Why did God allow the Protestant heresy to be successful?


#1

Out of all the heresies that the Church has faced, the Protestant heresy has been the most successful. At least if you measure it in terms of years: 500+ years and no signs of slowing down. (The Arian heresy could also be argued to be the most successful. It didn’t quite last as long but at its height there were more Arian bishops than faithful Catholic bishops).

Of course this is pure speculation, but can anyone offer possible reasons why Divine Providence has allowed this particular heresy to flourish while all others have been (almost) extinguished?


#2

In case you’re wondering about the other heresies
catholic.com/library/Great_Heresies.asp


#3

good question (although probably inflammatory language to protestant readers, i.e. calling them heretics). the answer may lie in the fact that most protestant denominations don’t differ with the catholic church on the nature of Christ. the trinity is upheld and that salvation comes from God not from us which is also in line with catholic teaching (i am not talking about sola fide, but that works do not save us but are necessary to show we have a saving faith and that grace has worked through our lives). the main “heresy” of protestantism is to deny the authority of rome. all others are negligible and the fact that this is the only difference maybe that is why it is allowed the success that it has had. if you think about it also, it is an easier way. to submit to anything is more difficult than not to submit and protestants don’t want to submit to anything except the bible (but in their view they are the sole interpreters of the bible and are therefore submitting to nothing) and to be catholic one must submit themself to the pope and the magisterium, the bishops, and even a priest (although many protestants do submit themselves to a pastor until that pastor says something they don’t agree with). that is my opinion. by the way, i am a protestant at the moment, but am on my way home as soon as God answers a few more questions for me.


#4

A *really *good question, but I think that the question itself reveals something. We are short-sighted in terms of history - Arianism was a long-lived, powerful heresy as well, whose influences are still felt.

Whose success? The movement was a powerful one which manifested itself outside the Catholic Church; would the fact that it didn’t corrupt the Church itself be seen as a success for the Catholic Church?

As time has gone on, protestantism has devolved from a mistakenly reformed catholicism to a spectrum of denominations, some which border on pop psuedo-christanity, so much so that there is almost no doctrinal statement you could make that wouldn’t be wrong in one or more denominations. Even “mainstream” denominations are still fracturing (most recently, due to homosexual clergy).

They have been successful in muddying the water, but as long as the Catholic church remembers that the Truth lies within it, and teaches that Truth without compromise, nothing can prevail against it.

:slight_smile:


#5

This is a very interesting topic. I’m sure my reponse will be viewed as controversial, however, I mean no disrespect. I’m merely attempting to submit to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to lead me to a true understanding of His Church.

Protestants are wrong on sola scriptura and they are wrong on sola fida. The view of “once saved, always saved” often leads to license and a lack of emphasis on holiness. They are wrong in their proclivity to self-style their faith, disregarding history and the tradition of the early Church fathers. And they are wrong with regard to the sacraments. There are other lesser points, but I think I’ve covered the main errors.

But, not only is God allowing the Protestant heresy to continue, He is blessing them. People are getting saved, they are growing in their relationship with God, they are submitting to the Holy Spirit, and they are producing good works, such as helping those in need and such as evangelism.

I belive God is blessing Protestants for 2 reasons:

  1. As Bengal_fan pointed out conservative Protestants and Catholics have far more in common than that have disagreement.

  2. I believe that the Catholic Church is in need of further reformation. I know that cradle Catholics mistrust Protestant converts and have a fear that the Church will be highjacked by them. But most Catholics will admit that, while Luther’s schism was inappropriate and damaging, reform WAS needed in the Church. They will admit that Catholic reform was a positive outcome to the tragedy of that schism. There are things about Protestantism that cradle Catholics have a hard time understanding, which makes it difficult to understand why God allows this great schism to continue. If Catholics really want to understand why the Protestant heresy is successful, they need to listen to converts from Protestantism.

In my humble opinion, God is blessing Protestants because they are, in some areas, doing things better than the Catholic Church. They emphasize the personal relationship with God and they also have a view of relative safety in that relationship. I used to be Calvinist and no longer am. As a Catholic I, of course, believe one can lose his salvation, but to grow in a relationship there needs to be relative security. Without a measure of security, trust cannot develop. Catholicism is very legalistic and the applications of its teachings lead to the conclusion that one can lose his salvation very easily.

Another problem I see is an excessive use of authority on the Church’s part. Submission to authority is very important and rebellion leads to schism and lack of unity in the Body of Christ. But the Church uses this authority in a very intimidating and threatening way—it almost seems for the purpose of manipulating people into submission.

Until legalism and misuse of authority are reformed, I believe God will continue to greatly bless our Protestant brothers and sisters.


#6

I belive God is blessing Protestants for 2 reasons:

  1. As Bengal_fan pointed out conservative Protestants and Catholics have far more in common than that have disagreement.

  2. I believe that the Catholic Church is in need of further reformation. I know that cradle Catholics mistrust Protestant converts and have a fear that the Church will be highjacked by them. But most Catholics will admit that, while Luther’s schism was inappropriate and damaging, reform WAS needed in the Church. They will admit that Catholic reform was a positive outcome to the tragedy of that schism. There are things about Protestantism that cradle Catholics have a hard time understanding, which makes it difficult to understand why God allows this great schism to continue. If Catholics really want to understand why the Protestant heresy is successful, they need to listen to converts from Protestantism.

In my humble opinion, God is blessing Protestants because they are, in some areas, doing things better than the Catholic Church. They emphasize the personal relationship with God and they also have a view of relative safety in that relationship. I used to be Calvinist and no longer am. As a Catholic I, of course, believe one can lose his salvation, but to grow in a relationship there needs to be relative security. Without a measure of security, trust cannot develop. Catholicism is very legalistic and the applications of its teachings lead to the conclusion that one can lose his salvation very easily.

Another problem I see is an excessive use of authority on the Church’s part. Submission to authority is very important and rebellion leads to schism and lack of unity in the Body of Christ. But the Church uses this authority in a very intimidating and threatening way—it almost seems for the purpose of manipulating people into submission.

Until legalism and misuse of authority are reformed, I believe God will continue to greatly bless our Protestant brothers and sisters.


#7

If God is for us who can be against us? God calls us into an intimate relationship with Him. Thats what He wants. We do that,God will do the rest. Christians are the Body of Christ. :thumbsup:


#8

Protestanism survives by continually splitting into more and more denominations. When the theology of one denomination runs into a brick wall a new church is formed to get around it. They don’t realize the Bible needs to be read in light of Sacred Tradition.

“For I imagined that what was to be got from books was not so profitable to me as what came from the living and abiding voice.”

-Papias (A.D. 110)


#9

[quote=bengal_fan]…by the way, i am a protestant at the moment, but am on my way home as soon as God answers a few more questions for me.
[/quote]

Theophilus,

If you would like us to answer some questions in the mean time let us know. Take your time and learn the truth before you cross the Tiber. Faith is only Faith if it is freely given.

Whatever you decision good luck! Christ loves ALL his children.

A prisoner of Christ


#10

Agreed. I am also a former Calvinist, now a loyal and grateful Catholic. But I also believe that God is using Protestants in a special way, and that the graces bestowed on them can be for our benefit if we will humbly examine ourselves.

Here are some things I think Protestants “do better” than Catholics. These are, of course, generalizations, and will not apply to every community of either Protestants or Catholics. I mean no disrespect, and do not wish to offend anyone, but I offer these perspectives as someone who has lived on both sides of the fence.

  1. Protestants are better at forming real community. They care for each other, at least within their own congregation. They are actively involved in each other’s lives every day of the week, not only on Sundays. They feel a responsibility to care for each other in good times and bad, and demonstrate their concern in tangible ways. They love the Jesus they see in their neighbor.

  2. Protestants are more hospitable and welcoming to strangers. When I was a Protestant, I spent about two years on the hospitality committee of my church. Each Sunday afternoon, I would deliver a fresh baked loaf of homemade bread to the home of any visitors who registered their presence that week. This was no pressure, and often the welcome package was just left on the front porch, with a copy of our most recent newsletter, and a note to say, “Glad you visited us, please come again soon.”

  3. Protestants are more attentive to spiritual formation of adults. Most Protestants understand that learning about the Faith is a life-long job, and they attend Sunday school every week. This formation is something that is provided regularly at the ‘parish’ level. Granted, what is taught there is not doctrine that Catholics would always embracehttp://forums.catholic.com/images/icons/icon11.gif, but the congregation is committed to faith formation for all ages at all times.

  4. The concept of ‘mission’ or ‘outreach’ is prevalent in Protestant practice. Individual members do much more than donate money, they can be found actively working the homeless ministries, building houses with Habitat for Humanity, etc. Yes, I see some of that same activity in the Catholic Church, but the percentage of individual lay people actively involved in serving the poor seems small compared to our Protestant friends.

These are areas where I think we Catholics could benefit from some Protestant mentoring. And who knows where such dialogue could lead? Maybe more of them would be open to hearing all the wonderful Truth about the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.


#11

One might as well ask, “Why did God allow Adam and Eve to commit the first sin?”

In two words: Free Will. He doesn’t make us do what we do, and He doesn’t stop us from doing what we will.

He created us, and He loves us.

But He does not control us.

Pax Christi. <><


#12

Perhaps for the same reason that he took so long in the process of covenant building through Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David before the coming of Christ. He lets things run their course. He has no need to hurry anything. Just as man needed millennia to see all the dreary consequences of the first rebellion before our Savior came, so must man see all the fruits of the Reformation, both good and bad, before the breach is healed.

And remember, there were good fruits to the Reformation. Medieval Catholicism should not be idealized. Many of the ideas of the Reformers were, in fact, an attempt to get back to authentic Catholic teaching. What are Sola Gratia or Sola Deo Gloria, ultimately, but an attempt to recover Patristic teaching?

A good reading suggestion for those interested is The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, by Louis Bouyer.


#13

To say that Protestant heresy was successful assumes these churches have been a success. Protestanstism (as loosely defined) has continued to further splinter and cannibalize itself into somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-thousand distinct denominations or sects. Also, given the neo-pagan and rather un-Christian beliefs on Abortion, “gay marriage”, and similar “doctrines” which many mainline Protestant churches have come to embrace, - who can call these churches successful ?? They may have celebrated some “success” in drawing initial numbers of souls away from the Catholic church in the last 500 years, but I would argue that they are no lasting success. I don’t see where any Protestant sects progressed the proliferation and “success” of Christendom as a whole anywhere in World Protestants spread their influence to the Americas, - Protestants whom were former Catholics. They did nothing above and/or beyond what Catholics have always done to spread the faith to the ends of the World. Where is there success ?? Of their relative “successes”, - wouldn’t they have been equally accomplished by Catholics ?

I believe the time is now for many disillusioned Protestants to return to Rome, - to the Church their ancestors left. Many of their Chruches are in crisis as their elders accept the neo-pagan narcisism of our modern Culture. The gates of Hell may prevail against the Protestant churches, but the Eternal city shall stand as their refuge.


#14

Thanks to all of you for your generous, intelligent and heartfelt posts.
It has seemed to me that there are great lessons we can learn from our separated brethren, and that is why they are still going “strong”.
It is difficult for me to see them as truly strong when so many things cause more and more divisiveness within their denominations. Their strength truly lies in the fact that we remain separated and not in full communion with one another. What a formidable force we would be in the world if indeed we were together as one, as Jesus prayed we would be.
Why are we separated still? Obviously, we have much to learn
from each other. Because we have free will, perhaps we will never be in full communion…but we can continue to pray for that day, and work together to gain common understanding and respect for all beliefs, even if we don’t accept or agree with them.

Peace to all and a blessed Independence Day to all my fellow Americans :love:


#15

I think the CCC best describes what the Catholic Church is, the sacrament of the unity of the human race under Christ. Protestants also fail to realize that Christ’s church includes the communion of saints, that is, those faithful departed. Protestants also fail to acknowledge many of God’s Marian apparitions and miracles performed by saints in order to strengthen our faith and resolve. Protestants are by definition still protesting against us and the Pope. I think St. Catherine of Siena is the best example of a faithful Catholic who, instead of leaving the Church, worked inside it to solve a pontifical dispute. Protestants should have worked through the Church as far as it was possible. Martin Luther went too far in his 95 theses, though, despite the popular misunderstanding, most are quite tolerable in the present times. Calvin’s rash and militant actions against the Church prove that he was not motivated by Christ, but rather by power. Henry VIII of England proves the same. Clearly, these churches have no true reason to be separate from the Catholic Church. They remain separate only because Catholics have failed to convert them back to the true faith on the foundation that we love them. Instead, Catholics decided to wage wars upon them. Clearly the Church was threatened militarily by the Protestants, but I think a different and more successful approach would have been proper evangelization and teaching. We failed in many ways to show compassion to the sinners and to forgive them. Thankfully, His Holiness Pope John Paul II rightfully understands the past failures and is working to resolve them. Having no real theological foundation of its own, protestants are separate only because modern believers have a lack of understanding for their history. They are separate because of political differences, because of the struggle for power. Unity is the desire of every human heart. The Catholic Church provides that unity through Christ. That is why we are drawn to it. If protestants could be taught that unity, and shown that the Catholic Church is a stronger family of faith and love, they would cease to exist.

And a question… does the end times include first the unity of all Christians to the Catholic Faith before the plagues and disasters strike the Earth? Some protestants have indicated that they believe all will be reunited before the end of this world and the rise of the Anti-Christ.

-Preston


#16

Petra, I humbly have to state that you are falling into the same trap many of our Protestant brothers fall into. Although some Protestants may be doing better than some Catholics, it is not true that Protestants as a whole are doing things better than Catholics.

With all do respects, you are comparing the best of the Protestants to the worst of Catholic. The best of your Protestants would be the evangelicals. But within the Protestantism, the evangelicals are only a small minority. There are mainline denominations, those who are members of the United Council of Christian Churches, who are more concerned about the social gospel, gay rights, or feminism than about a relationship with God. I agree that the average Catholic is not much. But neither is the average Protestant much either. In both sectors, those you truly serve God are a minority. The only difference is that since Protestant have a separatistic mentality, so that once a church starts going downhill, they leave it and start another church. Catholics do not have this luxury. Since true believers only hang out witheach other in Protestantism, they soon forget that there are many Protestant not having a relationship with God at all.

I see much emphasis in the Catholic Church about having a relationship with God. Read the writings off Alphonsus Liguori, St Teresa de Avila, St John of the Cross, Thomas a Kempis, or St Francis de Sales. They all emphasized the importance of having a relationship with God. I am trying to go to Mass every morning, and there are about 75 people who attend the 6:30 Mass. There is another group of 50 who attend the 8:00 Mass. I dount you would find thatr many Protestants in a given area attending a prayer meeting or a Bible Study on a daily basis.


#17

God causes this to happen like anything else, for His greater glory. That the Catholic Church stands strong on moral issues and issues of faith in these dark days is a testimony to its divine foundation, Jesus Christ. The wholesale falling away from major moral and doctrinal issues by most mainline Protestant denominations is a testament that they are and always have been man-made institutions. The disunity and moral and doctinal confusion between various Protestant denominations does not strike me as a resounding success.

Some Protestants maintain a semblence of truth, but most have essentially abandoned true historic Christian worship (the Eucharist) for some songs and a good sermon, and are not feeding on Christ which is our spiritual food and nourishment to live as Christians. They also deny the other Sacramental graces found in Reconciliation, Confirmation, , to the detriment of their walk with Christ. If they have a personal walk with Christ and a strong vibrant faith, they will still remain a shadow of what they could become in Christ in the bosom of the Catholic Church.

I came home to the Catholic Church from an Evangelical background three months ago, and I will freely admit that some Protestants are more vibrant in their faith than many Catholics. There are certain aspects of Evangelicalism that are laudible, but in the above paragraphs I try to charitably state that there is too much lacking for Protestantism to be considered a “success” in the full sense of the word. Neither longevity nor numerical growth constitutes success.

For those who are on the outside and studying the Catholic Church, swim on over. :slight_smile: It is not easy, and not a move to be made rashly, but has been my greatest joy.

Peter John


#18

And a question… does the end times include first the unity of all Christians to the Catholic Faith before the plagues and disasters strike the Earth? Some protestants have indicated that they believe all will be reunited before the end of this world and the rise of the Anti-Christ.

I Certainly feel we’ll be reunited once teh hoorors of the Tribulation start and the Antchrist begins to persecute us we’ll all have to stick together and put our differnces aside if anyone’s to survive


#19

Do you think they are successful? If they are why are they so divided and the morality issues in their own ranks are crumbling? It seems to me that the final days of protestantism is almost over. In the end the One true Church of Christ–the Catholic Church-- will remain triumphant. It’s the only one that will be left standing for there is no other foundation that Christ established.Pio


#20

This is a wonderful topic for discussion and has had many insightful responses, which all seem to cover any answers I could give. The only response I can add is, without a Protestant background there would be no awesome Protestant converts like Scott Hahn. I would recommend his books/ tapes/ EWTN specials to any of my protestant or Catholic friends! Thank God for Protestant Preachers and Theologians who have discovered the fullness of truth in the Catholic Church through Scripture and historical study!
Lets give a big round of applause for Catholic Converts!:clapping:


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.