Monday, February 7, 2011

Protestantism: The Belief and the Individual

         Is it acceptable to consider protestants Christian? This is something that I cannot answer with any amount of certainty. I do not know the hearts of anyone and therefore cannot pass judgment on my fellow human beings. What I can say with absolute certainty is that protestantism is not Christian. The individual being separate from the belief is subject to be judged only by God, the belief the individual adheres to, however, is subject to all for judgment. This may seem confusing so bear with me in my attempt to explain my position. As a former protestant I have the experience to understand and know the belief system and that I was truly seeking Christ and others are only seeking momentary bliss and self directed worship, not of the true God but a God they want to believe in. So it is possible that a person who is not Orthodox but is actively seeking Christ, be Christian. Again I am not a judge and have no place pointing out who is and who is not, and this is why I condemn the belief system adhered to by protestants and not the actual individuals associated with the belief. 
Why is it that some may consider protestantism to be Christian? I have been told that the Christology of protestantism is the exact same as the Orthodox belief, therefore protestantism is Christian. I think this tends to confuse our youth and those with little knowledge to Orthodoxy. Essentially we are to believe that the same result can be achieved through protestantism as Orthodoxy, both of which are polar opposites. Orthodoxy embracing suffering and rejecting the worldly and protestantism embracing politics, the worldly, often times material pleasure as well as the physical, and the list goes on. Since protestantism is much easier and apparently it is acceptable to many Orthodox to have faith only, why do we struggle the Orthodox spiritual life? If protestantism is Christian and we can achieve the same result as Orthodoxy, what we are doing is pointless and void of meaning. Protestantism cannot be considered Christian without making Orthodoxy relative and insignificant. “You believe there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe-and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:19,20) If we are basing our acceptance of protestantism based on their belief in God, then logically we must assume that the demons are Christians as well. St. James makes this plainly obvious in the verse above. He recognizes that it is a good thing to believe in God, but where exactly does faith alone get you? He states that “..even the demons believe, and tremble!” So the demons believe in Christ, and must understand Christology because they “tremble” according to St. James.
What exactly is the etymology of the word “protestant”? Protestant comes from the word protest which is defined by the New Oxford American Dictionary as: a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something : the Hungarian team lodged an official protest | two senior scientists resigned in protest.
• an organized public demonstration expressing strong objection to a policy or course of action adopted by those in authority : [as adj. ] a protest march.
2 Law a written declaration, typically by a notary public, that a bill has been presented and payment or acceptance refused.
Protestantism is to protest, but protest against what? In this case against religious authority, mainly the Roman Catholic Church or anything similar to it. Protestantism is to rebel against religious authority, the authority passed on to us by the apostles. How is it that we can accept a belief completely opposed to Orthodox Christianity in every way. Protestantism rejects everything that, according to Orthodox tradition and doctrine, makes us Christian. That is a contradiction of our own self and what Orthodoxy is, we accept protestantism as Christian, while protestantism actively rejects what is deemed as a necessity for salvation. 
By accepting protestantism we are creating confusion amongst our people and we cannot buy into this liberal ideology that “we all believe in God, who we share no common opinion.” Accepting this tells our people that protestantism is acceptable, their beliefs, their doctrines, and even their worship. How is this acceptable, but if protestantism is Christian then there is nothing wrong with leaving the church for the path of least resistance. The mind of our youth works like this, they are not mature and tend to find the easiest way to do things, as opposed to the right way of doing things. This is something that cannot be reconciled, why stay in the Orthodox church if indeed protestantism is one in the same, just much easier? Anyone who regurgitates this phrase that protestantism is Christian is contradicting themselves in the same sentence.
“And in one holy, universal, apostolic church..” (The Creed) If indeed you believe that protestantism is Christian, part of the same Christian church, then you must omit this phrase from the Creed and never say it. Protestantism is not one but around 40,000 very different denominations, which also contradicts Ephesians 4:5 “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.” You must believe that there are many Lords, many faiths, and many baptisms. Simply because there are so many denominations that are distinctly different, their views on our Lord differ, their views on baptism differ, and of course they are distinctly different faiths. So this belief, that protestantism is Christian also contradicts the creed that we have said for centuries, and the Holy Scriptures. 
Let us look back in history and see just how protestants viewed our own Coptic Orthodox Church. Here are some correspondence from the Church Missionary Society about our church.
i. 1752, Moravian Brethren. " all their conversation to endeavour to direct attention to the essence of Christianity ... and teach them how, by means of Jesus' merits, they might obtain rest for their souls, true holiness of life, and evangelical liberty, which leave the conscience unfettered by human traditions".
ii. 1850, Church Mission Society. "The missionaries seem to follow almost too strictly the plan on which the mission was begun, to seek the friendship of the clergy, especially the higher clergy of the Eastern Churches, with a view of influencing them gently, in the hope that by slow degrees they would become convinced of their errors and themselves reform their respective Churches. But the system has failed... Individual conversions [of Copts] must be the aim, as the only means of prosecuting reformation".
iii. 1850, Church Mission Society. "Through the Church Mussuin Society missionaries throughout the Nile Valley, hundreds of persons had their knowledge of the way of salvation corrected, their faith directed away from their own works, to the death and suffering and obedience of the Son of God as the reason and ground of salvation from sin and its consequences".
iv. 1852. "Rev Mr. Leider has done good among the Copts, and the young men whom he has instructed refuse on conscientious grounds to enter the priesthood of this corrupt Church.... The American Missionary Association has resolved to establish a Mission among the Copts".
v. 1896. "[The Copts] must have had some glimpse of the light that illumines the soul and leads up to the throne of God. To help such a people [the Copts] to loosen themselves from the chains of superstition, and to come out of the dungeon of darkness into which their surroundings had imprisoned them, and lead them forth into the light and liberty of the Christian faith, is surely a duty and a Christian privilege".
 (Provided by Fr. Peter Farrington)
“For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been given to him by My Father.” From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” (John 6:64-66) 
Some argue that taking this stance, against protestantism being Christian, will only push protestants away from Orthodoxy. I beg to differ. I do not believe it possible to turn someone away from Christ, since anyone that comes to Christ, must have been given to him by God, how can we stop that? What we can prevent is our own from being deceived and confused by protestantism. The idea that we can  prevent someone from coming to Christ, is absurdity. As the verse above shows, God gives this, who are we to take it away? The fact is we cannot, but we should not further delude those who adhere to protestantism by sending them the message that the true church sees them as equals. How can two opposites be equal? The individual may be sincere and honestly seeking Christ, but the protestant belief can never be Christian just as a lie can never become the truth.

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