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The End of Protestantism? The ‘Word’ Says No!

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Peter Leithart, in case you missed it, recently wrote an article for First Things blog entitled: The End of ProtestantismIt is essentially a rant about  how Protestantism should basically go away, and at least go back to its original form as a theological movement which was really part of a larger ground swell to reform the Catholic church from within. He thinks the form Protestantism took over the last 500 years, or so, has run its course, and that, again, we should, at the least, go back to a reform movement within Catholicism instead of without it. I can agree that there are definitely excesses (understatement) within what counts as Protestantism today; especially in North American evangelicalism, of which I am a member. But, clearly, there is also an excess in Leithart’s litany of rant points. [Since I only have about 5 minutes to write this post, this will be quick, literally]

What Leithart, in my view, misses, in spades, is that Protestantism could never, nor should ever really end. I know the popular conception is that the distinction between Catholics and Protestants is around salvation, and ‘faith alone’ issues. But I think, while it does involve some of that (especially in contrast with Tridentine theology), the primary distinction that is still thick, is that Protestants operate from a theology of the Word (sola scriptura), whereas Catholics operate from a theology of the Church. The viva vox Dei (the living voice of God) is accentuated, for the Protestant, in and through Scripture (and for some like me, a ‘theology of the Word’ takes threefold form); but for the Catholic ‘the living voice of God’ comes first through the magesterium of the Holy Church. I can see why Leithart sees no real need for, and thus an ostensible end for the need of Protestantism; if, as many Protestants do, you operate (at a functional level) from a theology of the Church as primary to a theology of the Word, then indeed, what is the point for Protestantism to continue to exist?

The point is, is that Protestants always have and always will see the Word as primary to the Church; and rightfully understood, the Word in its first reality is none other than Jesus Christ himself (John 1:1), of which Scripture becomes His speech declared in words (by the Holy Spirit’s administration) for His church. If we could really appreciate this, both Catholic and Protestant, I could see an end for Catholicism in the making more than for Protestantism.

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