Primer for Protestants

Primer for Protestants

Primer for Protestants

Primer for Protestants

Excerpt

The definition of Protestantism presents two sides. The actual Protestant churches that we know came into existence, for the most part, in the period of the Reformation, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They organized as separate churches in a mood of complete disillusionment with the existing Roman Catholic church organization. And there remains in Protestantism this memory of a solemn repudiation, of death and rebirth. One important half of the truth, consequently, locates the origins of Protestantism in the Reformation, and defines it by contrast to Roman Catholicism. As Bishop Dun puts it, all Christians are naturally Catholic until they learn by bitter experience to be something better. And the commonest meaning of the word "Protestant" today in Western countries is simply, "any Christian who denies the authority of the Roman pope."

But if only this half of the truth is seen, Protestantism is quite misconceived. To the taunt, "Where was your church before the Reformation?" an Anglican replied shrewdly if somewhat inelegantly, "Where was your face before you washed it this morning?" Protestantism also represents a genuine revival of the life and gospel of the apostles, and even a continuation of certain major streams of religious life of the Latin middle ages. On several important issues Protestantism is in the main line of Western Christian history and it is modern Romanism which represents the innovation and "protest." Modern Roman Catholicism was radically reorganized in creed, government, and worship in reaction to the Reformation, and is historically incomprehensible save as a protest against Protestantism. Many peripheral aspects . . .

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