In the Praise of Protestantism

Sometimes I want to protest Protestantism. Well, to be fair, at least how Protestantism is now. There’s a lot to be discouraged about. But on this Reformation Day I want to put my discouragements aside and praise Protestantism. You may know that on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther famously nailed his 95-Theses to the door in Wittenberg, Germany. While the fire of the Reformation had been burning for some time, this event, no doubt, accelerated what would become the Protestant Reformation. The Reformation was one of the greatest workings of the Holy Spirit since the beginnings of the New Testament church and the days of the Apostles.

To be sure, reality calls us to recognize that the bright sun of Protestantism has been largely eclipsed. The Marburg Colloquy, which first challenged the possibility of a united Protestant church, only stands at the head of what is quite literally a thousand fractures. While this is a sad truth, especially in light of our prayers for the “peace of Jerusalem” (Ps 122:6), I’m not naïve enough to think that the unity for which Jesus prayed when he said, “that they may be one, even as we are one” (Jn 17:11), is achievable on this side of eternity. Now we must suffer to be of many different convictions, “But when his time is come,” as John Wesley once wrote to George Whitefield, “God will do what man cannot, namely, make us both of one mind.” May the Lord hasten that day!

Nevertheless, sometimes those divisions are necessary for the purity of truth, and for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ. Such was the Protestant Reformation. And its foundation, Protestantism sought to brought children of spiritual bondage out of captivity from the tyranny and corruption of a self-proclaimed infallible authority, into the true and glorious liberty of the children of God. With a reclamation of the biblical gospel which is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16), Protestantism was a movement that set captives free. And that is definitely something worth praising, not protesting!

But I hope that Protestants will do more than praise the past. In a day when Christianity is eroding into the ocean of culture; when the gospel of Jesus Christ is being compromised, when the authority and sufficiency of the Bible is assailed, when the church has been replaced by a militant individualism—in a day when people are going en masse to their eternal destruction, we need the courage, as David Wells reminded us, to be Protestant. Blame my eschatology, but I’m pessimistic this will happen. Still, all things are possible with God—may his kingdom come and his will be done. Happy Reformation Day!

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