May 26, 2005

Is the Reformation Over?

Mark Noll has co-written a new book with Carolyn Nystrom called Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Asessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism that attempts to answer just this question. I just found out that the book is scheduled to be out in July, and it's on my reading list (now WAY too long).

A lot has been written on the subject of Christian unity -- especially in the Bible. I've said before that I think we need to be careful about what differences we are going to consider worth splitting over, and what issues are not worth splitting over. There are many churches that I am familiar with who separate over things like women in pants and CCM -- not worth it, in my own opinion. There are other churches who don't seem to be willing to view rejecting the authority of Scriptures or the deity of Christ as reasons to separate -- I strongly disagree with that.

The Reformation was based on strong principles: sola gracia, sola fide, sola Christus, sola Scriptura, sola Deo gloria -- by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, under the authority of Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone. I haven't been watching Catholic theology that closely in recent years, but I've heard that they are moving closer to the Protestant understanding of many of these issues.

My wife and I had a discussion this evening -- one of those discussions that you only have between academics (she is writing her thesis for her MA in colonial American history this summer on Virginia Baptists in the American Revolution). We reached the conclusion that either the Reformation has really been misnamed, or it failed in it's goal. If the goal was reformation of the Catholic Church, that didn't happen until Vatican II (unless the elimination of papal indulgences can be considered a major victory). The end result of the Reformation was the formation of Protestant churches -- a schism, possibly greater than that between the Roman and Eastern Orthodox churches. Luther left some possibility of reconciliation (which the Roman church rejected), but other Reformers wanted no part of Rome.

Ever since, there have been parts of "Protestantdom" that have wanted to try and reconcile with Rome, and parts that want nothing to do with Rome. Can there ever be total unity? I don't think it will happen until Christ Himself comes back and heads the Church Himself. Even before the 1500s, there were schisms -- most minor ones, many ended by crusade or inquisition, but there were always "Protestants."

I think it's important to partner with those who can help us on specific issues. It amazes me at the number of people who will throw in with any Republican candidate that runs for office (many of whom are conservative, but NOT Christian), but won't work with a Roman Catholic organization to try to end abortion. If our goals are the same, we can (and should) work together. We don't have to endorse their theology to work woth them on social issues. When we realize that, I think we will become a little more effective.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 08:28 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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1 The last paragraph reminded me of Mark 9:39-41 "...for whoever is not against us is for us." Good post.

Posted by: kyer at May 27, 2005 01:25 AM (oY0vI)

2 What unites us is greater than what divides us. While many Evangelicals (like me) had the greatest respect and admiration for Pope John Paul II, there were some things that troubled us about him. The depth of his Marian devotion led some to question his salvation. Praise God that the burden of judging such a great man as Karol Wojtyla belongs to Him alone. Pope Benedict XVI appears to be poised to move towards greater Christian unity. In "Dominie Iesus", which was widely considered to have been authored largely by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the "filique" was dropped from a restatement of the Nicene Creed. Also Ratzinger was very prominent in outreach to Evangelicals and Protestants during John Paul II's papacy. The new Pope has made Christian unity a priority for his Papacy.

Posted by: William C. Fisher at May 30, 2005 04:33 PM (GBA+6)

3 I applaud the positive attitude of the authors of the book, who emphasize that Christians, if they are indeed Christians of the faith preached by Christ, must emphasize what they have in common, not what divides them. To answer the question, however, IS the reformation over, I have to believe that no, it continues, it multiplies, it dissents, argues and splinters. To follow just one branch, we see that the Methodists begat the Pentecosals, who begat the Assembly of God, who begat Jimmy Swaggart, who begat TBN and Benny Hinn. Somewhere down the road Joel Olsteen popped up. If you are a masochist, you can detour to Ken Copeland. One splinter of the gospel taken from the previous splinter becomes the basis for a whole new megachurch. Who dares guess what their descendants and offshoots will preach in 20 years time? Sadly, the reformation continues. Those who value the faith of Christ will try to brake that development. Izydor

Posted by: Izydor at August 20, 2005 10:31 PM (RQis0)

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