Disunity and the Credibility of the Apostolic Message

As part of a the launch of a new book by IVP, Getting the Reformation Wrong, they have conducted an interview with the author. The book is one which I can tell you now that I recommend. While I may not agree with every fine detail of the Reformation, I believe that Christians should know the history of it. Frankly, not many do. You can find the entire interview here, but this one part stood out to me,

You conclude your book by labeling the Reformation as both a triumph and a tragedy. What is the “tragedy” of the Reformation, and how does it affect the church today?

James: On the night before he was betrayed, Christ prayed that those who would believe in him through the word of the apostles might be one “so that the world may believe” (John 17:20-21). In reclaiming the apostolic message and proclaiming it anew, the Reformation sought to purify the church but ended up splitting it. The Reformation set the pattern: Protestants split not only from Rome but also from each other—Lutherans versus Reformed—with each segment going on to split into further rival bodies, which then split again and again. By our day, this has resulted in multiplied thousands of Protestant denominations. This is a tragic legacy of the Reformation, since—according to Christ’s prayer—it undermines the credibility of the apostolic message.

The Catholics can point, wrongly, to their Unity – except so can the Orthodox… but there is something to be said about Dr. Payton’s take on the ‘tragic legacy’ of the Reformation, in which it seems daily another split happens.

About the book –

Most students of history know that Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the Wittenberg Church door and that John Calvin penned the Institutes of the Christian Religion. However, the Reformation did not unfold in the straightforward, monolithic fashion some may think. It was, in fact, quite a messy affair.

Using the most current Reformation scholarship, James R. Payton exposes, challenges and corrects some common misrepresentations of the Reformation. Getting the Reformation Wrong:

* places the Reformation in the context of medieval and Renaissance reform efforts
* analyzes conflicts among the Reformers
* corrects common misunderstandings of what the Reformers meant by sola fide and sola Scriptura
* examines how the Anabaptist movement fits in with the magisterial Reformation
* critiques the post-Reformational move to Protestant Scholasticism
* explores how the fresh perspective on the Reformation could make a difference in today’s churches

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4 Replies to “Disunity and the Credibility of the Apostolic Message”

  1. Indeed. We Catholics do sometimes point wrongly to our unity because we also participated in the sins against unity that lead to Schism and Reformation. Many of the early reformers wanted that reform to take place within the church. Also, we point wrongly to our unity if we are claiming that it is anything more than unity among diversity.

  2. Don't get me wrong, the Catholic Church has a great sense of unity – even among divergent view points, but it has suffered a split. Of course, nothing like what Baptists go through….daily.

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