Happy Belated Reformation Day Mars Hill! Now Please Read This Post…

On October 31, Mars Hill Church celebrated the day that Christianity became a bunch of different denominations.  This is strange considering that Jesus never intended his Church to be divided.  He intended his Church to be unified in belief and worship (1Cor 1:10), to which the reformation provided the single biggest blow since the split of East and West in 1054.  Why a group of modern disciples of Jesus would celebrate this day is absolutely beyond me, but Mars Hill Church tweeted it proudly.

Granted, there was much that the reformation did to benefit the Catholic Church; the very Church that Luther formally rebelled from when he posted his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.  An example of this benefit is that as a result of Luther’s protest the Catholic Church put an end to the unfortunate practice of selling indulgences and defined its teaching on the Treasury of Merit in clearer terms to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Catholic Church held this great truth: That salvation is made possible by the Grace of God alone through the salvific work of Jesus Christ alone.

As a faithful Catholic, I recognize the positive results of Martin Luther’s protest and I’m thankful that he had the courage to stand up to authorities to end a harmful and misleading custom of my Church.  But my admiration for Martin Luther does not extend much further than that.  I am not thankful that he divided Christianity and began his own Church.  The reality of denominations is a scandal to the world and it should not be celebrated.  It should be regretted.

Unfortunately, this scandal is made worse by statements that Mark Driscoll and other Mars Hill Church leaders make regarding the Catholic Church.  Rather than publicly misrepresenting the Catholic Church through use of various straw men arguments and falsely judging its motives, Mark Driscoll would do the Body of Christ a much greater service by examining how the Catholic Church explains its doctrine at this point in time, rather than how it explained the doctrine five hundred years ago.  If he did that, he might arrive at some shocking conclusions that many other evangelicals have made.

These shocking conclusions might begin by recognizing that three of the reformation’s five solas are clearly taught by the Catholic Church.  In addition to salvation by God’s Grace Alone through Christ Alone, the Catholic Church believes that all worship is rightly given to God alone, which is evident by the fact that we pray the Gloria at the beginning of Sunday Mass and all major feast days.  Thus, the modern evangelical remains in protest of the Catholic Faith over two marks of the reformation.  These last two are more difficult to reconcile because the Catholic Church has already considered them and rejects them.  In addition to the fact that neither doctrine was taught prior to the 16th century, the Catholic Church rejects Sola Scriptura because it is internally irrational and it rejects Sola Fide because it is contrary to divine revelation.

And it is with that that I encourage the reader to consider a couple of articles published online at Called to Communion.  The first is a sermon from Methodist Theologian Stanley Hauerwas, who laments the attempts that many modern protestants make at turning Catholics into Pharisees.  The second is a discussion of whether or not the protestant reformation is finished.  The points raised in both of these articles deserve serious and prayerful consideration from any Christian that is truly interested in fulfilling Jesus’ prayer that all his disciples be united in belief and worship.

As a Catholic, I am sad that Mars Hill members are not in Communion with the Catholic Church.  God is doing so many good things there and in the lives of its members. I invite all Catholics and all members of Mars Hill to pray that one day our Churches will be united in the way that Jesus Christ intended us to be united.

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11 comments on “Happy Belated Reformation Day Mars Hill! Now Please Read This Post…

  1. Christian says:

    St. Paul would be happy to see all the parts of Christ’s body working together.

  2. CWM says:

    I love the articles from Called to Communion – thanks for sharing them!

    I think the bigger problem is that people just don’t think unity is that important. There are “good” Christians or every denomination who have no relationship with members of their own family because of one reason or another.

    You write, “these articles deserve serious and prayerful consideration from any Christian that is truly interested in fulfilling Jesus’ prayer that all his disciples be united in belief and worship.” This one is going to be a pretty hard sell for a few reasons:

    1) I think many non-Catholic Christians think that Jesus’ real disciples are united in belief and worship. They see the body of Christ as mystical, not a real thing. That is why you can have a handful of people meeting in someone’s basement with a Bible, an acoustic guitar, and a keyboard and call it “church”. “Where 2 or more are gathered in my name…”

    2) Isn’t claiming something as “non-denominational” the same thing as being united? 😉

    3) You are not proposing some neat middle ground where we are all compromising. You are saying “Come home”. Isn’t that kind of like calling the Prodigal Son while he is out partying and trying to convince him that it really is better at his Father’s house?

    4) How do we explain the lack of unity within the Catholic Church? From women who think they are priests to the other extreme of people who don’t want to see girl altar servers. From liturgical dance to Latin Mass. From mini skirts at Mass to head coverings. We may have more in common with the believers at Mars Hill than we do with the person sitting in the pew next to us.

    Lord have mercy on us all!

    • zeeehjee says:

      CWM –

      Thanks for the comment. Called to Communion is a must read. Not only are the discussions incredibly intellectual, but they are charitable as well. I make sure I read it everyday.

      You are correct, unfortunately. This is a hard sell, because Mars Hill Church members and other Reformed Christians probably are not even shopping for unity with other Christians in the first place.

      It is true that Catholic definitions of unity are different from Reformed definitions of unity. I believe the differences lie in the differences between how Catholics and Reformed Christians believe that people receive grace. It seems to me, though I could be wrong, as though Reformed Christians believe that God imposes His grace on us who are passive, whereas we Catholics believe that God invites us to receive grace actively by use of our free will. Thus, for us Catholics, Unity is something that we have to try and attain by actively cooperating with God’s grace. It is not something that automatically happens when we accept Jesus into our hearts.

      Not only that, but most non Catholic Christians who talk about unity will say that only in essential matters of faith is unity required. Thus, a unified act of Worship which all Christians participate in would be extremely foreign. (As an aside, how one decides what is essential and what is not essential using the Bible Alone is perplexing to me, as a Catholic. Who gets to determine what is essential? Is there a list in the Bible?)

      All I can say is that these issues will continue to be dealt with in due time. Please keep reading.

  3. Christian says:

    “You are saying “Come home”. Isn’t that kind of like calling the Prodigal Son while he is out partying and trying to convince him that it really is better at his Father’s house?”

    The party must end at some point; and the Father is patient.

  4. Jenny says:

    No matter what we say or do, those 500 year old Protestant myths remain, and are passed on from one generation to the next. How many times have I heard “Catholics believe they can earn their way to salvation”?

    We are just going to have to explain patiently, one person at a time, what Catholics really believe, especially the part about faith working through love.

    I’m praying that Mark Driscoll comes back to the Catholic faith of his fathers.

  5. Jenny says:

    Mark Driscoll is taking the month of December off to work on a new book. I will be praying for him during this time to discover what the Catholic church really teaches and believes. I pray also that he has a lot of quality time to spend with his wife and children. Merry Christmas to all!

    • zeeehjee says:

      Jenny,

      The new book is about human sexuality, and I believe he is co-authoring it with his wife. I plan to buy the book and use it as a means to explain the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality. From what I have heard so far, his theology of human sexuality is pretty good but not nearly as good as the theology that the Catholic Church has laid out over the centuries. He also has a tendency to say some rather crazy things about the subject which I will also discuss.

      Keep praying for him.

  6. […] called the protestant reformation. It is divided over something called the protestant reformation. As I have observed earlier, this is not something that Christians should be proud of. Our present disunity is contrary to the will of God who wants for us to be united. The good news is […]

  7. Mark says:

    One problem I see in your statement is the pair of words “made possible.” The Gospel is not that salvation is made POSSIBLE, but that it is made. It is made sure, It is DONE. It is FINISHED. God’s elect are made ALIVE. Yes, God’s Grace is effectual to the individual saints at different times, but it is certain, and done Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christos.

    “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—” (Eph 2:4 ESV).

    • zeeehjee says:

      Mark,

      Thank you for the comment! Salvation, as Christians have understood throughout history (and as Catholics and Orthodox Christians understand it today) is a process. It was not ever understood by anyone before Martin Luther to be instantaneous, the moment one comes to have faith in Jesus.

      Certainly all the work that is needed for one to be saved was finished by Jesus on the cross, but the merits that Christ earned for you and I on the cross is still being applied to our life through a process of sanctification. In this way, salvation is happen-ing. Finally, perseverance is needed on the part of the believer so that he WILL be saved.

      Furthermore, Christians have historically understood salvation to be a full incorporation into the life of Christ. Again, Catholics and Orthodox Christians have preserved this belief and teach it today. If salvation was instantaneous, and we were to say that salvation is simply “made,” then a reborn believer would be fully incorporated into Christ and would therefore not sin. But, people who are reborn DO sin. Thus, while they are partially incorporated into the life of Christ it is not yet a full incorporation, and sin still happens.

      This failure to fully incorporate our lives into Christ’s is not Jesus’ fault. It is our fault. He offers us the grace and it is available to anyone, but we still choose disobedience. Our salvation – our full incorporation into the life of the Trinity through Christ – It simply remains a possibility.

  8. Anastasios says:

    I always thought Reformation Day was a very odd idea. You don’t see Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, or Oriental Orthodox celebrating the schisms of 451 and 1054, do you? Apart from a couple of fringe traditionalist triumphalists, the vast majority of believers in all three communions look at the schisms as very tragic and regrettable events, whether or not they view reunion as a realistic possibility any time soon. They certainly wouldn’t celebrate them. Cardinal Humbert laid a “thesis” of his own on the altar of the Hagia Sophia, and no one views that as something worth commemorating or celebrating.

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