Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 5, 1961
NUMBER 22, PAGE 1,12-13a

"The Passing Of The Protestant Era"

Herschel E. Patton. Lufkin, Texas

An interesting article by Louis Cassels concerning protestants appeared in the 8-14-61, Lufkin News. He wrote that "the overwhelming majority of the people who founded this nation and shaped its institutions were Protestants."

The beginning of Protestantism, Mr. Cassels pointed out, goes back to the activities of Martin Luther in the 16th century, and "began as an attempt to reform specific abuses, such as the sales of 'indulgences,' which had become flagrant in the medieval Catholic Church"...."From the Reformation emerged a new group of churches which were called 'Protestants.' "Despite differences among Protestants, Mr. Cassels says: they were united on two basic points'. "(1) They repudiated the authority of the Pope and turned to the Bible as the sole arbiter of Christian teaching. (2) They sought to recover original' Christianity — the doctrines and practices of the early church in the period when the New Testament was written — and to eliminate aspects of medieval Catholicism which they regarded as accretions or distortions of the Gospel."

"Thus Protestantism from its inception was characterized by both negative and positive emphases. It was a revolt against certain things, but also an affirmation of other things."

Concerning the early Protestants who played such a role in founding this nation, Mr. Cassels says: "They took their religion seriously. It was a desire for religious freedom that brought many of them to a wilderness continent. Unlike some of their modern descendants, they knew what they believed and why they believed it." Admitting that "militant Protestantism of earlier generations left an indelible stamp on U. S. history," the writer goes on to say "It is now widely agreed, even among Protestants, that America has ceased to be a Protestant Country"...."The transition was dramatically symbolized last fall by election of a Catholic President."

Passings, Good And Bad

The passing of many things is characterized by sadness and loss — even the passing of an Era. Certain customs are often tinged with sadness when they pass, but if these are followed by something better, the passing is not begrudged. Great emotions have surged in men's bosoms as they exchange the faithful horse and the buggy for the automobile, or as a beautiful park or historic house passes into oblivion making room for a new "free-way" or other public improvements. Passings which are inevitable, or which mean progress or betterment, we accept, though sometimes reluctantly, without hurt. There are passings, however, that cannot be without serious hurt or loss to a man. For example, the principles of freedom and justice guaranteed by the Constitution of the U. S. cannot pass away without men becoming slaves and tyrants. Belief in God, the Bible, and Christian principles cannot pass away without untold misery here and in eternity.

But, what about the passing of the Protestant Era? Is this passing for good or does it mean great loss and hurt? Examine the principles which make up what Mr. Cassels called "Protestantism" and then ask the question: "Can we afford the loss of these?" Some of these principles, as set forth by Mr. Cassels, are (1) Taking religion seriously — knowing what one believes and why, (2) Being militant, (3) A repudiation of the authority of the Pope, (4) The Bible as the sole arbiter of Christian teaching, (5) Recovering original Christianity — the doctrines and practices of the early church in the period when the New Testament was written, (6) Eliminate aspects of medieval Catholicism — accretions or distortions of the Gospel, and (7) place emphasis on both the negative and positive — revolting against certain things, but affirming others.

If Protestantism is thought of as just so many religious bodies, separate from Catholicism, then we might even rejoice to see it pass from our view, bring an end to the division, strife, and confusion that it produces. Such is clearly a violation of 1 Cor. 1:10 and John 17:20-21. But there is no indication of this passing, but many indications that it will increasingly continue. On the other hand, if it be thought of as certain beliefs, practices, and principles, these would have to be examined to determine their worth and consequently the loss or gain of their passing.

Examining The Principles

It is good for people to take their religion know what they believe and why? The Bible teaches that one's faith is to be "unfeigned" (2 Tim. 1:5) and all activities be "from the heart" — that the kingdom of God and His righteousness is to be sought first. (Matt. 6:33) It is the desire of the Lord that his saints be "established in the faith" (Col. 2:7) and able to "give a reason for their hope. (1 Pet. 3:15) Today, religion is not- serious matter with most so-called Protestants. Personal pleasures, ease, desires, family, material security, etc., takes precedence over their religion. They are ignorant of much of the teaching of "their church" and can not give a scriptural reason for their faith. Indeed, modern "Protestants" are without this characteristic. It is something that has passed, but still in the Bible. Since His Word will judge us, those who have shredded this truth will be found naked and condemned at the judgment.

It cannot be denied that the early saints were very militant in their efforts to dethrone error and plant truth. Follow the apostle Paul on his missionary journeys and behold his encounters with the heathens and Judaizers for examples of this. They couldn't act otherwise and be loyal to their Lord's instruction to "fight the good fight of faith," (I Tim. 6:12) "cast down stronghold-imaginations, and capture men's thinking" (2 Cor. 10:4-5) and to "put on (or use) the whole armour of God." (Eph. 6:11-13) Today, men's desire and efforts in unity movements have led them to scoff at a "militant religion. They would have us believe that it is unbecoming to question or oppose another's debate. The "Religious Emphasis Week" programs featuring a Jew, Catholic, and Protestant have added in casting reflection upon opposition to any form of religion. It is admitted in many circles that in the last Presidential election many who had real fears of what was involved, smothered these rather than be branded as a "bigot" and voted, not their real convictions, but in a way that would not bring them under the dark shadow of prejudice and bigotry, cast by those without conviction in religious matters. Indeed, if being militant in religion was a feature of Protestantism, then this much of Protestantism, generally speaking, has passed. Be it remembered, though, this was a feature of New Testament Christianity.

Repudiating the authority of the Pope was truly an important characteristic of early Protestants. People rightly rebelled against such authority, for the New Testament ascribes no such authority to any earthly being. Jesus Christ is the head of His church (Eph. 1:22-23) and it is always subject to His authority. The apostles of our Lord had no successor and they — with Christ — continue to exercise their authority and will continue to do so throughout the Christian age. (Matt. 19:28) There can be no authoritative voice for Christians other than the words of Christ, revealed by Him and through His inspired apostles and prophets. The New Testament pronounces a curse upon him who would teach and act otherwise (2 Jno. 9-10; Gal. 1:8-9; Rev. 22:18-19; Jude 3) and warns against usurpation of authority by men. (2 Thess 2:3-9) Today, while some still claim to reject the authority of the Pope, many of their religious beliefs and practices come directly from that source — e.g. Sprinkling, instrumental music, etc. Numbers of these acquiesced in the matter of a religious-temporal ruler having one of his loyal sons rule over them — a ruler whose first loyalty is to the ruler of another State or nation (The Vatican is a political State with the Pope as ruler) and, the beliefs and aims of this political-religious system are directly opposed to the American cherished principles of separation of State and Church, freedom of religion, etc. Such actions show that Protestant aversion to the authority of the Pope is not as great as it once was and is rapidly passing away.

Looking upon the Bible as the sole arbiter of Christian teaching and recovering the doctrines and practices of the early church could result in nothing more or less than pure New Testament Christianity. Such action may be branded by some as "Protestantism" but it is pictured in the New Testament as "Christianity." How many today, even among the leaders of so-called "Protestantism," look upon the Bible as "the sole arbiter of Christian teaching?" Whether a doctrine or religious practice is authorized by Scripture or not matters very little to modern "Protestants." Common sense, human wisdom, good ends, etc. are far more prominent than the Scripture with the majority of "Protestants." In spite of modern practice, the Scriptures still call upon those who really want eternal life to "try the spirits," "prove all things," "abide in the doctrine," and to "not go beyond that which is written." The passing of this practice, therefore, is something that will contribute to deception and the final loss of the soul. (2 Thess. 2:10-12)

That accretions and distortions of the gospel must be eliminated in order to have hope is very evident from such passages as 1 Tim. 4:1-4; 2 Tim. 4:1-4; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Jno. 9-10, and many others. But again the modern day feeling, that no one's religious beliefs or practices should ever he called in question or opposed — to do so is ugly, unbecoming and marks one as prejudiced and a bigot — has largely driven out this important feature of New Testament Christianity, said Mr. Cassels to be a feature of "Protestantism."

Instead of modern "Protestantism" placing emphasis upon both the negative and positive, like "original Protestantism" (and true Christianity) it follows the policy of eliminating the negative" altogether and "accentuating the positive." Certainly true Christianity "accentuates the positive and condemns "messing with Mr. In-Between," but it does not eliminate all negative action, for there must be some "reproving," "rebuking," and "pulling down." (2 Tim. 4:1-4; 2 Cor. 10:4-5)

Generally speaking, the Protestant Era (as described in Mr. Cassels' article) has passed away. This we may well note with sadness. But what is more saddening is the growing tendency of brethren "in the Lord" gradually drifting from the Scriptural principles that today's "Protestants" have long since abandoned. Thank God! there are still a few who believe in the Bible — in New Testament Christianity — and who will continue to hold to the characteristics of Protestantism, as set forth in this article, as long as they live. God forbid that an Era ever come when such has ceased to be!