|2 Timothy 2: 14|
Did the reformers (Protestant Reformation) of the 16th century-forward spark a new religion?
Did the reformers end up causing more of, or worsening, the very thing they were protesting against?
In pointing out Catholicism's clerical sins and Pharisaical attitudes, did the reformation end up becoming Christian Pharisees themselves... arguing over words, meanings and such?
I don't support the claim of a 'new religion' when criticizing the manners of the reformers, but I do realize that in the effort to correct major issues, an overcorrection passed the point of seeing clearly what God had already established in His earthly kingdom many centuries prior.
In bringing everything called "doctrine" by those who preceded the reformers (post Gospel and canonized letters), and questioning all interpretations, a great folly was brought forth.
This folly caused many people to doubt their faith in the 16th century.
It also caused bloody infighting, turning a peaceful brotherhood among the laity into sharp contention... leading to much killing and suspicion.
Did God change His mind when previously teaching to love one's enemies?
Did God now ask the reformers to kill those who opposed their 'enlightenment'?
A major schism sprouted that sadly still continues to sprout division to this very day... yet God is continually unifying into one those who have learned to look over the crumbling walls of division.
I don't agree with everything the Catholic church has put into doctrine over the years.
I also don't agree with every suspicious issue the Reformation (Protestantism) brings up.
I don't perceive corruption or error in every bit of [Catholic] church doctrine conceived after the 4th century.
I think consideration should firstly be applied to what is an issue of salvation, and if not, whether such an issue is simply building upon and elaborating prior realities.
Aside from believing and living out the basics of the Gospel's message, is salvation dependent on further ideas or what is touted as important 'doctrinal' positions by some people either past and present?
Faith in Christ as a basis of salvation is primary, this is an obvious to anyone who has read or heard even a small portion of the Gospel.
And as we can further read, some people very ignorant of God and the drama between Israel and God came to faith, were baptized, and were thus added to God's kingdom.
People with very little 'knowledge' came to faith and were saved!
And when we consider how baptism was extended to children and infants very early in the church (and was never disputed until the 16th century), it seems God had planned to mirror the physical circumcision of the prior (old) covenant by the baptizing (spiritual circumcision of the heart) of the offspring of believers... thus continuing His relationship with those who hold faith and hope in Him.
Accepting papal infallibility, or whether or not Mary ascended into heaven as did Enoch or Elijah is, I don't think, a salvation issue... but men seem to have made careers in arguing certain details or events from the past as somehow being a salvation issue.
But shall such contentions, or oppositions, cause division in the "one" church and body of Christ?
I say no, but some men are hard to convince... seemingly having a heart bent on arguing and striving to show error while they themselves most likely having major conflicts in themselves... and with such conflict peace is far off.
Here is where we can notice the urging of the reforming priests (many of the early reformers / protestors were priests in the Catholic, attempting to correct other Catholic priests), in correcting the arrogance and stubbornness of their peers and superiors.
Some of the arrogant men, whether guided by a wayward spirit or ulterior motives (usurpation - the same issue), seemed to have the need to legitimize themselves and their role in a social hierarchy by continually conceptualizing and writing more and more doctrinal points.
But what was more important after God had subjected the Roman state to the authority of the church?
Continuing to plow God's field by stepping outside authority's comfort zone and walking among the people one has been called to serve.
Remember that, after the faith absorbed all corners and exterior territories of that time's empire, God brought forward secular governments and men under the church's authority in order to be legitimized as earthly kings!
Without the Bishop of Rome's acknowledgement, no king was legitimate.
God truly grew the Messiah's kingdom while destroying and deflating the kingdoms of men as was messaged through the prophet Daniel.
I think too easily the influence and fingerprint God has made on all civilizations through the church is ignored, unrealized or simply mocked as a means to forward empty and sensational arguments.
As to the growing of doctrine, the longer any religious idea exists, the more and more can be written about it... and to this there is no end as God had already mentioned (Ecclesiastes 12: 12).
Don't we see this with both the Catholic and Protestant ideologies?
Did the Reformation urge a newness to the Christian religion?
The aim to correct the folly of some members of the clergy, being humans and thus erring as all mankind does, I think went overboard.
In going overboard, all things previous were questioned including the earliest interpretations and understandings of what God had revealed through Christ, the Apostles, the early church bishops and what had been captured in early writings through the Holy Spirit.
So I must mention "what has been loosened and what has been bound?"
This question goes widely unanswered, but some of us do see clearly some of this question's answers.
I must also mention the issue of baptism, a “rite” or “reality” that was again never brought into contention, nor questioned in the early church (Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, et al) aside from some fringe heresies until many centuries later culminating during the reformation.
In my opinion, the zeal the reforming effort brought about confounded and confused much of what was established on the Rock... to the detriment of many, but thank God He is still gracious despite our ignorance and petty perceived differences.
So did in fact a new religion, or Christian perception, also start with the Reformation?
I think the issue is more of identity than labeling something a "religion" or "new religion" as some authors over the centuries have quibbled.
The default division of labeling someone "Catholic" and another person "Protestant" is sad and was warned against early in the letters... yet we still see some Christians aligning themselves with groups rather than properly addressing and defining their identities.
Some people call “religion” what became the body of doctrine revealed by Christ.
I don't think Christ delivered a 'new' religion, nor “religion” as was being ritually repeated by the Jews of that time or other peoples past and present in other places on earth.
Christ revealed God as fully as God intended Himself to be revealed in the Messiah, and it is about 'knowing' God according to our hearts and not our heads that one can derive their 'religion', or the manner in which they conduct themselves with others.
This reality is stressed in the Holy Spirit's appeal through Paul's letters to the believer not to stand in judgment of another believer's manner of worship, or in keeping certain festivals or rituals... but what is of great importance is love keeping the bond of peace, not allowing one's faith to destroy the faith of another.
Let us consider how a person with down syndrome, knowing possibly next to nothing of the intricate doctrinal issues raised in this article, can still be a loving, kind and forgiving person while being unable to explain to the satisfaction of a religious 'genius' why they love people and love God.
Don't we see plenty of 'genius' mathematicians or scientific 'prodigies', as well as violent religious fanatics, pushing religious rules while being very empty of any clear thoughts about God's love over their lives?
This is yet another thing that the reformers brought into contention, causing hearers to doubt the patient work God had established up until then in the lives of mankind... and continues to work out.
Does our knowledge of God (however minute or expansive) somehow determine our salvation?
Isn't it our heart's condition (which is navigated by God's hand) and how we treat others the litmus test to whether we (or others) know God, or better said, are known by God?
Did the reformation truly purge all the errors and corruptions promoted from the papacy and other Christian hierarchies of that time?
I agree reform was needed... much like we are to continually reform ourselves in light of God's law on our hearts, on a daily basis.
We, individually and collectively, are encouraged (even demanded) to better our manners, despite our misunderstandings.
We are called to examine ourselves in the mirror on a daily basis.
Many men can accurately recall knowledge and doctrinal information, but can many men truly be all things to all men... or love their enemy as Christ exemplified?
Not all things considered "error" and "corruption" are actually errors or corruptions.
Misunderstanding, confusion and arrogance have played a major role when men have called foul some things they do not understand. ( consider again answering 'what has been loosened / bound?' and consider again baptism )
Looking at Romans 2, when all men's hearts, despite their living under or apart from the Law of Moses prior to Christ, or found to have passed away in distant places having yet to meet a Christian or hear the Word of God, all these men (and mankind) will be judged according to Christ when they taste death.
What does this tell you regarding the infighting in the church?
God will judge all men justly, righteously and according to God's order in Christ, not according to man's limited perception of God's order and justice and their specific opinions.
God judges men according to God's standards, which I must say are still very much misunderstood in many Christian circles (whether Catholic or Protestant or other).
Will God judge men according to the quibbles and issues men have pushed back and forth in letters, in public arguments, from behind a pulpit, a podium, or in the virtual mediums of the internet?
Men think so, but God has revealed Romans 2 and much more that is still confused by the religious.
I say this in simply pointing out: if a pastor of whatever church (Catholic, or that favorite doctrine you agree with) was to be found out as a wicked person, would their sinful ways refute the Gospel as you've come to live it out in your life?
Would then, a priest in the Catholic church (either called Pope or the Bishop of Rome) or the pastor you consider being 100% perfect in his understanding of God, and disseminating perfectly the Gospel's doctrine, if they were to fall from grace... would such an event mean the entire church is now lost or also fallen from God's grace?
Of course not... Christ is the head of the church.
Thus why many intra-Christianity arguments are null and void for the most part, for again, we are not saved (on our part) according to the intricate knowledge of the Gospel, but according to our hearts and how we treat others (and according to God's grace and love in Christ on God's part).
( consider again the down syndrome person, how they are humble and led by the hand by their parent / guardian / pastor / Protector in all things... if only all of our hearts can humbly be like these )
Just as other religious groups grew up after Christ was revealed to the world and have written many things bringing into contention everything about Christ they either never heard, never understood and thus never believed, so do men from many walks of life question the things that only God can reveal to men's hearts.
Darkness has a difficult time dealing with the Light... and refutes anything the light exposes as mere novelty, something illogical or something contrary to God's order.
What about the actions of the early reformers when responding to the crimes the Catholic church had inflicted onto heretics?
The blood-stained hands of those who killed others according to their identity (Protestants killing Catholics and vice versa) can NOT be availed if their conscience alerted them to the wickedness they were committing.
Such warrants are not found in the Gospel nor the early church writings prior to Rome's influence on the church (early 4th century).
So guilty are those in the Catholic ideology who supported the killing of human beings... and also those of the Protestant ideology who also supported the killing of human beings.
Does God's kingdom on earth rule over the secular governments of men, or not?
If so, why have the faithful in positions of political influence allowed for the murdering of human beings (either criminal in whichever definition or unborn)?
In instances that the secular government is in rebellion to the precepts agreed to be Gospel and God's heart revealed in Christ, then why aren't the crimes against humanity (capital punishment and abortion) identified for the wickedness they are?
The study of the early writings of the bishops, their letters, their struggles and their arguments against early heresies up until the point when Rome began to encroach on the church is crucial in clarifying the point in time men began to indulge their thoughts and the secular demands of those unknown by God.
If people who identify themselves as Catholics, or Protestants, or whatever else... would simply look to the earliest writings after what is called "canon", and would build their perceptions of church history upon these, then I think unity could be realized... at least unifying agreement.
We can then resolve to identify ourselves as disciples of Christ, children of God and believers in the risen Christ.
Hopefully we can cease this division of labeling one another (and ourselves) as something not found in Scripture.
Hopefully also we can realize all that has been loosened and bound, according to God's Spirit working through men's hearts up until even Today!
The kingdom of God is truly within you... and no man still cannot claim "here it is" or "there it is".