My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

18 April 2006

Why so many churches?

This morning I read Mark Noll's chapter on The English Act of Supremacy, wherein Henry VIII and Thomas Cranmer effectively broke England's ties with the Roman Catholic Church and set up the Anglican Church, with Henry as its head. Noll uses this as a jumping off point to think on the historical setting and the result of Protestantism's rise. Here is part of his conclusion: seems to me that the rise of multiple Protestantisms, each tied closely to a local situation, created conditions in which local renewal of the faith could take place more readily and stir hearts more deeply than in the Catholic regions of Eruope. The ecclesiastical division of Europe, however, also hastened the secularization of Europe, because the loss of a universal church directly or indirectly encouraged men and women to disregard all traditional authority and to think and act on their own. Protestantism thus may have created a situation anticipating both the secularization that abandoned Christian authority and genuine Christian revival. By contrast, Roman Catholicism, with its renewed commitment to the universality of the church, probably created a situation less propitious for local Christian renewal, but also more propitious for preserving traditional European respect for religious authority, the revelation from God found in Scripture, and Christian tradition itself.

What do you think? I hesitate to agree that post-Reformation Catholics maintained a high regard for God's revelation in Scripture, but other than that, Noll's assessment helps me understand some of the independent spirit of Protestantism, which so often seems to work against us. The proliferation of Protestant denominations may point to something good (strong convictions), but must also point to something bad, in that disunity always has sin at its root, somewhere. Of course, each denomination thinks that the sin is in the other denomiation and "That's why we had to separate from them." Surely, though, none are 100% correct.

To work toward unity, it helps to recognize where our disunity came from, as best we can.


Tamara said...

I think one big downfall to denominational seperation is so many buildings. In K-ville we have a church on every block. Sometimes more than one. It is peaceful, but sad at the same time. Why spend all that money on more buildings when you need to spend it on unifying the church to serve the community. Our places of worship shouldn't be politocally motivated or intelligently argued. They should serve the community and be a simple meeting place for worshipping God. I am talking about my area not yours of course. Great insight.

Robbie said...

what book is that from?

Jared said...

Mark Noll's "Turning Points" -Jared

Kurt said...

I think it is interesting to note that the two major world-affecting "revolutions" in our relatively recent past - The Reformation and the War for American Independence - were both more of a "rulership" problem than a "disunity" problem on the part of the subjects.

Both "subjects" worked quite awhile to appeal to the head magistrates (Pope on one hand, and the King of England on the other), to rectify legitimate wrongs but they refused to listen, and in fact, became more tyrannical and oppressive. The lower magistrates in the first case (Cardinals) did nothing to bring the Pope into righteous compliance with the truth; while the lower magistrates (colonial governments) in the second case rightly exercised their authority to hold the higher magistrate (the King) accountable to the covenants (colonial charters) made between them.

Today we still have the United States, but we continue to have a divided church. Could the action or inaction of the lower magistrates in each case be a significant factor in the continuing success of one and the continuing problems of the other? A case can be made. Finally, if the rulers were more in tune with Matthew 24:28, "disunity" may not have taken place like it did. So many sins and problems occur because of the misuse of power, don't they?