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Protestant Clarification

May 16, 2011

I just added this information to another post I have here (Questions For Protestants) but I felt it somewhat incumbent upon me to add an additional updated post separate from that one in order to completely clarify my position and eliminate any further possible misunderstandings of my intentions or the direction of my point of address.

Simply put, I wrote:

(*I also need to make an additional addendum to these notes.  When I speak of “Protestants” I need to clarify that I’m normally aiming my thoughts, ideas, questions, and opinions almost solely at the sect of Protestantism identified as Evangelical.  Mainline Protestants usually fall more into the line of thought very similar to Catholic theology and beliefs.  These questions are directed at the more Evangelical expressions of Protestant Christianity.)

I promise also to work on the tab which clarifies the direction of address in the near future to include this information so that there can be no lack of understanding on the reader’s (however sparse they may be) part.

Throughout my spiritual journey I have discovered a great fellowship with many of my fellow Protestant denominations.  There is a comforting similarity to many of the doctrines, dogmas, and theological ideas which represent and define us as a liturgical people.  I have often expressed the pleasant surprise I have in being able to attend the services at the churches of my acquaintances and witnessing the same language, gesture, or other expression used in their services as is used in my own.  It truly reinforces the idea of a level of unity between our faiths.  It also highlights the truth in the idea that we are all not so far apart as we may seem and that there are many a common ground on which we stand that truly make us brothers and sisters in Christ.  The more commonality we share, the greater the opportunity to come together in understanding and dialogue.  To unify ourselves by our expressions in a way that fosters a deeper love of each other and for Christ.

Greenville First Presbyterian Church, Interior
The Sanctuary of a Presbyterian Church

As I said, the more commonality we share, the greater the opportunity to come together in understanding and dialogue.  I find that the less we have in common, the more difficult it is to understand and dialogue.  Especially, when deep seeded prejudices pre-exist within an individuals mentality toward another type of Christianity.  To this end, I find that two factors seem to proceed this difficulty.  1.) The age of the denomination – which usually relegates a theological doctrine to a markedly different belief than that of traditional Christianity.  (Since, if it did not, there would be no need for newer denominations to separate themselves from their predecessors.)  2.) A theological insistence that their adherence to their theological standards is either ancient-reborn, singularly valid, or, many times, both.

As such, the span between Catholicism and Evangelical denominations is a canyon of difference whereas, the difference between Catholicism and Lutheranism, for example, is quite bit closer.  Therefore, with regards to such a span of difference between the two Christian cultures, there develops such a large area of theological diversion that the separability of the two makes one’s idea of Christianity foreign to the other.

Many may disagree with this diagram.  Especially as far the “Anglican/Episcopalian” group being put together as one or that they’re marked so low on the graph as “traditional/mainstream” considering their liberal social stances.  Many may also take offense at the term “extreme” to define the spectrum with which their own church seems to fall.  While I do recognize that the issues raised may be perfectly valid, the focus of the graph is dealing mainly with a “traditional” line of thought and what is accepted as religious doctrine by the majority (mainstream) vs the minority (extreme).  This is not to specifically define those labeled as “extreme” as having a doctrine of belief which is outrageously militant (although there are a very select few that are) yet as having a doctrine that is varied and greatly diverse from those much older churches whose beliefs are much more in line with ancient traditional beliefs.

Also, please understand that this is in no way a thorough, completely encompassing, totally “to scale” accurate representation of every main or minor branch of Protestantism.  This is a very basic structuring of the Christian spectrum.  (Besides, it’s also simply my opinion.)

Since, as I stated before, churches like Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Anglicans are all much closer in doctrinal theology to Catholicism it is much easier to relate our faith traditions to each other and understand them with all their similarities.  However, farther out and up on the scale are denominations whose doctrines are farther removed from the traditional concepts of Christianity.  Their doctrinal ideas are more similar to the ideology expressed during The Great Awakening of the 19th Century.  Ideas such as “assured salvation”, “faith alone w/o ‘works'”, and “dispensationalism” are more common among these groups.

Protestant Graph

Therefore, while there remains fundamental differences between the more traditional denominations and the Catholic Church, our doctrines, for the most part, are very similar or, put another way, dissimilar on a much deeper level.  For instance, a dissertation regarding the difference between the belief of “Consubstantiation” and “Transubstantiation”, while fruitful to clarification, differentiation, and conviction, does not suit the level of divergence I wish to address, nor normally do.  The general agreement of many of the doctrine held by those of a more traditional denomination also, for the most part, disqualifies those denominations from the overall discussion of “Protestant doctrine” I am addressing since it also does not belong to their theological beliefs.

For instance, if I state something in the nature of, “Protestants believe in the idea of Sola Scriptura” while that, as a rule, is true, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Presbyterians all have a governing body.  A group that stands as the “governmental head of the church”.  Whereas, Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, and non-denominational groups adhere dogmatically to the belief in Sola Scriptura exclusively.  Therefore, when addressing a “Protestant belief in Sola Scriptura”, I would mainly be addressing that statement to the Evangelicals for whom that statement applies to in the strictest sense.  This, of course, would be the thrust of ideas for which the Evangelical exclusively holds such as the ones mentioned beforehand, yet with whom I have previously identified with the general moniker of “Protestant/s”.

One may well ask why I feel a particular push to make such an exacting clarification.  Well, for one thing, I think I have extensively covered my reasoning for identifying mainstream Protestants as those with whom there is a similar set of theological doctrine and ritual possessed by them and Catholics.  Also, and this is the main reason, is that the arguments raised against Catholicism and the most virulent attacks against the Church are often those raised by the Evangelical/Fundamentalist/non-denominational groups.

I have no wish to identify many entire denominations of people with theologically diverse concepts unique to a more specific group.  Especially, since many of them hold many of the same beliefs as the Catholic Church in one or more degrees.  I do try to make distinctions in my blog, as I said before, about what is a general Protestant belief, and those held by only the more “extremely non-traditional” churches.  I hope that this will express more clearly my intent with this blog on articles dealing with Protestantism and the denominations therein.

Non-denominational sanctuary

2 Comments leave one →
  1. kyle permalink
    June 11, 2011 8:11 pm

    Chrissie, you have such an amazing gift of the written word. Your study and analysis of this delicate topic was done with such amazing detail. I think it is important to separate the different ideas of “Protestantism” and point out sects in this group who are so far away from the Catholic Church. I think it is important that Catholics understand there is a HUGE difference between my Presybterian Church, and the church in a strip mall that was founded on a whim. I am just know getting through this blog and am excited to read on. I had no idea this blog was this in depth. I am amazed by your talent… I really am! Keep it up!

    • Christine permalink*
      June 12, 2011 11:06 am

      Kyle, the most important person in the world to me, the one whose support, commentary, and encouragement I depend on the most is yours. Your actions expressed here on one of the most important subjects in my life are invaluable. Thank you.
      I am so glad you’re able to contribute the sentiment I am trying to express here by elaborating on the idea I’m trying to convey. There is a very stark difference of Christian understanding within the spectrum of what makes up Protestantism and its practices. Our Lord wished that we would be one, as He and the Father are one. Although we may not share the same theological beliefs, mainstream Protestants and Catholics do express their particular practice of faith in such a similar manner that it lends itself to a wonderful openness of finding a common ground and mutual respect for one another and creates an opportunity to fulfill the prayer spoken by Christ.

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