I know I’m late to the game, because as I pulled in with my mitt and bat ready, the lights were off and no one was in the field. But that’s not going to stop be from taking a few cuts at the plate and even hitting a few balls just to see how far they can go.
I posted last week about the Future of Protestantism discussion that happened at Biola. After the conversation, all the pastors and bloggers that are much smarter than me and much better writers than I’ll ever be all gave their two cents. They sent their hits sailing into the outfield and some even over the fence. And so here I am, practicing in the dark, taking my swings by shouting by opinions into the vast expanse of the internet.
First of all, three cheers for all the gentlemen who participated in this conversation. It was incredibly edifying and put shoes on a lot of the barefoot ideas and questions I had running around in my own head.
Second of all, my overwhelming sentiment from this whole discussion was, “I agree.” While there were some minor disagreements, overall, I was in agreement with all three gentlemen and feel that they presented their sides well, though it came to light that they agreed more than they disagreed.
My last and most in-depth point is this: Those Protestants who truly desire to see the Reformation Spirit of God sweep again must truly be Protestant Patriots. There is a quote attributed to Augustine, but even if he didn’t say it, the sentiment is true. It states, “The Church is a whore. But she is also my Mother.” Despite all her ills and her faults and her mistakes and errors, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her. I think the predominant feeling among young(er-ish) evangelicals is frustration with the Church. They ask questions about all the divisions in the Protestant churches and namely the evangelical churches. And for good reason! Think about it. How many conservative, Protestant, evangelical denominations are in the U.S.? How many are Baptists? How many are Presbyterian? How many are “non-denominational”? It seems to me that feeling is growing and causing quite a bit of unrest among young Protestants. This is what Peter Leithart addressed in his opening comments. The Bible talks about unity and we look around and we don’t see it. We don’t see it among Protestants. We don’t see it between Protestants and Roman Catholics. We don’t see it between Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. So there are some legitimate feelings of angst and uneasiness among younger Protestants.
The problem is the two major solutions that these disheveled Protestants have concocted.
The first is what I have affectionally termed “evangelly-goo.” It says something to the effect of, “All these doctrines and creeds and catechisms divide us. Guys, all we need is Jesus. Why can’t we just all come together and worship Him in love and unity and oneness?” You’re right. I am overstating it a bit. This is unrealistic. They probably don’t know how to pronounce “catechism.” The assumption behind Mr. or Miss Evangelly-goo is that we aren’t already worshipping Jesus, but that we are worshipping something else. This may be true for some, but I wouldn’t argue that this is true for the overwhelming majority. And, ultimately, the real problem here they end up begging the question. “How should we worship in oneness and unity?” “Oh. We’ll our faux-hawked, metrosexual band leader is going to lead the 12-piece-praise-band (4 of which play acoustic guitar) in a never ending chorus of ‘How Great Is Our God.’ We might do some Hillsong if we have time, but ‘How Great’ usually takes about 30 minutes. Sooo…” You see? In their mind, the only way we can have unity is if we all give up our theological differences and comprehensive ecclesiological/worship preferences for theirs. This isn’t unity. It’s conformity. The Apostle Paul had to deal with something similar in Corinth. And he, like the restless Protestants, called out people for their divisions.
What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,”
To this we all should give a hearty, “Amen.” And the loudest usually comes from the Evangelly-goos. But the problem is that I left off the last part of the verse. In true Pauline fashion, Paul saves his harshest condemnation for last. Here it is again.
What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
The problem in Corinth is similar to the Evangelly-goo problem Protestants are tempted into today. The “Jesus Trump Card” didn’t work back then, and it won’t work now, because the reality is the Evangelly-goos are willing to require everyone repent and ignore their distinctives…except for them.
The second solution is abandonment. We Protestants are seeing a number of the young and the restless swing over to the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox denomination believing all their unity problems have been solved. But this is another point that stuck out in Dr. Leithart’s comments. If the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodoxs are branches of the True Church, albeit very unhealthy and diseased branches, then our unity problems don’t stop with jumping off the Protestant ship and reneging on all of our Protestant confessions, which is the point Carl Trueman was making.
The fundamental problem with both of these solutions is that none of these Protestants are true patriots. They confess that they are Protestants, but out of the same mouth comes cursing and all kinds of evil about Protestantism. They…WE…have forgotten the Mother from whence we have come. To use an analogy from Douglas Wilson:
“Say that mom has a drinking problem, and it is time for an intervention. Whom do you want leading and coordinating it? The son who calls every week and sends flowers and a card every mother’s day, or the son who has been a cynical smartmouth from high school on? The son who has observed the pieties is qualified to say something about the maternal sin, and is the most likely to do it right. The other son might actually be the source of the problem and ought not to be put in charge of fixing it.”
My proposed solution is an army of Protestant Patriots. We need faithful Protestant sons and daughters who love their Mother, recognize they would be nothing without her, and wouldn’t abandon her if it meant death to take the eternal truths of the Reformation and apply them to the current ills of the Church (yes, the entire Church) and carry that mantle into the coming centuries and millennia using them as a rallying cry and a banner to unite all Christians.
This is (the future of) Christianity.