Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reformation Day= Not a Celebration

Okay, this just makes me sad.
The Protestant Reformation is an unhappy fact of history. It doesn’t need to be celebrated.
I covered this last Reformation Day:

It's interesting, when someone is going 'The Reformation!
Whoo-hooh, good job, Reformers!" to ask them just what, exactly, it accomplished. Answers will
vary, but you almost always get these two: it
gave people access to the Bible, and it broke the monopoly the Catholic Church had on Christendom, letting people
'think for themselves' and find the church that 'suits' them. What if you flip it, though- and point out that it robbed millions of Christians of their birthright to the fullness of
faith, encouraging them to remove themselves from the
safeguards of the teaching authority of Christ's Church into the trial-and-error territory of individual interpretation of Scripture?Or that it forced Sacred Scripture into jobs it was never designed to do- carry the whole burden of spiritual
instruction, instead of sharing it with Sacred Tradition? Or that it deprived them of the Sacraments, those channels of grace that we can't imagine living without?

These folk, who I have no doubt are sincere, well-intentioned Christians who love the Lord and believe they are truly serving Him to the best of their ability, have gone down the “Hidden Christians” road. This is one of the strategies for coping with the unyielding presence of the Catholic Church and its implications for NCC’s (Non-Catholic Christians). In order for NCC’s to carry on in good conscience, the Catholic Church has to be explained away.

The “Hidden Christians’ theory, in its bare bones version, works like this: the Early Church, as outlined in the New Testament, grew and spread throughout the ancient world, in spite of persecution. A bogus church, that we now call the Catholic Church, appeared around the time of Constantine’s Edict of Toleration, when the church went mainstream, gradually becoming corrupt and an instrument of the state. At the same time, real Christians were forced underground. They survived, hidden and persecuted for centuries, keeping ’Bible Christianity’ alive until the Reformation made it possible for them to re-appear and save the world from the false cult of Catholicism.

They correctly recognize that a True Church would have to exist from the time of Christ. The problem is that none of their explanations will stand up to historical review without engaging in misinterpretations of fact-“Albigensians? I do not think they mean what you think they mean.” -outright denials of the historical record and bizarre conspiracy theories with no corroborating evidence.

My conversion was a case of reluctant obedience. I’m a Catholic, in part, because I couldn’t come up with an alternate solution to Matt 16 that didn’t insult my intellectual integrity regarding history, or even grammar, or make Jesus out to be a liar. What He said about His Church is simple, but uncompromising. If you’re a Christian who has to spend time constructing elaborate explanations about how He couldn’t possible have meant the Catholics- maybe another look is in order.


CJ said...

Thank you for this.
I grew up Catholic, but fell for the "hidden church" conspiracy theorist baloney in my twenties.

I didn't wander far -- after experimenting with Baptist and Pentecostal churches, my husband and I settled comfortably into Anglicanism. But the recent upheaval in the Episcopal church, coupled with debates I have had recently with several Anabaptist friends (who do some really fancy dancing to explain away the Catholic Church and Jesus's statement in Matthew 16:18) has been leading me down the same road that you take in you article, here -- and it appears that that road is leading me straight back home to the Catholic Church.

Sal said...

I was an Episcopalian of the Anglo-catholic persuasion myself.
Until, as I said, the cognitive dissonance ate a hole in my conscience.
thanks for your comment. My prayers for you on your journey. Please come back anytime.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks Sal!
You're sure right about the convoluted stories explaining away the Catholic Church (and some are downright insane).
And most of those folks don't realize that Luther wasn't as nice a guy as they might imagine.