Our Catholic faith and the end of Protestantism

Luther95thesesNow that I have your attention, no, I’m not a Roman Catholic, nor am I arguing that we should all become one. But I do belong to the holy Catholic faith, and so do you (Catholic means “universal”).

Okay, so what do I mean by saying such outlandish things.

I write such things because the protest that started with Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 ended in 1999.  But like brothers still fighting the American Civil War in their hearts and minds 150 years after the fact, we find ourselves protesting a lost cause, forgetting what unites us in Christ. Or worse, we continue to propagate the dissent through fear by demonizing the other with our party propaganda.

So, what am I talking about? In 1999 the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Lutheran Church signed an agreement that brought an end to the 482 year-old protest. Luther believed that we were saved by grace through faith alone; the Roman Catholic Church held that we were saved by works. And that disagreement continued until 1999 when the two churches reconciled their differences.  This is a quote from the Vatican website in a document titled, “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

“Justification thus means that Christ himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in accord with the will of the Father. Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.

And Paul would agree with this statement (bold-text added)….

“For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works,
lest anyone should boast.
For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand
that we should walk in them.” (Eph.2:8-10 NKJV)

So, my question is, what’s the issue here?

If we believe that salvation is only by grace through faith alone, and the Roman Catholics believe the same, what are we still protesting?

I suppose you’re going to tell me it’s all the other stuff they add on to the gospel with their traditions. Okay, fair enough. But what about all the traditions we add on to the simple truth of salvation by grace through faith alone?

So who’s the Pharisee here?

It’s interesting that there was only one church for over 1,000 years until the Great Schism when the Eastern Orthodox broke off from the Western Roman Catholic Church. It was like that for another 500 years until Luther’s Protestant Reformation.

Since then, there have been over 33,000 denominations! The splits are usually over doctrinal differences.

So, if the Pharisees were called such because they were separatists, what does that make us?

One body, many parts

I believe that God loves diversity, but He hates divisiveness. Again, here’s what Paul says (bold-text added)

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts,
but all its many parts form one body,
so it is with Christ.
For we were all baptized by one Spirit
so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—
and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Even so the body is not made up of one part
but of many.” (1 Cor.12:12-14 NIV)

So we see that while we’re united by the Spirit as one body on the earth, we can express Him in many different styles and forms.

When we’re divisive we prove we’re not spiritually mature

Paul tells us that divisiveness proves that we’re not spiritually mature–actually worldly and acting like infants in Christ (bold-text and insertions added)…

 “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you
as people who live by the Spirit
but as people who are still worldly
mere infants in Christ.
I gave you milk, not solid food,
for you were not yet ready for it.
Indeed, you are still not ready.
You are still worldly.
For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you,
are you not worldly?
Are you not acting like mere humans?
For when one says,
“I follow Paul,[insert “Catholic”] and another,
“I follow Apollos,”[insert “Protestant”]
are you not mere human beings?” (1 Cor.3:1-4 NIV)

While doctrine is important, as long as we insist on relating to one another based on doctrinal agreement we will stay immature and divisive, but if it’s based on who we are in Christ we will be united in the Spirit (more on that next time).

So, beloved Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and all you 33,000 variations of Protestants, isn’t it time we grew up and became spiritual? The body of Christ is not divided. There are no Catholics or Protestants–Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Pentecostals, Charismatics or any other schism–in heaven.

There are only sons and daughters of our Father in heaven.

And while there’s nothing wrong with denominations, denominationalism is not the heart of sonship but that of a spiritual orphan.

So, shouldn’t we stop acting like orphans and actually celebrate our multifariousness?

Let me declare some good news to you today. The feud is over! We are all brothers and sisters of Christ! And I say, about time.

More on the unity of the faith next time.

Photo credit: “Luther 95 Theses” – Wikipedia
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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 37 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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13 Responses to Our Catholic faith and the end of Protestantism

  1. paulfg says:

    The thought “stirring stuff” came to mind – followed by “and to combine and mix different ingredients into the whole, what do you have to do … ?”

    Stirring stuff indeed!!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yes, that’s a good way of looking at it. It’s interesting that “stirring stuff” can either stir things up or blend them together. Maybe one has to happen before the other. 🙂

  2. bullroarin says:

    Wow…this will be a horse pill for some to swallow. I say that because most, but not all, Christians find their identity in their denomination. Take away the name of your church and then what are you?

    So, I agree. The only way to have diversity within the body is to have a common denominator that we can all agree on…that we are all saved by grace through faith and baptized into one body by the same Spirit.
    You know, when I was young I looked forward to the time when my kids would mature and become reasonable adults…and over time they have and I’m proud of them. They learned from their experiences and moved on to make good choices (for the most part!). I’m sure our heavenly Father looks on with unparalleled anticipation to the day when the church will move from immaturity to maturity…it will be heaven on earth!

    Take care ~ Dave

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yup, it is for some. And, again, we can love our particular church or denomination as long as we don’t love it more than we love Jesus and His body. People should belong to whatever part of the body of Christ that helps them grow up into Christ (Eph.4:11-16).
      And I like your analogy as a parent wanting to see your children mature and love each other. When my boys were young, my middle son and youngest fought like cats and dogs (not violent, just contentious), but now they’re very close to each other as adults. And the point is, they’re still very different from one another. A sign of maturity is when we accept our differences and base our relationship on love and not having to agree about everything or even be like each other.
      So you’re exactly right, our heavenly Father is exactly the same about us. Blessings.

  3. vivator says:

    You wrote “the Roman Catholic Church held that we were saved by works” This a common misconception – Catholic Church does not and never teach salvation by works, before and after Reformation. For sure we have different understanding on justification – for more detail kindly read my post: http://vivacatholic.wordpress.com/223-2/

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks for your clarification. Perhaps that is a long-held misconception that needed to be brought out. Also, the misconception can be from how we interpret terms about our justification, etc. And I think that was the point of the discussions leading up to the joint declaration, to find out what Catholics and Lutherans agreed on, and build on that, instead of what they disagreed on and stay divided. And certainly, they both still disagree on a lot of the details, and I would disagree with both the Catholics and the Lutherans on some those details. But we can find common language to all agree with on the central tenets of our faith, like the quote I mentioned here. The point being, we should never let the details of our doctrines be a reason for being divisive and condemning one another. We are brothers and sisters in Christ based on His grace through faith alone. Blessings.

  4. Great post Mel! I think it’s okay to disagree on some aspects of how faith should be practiced and lived out but as long as we have the same underlying beliefs and values then we should learn to embrace our differences and not waste time arguing about them when we could be using that time to reach the lost together. Like you said, at the end of the day we are not our denomination, we are sons and daughters of the same Almighty Father and the more we realize that the easier it will be for us to learn to get along with one another here on earth. Thank you for sharing this!

  5. Pingback: Pope Francis and the unity of the faith | In My Father's House

  6. Cindy Powell says:

    Another great post. It took me a very long time to actually embrace my Catholic roots (all my family on both sides – even though my folks left the Catholic church when we were babies) because, sadly, in the Evangelical Church that’s what I was taught to do 😦 Again, you are so right–in heaven’s eyes there is no division–only beloved sons and daughters. BTW, I think you deserve some kind of bonus points just for correctly using the word “multifariousness” in a sentence 🙂 Blessings!

    • Mel Wild says:

      I grew up Catholic too, so I know what you mean. When I became an evangelical pastor, my mother didn’t know what to think. I might as well have become a Klingon! After all, her Irish mother wouldn’t even let a Christmas tree in the house because of that “heretic Luther!” 🙂 But over the years she reconciled with it and was happy for me. My sister still calls me “father/brother!” Of course, she may not have been able to decide if I’m a priest or a monk. Anyway, even though I would not go back to Catholicism (as I would not also go back to a lot of evangelical versions of Christianity in my past either), I very much appreciate my Catholic roots and see them as genuine brothers and sisters in the Lord.

      “BTW, I think you deserve some kind of bonus points just for correctly using the word “multifariousness” in a sentence.” Haha…I got tired of using the word “diversity” all the time. Besides, it’s a cool word. 🙂 Blessings to you too.

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