Monday, May 16, 2005

Still Protesting?

Protestants get their name from their alignment with a group of men who protested against some abuses and doctrinal errors in the medieval Roman Catholic church some 400 years ago. Yet many today act as if our 21st century American culture were still dominated by the medieval Roman mindset.

But consider that the American heritage is largely Protestant. The Pilgrims were largely Reformed, Protestant Puritans, and our idea of government is largely influenced by their thought. Most of our presidents have been affiliated with Protestant churches (JFK is a notable exception), as is the case with Congress. The Southern Baptists make up our largest church denomination. Our education was largely founded by Protestants (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc.) as were our public schools. The "Christian Right" is mostly evangelical Protestant as is the "Bible Belt." Our history is full of "hellfire and brimstone" preachers (Protestants). The Roman church has changed much in the last 400 years, and many modern American Catholics disagree with the pope on a number of issues. Our present culture doesn't even have a clue as to what Rome was doing 400 years ago.

Yet, our Reformed preachers continue to preach the doctrine of "justification by faith alone" and other Reformed doctrine just as if we were living 400 years ago. This one doctrine has been equated with the gospel itself more times than I can remember, and it is widely viewed as the central message of the New Testament. Understanding this doctrine is used as a litmus test for orthodoxy, spirituality and even salvation. No, as true as this doctrine might be, and I believe it to be so, the Lordship of Jesus Christ over every thought, word and act of every man, woman, child, atom and molecule is the central message of the Bible.

Ironically, a large point in Reformed preaching is how the church is ineffective in the culture around us. Maybe we could listen to this while simultaneously looking in the mirror. We won't win an ignorant culture over to our side when we continue to protest against things that no longer have rule over us.