes then there is a good chance it has.  

Matters never clarified

What happens when the Apostles didn’t cover something in the detail that people wanted to know more about? What if approved men actually don’t know the answer to something. Will they attempt to answer it and will that answer then get taken as Apostolic understanding?  


Good things are good, but not everything is from the Lord and Apostles. Have there been times when certain practices have been inducted into the church and taught as pure tradition from the Apostles?  


Scripture records of men who did interact with God. The prophetical books start out with the statement that the word came from the LORD to so and so. Moses at various points spoke with God in receiving the law, delivering the plagues, and at the meeting of the burning bush. Many men are recorded in Genesis to have a profound relationship with God. The New Testament records those who lived and ate with God incarnate. So, the authors of Scripture have recorded for us very significant events based on very significant relationships. 

Obvious Variables

Determining Original intent

If I read the Scriptures in my own context, I may just have no idea what the author originally meant to convey. Understanding things like words, culture, and other common surroundings can help us better determine what the original intent of the authors were. Without attempting to do this, this reality becomes a major stumbling black for understanding.  


The fact that Judaism and Christianity both have had different traditions of what kind of texts to use makes this variable another presented obstacle in seeking perfection.  


While generally the discrepancies of Biblical manuscripts are small and harmoniums in teaching, for scrutiny’s sake we have to understand the variable of transmission as something we have to acknowledge and work with.  


Solomon is claimed to be one of the wisest men to have ever lived outside of Jesus of Nazareth. Being somewhat a theistic nihilist Solomon affirms in his writings that everything is worthless, yet to fear God and to keep His commandments are both wisdom and understanding. Solomon’s viewpoint may be at odds with many Christian theologians of all ages, but he does highlight the main duty, or theme of man’s life. That is to be faithful to God. (Eccl. 12:13, Prov. 9:10) In our attempt to be faithful to the One who is worthy we need to sort out the “worthless” things in an attempt to be faithful in all honesty. Much study may just be worthless in the grand scheme of things, but it may just be honest at the same time. Each individual of the Church and collectively as a whole needs to seek faithfulness to God in whatever capacity they are able to. Through study of the Scriptures, tradition, and through the church’s relationship with God and His Spirit the church will continue on to perfection in honesty. The variables that need to be understood within these realities may pose a challenge, but it is not as though these variables are impossible challenges, just challenges that need to be taken on. 

The Church Around You

The Church Around You

One big thing that Christianity is known for is having lots of different denominations and sects. Let’s face it after 2000 years since its inception there seems to be as many different denominations of the church as there are different types of flowers. The main cause for this massive speciation of churches is the loyalty that each group has to its specific understandings of the teachings, practices, and traditions of Christianity. In this article I would like to briefly speak about the big four churches and some of their distinctives to help the reader who may be uniformed about their brothers and sisters across the globe.  

The Church of Rome: The Roman Catholic Church

Coming in at an estimated 1.28 billion adherents worldwide Roman Catholicism crushes the people count on the list of the big four churches. As with the all of the three high churches of the big four, Roman Catholicism traces its priestly line and origins to the Apostles of Christ. Formally declaring its own distinction and preeminence in 1054 as a result of the Great East-West Schism, Roman Catholicism declares its preeminence through its holding to the pure tradition of the church and through Papal primacy. Claiming that the pope is continually the spiritual successor to Peter as leader of the Apostles makes Catholicism distinct in its leadership practice. The Pope has the authority to declare the official position of the church on a given issue. They believe that a grace gift is imparted unto the Pope and that by it he can better understand the correct interpretation of the Scriptures and Tradition.  

Eastern Orthodox Church: The Greek Church

The Eastern Orthodox Church comes in at number two on the list of people count amongst the three high churches in this big four list. Eastern Orthodox claims an approximate 270 million adherents worldwide. Rejecting both the leadership model of Papal primacy and the editing of the Nicene Creed known as the Filioque the Orthodox officially became its own distinct Church in 1054 at the Great East-West Schism. To the Orthodox a pure line of un-interrupted tradition is a must for valid Christianity, which they believe they have preserved quite well. Their organizational leadership moto is “first among equals.” The man who is the first is called the Patriarch of Constantinople. The church is made up of fourteen autocephalous (self-headed) churches within the communion. Their interpretation model for Christianity is threefold and includes Scripture, Tradition, and the Holy Spirit. The writers and writings of the early church are highly valued and many saints from the past are venerated to this day. While they are worldwide the Eastern Orthodox Church is largely found in Eurasia and Europe.  

The Oriental Orthodox Church: The Non-Chalcedons

The last of the big three churches in this list is the Oriental Orthodox Church. While there is a good chance you have never heard of this communion it still doesn’t take away from the fact that it has an approximate 80 million adherents. Leaving the greater Catholic Church in 451 because of the decision of the Council of Chalcedon this church is best known for its view Miaphysite view of person of Christ. They also are a communion of autocephalous churches. They are mainly found in North East Africa, but largely in Ethiopia.  

Protestantism: The Church Outside of The Church

Coming in at second in count on the big four list of churches is the Protestant Church. The word protestant finds its origins in “protest”. Protest is the main idea of this form’s founding. The protestant reformation is largely attributed to the theological work of Martin Luther and John Calvin. Protestantism covers a majority of anything and everything outside of the other three churches mentioned and there is no formal set of beliefs. Breaking off from the Roman Catholic Church, protestant theology usually retains more of a western flavor of theology as opposed to a more eastern. The conglomerate movement of Protestantism holds approximately 920 million worldwide. A majority of Protestantism holds to a type of faith alone soteriology and a lower view of the church. However, there are many that hold opposite positions on these two subjects and they are still very much protestant. Protestantism covers everything from Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal, to almost anything you can think of outside of the big three high churches.  


If you are reading this then there is a good chance that you fall in line with Protestantism. If you haven’t considered looking into and becoming more knowledgeable about these other branches of Christianity, I hope that this article will give you a new found interest in studying the church around you and its history.  I think it is pretty important to not only know about one specific Church, but to know about Church history and the brothers and sisters around us. 

The Church

The Church


There are many synonymous ways that the Church could be defined. They are a people who follow the Christian religion, they are people who obey God, they are people who worship Jesus. All such ways of speaking are accurate in simply defining the church. This work tries to layout for the reader a basic understanding of the church with some commentary on its properties. The church is a living collection of people with a semi-formal structure in its origins. It is somewhat difficult to comprehensively discuss an organization that is not only 2000 years old, but is still living and moving on in life. It’s semi-formal structure from the beginning also makes it difficult to accurately define the original intent of its founders. This work takes an approach to understanding the church that includes the taking into account of Holy Scripture, Christian tradition throughout the ages, and observation of the present church globally. Admittedly the Scriptures will be the primary tool for the set-out understandings. The author recognizes that the Scriptures are insufficient of themselves to fully express Apostolic understanding or teaching on this subject. Most of what said about the church is in mentioning in the Scriptures and no full doctrinal instruction for how to set up the church exists. I hope this introduction will better help the reader understand the perspective of the author as they read.  


What is it?  

A Brief Understanding of the Church 

The Church is the collective people of God in the last days. They have been instituted by God through command of His chosen King Jesus to be His loyal followers, obey and teach His commands, announce His appointment as King, and to await His return. They were instituted after the selection of the Twelve Apostles who acted as His representatives. The Apostles were gifted with the Holy Spirit to perform His will through various miraculous abilities. They taught others and appointed approved men as elders to teach others as well.  The Church meets together awaiting Christ while doing different practices as worship. They learn, praise, thank, take the communion meal, and use their new abilities to help one another according to the Spirit’s gifting. 

A people in time 

The church is the people of God after Christ’s ascension. The original followers were those who followed the commands and teachings of Jesus and passed down this understanding to those coming after them. The form of the early church is mostly the same as it is today, but admittedly there are some differences since the death of its leaders. Small changes with some big implications.  The author wishes the reader to understand that at its core all “the church” really is, is a people who are faithful to God. The group of people who follow God after Jesus came have been called “the church”.  “Church” is the English translation of the Greek word “Ekklesia” which simply means “the summoned”. So God’s church is simply those summoned by God or put more dynamically as God’s faithful people. Below is a fundamental understanding of “the church” which understands it as a generally obedient people (Character) with a specific name (Church). Each individual of the church is a person who shares a like character, practice, and title. 


“General people of God” 

The righteous throughout the ages applying the desires and commands of God to heart in both lifestyle and word can simply be called the “general people of God.” The form of which those (God’s) commands take in their specifics are known to those whom know (the specific commands) and the general commands to all people.  

“The special group”  

When the general people of God apply the specific commands then this person becomes a specific type of person. However fundamentally this just makes this person an obedient follower of God with a new name. Upon applying these commands, the people become a part of the “specific group” of the time such as in past times “Israel” or in more recent times “the church”. Generally, these are just buzzwords to classify the people of God with their specific properties.  

This work is focused on the people of God who are specifically known as the church. 

Here are the properties of those people 

Basic Rundown


  1. Apostles  

  2. Elders/approved men 

  3. Common Church 


  1. Communion  

  2. Baptize 

  3. Announce Jesus 

  4. “All things” 


  1. Meet together on the first day of the week 

  2. Worship 

  3. Praise and sing 

  4. Teaching and Learning 


  1. Holy Spirit  

  2. Different abilities   

Rundown Explained



Jesus as head from the start

God’s approved man from the start of the Church has been none other than Jesus of Nazareth. He taught His original disciples and chosen twelve whom, excluding Judas Iscariot, have gone out and taught the world. As Son of God His teachings bare the weight of Divine authority and command. The church was given Him to take care of and to lead.  

The Twelve Apostles

Upon Jesus’ ascension the original 11 apostles and the newly elected one (Matthias) were sent out to the Jews and to the rest of the world. They taught others the teachings and commands of Jesus which they heard from Him before and after His resurrection. Before this, but after Jesus’ ascension, they waited in prayer and were gifted the promised Holy Spirit. In the power of God’s Spirit, they both remembered and preached His commands and lordship. Throughout their lives they started churches and elected approved men who held the teachings in truth to be leaders in the churches.  Some also wrote letters which have been venerated by the Church as holy instruction. After suffering many persecutions all, but John are said to have been martyred.  

Paul the Apostles to the Gentiles

Saul of Tarsus was an Israelite Roman citizen descending from the tribe of Benjamin. His Greek and common name to the Church is Paul. Paul was a man who at first was a Pharisee who violently opposed the Christian Church, but later was converted to the faith by the words of Christ Himself from Heaven. He was selected to be an Apostle, but his work was mainly to the non-Jewish people and nations. He is largely responsible for the introduction of Christianity to the world outside of Israel. He also is responsible for many letters written to the Churches which make up most of its recorded instruction.  


The Elders

The elders were approved men either chosen directly from the Apostles or by other already approved men. Probably most if not all of these approved men had the hands of the Apostles or other approved men laid on them so that they could be associated with the Apostles. They were the leaders in specific churches who held to the teachings in accuracy as held by the Apostles. They were men of knowledge, but also men of Christian character. They were at times likely called by the Holy Spirit through miraculous calling. Their duty was to uphold accurate teaching in their churches. They were to approve of others in the churches to confer Apostolic association.   



The deacons were approved people who helped out in the churches through various means of service. They were people who were filled with the Spirit and who exemplified good Christian character. They were often chosen by other approved men and probably at many times chosen also by the Holy Spirit.  


The Common Church

Those not in the offices mentioned above were seen as just as important and had other gifts from the Holy Spirit that were to be used for helping the other members.  





Baptism is mentioned quite a bit in the New Testament, but never is baptism explained and neither is there a clear reason given for its commissioning. John’s baptism functioned for the purpose of repentance in preparation for the coming of God, specifically His servant Jesus. Christ commissioned His Apostles to baptize others in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There seems to be no criteria needed to be met for baptism except that a person be willing and that all must be baptized.  Concluding on the symbolic teachings on baptism by the Apostles and that which we can deduct from other mentioning in the Scriptures it can be said that baptism is an initiation procedure by which one dedicates their life to Jesus and enters the Church. The practice was done by immersing someone in water. The word baptize literally means immerse, which was done in water in the church.  



God has given Jesus the right and authority over the entire world. The Church whom He has given has been commissioned to herald this truth to the world. It is their commission that they let people know that God has selected someone to rule over the Earth and that this person will come again in the future to exercise divine decision and judgment. Therefore, the church did announce this to others and that they should repent of contrary lifestyles.  


All things  

Aside from the prior commissions mentioned, Jesus also commissioned His Apostles to teach others to follows His commands. The gift to remember all things that He taught them was given them through His promise and by the Spirit. The Gospel accounts coupled with the writings of the Apostles are the best testimony to Jesus’ teaching and such the Church has highly venerated these writings.  



On the night when Jesus was betrayed, He shared the Passover meal with His disciples. During the meal He took the unleavened bread and said that it was His body that is broken for them. He took the wine and said that it was His blood likewise shed for them. He told them to do it in remembrance of Him.  




Meeting together

The promise of God to resurrect the dead and to reform the earth is waiting its accomplishment in the return of Jesus. At the time of Jesus’ ascension, the faithful were told that He would return to the Earth to fulfill all things, but the times which His Father and our God has set for such things to occur have not been revealed. The church therefore waits in positive expectation of the fulfillment of the promises and His own coming.  They do so in coming together in one place, worshiping in holiness, and keeping in mind the things that the Lord commanded His Apostles to observe. They take communion together. 


 In the night when Jesus was betrayed, He shared the Passover meal with His disciples. During the meal He took the unleavened bread and said that it was His body that is broken for them. He took the wine and said that it was His blood likewise shed for them. He told them to do it in remembrance of Him.  

When the church eats this holy meal together, they are proclaiming His death. The bread symbolizes His body while the wine symbolizes His blood. The death of the Lord Jesus is the propitiation and the forgiveness of sin. Therefore, proclaiming Jesus’ death by means of eating this meal is the exercising of faith that God has accomplished His promise and will grant eternal life to mankind.  


Christian worship is valuing God and Jesus above all in every aspect of human lives. When the Church comes together there are many ways this occurred. Giving thanks to God for all that He has done and provided is an aspect of worship. Acknowledging God’s various works and power is an aspect of worship. These things were also done in song. Another aspect of Christian worship occurred in both teaching and learning the teachings of the Lord Jesus. Other aspects of God concerning the Scriptures and the teachings found within them were also taught and learned. Early on liturgy and the public reading of Holy Scripture were common place. 

Common Love

While the things that made the gathering of the church holy were the teachings, the worship, and the communal meal instituted by the Lord Jesus there is another aspect that works together with all these. That aspect is the common purpose in love. The Lord Jesus taught that a defining factor of the church would be their love for one another. Christians loved both in word and deed. The needs of another were cared for by one another and giving was a very real practice. Each one was to value one another as they valued themselves and to do all things in the name of the Lord. Physical and Spiritual undertakings were done for the good of the Church in Christ. 



The Holy Spirit

The most defining property of the Church outside of knowing Jesus is knowing the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus promised His Apostles the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit being the very Spirit of God Himself was given to come upon the church and to dwell within them. The Spirit’s indwelling manifested itself through various abilities. These abilities are commonly referred to as spiritual gifts. Many gifts are mentioned as having been exercised by the church, but no concise list exists. These miraculous giftings allowed people to do things that they were never able to before in their current condition. Prophecy, healings, speaking in other languages, and various other services are but a few mentioned in Scripture. God’s presence within His church is an excellent gift and the different abilities performed by the Spirit are truly grace gifts.  


The Church is those who follow God and Jesus of Nazareth. Through the meeting together in worship and through the power of the Spirit the Church confirms the teaching of Jesus that He will come again to judge the Earth. They tell others of Jesus and how He is coming as Lord. Through their obedient practice for Jesus and waiting they are highly valued by God. They are those separated from the rest of the world who will undoubtedly receive the reward of Eternal Life and a good place with God on the New Earth. The author understands that seeking to understand God and Christ’s commissions is to be taken seriously, but that it also must been done in way that honestly accepts what is discovered. The search and study for perfection should take into account that Christianity was originally meant to be passed down through tradition in light of God’s Spirit in the church rather than to sole obedience to a writing. If it had been the primary way for the church to function then there should have existed some writing of extensive instruction and the church would have been structured more formally. Therefore all three of these things are necessary for understanding the Church.