Friday, January 13, 2012

Are Protestants Still Protesting?

Are Protestants Still Protesting? If you had asked me that 20 years ago I would have said No. My experience growing up reformed was embracing the reformed traditions and Calvinist theology. We didn't see them as a rebellion against Catholicism or anything else. We were pursuing truth and holiness and that was that.

But things have changed. This discussion over I Like Jesus But Not Religion is typical of what you hear from protestants a lot lately. They distinguish themselves from traditional Christianity. They don't say Catholicism partly because it would be offensive and partly because there are more Christian groups they would include as traditional. But the aim is clear. They want to paint themselves as different from what people think of as Christian. People are not interested in traditional Christianity. We want to show them Jesus without that. That starts by affirming that they were right to reject the traditional worship Christians have always engaged in. This is even done within the same denomination. The reformed, liturgical worship I grew up with is often mocked by modern reformed pastors. It is seen as a great evil. Something that caused a lot of young people to leave the faith.

But when you protest previous generations of Christians what are you protesting? What protestants would call the church. They would not think of this but what is their definition of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic church? They say it is the collection of all the saved both living and dead. How is that different from what they are attacking when they rail against those churches with empty ritual and judgmental sermons? Are they saying none of those people in those traditions were saved? They seem to come close to saying it. It just isn't sustainable. Those traditions represented almost all protestants up until around 1950. You start to think of names like CS Lewis and Corrie Ten Boom. Very few protestants would start to argue they were unsaved.

You can see what is happening. They are not protesting the Catholic church by itself. They are including a bunch of protestants that are lumped in with the Catholics. They are getting the same issues. All that is happening is the line between "good modern Christian" and "bad historical Christian" is being drawn differently. But they are still rejecting what scripture calls the Bride of Christ or the body of Christ or the family of God. They don't want to be identified with historical Christianity. They want to emphasize all the ways they are different. That they have somehow fixed this broken thing called Christianity. 

Ultimately it is not an emphasis on Jesus but on the pastors. They try and emphasize Jesus. They really do. But you say previous generations were wrong and you are right. Was Jesus there in previous generations? Sure. So what has changed? What fixed this big problem? New human leadership. So Jesus without the hip new pastor is bad? How do you get away from that?

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