Why Protestantism Didn’t Start with the Reformation
Speaker 1: Sometimes evangelicals view church history as though our main tradition is the last 500 years, it’s Protestant history, and then you make a second more tentative step into the previous fifteen hundred years of church history. So it’s sort of like Protestant theology is the castle that you live in, these are the people that you see every day, and then occasionally you might lower the drawbridge and go out and explore in the forest surrounding the castle and engage with the theology of the early or medieval church. One of the things that has encouraged me to adopt a more inclusive attitude toward church history would be the way the reformers thought of church history. They didn’t think of themselves as starting a new tradition, they not only drew from the early church but they cast their whole effort of reforming the church in terms of going back to the purity of the early church. At one point Calvin says, “All we’re trying to do is go back to the purity of the fourth century.”. So I think being a Protestant doesn’t mean you have to only view one portion of church history as your tradition and reject the others. I think what it means is you have the scripture over you as your authority for all of church history, including Protestant church history, but all 2,000 years of church history can be your theological community and you can have a sense of drawing from the entire tradition.