Skip to comments.Reformation Sunday 2011: How Would Protestants Know When to Return?
Posted on 11/03/2011 7:29:48 AM PDT by marshmallow
Imagine that the Occupy Wall Street protest continued for years, during which time the community of protesters divided into different factions, each with different beliefs, different demands, and different leaders. But the protests continued for so long that the protesters eventually built makeshift shanties and lived in them, and had children. These children grew up in the protesting communities, and then they too had children, who also grew up in the same communities of protesters, still encamped in the Wall Street district. Over the course of these generations, however, these communities of protesters forgot what it was that they were protesting. They even forgot that they were protesting. Life in the shanties in Wall Street was what these subsequent generations had always known. They did not even know that they had inherited a protesting way of life, separated from the rest of society.
When asked by a reporter what Wall Street would have to change in order to get them to return home, they looked at him confusedly, and responded, We are home; this is home. They no longer had any intention to return to society upon achieving some political or economic reform. For them, camping out on Wall Street was life as normal, and those with whom they had grown up camping simply were their society.
What if Protestantism in its present form is the fractured remains of a Catholic protest movement that began in 1517, but which has long since forgotten not only what it was protesting, but that it was formed by Catholics, in protest over conditions and practices within the Catholic Church? What if Protestantism has forgotten that its original intention was to return to full communion with the Catholic Church when certain conditions were satisfied?
During the week approaching Reformation Sunday last year those questions prompted me to write, Trueman and Prolegomena to How would Protestants know when to return?. I included the term prolegomena because before discussing the conditions under which Protestants can return to full communion with the Catholic Church, Protestants (and Catholics) must first recover the memory of our history, not only our shared history as one Church prior to the sixteenth century, but also the history by which we came to be divided during that century. Recovering that history shows not only that the early Protestants never intended to form a perpetual schism from the Catholic Church, but also helps us remember that Protestant communities are by their history, communities in exile from the Catholic Church, and thereby by that history ordered toward eventual reconciliation and reunion with the Catholic Church. According to that history Protestantism began as a protest movement initially made up of Catholics protesting the Catholic Church and seeking to reform her; it was never intended to remain perpetually in schism from her. Semper Reformanda does not translate as perpetually in schism. Hence in Trueman and Prolegomena I quoted Protestant professor of historical theology Carl Trueman, who wrote:
[W]e [Protestants] need good, solid reasons for not being Catholic; not being a Catholic should, in others words, be a positive act of will and commitment, something we need to get out of bed determined to do each and every day.
Yet even among those Protestants who retain the memory of Protestantisms origin as a Catholic protest movement, Reformation Day is typically viewed as a day of celebration. On Reformation Sunday of 2009, we posted a 1995 Reformation Day sermon by the Protestant theologian Stanley Hauerwas, named by Time magazine as Americas best theologian. A few weeks ago I had a chance to talk with Hauerwas in person, and he said that he still affirms every word of that sermon. In that sermon Hauerwas says:
After all, the very name Protestantism is meant to denote a reform movement of protest within the Church Catholic. When Protestantism becomes an end in itself, which it certainly has through the mainstream denominations in America, it becomes anathema. If we no longer have broken hearts at the churchs division, then we cannot help but unfaithfully celebrate Reformation Sunday.
Tomorrow will be celebrated by many Protestants as Reformation Sunday. To be sure, part of what Protestants celebrate on Reformation Day are what they believe to be the truths upheld and preserved within Protestantism. But without careful qualification, celebrating Reformation Day while remaining separated from the Catholic Church is a kind of performative contradiction, because it implies that separation, not reform, is the ultimate goal of the protest. Celebrating Reformation Day can be for that reason like celebrating a divorce, or more accurately, celebrating estrangement from our mother and from all our brothers and sisters who remain in her bosom, when in truth Christ calls us all to full communion and prays that we would be one. Moreover celebrating what is a division can blind the celebrants to the evil of that continuing division, just as celebrating divorce could blind children to its evil, or celebrating abortion could blind the celebrants to its evil.
But Reformation Day can be approached differently. It should be an annual reminder of the continuation of the evil in our midst that is the Protestant-Catholic division, a division that causes scandal to the rest of the world regarding the identity and efficacy of Christs gospel. In that respect, Reformation Day is a day to ask ourselves the following question:
What have I done, since the last Reformation Day, to help bring reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics?
If the answer is nothing, then by our inaction we are in actuality perpetuating the schism which has continued now for almost five hundred years. Reformation Day ought therefore be a day in which Protestants are reminded to enter into authentic and charitable dialogue with Catholics, and Catholics are reminded to enter into such dialogue with Protestants, in order to put this schism behind us as a tragic event in Church history, through which God can nevertheless bring good. The lot of those who despair over the possibility of reconciliation is to die without seeing it. However, that generation who in faith truly believes that with God nothing is impossible will live to see it, and will be graced with the everlasting privilege of being the instruments through which this reconciliation is accomplished.
Having recollected our memory of our history, and a shared understanding of the early Protestants intention to reform the Catholic Church, not to form a schism from the Catholic Church, each Protestant faces the following question: How would I as a Protestant know when to return? No one Protestant can answer that question for all Protestants, because no one Protestant has the authority to speak for all Protestants. Each Protestant therefore must answer that question for him or herself.
But at the same time, the Protestant is faced with a second-order question and a second-order problem. The problem is that if we survey a thousand Protestants, and ask each what the Catholic Church would have to change, in order for him or her to stop protesting and be reconciled to the Catholic Church, we get almost a thousand different answers. When the Protestant reflects on his own act of setting conditions that the Catholic Church must meet in order for him to return to full communion with her, he is faced with an awareness that because each Protestant has a different set of conditions for return, and because he has no unique authority above that of all other Protestants to speak for all other Protestants, his very approach makes Protestant-Catholic reconciliation impossible. Thats because even if (per impossible) the Catholic Church could abandon her own doctrine and adopt a Protestant doctrine, the Church could not possibly adopt and simultaneously hold the incompatible Protestant positions on any particular theological question.
The Protestant who reflects on this cannot but notice that to approach reconciliation this way is to fall into ecclesial consumerism, as each person demands that the Church conform to his own interpretation of Scripture before he will submit to her. Implicit in the very nature of an I wont return unless the Church does x condition for reconciliation is a denial of ecclesial authority, a denial that not only presumes precisely what is in question between Protestants and the Catholic Church with respect to the existence of magisterial authority, but implicitly exercises that magisterial authority. So the second-order question is this: How can a Protestant pursue an end to the Protestant-Catholic schism without falling into ecclesial consumerism?
If, as Neal and I argued in Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and the Question of Interpretive Authority, to make conformity to ones own interpretation a condition for submission is performatively to make oneself ones own authority, the Protestants very act of laying out a list of conditions for reunion with the Catholic Church is not a theologically neutral act. In this act the Protestant intrinsically arrogates to himself an interpretive authority exceeding that of the magisterium of the Catholic Church. He is therefore confronted not only with the changes he wants to see in the Catholic Church, but with the realization that if he sets conditions that the Catholic Church must satisfy in order for him to return to full communion with her, he is performatively arrogating to himself ultimate interpretive authority, and seeking to conform the Church to the image of his own interpretation of Scripture. So the question I invite our Protestant readers to answer is not What would the Catholic Church have to change in order for me to return to her? but rather, What does the multiplicity of Protestant answers to that question reveal about both the prospects and presuppositions of that approach to Protestant-Catholic reconciliation?
Simple question really but... Why are catholics so obsessed with getting protestants to quit their church and join theirs?
If you discovered that everyone who is biblical realized your organization was a cult, you might want them all to come back and play nice again, too. Sorry, marshmallow. What we returned to already is the biblical form of Christianity. Come and join us...if you can.
Personally, I don't care myself.
(1) Most Protestant groups rose up in areas PREVIOUSLY part of the Orthodox world, or converted by Orthodox missionaries after the various schisms that separated Rome from the Church.
(2) During a long period of Western political/imperial expansion North and East Rome appears to have failed to follow up with priests trained in the Roman tradition leaving many millions of people in Congregations without clergy which allowed them to develop their own independent Christian traditions of congregational self-governance ~ later missions may have not have effectively met the challenge.
Except for the British Isles, including Ireland, and Northern France and Western Germany there were some exceptions and Rome imposed/reimposed its authority in those regions. That process has been studied to death but is still worth reading.
I suspect we haven't seen the end of studies into the Protestant phenomenon, nor is it all that readily answered by reflecting only on the experience of the Roman church. Beyond the Orthodox links OTHER earlier Christian traditions were also absorbed, or "disappeared".
NOTE: I've been reading recently about the life and times of St. Gildas ~ he's one of those "bridge people" who lived during the end of the pre-Dark Age and into the beginning of the Dark Age itself (and who may have actually seen the comet or asteroid that destroyed civilization in China, Central Asia, and Northern and Western Europe at about 535AD.
As it has been since the fall of adam, it is the goal of carnal man to control religious doctrine rather than just taking YHVH at His Word. By separating that of old and calling it just that “old”, “outdated” & “only for Jews”, Christendom created their ‘new’ religious dogma. As it has always been, the one that controls the religious dogma of the ‘new’ is the one that holds the power over the religious class.
It existed at the time of Messiah via the House of Shammai & the House of Hillel. The House of Shammai was in control and were killing members of the House of Hillel for following Torah rather than the dogma(oral traditions) of Shammai. It was the House of Shammai that covertly worked to kill Messiah not realizing that his death was not of their control but in under the control of the Creator who was controling them via their ignorance of the prophecy of Messiah as they held their religious dogma as having higher authority than that of the Creator. The RCC is Christendom's House of Shammai and while they do not promote death, they do seek to regain control over all religious dogma.
I’ve never wanted people to “be a part of my particular church”, I’ve just wanted them to accept Jesus and find a church that teaches from the bible. Even if that means catholic. As long as they try to ignore that Apocrypha stuff and ever virgin Mary.
In the Roman Catholic Church, there are different “rites”, not just only the very well known Latin rites. There are Eastern rite Catholics and also Anglican usage rites as well.
There are conditions I would have of the Roman Catholic Church that I'm sure they would not be willing to abide by. I simply don't believe as they do on some things (i.e. works + faith, the eternal virginity of Mary, the physical presence of Jesus' body in the communion wafer, etc.)
If Catholics want to believe those things, that's their choice. I don't, and so will not become a Catholic.
The condition being "promote true doctrine"....
Few churches ever adopted the name Protestant. The most commonly adopted designations were rather evangelical and reformed. ... [W]hen the word Protestant came into currency in England (in Elizabethan times), its accepted significance was not objection but avowal or witness or confession (as the Latin protestari meant also to profess)....unfortunate as a name because it implies that Protestantism was mainly an objection. The dissenters in their own statement affirmed that they must protest and testify publicly before God that they could do nothing contrary to His word. The emphasis was less on protest than on witness.
-- from the thread History Lesson: Positively Protestant
Hence, the author’s question as it seems that reunion with your fellow Christians is not even an option.
The first premise ( the analogy that Protestants are like OWS) is wrong. Protestants are like the TEA Party.
I have no desire to try and turn a Catholic aaway from their obedience to Rome, I merely desire to be allowed to show my obdeniece to God
Certainly a commendable ambition...with some caution. Paul encountered some well-meaning Judaizers who simply wanted the new non-Jewish (you and I) converts to do these few Mosaic Law things. After looking carefully at the implications of their "small errors", Paul noted that the folks who took this position were making fatal mistakes. Christ would be of no benefit to them, if they made these add-ons a part of their theology. We feel the same way about Catholicism.
Had the organization not appended its own ritualistic, cult-like traditions onto the biblical message of grace (thereby nullifying true grace), they would be kissin' cousins. Unfortunately, things added to grace, end up replacing grace. You have noted a couple of nuisance items here (the goofy Apocrypha & the perpetual virginity of Mary), but there are more...many more. Collectively they disqualify the organization as a biblically based congregation and brought about the need to make the original truth known, again. The Reformation was not a "protest", but an utter rejection of error, a calling out of an entrenched monstrosity. It continues today.
You have no idea how much you and I agree. The hidden meaning of my post was that you cannot be a Catholic without accepting the things I mentioned. ;-)
We certainly invite these wandering folks to come into the light of Christ, alone. Then we may fellowship with them as believers. The author misses the point as much as the organization did.
When you look into the growth of that brand of Protestantism the disputes take place in terms of chapels and where those chapels were located, and who had authority to schedule the priests to go or not go there.
To us it seems rather innocuous, but next thing you know there were competing political movements supporting tradition or home worship, and within a single generation some quite serious civil war!
The other Protestant movements had an entirely different history.
Imagine that the Occupy Wall Street protest continued for years
What a sad and pathetically lacking undignified and phoney comparison.
The list of abuses, fraud, paganism, Satanism and Islamic (do I repeat myself) influences still permeating the so-called-”Catholic” Church are too numerous for the character limit of this post.
I protest them not because of some idiotic 500 year old forget me not nonsense but for their very apostate deeds precipitated to this very hour.
Good day sir.
It was a lot more than a disagreement over where to hold mass that resulted in the French Catholics massacring hundreds of thousands of Waldensians back in 1545.
I requested the moderator remove this article. It is deliberately provocative and insulting.