In the book of Acts the Apostle Paul encountered some disciples of John the Baptist while in Ephesus and asked them “did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” The disciples of John responded by saying, “we have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit”. As I see and hear the things being done within Evangelicalism, I wonder if contemporary Protestants have so much as heard of the Reformation. Most Protestants adamantly oppose the Roman Catholic doctrine concerning the Pope, the rosary, confession and the intercession of the saints. The average Protestant recognizes the difficulties associated with the idea of purgatory and certain other things practiced and believed by Catholics. However, a close examination of some of the beliefs and practices common among Protestants will reveal that the distance between the two camps is not as great as imagined. This closeness is not because there is actual doctrinal kinship between the two traditions. On the contrary, it is due more to the fact that a large segment of Protestantism has drifted away from their theological moorings or at the very least they are woefully inconsistent in the interpretation and application of the Protestant faith.
The idea so prominent among Evangelicals that suicide is an unpardonable sin is a page right out of Roman Catholicism. The popular infatuation with angels especially guardian angels resembles the Catholic teaching on the intercession of the saints. And I think a case can be made that the Protestant rededication system is a watered down version of the Catholic penance system.
The 16th century Reformation was concerned primarily with recovering the gospel of grace. The foundational doctrine supporting this movement was that of justification, as is widely known. But to establish this important doctrine Martin Luther and those that followed his lead had to first establish the authority of scripture over and against the Roman Catholic conception of the traditions of the church as the basis of faith and practice. Our Protestant forefathers labored long and hard to study the Holy Scriptures in their original languages in an effort to be as clear and consistent as possible in understanding both what the scriptures said and meant. This led to a prodigious outpouring of pamphlets and treatises on biblical doctrines and confessions of faith. But what is often overlooked or downplayed when discussing the Reformation at least among churchmen (secular historians have always recognized the Reformation’s far reaching impact) is that it was more than a discovery of theological gold. It was more than an intellectual and academic rejuvenation with a scriptural bent. The Reformation sparked a vigorously integrated conception of the Christian life in terms of family, community and vocation. Free from the constraints of obtaining peace for a troubled conscience through the appointed means of a wayward church, the Christian was free to experience a full-orbed understanding espanaviagra.net of how to glorify a sovereign and holy God who was also abounding in grace. The spiritual life was no longer confined to the monastery practiced only by a select and dedicated few. The Protestant merchant became conscious of the fact that by buying and selling at a fair price and by being conscientious of the quality of good and services offered glorified God and ministered to his fellow man. Protestant catechisms raised the bar of educational standards as theology began her ascent to the “Queen of the Sciences”. The religious life was extended to persons and spheres previously unknown. In other words Christians thought deeply about what scriptures taught and sought daily to live out that faith. They were careful about what they professed and how they lived.
It means something in particular to be a Christian and how that is defined separates us from Catholicism. Failure to be clear on the distinctive of the faith can lead, and to some degree has led, us back into the bondage experienced prior to the Reformation. The division between Catholics and Protestants is deep and may not be resolved in this lifetime. However, as Protestants we must define, defend and declare the faith that was once delivered to all of the saints. We must be clear in what we proclaim and consistent in what we practice. To the shame of the church, the Middle Ages saw a Christianity that was superstitious with little resemblance to the apostolic church. The Reformation restored that faith. My concern is that having neglected the labors of our Protestant forefathers we are slipping back into the darkness and confusion that the Reformation delivered us from. The Reformation did happen and if we do not stoke its flames, we will find ourselves back in the darkness that preceded it.