In a 2014 piece published in First Things, I offered a “wish list” for Protestant churches, a checklist for a future catholic Protestantism. The wish list doesn’t cover everything. It doesn’t mention those things that Protestants, especially Evangelicals, already do, often exceedingly well, things like missions and evangelism and personal discipleship and mercy ministries. It gives some concreteness to my claim that the “future of Protestantism is a catholic one.”
What kind of churches might we dream of? Churches like these:
- Churches where “faith without works is dead” is heard as frequently as “justification by faith.”
- Preachers who teach the whole Bible in all its depth and beauty and who draw on the whole tradition of commentary as they prepare sermons. The word of God is active, a two-edged sword.
- Pastors who form friendships with, pray with, learn from, and study the Bible with local Catholic and Orthodox priests, as well as other Protestant pastors. Pastors who take the time to cross the street to befriend a pastor from another denomination. For we are one body.
- Seminaries where theologians are encouraged to follow Scripture wherever it leads, even if we have to admit that our opponents were right all along. Seminaries that pass on the tradition of the whole Church, rather than flatter tribal instincts. Professors who teach other traditions accurately.
- Churches willing to give up some treasured tribal slogans and symbols for the sake of unity.