09 January 2013

Fragmentation from freedom

     The fragmentation of Christendom into five new denominations a week is an inevitable product of the Reformation and the works of Tyndale, Wycliffe, and the New International Version translators. If Scripture is meant for all and capable of being understood by any, we become free to believe our varying interpretations. And though the last five-hundred years have been a democratization of dogma, it by no means has cultivated harmony and tolerance in Christianity. We think only we ourselves are right; the other Christians are wrong. But for us Protestants, if we think the Reformation was a good thing, that grace against legalism and the open availability of the Bible are good things - then shouldn't we ought to accept diversity in opinions and ideas as good? That we can disagree with earthly authorities, with our brethren, with priests and theologians and not fear burning at the stake? That we can believe differently - but together - and be welcome to be part of a community of faith - shouldn't we embrace this inevitability of reform?

UPDATE 31 March 2013: I have been thinking more about this, and I realize that Christianity fragments into five new denominations a week because we try to apply pre-Reformation papal authority in a post-Reformation context. Why don't separatists and believers who believe differently just stay in a faith community or join a pre-existing denomination? There could be a number of logistical reasons, but one large factor could be that a church won't allow people to think differently or hold different beliefs. A post-Reformation church continues to implement pre-Reformation papal authority, and so a miniature Reformation happens over and over again when Christendom gets five new denominations a week. The apostle Paul did not envision this. Martin Luther probably didn't either. Unity does not mean conformity. It means diversity and equality and tolerance. 

Manila, Philippines

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