Reformers may, in addition to being reformers, also be innovators. However, the essence of Reform is not innovation.
I say this thinking especially of the 14th-16th century movements in European Christianity (which were the fruit of centuries of momentum building within the Church). Reform is a call to put things right, not to start something new. There have been many reformers whose call to reform was accepted by the Catholic Church, and there have been reformers whose call to reform was not accepted. But Christian reformers, those who are now called The Reformers, were thoroughly conscious of their actions as part of an organic unity with the church catholic, and a desire to reform it.
Those Christian movements that have arisen professedly wanting to do a new thing, whatever their virtues may be, cannot be considered heirs of the Reformation. It was precisely because of the concern that the Church was doing far too many new things that Reform was called for.
Is it really true that Protestantism is made up of thousands upon thousands upon thousands of hopelessly fragmented so-called churches with nothing uniting them?
A thread over at Theologyweb has had me thinking lately. I’ve added some of my own comments, and I thought I’d sum up some thoughts here.
From time to time, Catholic warrior apologists like to argue that since there are so many Protestant denominations, there must be something inherently wrong with Protestantism. In particular, so the argument often goes, the fact that there are so many denominations – about 33,000 of them we are told – shows that sola scriptura must be false, as it results in so many widely divergent interpretations of various parts of Scripture, and what we really need if we want unity is for people to accept Scripture and Tradition – specifically Roman Catholic Tradition, as passed on by the papacy.
I care a great deal about the unity of the Church and it troubles me no end to see people starting up new churches left, right and centre. This is not the way it should be.
I should say first of all that there is a fundamental misrepresentation of a historic Protestant attitude to unity that normally accompanies this sort of polemic tactic. Whether I am a Protestant or not, I care a great deal about the unity of the Church and it troubles me no end to see people starting up new churches left, right and centre. This is not the way it should be. I should also point out that these new churches have no historical connection to the Protestant Reformation, so it is polemical bluster to lump them in with the Protestant movement at all. But that said, I want to focus on the claim about 33,000 churches for now.
Continue reading “The Protestant bogeyman of thousands of churches”