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Protestantism JOHN ALEXANDER MACKAY IT is an impressive, albeit unhappy, fact that the Christian religion , the most influential and aggressive of the great religions of mankind, has been represented for the past four hundred years by three separate traditions, Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism. These traditions, while they all derive from a common source and are one in essential Christian loyalties, differ from one another in very important respects. The Christian tradition which took historical form most recently is known by the general name of Protestantism. In its institutional expression, Protestantism is the youngest of the three Christian traditions. To be more specific, it is that Christian tradition which owes its ecclesiastical form, its confessional position, its spiritual attitude to the attempt made in the sixteenth century to give a more adequate expression to Christianity than that which was current at the time. The historic endeavor to restore the Christian religion to its native, pristine glory, is commonly called the Protestant Reformation. This revolutionary movement in the field of religion became the source of a diversified expression of Christianity. Because of its variegated character, Protestantism as a phenomenon in history is difficult to define. "If we are thinking of a purely historical definition of Protestantism," says Ernst Troeltsch, "we soon recognize that for Protestantism as a whole, it cannot be immediately formulated." From the viewpoint of its inner religious spirit, however, as distinguished from that of its outer diversified expression, Protestantism can be readily defined. Some important facts should be held in mind as we undertake this study. While Protestantism emerged in history at a given time and under special circumstances, its ideas and spirit were not a creation of the sixteenth century. For these it claims high 337 PROTESTANTISM antiquity. It was the contention of the Protestant Reformers and continues to be the contention of their successors, that the religious emphases that began to be made in that century were not discoveries of new truth, but rather recoveries of ancient truth. The Reformers did not regard themselves as discoverers but as restorers. They did not think of their work as opening up new paths, but as reopening old paths, great highways of truth, which in the course of Christian history had been abandoned or grown over. Their emphasis from the beginning was positive, not negative. The term "Protestant," it is true, suggests, at first thought, a negative attitude. It has been interpreted as an attitude of pure dissent from a positive position. Nothing could be more untrue, historically and etymologically, to the famous "Protest" which was presented at the Diet of Spires in 1529, and which gave its name to the new religious movement. The German princes and the representatives of the fourteen free cities which had embraced the principles of the religious reform did not "protest" against ideas; they appeared in the role of "protestants" because a curb had been placed upon the free propagation of truths which were decidedly positive in character. Etymologically, moreover, "protest" means dissent only in a secondary sense. The essence of the word is to "state as a witness," to "aver," "to make solemn affirmation." As we engage, therefore, in the study of what Protestantism is, it is well that our minds be disabused of the idea that what will engage our attention is a negative dissent from a positive position. The genius of Protestant Christianity is affirmation, not negation. We begin with a description of Protestantism from the viewpoint of history. Within the perspective of the last four centuries , Protestantism has expressed itself in two main religious types. These may be called (A) Classical Protestantism, (B) Radical Protestantism. By Classical Protestantism we mean the great churchly systems, which, while they revolted against what Christianity had become, retained a catholic sense of the Church. Classical, or churchly Protestantism, has been repre338 JOHN A. MACKAY sented by the Lutheran, the Reformed, and the Anglican Churches. Radical Protestantism is the word used to designate the so-called "sect" phenomenon in Protestant history. It embraces religious groups and schools of religious thought which were formed around some particular emphasis to the right or to the left, which the members of the group felt to be expressive of the essential core of Christianity. CLASSICAL PROTESTANTISM Classical Protestantism, toward which, it may be remarked, Protestantism as a whole is steadily moving at the present time, discovers certain common characteristics of a basic kind. Its leaders, the Reformers of the sixteenth century, proclaimed to the world that the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400877638
Related ISBN
9780691623238
MARC Record
OCLC
967589483
Pages
396
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-05
Language
English
Open Access
No
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