The Problem with Protestant Ecclesiology

I found this article. I love honesty…I wonder how many Protestants have seen what Daniel has seen. What is interesting is that he states that the problem is ecclesiology and his bias shows when mentioning “church” not “Church”

He also points out honestly the difficulty Protestants have with Canonicity absent the Church…so often Protestants new to this forum get tangled in this difficult area with lack of understanding as Dan states here…

First, I have spent a lot of time with Greek Orthodox folks. It doesn’t matter what Orthodox church or monastery I visit, I get the same message, the same liturgy, the same sense of the ‘holy other’ in our fellowship with the Triune God. The liturgy is precisely what bothers so many Protestants since their churches often try very hard to mute the voices from the past. “It’s just me and my Bible” is the motto of millions of evangelicals. They often intentionally forget the past two millenia and the possibility that the Spirit of God was working in the church during that time.

If Dungan is right, then the issue of the authorship of certain books (most notably the seven disputed letters of Paul) is settled. And it’s settled by appeal to an ecclesiological structure that is other than what Protestants embrace. The irony is that today evangelicals especially argue for authenticity of the disputed letters of Paul, yet they are arguing with one hand tied behind their back. And it has been long noted that the weakest link in an evangelical bibliology is canonicity

I wonder…with all the honesty…the forest and the trees becomes a problem because after stating that there are issues…he forgets that the Church is the Pillar and foundation of the Truth and states this…

I’m not sure of the solution, or even if there is one. But we can take steps toward a solution even if we will never get there in this world. First of all, we Protestants can be more sensitive about the deficiencies in our own ecclesiology rather than think that we’ve got a corner on truth.

If this Protestant does not think that they have cornered the truth…why stay Protestant…I wonder how many other Protestants have come to the edge of this dilema and if they have why they stay Protestant…

In my opinion protestants share the same problem the gnostics did. How do they truely know they are right when the reject traditionas handed down from generation to generation, notably in the fathers.


This is interesting. I have found Protestants steeped in American History, steeped in their own family history and roots and traditions and when it comes the Church they have a blind spot.

IMO, sometimes for some Protestants the problem is not ‘me and the Bible’ it is ‘me and Jesus’, skipping over the Bible. :shrug:

From the article:

“But unity in falsehood is no unity at all,” some will protest. To a degree that is true. If the unity of the church meant that we would all deny the bodily resurrection of the theanthropic person, then that would be unity against an essential of the Christian faith. But there is no thinking Christian who agrees lock, stock, and barrel with what his pastor teaches. Yet, he is a part of that church. In this respect, he has prized unity over truth. We all have to do this. If we didn’t, each Christian would be his or her own church. The fellowship would be awfully predictable and quite boring!’

If the Catholic (or Orthodox, for that matter) understanding is falsehood, then how is our unity maintained? Would not our lies trip over each other, and cause chaos and breakups?

In Protestantism, one really doesn’t know what he or she will experience from church to church.

We were just discussing this in our Stewardship study group last week. One of the strengths of the Catholic Church is that we can expect support from the Church, local as well as universal–and that we don’t have to investigate every church in every new town (such as when on a trip) to find somewhere we can worship.

Second, a man whom I mentored years ago became a pastor of a non-denominational church. Recently and tragically, he denied the full deity of Christ and proclaimed that the Church had gotten it wrong since Nicea. He got in with a group of heretics who were very persuasive. The elders of the church had no recourse to any governing authority over the local church; they were the governing authority and they were not equipped to handle his heterodox teaching. . . .

This cuts both ways. I heard of a nearby town some years back where a local woman was being discriminated against because of her race (Native American). The Catholic pastor preached against the situation, and it quickly resolved as people recognized their guilt. The local Protestant pastors thanked him–had they preached so forthrightly, their elders/church boards would have fired them that same week.


It is amazing. No matter where you go in the world you can be assured that worship will be Eucharist centered in the Catholic Church.

As Cardinal Newman said, “To be deep in history is to cease being protestant.”

we can begin to listen again to the voice of the Spirit speaking through church fathers and embrace some of the liturgy that has been used for centuries

Instead of simply moving toward the Catholic Church, just become Catholic! :stuck_out_tongue:

Because we do not have reason to believe that anyone else has cornered the truth either, regardless of what so very many groups claim to the contrary.

One of the fundamental aspects of serious academic study is the recognition of the limits of our knowledge: we actually know very, very little; we believe much more; we suspect quite a bit. Some of us feel very comfortable carrying the same recognition across into theology.

That’s a great read - and it certainly gets me pondering.

My initial reaction is that while Protestant churches very greatly, Catholic laymen very from church to church to an amazing degree too - so much so that here in Seattle, sometimes it seems that I’m more ‘Catholic’ than some of the Catholics here.

It’s also not a solved problem though even for Catholics - we see the Catholic church splintering now and then too, with Old Catholics and SSPX a more recent example.

That said, Protestants need to learn from our Catholic friends - we need to spend more time promulgating better theology, and Catholics and Protestants with better theology than some would do well to look as some of our wayward Protestants with a evangelical eye.

To think of it, however, there is a huge breakup between Catholic and Orthodoxy, unity is not maintained. One of them is teaching incorrectly regarding the jusridiction of the Bishop of Rome. One of them is wrong regarding the Filioque. One is wrong about the IC.

Secondly, it has nothing to do with lies. Lies imply an** intent **to deceive. A very small number believe this to be the case regarding Catholicism or Orthodoxy. I certainly don’t.


I was speaking of the unity within the Catholic, or within the Orthodox, and was not precise.

Also, saying lies was another mistake. “Falsehood” or “Error” would have been better, as you indicated.



I understand that you believe that no one has the truth. As you say we believe more than we know. Do you believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, inerrant and infallible?

I am afraid that it is not that simple: I believe that no one can know whether they have the truth, which does not mean that no one has it.

As you say we believe more than we know. Do you believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, inerrant and infallible?

No, I don’t: the only infallibility in which I believe is the infallibility of the essence of God alone. I believe that the Bible is a well-maintained record of what its writers believed to be true, but they were mortals, and mortals are fallible, and its readers are the same.

That is certainly not the only position in Protestantism, but I used a plural in that comment because I know quite a few Protestants who do believe that the Bible is wholly the inspired Word of God, inerrant and infallible, but who do not believe that any human interpretation thereof is infallible.

Something which I see quite often in CAF is this idea that the Catholic Church’s assurance of Knowing the Truth is better than uncertainty, but this idea is not universally held.


Because we do not have **reason **to believe that anyone else has cornered the truth either, regardless of what so very many groups claim to the contrary.

This is how you started this objection to ecclesiology. It appears to me that your authority is reason.

Wow. Is this an Anglican belief or are you going contrary to Anglican teachings concerning the inspiration of Sacred Scripture and just stating your personal opinion?

Some general comments on this entire thread from this Catholic girl:

  1. I believe the Bible is true from cover to cover. Inspired by the Holy Spirit through the hands of faithful men. It was inspired the moment it was written, and affirmed so by a Council. But the council did not make Scripture inspired.
  2. I know Protestants who love the Lord as much as I, and their lives demonstrate who their trust is in (Christ) by their daily walk and commitment to Him. I call them brothers and sisters, in spite of what the Vatican says about Protestant churches being invalid or false.
  3. The more I study Scripture, the more Christ comes alive to me. I see problems with the ecclesiology of some Protestant churches, and I see problems in the Catholic church. Church leadership should align with the biblical church leadership model, and many are not in alignment.
  4. Some comments in this thread asserted you cannot know Truth. Christ told Pilate why he came; to bear witness to the Truth. Peter told us to be diligent to know we were saved and of the elect. If we are told to search this fact, then it’s possible we can know, and should.
  5. I feel that anyone who puts their faith in the Church for salvation is in grave danger. Our saving faith is in Christ. The Church is to manifest Christ through the gospel, this was why is was created.

It is not an “objection to ecclesiology”. How can one object to the thinking about churches?

In your OP, you said, “I wonder how many other Protestants have come to the edge of this dilemma and if they have why they stay Protestant.” The answer is, quite simply, that this realisation (that Protestantism does not have a monopoly on the understanding of God) does not by any means logically imply that anyone else does have a monopoly on the understanding of God. We stay Protestant because we have no reason not to.

Is this based upon reason? Yes, certainly, as is all coherent theology, Catholic and Orthodox included.

The first-person singular pronoun is quite deliberate. There are other Anglicans who believe this, others who are even more radical (they reject the veracity of Scripture), and many others who believe that the Bible is true in other ways, across a wide spectrum upto and including both sola scriptura and Tradition-based hermeneutics (as in Catholicism).

“Going contrary to Anglican teachings”, however, is rather more complex a matter than going contrary to Catholic teachings, because Anglicanism demands much less adherence to dogmata.


Not reason alone.

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