The Problem with Protestantism

There are Korean and Vietnamese Presbyterian churches, and African American Protestantism, is vital and growing, but for these non European expressions of Protestantism to flourish they had to become something different, and their establishment continues to contribute to the thousands of fissiparous Protestant denominations.

A Protestant denomination can only maintain unity by adherence to its own cultural, historical and ethnic boundaries or sacrifice those boundaries and thereby foster further division by the creation of new denominations. They may have unity if they keep to their cultural boundaries or break those boundaries to achieve a universal reach. If you like, they either sacrifice unity for universality or they sacrifice universality for unity.

John Henry Newman noticed a similar clash within Protestantism. Without an infallible, final authority Christians must separate into ever smaller denominations of opinion or they must dispense with any notion of an objective truth, and fabricate a false unity which is no more than a toleration of personal opinions.

So in his famous essay on the development of doctrine he wrote, “If Christianity is both social and dogmatic, and intended for all ages, it must, humanly speaking, have an infallible expounder, else you will secure unity of form at the loss of unity of doctrine, or unity of doctrine at the loss of unity of form; you will have to choose between a comprehension of opinions and a resolution into parties; between latitudinarian and sectarian error… You must accept the whole or reject the whole…it is trifling to receive all but something which is as integral as any other portion. Thus it would be trifling indeed to accept everything Catholic except the head of the body of Christ on earth.”

Put more simply, the problem with Protestantism is that Protestants have rejected the authority of the Pope, and in rejecting one Pope they have ended up with thousands of popes.

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