Thursday, June 12, 2014

Why I don't think Protestantism is true

Hear me out my Protestant friends! Charitable dialogue is welcome.

Here's some thoughts on the difficulties I have with Protestantism. Protestant Pastor A and Protestant Pastor B can disagree on essentials about Jesus' teachings but how is it possible for a third party to know who is right? What authority should he/she turn to in order to learn the truth of the matter? Simply saying "My reading of the Bible is such and such and that is the truth" doesn't mean that it actually *is* true - that's just a personal interpretation.

What is needed is an *authoritative* interpretation. Simply saying, "I have the Holy Spirit, and He guides my interpretation. He is infallible" doesn't mean He actually *is* guiding you. After all, how many other Christians say the same thing and end up disagreeing on major points? 

Yes, the Holy Spirit is infallible but your friend at the next Church can claim the exact same thing with equal (if not stronger) sincerity and conviction. Again, what authority can Christians turn to and say "THAT is what the Holy Spirit meant in this or that passage" or "THIS is the correct doctrine on what baptism does to a person or whether the Apostles had successors with actual authority."  

How did the Holy Spirit intend for us to learn *His* "interpretation" of things? Was it through personal study and prayer alone? Did the Holy Spirit establish in the Church a *visible* authority to make clear His *invisible* authority (so to speak)? That's precisely what the Apostles were there for - to make Christ's teachings and the Holy Spirit's revelations absolutely clear.

Jesus is Divine and human. His Body, the Church, has a Divine (guided by the Holy Spirit in its teachings) and a human side (that's us.) God became flesh in Jesus Christ because He wanted to be visible and easily known. The Church (Christ's Body, He Himself living and acting through its members) is not just an invisible reality. It is to make the teachings of Christ visible and easily known. The early Christians simply needed to ask an Apostle if they had a question (they didn't have the New Testament defined until the late 300's and even then they *still* needed someone to properly interpret it for them) but how much *more* do WE need such great clarity today amid all the division and discord? God never abandoned His Church when it came to ensuring infallible teaching. He WANTS to be accessible (hence His Word became flesh.) He taught infallible then and still does so today. All Christians agree about how He did it in the beginning but did His saving truth become less accessible somehow when we became even more in need of it? We *need* an infallible Church to tell us "This is what Jesus meant" or "That is morally wrong." After all, you can find a Christian church or pastor who teaches exactly what you want them to teach - you just have to look hard enough. But we don't need more division, we need to *assurance* of infallible Christian teaching.  

We have that in the Catholic Church. Even the Bible itself, who declared *those* 27 New Testament books were God's Word? There had to be an outside authority to declare it so. An outside authority which said "Yes, these 27 books are in line with the oral teaching tradition which has been handed down." The Bible doesn't have an inspired table of contents. An outside authority recognized "These 27 books (the New Testament) are God's Word." The successors to the Apostles declared that. Historically, it was the Bishops in the Catholic Church who made that declaration. If you trust them with such a huge decision like that, well... why not everything else?

The Apostles really did have successors and those in turn had their successors. What good would Apostolic authority be if it wasn't destined to be handed down to the next generations which, progressively, would have even *greater* need of its guiding assurance? The Holy Spirit really did work through the Apostles and protect their teachings and He really does protect those teachings today through the Bishops. When you're in line with the Apostolic teaching handed down you necessarily have the correct doctrinal interpretations of the Bible. With no visible authority through which God could teach through then anyone (and everyone does this) either has to say either "My church is truly guided by the Holy Spirit" and then hopelessly defend that position with absolutely no historical link to the early Church or "These differences don't *really* matter; we all love Jesus anyway and that's what matters!" But I mean does the Bible really teach that anyway? Were Jesus' teachings not all essential? Can we get through with just some of the truth or don't we need all of it? Don't we *want* all of it??

But I suppose if that's *your* interpretation... In the end though I don't want *your* interpretation - I want the Holy Spirit's "interpretation" - I.e. the truth. Either He works through a visible authority here on earth to reveal His "interpretation" and give infallible teaching or He works through your local pastor to give infallible teaching...maybe. Except when I disagree with him. But then why is your Baptist (or Lutheran) pastor or church more right than the Presbyterian (or Pentecostal or Methodist etc. etc.) pastor or church? And why did it take 1500 or more years for the truth to finally "resurface"? Was the fruit of the Reformation (division after division and split after split due to one personal interpretation after another) really what God wanted? After all, even Calvin and Zwingli differed with Luther on essentials and condemned each other's teachings. But on what authority did they even do that? It was just their interpretation of the Bible. Thousands since have disagreed with them and so on and so on. All the while everyone claims to have the true interpretation and authentic biblical doctrine because they all say more or less

"Because WE have the Holy Spirit!" or "We are being guided by the Spirit on this."

But the fruit of division speaks for itself. "By their fruit you will know them." But where the Holy Spirit is there is unity (yes, even in doctrine!) Or is that a miracle that the Holy Spirit just stopped working perhaps 50 years after Pentecost?  

The greatest scandal against Christianity's claim to truth is that Christians are so divided - but it doesn't have to be so. Read the early Christian writings, read the Church Fathers and you'll see such a remarkable continuity with the Catholic Church of today (and throughout history) that you'll realize with the Anglican Convert, John Henry Cardinal Newman that "To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant."