Thoughts on the Protestant Reformation 

Did you hear what happened Last week? 

Maybe you did, but if you didn’t let me refresh your memory. 

Last week marked the 500 anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, perhaps the biggest schism in Church history ever! Granted the Great Schism of 1054 was bad, but there have been plenty of attempts and dialogue between both the Pope and Patriarch or Holy Synod. However,  with the hundreds or maybe thousands of Protestant churches, just who exactly would the Pope speak with to unite back to Rome? It’s confusing. 

Since last week, I’ve seen a rush of pride from non-Catholics regarding how amazing the Reformation was. I even read many people on WordPress compliment Martin Luther and his contemporaries for a powerful religious and political revolution. Indeed it was a revolution, an overthrow of the old system, to usher in a new radical system away from the authority of the Church. 

Post-reformation, there were tons of conflicts on both sides and persecution by those high in authority. However great the negatives were, some good did come out of this period. Specifically, the Council of Trent that offered a rebuttal of the teachings of the Reformers and the many many Post-Reformation Saints to come out of the Church.

With all the applaud about Martin Luther last week,  I honestly didn’t get the uproar in cheer. This is a sad event. More disunity and lack of reconciliation came about because of this. Jesus Christ said to the Father that he wanted his believers to be one just as God and Jesus share unity in the Godhead (John 17:21). Because authentic reform was supplanted with a revolution, this deep divide has existed for 500 years!

When I think of how the Reformation has impacted my life, I can go back to the church pew of the small “bible church” I used to be a member of. Going Sunday after Sunday and honestly thinking in the disorder of their worship service or the sloppy sermons on Protestant fundamentals “why am I still coming here?” to the point of me withdrawing completely was horrible! I knew some kind of truth was out there, but it definitely wasn’t in a Baptist or even a non-denominational church for sure. 

The creed or covenant of the Church I attended was nothing more than life application tips. Other statements of faith that I saw at other churches were just poorly crafted ancient creeds mixed with the Westminster Confession.

Sitting in the church, knowing that the preacher was preaching stuff that I didn’t see as true in the bible really made me dislike Protestantism even more. Going to church was me going through the motions. I went trying to feel closer to God and deepen my relationship, but ultimately growing further away. I couldn’t help but feel increasingly more unsatisfied. I was numb for a period. Maybe close to a year. Some weeks I would pray for energy to be enthused to be an active participant in the songs and sermons,  but it didn’t happen. I knew for sure I wasn’t becoming an atheist, but definitely knew the current church I was at wasn’t home.

I went through a period of Reformed Theology. I read some of the Westminster Confession and then I felt like I finally found what I was looking for. Something defined, outlined and spelled out.  That’s until I spoke to a non-Christian about Limited Atonement and it really made me realize the difficulty of such an unfair teaching. I concluded maybe Reformed Theology wasn’t best.

After I sat in the pew many Sundays and spent much time in deep personal contemplation, I came to the realization that maybe Protestantism wasn’t for me. I had given up on it completely. 

Protestantism made me feel overly secure in my relationship with Christ.  It promised a grand big greater than life Sovereign God (which God is totally sovereign and bigger than we can comprehend) that will save you if you’re a part of the elect. Somehow my cooperation would destroy God’s powerful perfect plan to save me. As if it discarded or have no say so or influence in my faith journey.  I found that troubling. 

At my former bible church, the simple easy “faith alone” Christianity always bothered me. To hear some Sundays eternal security “once saved always saved” was more of an emotional crutch than a theological truth. Sometimes It seemed as if the teaching was promoting the sin of presumption.  I took to heart the verse from Philippians 1:6 “he that began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” That was my medicine whenever I felt like I was losing moral ground. Another go-to verse was 1 John 1:9 ” if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin.” Perhaps these 2 versus my faith hinged on. 

Some might read this and say “your church doesn’t matter…you only need a personal relationship with Jesus .” 

To that I say this:
The Church is a community. Community conveys a sense of “we” while the person relationship conveys a sense of  “I” at the exclusion of worship with others. 

Jesus didn’t die, bury, resurrect, and ascend to create an isolated lone ranger type Christian,  but he did create a Church ( Grk. Ekklesia, the “called out”, “the assembly. “)  that would be united together. We do have our own accountability with Jesus Christ,  but God has called us out from the corners of the world to be a part of the Body he founded and heads as his faithful assembled community. 

In addition, truth matters too. It’s not churches but a Church that matters. Although Christ is the invisible head of the Church, there needs to be a visible head also. Similarly, God is the head of all governments and rulers ( Proverbs 8:15-16) but that doesn’t mean having a prime minister erodes the authority of the invisible head of God. Likewise,  Christ established his Church and intended it to carry on when he died by a head. Therefore,  Peter (Rock) became the apostle in which the Church is founded on. 

Early church fathers show this. For example,  look at Cyprian of Carthage in about 250 A.D. makes the case for the chair of Peter that points toward his supremacy and the unity of the Church:

There is one God and one Christ,  and one Church, and one Chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood.  Whoever has gathered elsewhere is scattering. “

St. Cyprian makes it clear that Peter definitely had supremacy by virtue of him having the “chair ” by the word of Jesus. Also, Christ made him the foundation of the Church is built on. Interestingly,  I’ve never seen a Church claim to have the seat of Peter,  but only the Catholic Church. 

As I reflect back on the impact of the Reformation for my life, I’m reminded of the quote from St. Augustine:

There is nothing more serious than the sacrilege of schism because there is no just cause for severing the unity of the Church.”

More than ever, we should pray for the unity of all believers. 

Source:

Letter of Cyprian to All His People [43 (40), 5], in Jurgens, Faith of the Early Fathers,  1:229.

Advertisements

12 comments

  1. Hey Menny,

    Good thought reflective post.

    As you saw on my next to the last post I was attacked viciously for being Catholic. The pride of those during the anniversary of the Reformation knew no bounds, to someone I did ask the question, “Why is it okay to be thankful and grateful to Martin Luther, but if a Catholic does the same with a saint, it is “idol worship.”

    What brought on my attack a post was done by a strong anti-Catholic on St. Justin Martyr promoting a book about him. All I said was, “You know he was a Catholic don’t you?” That got me sent to hell. To me the very word, “Saint” should have given it away and also his teachings on the Mass and The Eucharist would be another.

    The Bible says Menny, “God hates a man who sows discord among brothers.” Think about that. That is exactly what the Reformation did and what we are living with today, and that is why I was “sent to hell.” (Proverbs 6-19)

    I had one person tell me he would not “fellowship” with me because I am a Catholic but we could be cordial to one another.” If I invited this person to my home, he would not come, for the simple reason of the Church I attend and said beliefs.

    So “All hail, Martin Luther one wants.” What happened after that and is going on today God said, “He hates.” God Bless, SR

    Like

    • I’m glad your comment finally made it!!

      I find the person who didn’t want to associate themselves with you simply for being a Catholic awful. How anti Christ like is that? It’s really sad how far the division is perpetuated by subtle and large scale attacks like that. Especially regarding the praises of Luther which totally blows my mind.

      I’m so glad you shared your story with me. I’m thankful for all your wisdom actually!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think that works both ways my friend. You have a lot of wisdom yourself. Speaking of wisdom go read the post I did today on “faith.” That was the greatest thing I ever heard.

        One other thing Menny, you know today I was thinking regarding the Reformation. Three words started that whole thing. Indulgences, alone, purgatory. Three words divided God’s children forever. God Bless, SR

        Like

  2. A good reflection on an awkward situation. Agreed – particularly that there is not single authority for the Pope and the Church to speak with.

    I’ve notice that *individual* Protestants are coming home. Having access to more information helps, I think. I was impressed, not favorably, at how much of what I ‘knew’ about the Catholic Church was either several centuries out of date. Or simply wrong.

    I grew up in a mainstream/sane Protestant household, becoming a Catholic after several decades of researching and thinking about faith, religion, and being human.

    My parents were rational enough. Many of the Christians in my home area, the loud ones, not so much. I appreciate my father, particularly, for encouraging me to think; and the Bible-thumpers for giving me much to think about.

    The latter are among the main reasons I became a Catholic. Not what they had in mind, of course: but I kept wondering how a vast and vile conspiracy like the one they portrayed could possibly have lasted two millennia.

    Those experiences help me not indulge in self-righteous congratulations over my decisions. In some cases, I’ve *been* ‘those people.’

    One of the main issues with my native culture, the American branch of English-speaking folks, is that so much of our ‘history’ is based on Reformation and Thirty Years War-era propaganda, as passed along by inheritors of Henry VIII’s state church. ( http://brendans-island.com/catholic-citizen/climate-change-attitudes/#folks )

    I don’t doubt that folks who kept repeating that version of events were, for the most part, sincere. But I’ve learned that folks who are sincere are not necessarily correct.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment. I’m truly thankful to have great people in the faith that have amazing journey’s home.

      You hit it right on the nail regarding how the lens which we live in is Seen through the lens of the Reformation. Particularly, those that glorify Luther for his revolution against the Church.

      A lot of non-Catholics really have been taught falsehoods about the Church. Real surface level objections . I think Dr. James White or RC Sproul could careless about “call no man father” since they’re more concerned about deeper level differences such as justification. I think that’s where I started and everything else became more evident in my conversion.

      Like you, I’m thankful to have learned so much in my Protestant background. I wanted to become a Pastor so I read and thought a lot. The same question also hit my mind , ” how did a corrupt Christianity last for 1500 years” but that lead me to more reading and thinking!

      Great thoughts and look forward to reading more from you

      Liked by 2 people

  3. You know Menny, what gets me about those who are so “grateful for the Reformation,” is they refuse to see how it so divided the children of God. Now I must say I am grateful that I have the Bible in my own language, but with the printing press I so think that would have came about eventually anyways. I mean it used to take them years to copy anything, much less a Bible for every single person in their own language.

    Like “call no man father.” I mean God says, “Honor your father and mother.” Jesus Himself used the word “father.” For me that was what was wrong about me being a Protestant. They would take one Scripture and not see the other 1000 surrounding it. They just do not have the resources to piece it all together, and I had too many questions.

    I wanted to know and understand the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. This is what the Catholic Church did for me, with the help of Scott Hahn. When I read “A Father Who Keeps His Promises,” all of a sudden I understood it.

    It was like I asked one of my Protestant bloggers the other day who told me “Jesus is the truth,” I asked her, “Whose “truth” do I follow on what that “truth” is?/Every denomination has a different “truth.”/Every person you ask has a different truth?/Somewhere inside of us we have to find that “truth” for ourselves.”

    We can either make up our minds to follow “one truth,” or the “thousand.” God Bless, SR

    Like

    • Thank you for your words.

      As always you leave an incredible remark about the faith. Just like the post you made some time ago about Jesus being the opinion of truth (could’ve got that wrong) that he is the 1 truth we need to focus on that matters. As you mentioned about the book from Scott Hahn, the promises he has given us is the truth we should follow.

      I’m so thankful to have the Bible. It’s a great Divinely Inspired book to provide the pathway to the Lord. Moving away from the view that the Bible is a daily life manual or a FAQs list of life. You know what I mean? I personally have always disliked the Bible projected that way. I see a deeper reverence for holy living and conduct over the last year or so.

      Liked by 1 person

      • One other thought on this too Menny is we are told never to trust in man/man made traditions. My comeback on that is always, “Do you trust the Bible?” Reply, “Yes.” Then you trust in the “men” who wrote it, that it is the “true word of God?” Do not get any replies after that one, just a look of confusion. Men wrote that Bible. Yet, if one does not believe in the infallibility of man, in matters of morals and faith, then they cannot believe in the Bible. Get the drift??? God Bless, SR

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s