Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Why I Am Not A Protestant

I have not really thought of myself as a Protestant for some time even though that is the assumption in America is that if you are not Roman Catholic, you must be Protestant.The reasons are myriad but a great summary can be found in Carl Trueman's recent interview with Table Talk, Understanding The Times, a look at what ails evangelicalism.

Carl has a knack for saying something I disagree with but in a delightfully written way. He comes from a school of thought that I understand and recognize but now seems so alien that it is almost bizarre.He does always write well and I found this statement to be fascinating.

TT: What do you mean when you say that evangelicals need good, solid reasons for not being Roman Catholic?

CT: Rome has chronological priority over any Protestant denomination. Thus, Protestantism was and is a movement of protest. We are by definition protesting against something: the claims of the papacy, the burying of the gospel under garbage, the denial of assurance to ordinary Christian believers. We must never forget these things. We should respect our Roman Catholic friends; we should rejoice in the great doctrine we hold in common; but we must not minimize that which divides us from each other.

Carl has the right of it. Because Protestantism is at it's core a rebellion against Rome, the default is that Rome has the preference. Protestants left Rome but Rome is where they came from and by virtue of that fact the roots of Protestantism will always run through Rome. It is the difference between seeing that some doctrines had lost their way, such as justification by faith, and seeing the entire organization as flawed at the core. When we look at the traditions of Protestantism and wonder why they so closely resemble Rome, we need look no farther than the origins of the Reformation as a protest against more than a rejection of Rome. Why do we still have the church structure and clerical class that Rome instituted? Because the Reformers never bothered to "reform" them and so they stayed in place by inertia.

As for me, I reject both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism as institutions while trying my best to love my brothers and sisters in both camps. I do nor recognize the legitimacy of Rome in any way, shape or form and therefore I do not see any reason to protest against her. My foundation is not in Rome nor in Geneva with Calvin or Wittenberg with Luther or even in Z├╝rich with the start of the Radical Reformation. The foundation of the church goes back to the Gospels, Acts and the Espitles and it is there that we must always and continually return. We certainly have much to learn from those who have gone before, the church fathers, the theologians, the reformers and the Anabaptists but that is not where we should focus our attention. I worry that we spend too much time worrying about what Calvin wrote or what this papal encyclical says and not enough on what God has to say.

Protestantism never has and never can leave Rome entirely. If we are seeking to follow Jesus we need to go back to the beginning, back to Him. The more we identify with man-made institutions, the more we get entangled in them and the harder it becomes to see the way of the cross.


joe said...

Good post. I struggle a lot with the protestant church structure. "head pastor", "sermon", church defined as sitting in a pew listening to the same person speak over and over again. Emphasis on knowledge as apposed to love. Would love to hear you go into more detail on this subject at some point.

Anonymous said...

Simply wrong. The Reformers were not primary about protesting against Rome but about following Jesus and returning the church to the New Testament pattern.

John Carpenter

Arthur Sido said...

John, have you bothered to read the 95 Theses? They are all about Rome. That is why it is called a "Reformation", they were "reforming" Rome, not rejecting her.

Again try reading and studying first before leaping to a preconceived conclusion someone else has spoon fed you. The Reformers "reformed" Roman theology but maintained most Roman practice which explains why the rituals and traditions of Protestant churches look so much like Romanism.