Protestants, has the reformation project run its course?

When I was a Protestant, I did think the reformation project had some points in its favor, such as wanting to involve lay people in reading the Scriptures, challenging corruption in the Church, correcting superstition, etc.

However, and I would direct this particularly to members of traditional Protestant denominations such as Anglicans, Lutherans, Prebyterians - it seems to me that this project has run its course, and these goals are now more fulfilled in the Catholic Church than in the reformed ones.

At the same time, these denominations themselves, if you look at their history, succumbed to various kinds of change in the 19th century, which basically meant that their original teachings and direction of travel died out, and was only revived, if you like, by a transfusion from the Catholic Church. The Anglican Church went from puritan origins to being almost Catholic in its liturgy thanks to the Oxford Movement. Even John Wesley returned from the rationalism of the Anglican establishment to an interest in lives of personal holiness, confession, fasting, supernatural intervention, when he founded the Methodist church. The Presbyterians fell into endless divisions (between evangelicals and strict calvinists, between congregationalists and ordained, between unitarian congregationalists and trinitarians, between free presbyterians and organized ones, etc.) and it is hard to find any 5-point calvinists today, with the exception of the Scottish Highlands and the WBC. Most horrifyingly of all, the Lutherans fell into modernism, with 19th century modernist theologians who conceived of God as just an abstraction for the reality of the church serving the people, the volk, which made it all too easy for the German Lutheran Church to become the National Socialist Church of the 1930s. This atrocity might have finished off the Lutherans, were it not for their embracing the more traditional theology of Karl Barth in the latter part of the 20th century. Barth, who has much in common with his Catholic contemporary von Balthassar, encouraged a return to encounter with the supernatural, a return to the kind of supernatural faith which the rationalism of Protestant enlightenment had excluded, but which the Catholic faith had never abandoned.

The mainline Protestant churches of today have an openness to the supernatural, an interest in liturgy, even a rediscovery of the virtues of monastic and contemplative life, which the signatories of the Westminster Confession would have condemned as popish superstition. All of this is positive, and shows that men and women of good will have reappropriated much of the good that was lost in the reformation.

At the same time, from the ‘sola scriptura’ of Luther, contemporary Protestantism has further deviated, building up its own canon of tradition, of ‘right’ ways to read scripture, from the 5 fundamentals of the early 20th century, to historical critical method. At one time, Protestantism produced spiritual writers like John Bunyan, who wrote for the ages, now it produces Rick Warren and Tim LaHaye. At the same time, superstition has crept back into the Protestant churches, whether in the form of the ‘prosperity gospel’ (the more you give, the more you’ll get/ tithe from the salary you want to have), the ‘Toronto blessing’, end-times speculation, or any number of other strange teachings.

At the same time, the Catholic Church has rededicated itself to good catechesis and teaching the faith to lay people, encouraging them to open up the Scriptures, and the wealth of good writings on how to understand it correctly. Our Tradition continues to inspire contemplatives who write for the ages, Thomas Merton or Henri Nouwen, Adriane von Speyr, to name a few. The Church hierarchy has detached itself from political regimes and corruption, the sanctification of the laity is no new invention to Catholicism, but is found in the writings of Pope St Pius X, the lives of St Gianna Molla, Frank Duff, Dorothy Day, again to name only a few. Superstition is challenged and conquered, with the Pope standing up against syncretism in his recent visits to Cuba and Benin, and old devotional traditions that gave only lip service to prayers giving way to renewed interest in contemplative spirituality and active participation in the liturgy.

So, has the reformation project run its course?

I can’t speak for protestants, only for myself as a Lutheran. It has always been my belief that the intentions of the Luherans reformers were never a division of the Church, but a reforming of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. To the extent that there is still division, the Reformation has not “run its course”.


That is a really interesting question. This morning I even previewed a book on the topic of devotion to Mary for evangelicals.

I can’t speak for the mainline Protestants, but having been involved in an independent, non-denominational bible church for five years, I can try to contribute to the discussion from that angle.

It seems that what’s happening there is the building of small empires. They start out with a group of believers who want to worship as they understood the earliest Christians to have worshiped, but they can turn into large organizations where the Senior Pastor has quite a bit of authority and nobody to hold him accountable ethically and doctrinally (besides the plurality of elders within the church–some or all of whom he may have personally groomed and chosen for their roles). To me, this seems like quite a dangerous formation that could potentially lead to abuse. I like how the Catholic Church is so careful to spell out its beliefs so that everyone is accountable to them. I also like how power and leadership is distributed among many and not concentrated. Because the parish priest is held accountable and viewed as a servant, he is in less danger of violating 1 Peter 5:1-5.

This is just my opinion.

In Christ,


As a Protestant, the issue of authority was brought to my attention. Protestants are too diverse when it comes to interpretation of scripture passages. Who interprets the verses for you? A Catholic apologist asked me that. What do you say? The pastor? And where is his authority from? A council of pastors? Where do they get authority?

The Catholic church has a long line of authority. Yes the “reformation” has run it’s course.

Hi Johnny Jones :slight_smile:

If I may ask a question; is there a list of verses infallibly interpreted?

Peace sir.


With Christians teaching an ever exponentially expanding view of acceptable Christian behavior, especially concerning sexual ethics and life issues, and with the implosion of membership at mainline denominations, Satan is having his way. The reformers, some of whom lived to regret their own prideful rebellion, are spinning in their graves.

If the Catholic church pours a particular meaning into a verse, that is what I accept. Reform or protest would mean change or refute, correct? That means something that was , has now changed. My view is that the first church, that compiled and wrote the bible ,through guidance of the Holy Spirit, should have a good handle on it. They did for 1,500 years until the reformation.

I think we can definitely say that in the last century Catholicism has become far more Protestant, and likewise Protestantism has become far more Catholic.

In many ways it has. It is still not to the point where Traditional Protestants like Lutherans or Anglicans would feel comfortable returning to the Roman Catholic Church. The biggest problem I have with the R.C.C is emphasis. I think Protestants do a much better job in explaining to people what is necessary for salvation and what is not. We do not see the need to dogmatize doctrines that are not found within the Bible. This does not imply that some of these traditions are not true only that we believe scripture contains everything necessary for salvation and keeps Tradition pure. The other issue would be the power that the Papacy claims to hold. Most of us would not have a problem with the Bishop of Rome as the first among equals. We do not interpret the passages the same way the Catholics do in regards to the Pope. I think in many ways Lutherans and Anglicans share more in common with Roman Catholics than they do the majority of protestants. But again Rome dogmatizing doctrines that have nothing to do with salvation and the Universal Primacy of the Pope are the biggest concerns for me. We also have folk Catholicism in places like Mexico and the Philippines where people are basically practicing witchcraft and worshipping Mary and the Church does not seem to care. I think this is the result of placing nonessential doctrines on the same level as essential ones. I know the Catholic Church does not worship Mary but many Catholics in these countries do. Ask them if you don’t believe me!

So does Orthodoxy have a long line of authority - as long as Rome’s. Who is to say which has authority? A Bishop? A council of bishops?

Perhaps a council of all the bishops. That hasn’t happened for a very very long time.


Perhaps a council of all the bishops. That hasn’t happened for a very very long time.

I agree!

I think many Protestants would say “Ecclesia semper reformanda est”: the church is always in a need of reform.

You know the differences between protestants and Catholics is too different and too far gone for reconciliation.

The Protestants will never accept Roman leadership and authority over them especially Evangelistic Christians like myself.

Personally I find the RC Church’s rigid adherence to a hierarchy and tradition over the scriptures and a relationship with Jesus to be distasteful.

Can we work together and build bridges of understanding? Yes we can. In that aspect I support ecumenism.

If the Church really wanted to get protestants back under her wing she would have to devolve a significant autonomous structure for protestant traditions and leadership. Protestants vary in leadership styles and liturgy. It would almost mean creating an autonomous Church for them similar to the Anglican ordinates and Eastern Churches.

The best candidates for reconciliation are the Anglicans and Lutherans. They still to a degree have aspects of the RC tradition in their Churches. But Baptists and Evangelicals who operate in congregational polities will be very wary and suspicious of the Church. They don’t want a hierarchy of Bishops telling them how to run their churches and how to worship.

And quite frankly neither do I :smiley:

This is an interesting question that can only be answered this way. There are more infallibly interpreted scriptures by the OHCAC than there are by any Protestant group. That number for Protestants would be “O”…since there is no infallible interpreting person or body to deliver the punch line for Sola Sciptura. The book is inerrant and infallible however Protestants threw away the key to infallible interpretation with the Reformation.

May I ask you to dilineate what you call a definite saying, ie where do you believe Catholicism has become more Protestant and where has Protestantism become more Catholic?

You worship on this hill and we worhip on that hill…we worship what we know…:slight_smile:

I don’t think that’s quite fair. Tim LaHaye is hardly representative. What about A.W. Tozer, R.T. Kendell or Dallas Willard, for example? There is some stuff that gets written that has little merit, but there are also books that are considered to be classics published as well. There are some churches out there teaching strange and heterodox things, but that’s hardly unique in church history, or unique to Protestantism. There have always been different heresies and false teachings around since the time of the Apostles. Half of St Paul’s letters were written specifically to challenge these sorts of things and keep the Church on track.

Some of the issues of the Reformation have gone away as theology and practice have developed over time. No-one is worried about financial corruption in the Catholic Church any more, for instance, and in that sense, the Reformation succeeded a long time ago. However, there are plenty of issues that sadly still divide Christians, and I think they are tougher to reconcile than the selling of indulgences. It’s pretty difficult to find common ground over an issue like Papal infallibility, for example. I do pray for Christian unity, but it’s very much one I leave with God, because I haven’t got a clue how it can be achieved. :imsorry:

If your Catholic, what should be your authority? I come from law enforcement and chain of command must be followed. The church has a heiarchy. The pope is at the top. The church has a view on scripture passages. If a priest is trying to help one in the congregation with scripture, he may research or have to go up the chain. There is ultimately a final answer that the church has.

You may find a Baptist and a Lutheran agree on a passage but they are not one body. The Universal church is.

The Orthodox have not bought into such tripe. We interpret the Scriptures without the need for an infallible teaching body, because we can be confident that with the witness provided by apostolic tradition, we will not err in our interpretations of the Scriptures, and that furthermore, should we somehow come to err individually, we can be assured that the Church will not. I always feel very uncomfortable with this idea that the Catholics put forth that they “do not interpret the scriptures personally”. How in the world does one read something without interpreting it? That to me sounds almost as ridiculous as the claims made by some biblical fundamentalists, who claim that the Scriptures are so plainly written that they need no interpretation.

I think sadly that this is largely correct. I know my independent Baptist, fairly fundamentalist leaning family members are fiercely proud of the fact that “no one tells us what to do”. This sentiment is directly contrary to what we see plainly in the Scriptures of the way the Church was instituted, such as Matthew 18, or the clear Apostolic authority handed on from the apostles and St. Paul to their next in succession, the Council at Jerusalem, etc., but there it is. I wouldn’t say this to my family, as I love them, but at some point, that attitude starts to seem like arrogance and pride. But no, I don’t see much hope for reconciliation with evangelicals of that stripe. Too much water under the bridge, too many issues to overcome at this point.:frowning:

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