Calling all Reformed/Evangelical Protestants

When I was evangelical I really liked the idea of Reformed theology and the idea of primitivism.

In fact it was my search for the denomination that was closest to the early church that led me unexpectedly into Catholicism.

So the real question is how would you respond to this quote from JRR Tolkien?

“The ‘protestant’ search backwards for ‘simplicity’ and directness -
which, of course, though it contains some good or at least intelligible
motives, is mistaken and indeed vain. Because ‘primitive Christianity’
is now and in spite of all ‘research’ will ever remain largely unknown;
because ‘primitiveness’ is no guarantee of value, and is, and was in
great a reflection of ignorance. Grave abuses were as much an element
in Christian liturgical behaviour from the beginning as now. (St Paul’s
strictures on Eucharistic behaviour are sufficient to show this!) Still
more because ‘my church’ was not intended by Our Lord to be static or
remain in perpetual childhood; but to be a living organism (likened to
a plant), which develops and changes in externals by the interaction of
its bequeathed divine life and history – the particular circumstances
of the world into which it is set. There is no resemblance between the
‘mustard-seed’ and the full-grown tree. For those living in the days of
its branching growth, the Tree is the thing, for the history of a
living thing is part of its life, and the history of a divine thing is
sacred. The wise may know that it began with a seed, but it is vain to
try and dig it up, for it no longer exists, and the virtue and powers
that it had now reside in the Tree. Very good: but in husbandry the
authorities, the keepers of the Tree, must look after it, according to
such wisdom as they possess, prune it, remove cankers, rid it of
parasites and so forth. (With trepidation, knowing how little their
knowledge of growth is!) But they will certainly do harm if they are
obsessed with the desire of going back to the seed or even to the first
youth when it was (as they imagine) pretty and unafflicted by evils.
The other motive (now so confused with the primitivist one, even in the
mind with any one of the reformers): aggiornamento: bringing up to
date: that has its own grave dangers, as has been apparent throughout
history. With this, ‘ecumenicalness’ has also become confused.” (The
Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, no. 306.)

My issue is not with change, growth, and development. My issue is with what kind of change, growth, and development. That being said, I see the Reformation pruning of many of the accretions of the medieval church a good thing. It was by no means a perfect reform, but that is why the church must always be reforming itself according to the word of God.

[quote=ltwin] but that is why the church must always be reforming itself according to the word of God.
[/quote]

Could you explain this further or at least clarify? God is immutable.

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God is never changing, but we are not. Humans change and the environment that we live in changes. Generations are born, they die, and other generations come after them. Institutions and communities change over time as the founding generation dies off and subsequent generations make such institutions or communities their own. Things change over time and not all of this change is good. The church is responsible to always measure itself against the word of God and if it does not measure up reform is needed.

How can you view the reformation as pruning the medieval church? They rejected many of the core tenants of the church such as the Eucharist, Confession, Church Authority, etc…

I dont understand how a pruning can result in a different tree (or the stump of the same tree).

It seems that there is this great tree that is Catholicism Christianity (ok and Orthodox), and then the Protestants come and plant their own trees and prune them into what they think the big tree in the background should look like.

To continue the gardening image, its as if you took a chute off of the tree (The Bible) and planted that and created your own tree, resembling nothing of the original tree, only what the gardener believes the tree should look like.

As a Pentecostal, you surely must see that it is a very different tree. Even among the reformers their version of (pruning) differs.

If pruning occurs it must come from within the church.

This is not how the Old Testament times worked. I don’t understand how you can support this in any way biblically.

Your statement makes it seem as if God dropped off his Bible and then left it up to men to figure it out. It sounds very Deist as if the church is all men without God, or perhaps the Bible is God in this type of understanding.

I think we err greatly if we say that God left us to our own devices, that his church needs changing (drastic changing) that he withheld the truth for 1500 years from people, etc…

I do not have time right now to answer you completely. I’m about to go on a trip, but later on tonight I’ll give a more complete answer.

Were not Martin Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and et. al. “from within the church.” It’s not their fault that an often corrupt and unwieldy institution based in Rome and often captive by political/secular interests chose to escalate tensions rather than listen to widespread demands for reform.

Without jumping into the debate, I will say I like the OP’s Tolkien quote. Which, however, is so lengthy, I read it only because it’s Tolkien. :thumbsup:

There has been countless reforms from within the church. Look at Vatican II for a recent example. Out of every council comes reforms.

The problem comes with the reformers leaving the church to say they know better than the church, they know better and are the authority to follow. They had no basis whatsoever to do this.

It would be like a group of Jews in OT times rising up and saying, the priests are not following the right practices in the temple, and they won’t listen to our appeal, so we are going to build our own temple and start our own sect of Judaism that is different.

That did not ever happen, and shouldn’t if God is working in his church, if Christ is truly the head.

But really my post was more regarding people today who try to “replicate” the early church and the error in that line of thinking.

Not a Christian so I have no opinion on how best to bonsai the Christian “Tree”, but I just wanted to say that that tree in OP’s post is amazing and I’d love to know where it is so I can visit it.

I found the tree image on this website, it really is impressive looking ! It appears to be in South Carolina so maybe not too far from you!

acornsonglen.com/2011/09/03/south-carolinas-unbelievable-angel-oak/

Cheers! It looks like it’d be a bit of a drive, but I will definitely try to go see it next time I’m over that way.

[quote=ltwin] God is never changing, but we are not. Humans change and the environment that we live in changes. Generations are born, they die, and other generations come after them. Institutions and communities change over time as the founding generation dies off and subsequent generations make such institutions or communities their own. Things change over time and not all of this change is good. The church is responsible to always measure itself against the word of God and if it does not measure up reform is needed.
[/quote]

I hear what you are saying…yes people do get off track over time as secular influence overwhelm.

I do not believe we should expect the Church to change when it comes to faith and morals regardless of the number of generations. In fact, that consistency is crucial.

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Love the photo of the oak tree. Where, exactly is this magnificent tree located?

The question then is:

Is it justifiable to further the damage? To depart completely from the Traditions of the Church throughout history and create something completely new?

Or is it better to persevere and protect and defend the Church? Not make a new one, making one self an authority.

See Catherine of Sienna, Bernard of Clairvaux, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Sales, Teresa de Avila.

It is not their fault what others did. It is their fault in how they reacted.

Yes, God is really awesome - isn’t He? Only He can come up with this magnificence!

What is the church? Who is the church? From my perspective, Luther and Calvin, et. al., never left “the church.” They simply contended within the church according to their convictions.

South Carolina.

I posted a link to a web blog about it in an earlier response. Definitely a cool tree!

The Samaritans did that.

Luther and Calvin most certainly left the church and made no qualms about it? They founded their own man made churches and even in the case of Calvin, set up an entire city to confirm to his will.

The church is the place we go to resolve a doctrinal dispute.

For example you believe in adult baptism-believers baptism. I dispute that and say its not historical or biblical. We turn to the Bible and you share a few verses and then I share a few. No resolution, we then turn to two or three witnesses. Maybe mine our church fathers and yours founders of the Pentecostal movement.

According to Matt 18, we are now supposed to go to the church to resolve this issue.

Which church?

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