The evolution of the Christendom since the crucifixion of Jesus Christ has been marked with contention and disputes among different factions of believers. From the offset, the banning of the agnostic gospels from accepted church tenets to the East–West Schism of 1054 and the wars of religion that overwhelmed Europe following the Protestant Reformation, illustrates that a heated conflict has always existed among Christians. No doubt disputes over doctrine motivated many to break with their brothers and sisters in Christ. However, the underlying catalyst for a clash in congregations stems from an objection to the authority structure that surrounds the Vatican and the Holy Sea. Church jurisdiction and the demand that the dominion of the Church of Rome, which rests upon Pontiff Supremacy, has been at the core of many differences throughout history.
When Martin Luther challenged the Papacy and began a transformation that set in motion an overhaul in the influence of bishops, the face of Europe would never be the same. As the divergence crossed the seas into the New World, the culture of fidelity to the gospels developed into a much more individual and personal relationship with the Lord.
From a perspective stated by Reverend Canon James Atkinson, The Significance of Martin Luther submits that Justification by Faith is his essential message.
“The totality of this evangelical doctrine, this foolishness of the Gospel, this message of reconciliation and forgiveness as the work of Christ alone, Luther saw summed up in the great Pauline phrase, Justification by Faith. Nothing we are, nothing we have, nothing we can do can restore us to God. He came down to us. When man is confronted by the work of God in history, and it is preached and explained to him what his condition is and how God in Christ met and meets this, there is created a faith and trust in God that was not there before and which he does nothing to make. It is like a man who had believed another man was an enemy and one day was made to realize is enemy, unbeknown to any, had been working on his side. A new relationship is sparked off. This is what justification by faith means.”
Complementing this position John L. Allen Jr. draws this distinction in 500 years ago, it wasn’t Protestants but Catholics embracing Luther.
“Essentially, based on the writings of Paul the Apostle, Luther argued that the Bible teaches something different than what had developed in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church about penance . . .
The first thesis says that when our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘repent,’ he meant that the whole Christian life should be one of repentance . . .
Luther was after, and it’s what people were looking for. They didn’t want to pay for being right with God, they wanted it free, and Luther calls it ‘grace.’
When you talk about paying, you’re referring to the system of indulgences that had grown up in the Catholic Church.”
According to Bill Pitts, the Protestant Reformation Reshaped Christian Church. “Catholics and Protestants both worshipped in word and sacrament. But for Protestants preaching the Word in the vernacular became more important than observance of the Lord’s Supper. In worship, focus shifted from altar to pulpit.”
Over time the gulf between preaching the Word and obeying the precepts of the temporal god who has replaced the Supreme Being creator has taken a sharp turn away from religious commitment. Yet the remnant between orientations still persists. Conformity to secular 501c3 regulations tempers the zeal for preaching the gospels, while blind obedience to a heretical false pope dooms the Catholic Church.
So it should not surprise any observer of religion in the 21st century that the research of Sarah Arah Eekhoff Zylstra presenting a statistical analysis that over time, while differences certainly still exist, the feud between Protestants and Catholics are narrowing as stated in 500 Years After Reformation, Many Protestants Closer to Catholics than Martin Luther, is correct.
Additional evidence provides that 500 years after the Reformation, 5 facts about Protestants around the world demonstrate a blending of what were once profound differences.
- Globally, Protestants made up 37% of Christians in 2010.
- The share of Protestants among U.S. adults is in decline, falling from 51% in 2007 to 47% in 2014.
- In Latin America, where nearly 40% of the world’s Catholics live, Protestant populations have risen sharply
- One relatively recent and distinctive Protestant movement that has gained ground globally is Pentecostalism.
- In Western Europe, the home of the Protestant Reformation, Protestants and Catholics are now religiously more similar than they are different, at least on some theological questions.
In a world which is often overshadowed by government force and a culture of satanic perdition, the contemplation of How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? – sometimes persists. Note this journey into preconception when Rick Reinckens on a site called God on the Net provides a comparison and contrast in Protestants or Catholics — Who Are Right? Which religion is right, may well confuse the issue, since belief in any particular domination reflects a judgment of conviction.
Nevertheless, David J. Engelsma in The Reformation and Twentieth Century Protestantism captures the real kernel of the significance of the Protestant Reformation.
“What conclusions, practical, urgent conclusions for a living church and for living believers, can we come to, from this understanding of the Reformation?
The first is that the Roman Catholic Church has not changed, not one whit, for the better from the time in the 16th century when Luther and the Reformation, in grief, had to renounce her in God’s Name. In our day, many Protestants would give the impression that she has changed, so much so that now it is conceivable to have friendly relations with her and even to contemplate re-union. The reason why they say this is that they no longer know what the Reformation was really about, or care for the gospel. The Reformation was not about nice Popes and bad Popes, not about meat or fish on certain days, not about any of those superficial things that Rome lately has bestirred herself with. It was about salvation by God’s grace in Jesus Christ alone! It was about Scripture, the only authority in the church and over the church! On these issues, Rome is unchanged. This is not a charge, but a statement of fact. It is Rome’s own confession in “The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent” that justification and salvation depend also upon man’s works and merits, and that they are anathema who preach justification by faith only. The Second Vatican Council of 1963-1965 reiterated Rome’s doctrine that, in addition to Scripture, tradition is authoritative in the church (“Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation”). In the same “Constitution,” this Council stated that “The task of authenticity interpreting the word of God. . . has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church,” that is, to the Pope. So little is it true that Rome has changed on any important matter, that the Council of Trent’s blessing of indulgences as “most salutary, and approved of” stands to this day.”
How Catholics view this viewpoint is dealt with in Why the 500th Jubilee of the Reformation is significant for Catholics. The mindset of Joyce Ann Zimmerman, C.PP.S., Ph.D., S.T.D., sums up accordingly.
“We need to embrace the ecumenical dynamism that has been ongoing for a half century and do so with a genuine will to overcome our differences and heal divisions. We need to embrace the principle that divisions are healed when all understand that everyone must give a little to come to unity. We need to internalize a vision of unity as a valued goal that is achievable. We need to embrace that the other is good and holy as we are.”
This impulse to champion “ecumenical dynamism” which is a euphemism for adopting an absurd fantasy that the evil nature of humankind is able to establish some kind of worldwide paradise here on earth; is false. Strangely, is it not true that the meaning of Catholic purports to be a synonym for universal?
Martin Luther initiated a Christian rebirth and the Protestant Reformation was the catalyst that emancipated Western European civilization from many of the aristocratic impositions that were the basis of class authority. Setting the disputes over religious beliefs aside, the landscape of political realignments became the legacy of the last five centuries.
Expand this record of conflicts to the remainder of the world, who do not profess a Christian faith and the end result is that a rebellion against coercive rule has grown. With or without an acceptance in Jesus Christ as the ONLY righteous and divine authority, the unlocking of the European mind through the Protestant Reformation, changed the world. Only with the Second Coming will the hopes of Dr. Zimmerman come to realization.