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May 26, 2005

Is the Reformation Over?

Mark Noll has co-written a new book with Carolyn Nystrom called Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Asessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism that attempts to answer just this question. I just found out that the book is scheduled to be out in July, and it's on my reading list (now WAY too long).

A lot has been written on the subject of Christian unity -- especially in the Bible. I've said before that I think we need to be careful about what differences we are going to consider worth splitting over, and what issues are not worth splitting over. There are many churches that I am familiar with who separate over things like women in pants and CCM -- not worth it, in my own opinion. There are other churches who don't seem to be willing to view rejecting the authority of Scriptures or the deity of Christ as reasons to separate -- I strongly disagree with that.

The Reformation was based on strong principles: sola gracia, sola fide, sola Christus, sola Scriptura, sola Deo gloria -- by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, under the authority of Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone. I haven't been watching Catholic theology that closely in recent years, but I've heard that they are moving closer to the Protestant understanding of many of these issues.

My wife and I had a discussion this evening -- one of those discussions that you only have between academics (she is writing her thesis for her MA in colonial American history this summer on Virginia Baptists in the American Revolution). We reached the conclusion that either the Reformation has really been misnamed, or it failed in it's goal. If the goal was reformation of the Catholic Church, that didn't happen until Vatican II (unless the elimination of papal indulgences can be considered a major victory). The end result of the Reformation was the formation of Protestant churches -- a schism, possibly greater than that between the Roman and Eastern Orthodox churches. Luther left some possibility of reconciliation (which the Roman church rejected), but other Reformers wanted no part of Rome.

Ever since, there have been parts of "Protestantdom" that have wanted to try and reconcile with Rome, and parts that want nothing to do with Rome. Can there ever be total unity? I don't think it will happen until Christ Himself comes back and heads the Church Himself. Even before the 1500s, there were schisms -- most minor ones, many ended by crusade or inquisition, but there were always "Protestants."

I think it's important to partner with those who can help us on specific issues. It amazes me at the number of people who will throw in with any Republican candidate that runs for office (many of whom are conservative, but NOT Christian), but won't work with a Roman Catholic organization to try to end abortion. If our goals are the same, we can (and should) work together. We don't have to endorse their theology to work woth them on social issues. When we realize that, I think we will become a little more effective.

Posted by Warren Kelly at May 26, 2005 08:28 PM | TrackBack
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