Has Protestantism lost its way?
I read with great interest, a couple of articles on whole Anglican Communities in the UK, Ireland, Australia, the US, and all over the world, obtaining full communion with the Catholic Church. I also read recently that individuals and groups have been doing the same since the reformation. These people and their buildings are becoming Catholic, ironically, without the nation-wide violence and conspiracy that saw their Catholic ancestors martyred in the UK and Ireland, in the 1500’s.
I am a young person who is struggling, wondering if the reformation threw the baby out with the bath water. Can any reader help me as I struggle with increasingly serious doubts, about Protestantism being biblically based?
Thank you for your question. Unity is very important for Christians and it is always sad to hear of disunity among Christians. The Bible tells us that Christians should be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” Ephesians 4:3 The reason for this is given in the following verses “there is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4-6. So Christians should be eager to maintain the unity that already exists because we are all called to belong to one God.
I have not read the articles you are referring to so I’m not able to comment on the details of what these Anglican Communities are doing in their desire to maintain this unity. The thing with unity in the Bible is that it is never unity for the sake of unity. That is, Christians should be united because they have been called into community with the Lord Jesus Christ and therefore with each other. Christians are then commanded to submit to Jesus’ lordship by obeying what he says to us in the Bible. But if people continue to teach things that go against what Jesus said (or act in such a way), then unity with these people is impossible. In fact, the Bible teaches very strongly that wrong teaching needs to be opposed and corrected. Titus 1:9 is one example of this teaching. A leader of God’s people must “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it”.
The big issue of the Reformation was to do with authority. In other words, who should Christians listen to in matters to do with Jesus, faith and godly living. Is the final authority the Bible or the traditions of the church (at that time, the Roman Catholic Church)? Protestants insisted that the final authority must be the Bible alone. This led to sharp disagreements over a number of very important issues including how someone is saved. So in the end, it was the Protestants who were attempting to hold on to the Bible as the final authority. When it became clear that the Catholic church of the time would not change and accept the Bible as the final authority, many Christians decided that they must (reluctantly) leave the Catholic church - these people became known as ‘Protestants’. While there were many things that happened during the Reformation that today we find upsetting, we can have confidence that those who ‘protested’ against the Roman Catholic church were doing so because they believed the Bible as the one true authority when it comes to being a Christian. (As an aside watch the DVD called “Luther” - it gives an reasonably accurate portrayal of what the church was like at the reformation).
Since then much has happened on both sides of the camp. Some parts of the catholic Church have become quite Protestant in their thinking and some parts of the Protestant Churches have become quite Catholic. This can be seen in what you have observed - some Protestants seeking to align themselves with the Catholics both as churches and as individuals. It has got to a point where there is so much variety in belief on both sides that it is hard to make generalisations about either. So in the end, the question to ask is not whether a church is protestant or catholic but whether it holds onto the authority of the bible and salvation by faith in Jesus alone.
There is another answer on this site that might help also http://www.christianity.net.au/questions/from_christianitynetau_moblog100.
I hope I have helped with some of your doubts about Protestantism being biblically based, particularly on the issue of unity.
I would be happy to reply further if that would be helpful.
Answers are kindly provided by our friends at Christianity.net.au