*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 31st of January 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
It is Monday- my first “day off” was yesterday. Remember, we now have a Weekend Edition- you can check out episode 1 now, and if you’re so inclined, tell a friend, share on Facebook.
Time to head to the mailbag- we got a question from Derek in Washington, PA.
“My wife and I have been looking for a church and were wondering if you could explain the differences between Protestant churches- I was raised in a Bible church, and my wife was Catholic. We love the show, but sometimes get confused as to who is who”
Well, Derek. I am a church historian, and I sometimes have a hard time telling who is who. There are several things we can tackle here:
Let me divide your question into two questions, but both will take different kinds of answers.
- We are looking for a church- so “what kind of church should I go to?”
- What are the differences in the Protestant churches?
Point #1: I can see why these would be combined- before we join a church, we might want to know about its history. Excellent, I can help you here. But it’s not like buying a car from Vroom or some such (we did, and it was awesome!). You can’t just do it online!
Point #2 Just because a church belongs to a historical tradition doesn’t mean it follows it.
My answer, to both in a way: go rock by rock.
Imagine going to a quarry—different kinds of rocks- different sizes and colors. And I wonder where this all came from. So I go to the quarry master and say, “where did all these rocks come from?” How many different answers could they give us? Ok- I don’t need the basic geological tale of rock formation. How about those red ones? The grey ones?
Perhaps he could tell us why the red is different from the grey, but there are different kinds of red.
Do you see where I’m going? But what if I took one rock, brought it to the quarry master, and he said- oh, that’s slate, that’s a marble.
One more metaphor.
Luther, of course, lit the fuse on the powder keg when he posted the 95 theses. According to tradition based on pretty good historical footing, he takes a hammer and nails the theses on the door.
Now, imagine you have the car you got from vroom, and you take a little hammer and make just a tiny crack in the corner with a nail. What happens? From that little, small crack can come the most remarkable fracture you’ve ever seen. This isn’t a bad picture for the Protestant Church. From one split went about a million- it’s the price you pay for individual conscience and freedom. It’s lamentable, but the other traditions have lamentable aspects too.
And, at least here in America, it is often connected to politics- you have right and left, and people are pretending to be in the center and gradations everywhere in between.
Concluding points: this is why creeds and confessions of faith are helpful. Don’t always assume every Presbyterian church cares about the Westminster Confession or Lutheran Church watches about the Augsburg Confession or the Anglican Church is holding fast to the 39 Articles, etc. maybe you pick a specific rock and do all the investigating you can. But nothing substitutes for conversation, prayer, and discerning if you think your church gives you Jesus. Jesus is who saves. The Holy Spirit enlightens.
You aren’t damned by getting the wrong answers on the God test.
You aren’t saved by being around the other people who got the correct answers on the God test.
How to pick a church? Historical research. But more- we have other resources on this podcast network- It’s not all just church history. Find a particular church; look at its history and confession. And ultimately, you’ve got to do it rock by rock.
The Last Word for today comes from 1 John 4:
Dear friends, don’t believe every spirit. Test the spirits to see if they are from God because many false prophets have gone into the world. 2 This is how you know if a spirit comes from God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come as a human is from God, three and every spirit that doesn’t confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and is now already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and you have defeated these people because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 31st of January 2022 brought to you by 1517 at 1517. org.
The show is produced by a man whose favorite Rocks include Alcatraz, LA’s 106.7, and the 90’s television show starring Charles S. Dutton. He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man with a car from vroom with a small crack in the windshield. I am Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.