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From Orange to Trent (An Evangelical Introduction to Church History, Part 3)

Updated: May 11, 2020

Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of the Reformation, by R. C. Sproul

From the Council of Orange in 529 AD to the Council of Trent (1545-1563) – An Evangelical Introduction to Church History, part 3

See Part 1 An Evangelical Introduction to Church History, Part 1

See Part 2 An Evangelical Introduction to Church History, Part 2

What happened to the early Catholic Church becoming the Roman Catholic Church between the Council of Orange in 529 AD to the Council of Trent in 1545 – 1563 AD ? Sacramentalism – (with development of purgatory, penance, indulgences, treasury of merit, praying to dead saints, trafficking in relics, exalting Mary too much, etc.) – Sacramentalism is the idea that the Roman Catholic Priests could dispense grace through baptism in water (baptismal regeneration) and through the Eucharist, which developed into the abominable doctrine of transubstantiation. This culminated in the Roman Catholic Church condemning the doctrine of justification by faith alone at the Council of Trent.

“Semi-Pelagianism condemned at Orange in 529 AD, but reaffirmed at Trent” (1545-1563) (Basically, the essence of statements by Bavinck, Berkouwer, and Sproul; see below)

The full text of the canons of the Council of Orange of 529 AD.

Historical Background: Augustine battled against Pelagius, Coelestius, and Julian of Eclanum. After Augustine died in 430 AD, his disciple Prosper took up the mantle against Pelagianism. There were others who later disagreed with Augustine and Prosper’s doctrines of grace. One of the main leaders of this, known as “semi-Pelagianism” was John Cassian.

Two articles that focus on the beneficial canons of the Council of Orange that Protestant Reformers also emphasized in their battles against the false doctrines of Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism and how the Council of Trent is contradictory to much of the council of Orange.

Canons 5 – 8 of the Council of Orange

Shows contradictions between Orange and Trent

R. C. Sproul on the Council of Orange of 529 AD

Faith Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification, by R. C. Sproul. Baker, 1995.

In chapter 7, entitled “Merit and Grace”, R. C. Sproul discusses the issues of merit and grace, Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, the Council of Orange in 529 AD and the council of Trent (1545-1463), which seems to affirm semi-Pelagianism.

“Rome has repeatedly been accused of condemning semi-Pelagianism at Orange [in 529 AD] but embracing it anew at Trent. Herman Bavinck held that “although semi-Pelagianism had been condemned by Rome, it reappeared in a ‘roundabout way’”. G. C. Berkouwer observed:

“Between Orange and Trent lies a long process of development, namely, scholasticism, with its elaboration of the doctrine of the meritoriousness of good works, and the Roman system of penitence . . . “

Bavinck and Berkouwer are cited by Sproul in Faith Alone, pages 140-141.

The big Problem with the Council of Orange of 529 AD:

Baptismal Regeneration – that baptism in water causes regeneration and gives grace so one may then be able to choose Christ.

This, baptismal regeneration, is one of the earliest false emphases and doctrines of the early church. Justin Martyr, who wrote many other good things, writing around 155 AD, seems to be the first to write and teach baptismal regeneration – that water baptism gives grace or causes someone to be born again. This is wrong, and based on a wrong understanding of John 3:5; Acts 2:38; I Peter 3:21, and Titus 3:5; and some other texts. (see the comprehensive exegetical papers on links at the end of this article that deal with all the relevant verses.) Since Jesus rebukes Nicodemus for being the teacher of Israel and not understanding in John 3:10-11, Jesus is pointing to Ezekiel 36:24-27. The water of John 3:5 points to the spiritual internal cleansing from the idolatry in Ezekiel 36:25 – “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and cleanse you from all your idols” . . . how? Ezekiel 14:3, 4, 7 speak of “idols in the heart”. Water cannot cleanse the heart. But the Holy Spirit can. And it is by faith alone that the heart is cleansed. Acts 15:9 “cleansing their hearts by faith”. I Peter 3:21 says that the “baptism that saves” is “not the removal of dirt from the flesh”; that is, is not an outward, physical thing, but an appeal to God for a good conscience” – an internal thing, a crying out and Godly sorrow over sin and a repentance and faith in Christ. Acts 2:38 is using “causal eis” – the Greek preposition eis means here, “because of” or “at” – like in other places. One example of the “causal eis” usage is Luke 11:32 – “they repented at the preaching of Jonah”, meaning, “they repented because of the preaching of Jonah”. (Other places in the NT where the causal eis is used are: Romans 4:20; 11:32; Matthew 3:11; 12:41. See Dana and Mantey, Greek Grammar, pp. 103-104.

“I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Ezekiel 36:24-27