What's Wrong with Protestant Theology's Foundations?

Mark Virkler's picture

I don’t want to live out of a theology period, but especially a theology which was established in reaction to theological abuses! I want to live out of the voice of my Heavenly Father through daily walks with Him in the Garden, also referred to as “living by the Spirit” or “abiding in Christ”.


Notes below are drawn from the excellent book What’s Wrong with Protestant Theology? by Jon Mark Ruthven

Protest-ant theology, by its very name, is a “protest” and therefore reactive in its struggle with some admittedly bad abuses in the Church.  Despite the fact that we have the tendency to idealize our founders (speaking as a Protestant fellow-traveler), their theology was far from perfect, and their varied Christian "practice" was both better and worse than their theologies.  We must realize that they both over-reacted and under-reacted in ways that greatly distorted, or even denied biblical truth.  On some issues, they did both: they over- and under-reacted, compared to the teaching of Scripture.

We must stress that this chart lays out Catholic and Protestant theology sometimes in their extremes, and mostly without qualification, while not focusing here on their biblically-valid positions.  We are only presenting the Jesus model showing "What's Wrong"!

Catholic and Protestant theology had much that was "right."  The crucial problem with Protestantism was their misunderstanding of the nature of spiritual gifts, mostly totally denying them, when, in fact, the delivery of these gifts to us was the central mission of Jesus.  Want proof? Read What's Wrong, the chapter, "Where Is Jesus in All of This?"

 

Catholic Abuses

Protestant’s Reaction

Jesus’ Model

1

Salvation by sale of Indulgences to earn heaven. Salvation by works.

Salvation by grace alone. No works. Recite a prayer and you are in. It is a free gift. Nothing added.

Salvation begins with gifts of deliverance and healing, and includes heaven.

2

Salvation is escape from hell.

Salvation is escape from hell.

Salvation = restoration from Satan's ruin via the Kingdom by our "hearing" revelation, healing power & love.

3

One’s authority comes from miracles he does which confirm his words are true (= "sainthood").

One’s authority comes from Scripture proofs, especially the teaching/didactic sections of the Bible.

One’s authority comes from living out of the Father's Initiative (Jn. 5:19,20,30).

4

Apostles - the Pope = "last apostle" - His authority and writings are infallible.

Apostles were the first & only Popes who had ultimate church authority via their writings (the New Testament).

Apostles continue, as one of "best gifts": one "sent out" to express Kingdom in power, love.

5

Truth information: what the Pope and Church declare.

Truth = information from the doctrine with proof texts I have formulated.

Truth comes by revelation of the Holy Spirit.

6

Faith – I am to put my faith in the Church’s beliefs (assent to the creeds).

“The Faith” - a statement of propositions (a creed) apparently supported by Scriptures.

Faith – A gift of revelation ("assurance" Heb. 11:1) that demands our obedience to God's direct "word" if we are to "live" (Mt. 4:4).

7

The Pope speaks to create conformity to the "Church".

The Bible speaks, we give mental assent and nothing new is created.

God speaks to us and His words are creative.

8

"Teaching" is Church dogma/doctrine.

"Teaching" is the theology of my denomination.

NT "Teaching" is to learn how to hear God’s voice & obey (that is, "faith").

9

The Pope [and some historical saints] can speak prophetically.

No-one receives revelation and prophecy. All miracles, revelation & prophecy ceased. (Westminster Confession 1:1)

Prophecy is the central gift to anyone in the "New Covenant" (Is.59:21> Acts 2:39; Jer. 31:34> 2 Cor. 3).

10

Church tradition reveals God’s thoughts.

Systematic theology reveals God’s thoughts

Revelation gifts reveal God’s thoughts.

11

The Pope hears from God for us.

The pastor hears from God for us through Bible study.

We hear from God through His voice in our hearts (the essence of the New Covenant, Jer. 31:34; Isa. 59:21> Acts 2:39).

12

The church adds traditions, complicating everything.

The church adds rules, complicating everything.

"But I say unto you…" God’s voice clarifies everything.

13

Emphasis on theology codified by the church

Emphasis on theology codified by the denomination.

Emphasis on revelation within believer’s heart, as against "scribal religion" (Jn. 5:36-43).

14

Parishioners support the church programs.

Church members support the church programs.

Believers meet needs of individuals they meet via prophetic Spirit.

15

Uses “confessional” to repent of sin.

Uses altar calls to repent of sin.

Focus is on the Spirit's overcoming power.

16

Baptism at birth.

Baptism at birth and/or new birth.

Numerous baptisms: water, Spirit, fire and into the body of Christ.

17

Focus is the building of the church structure & programs.

Focus is to get people "saved"

Focus is to manifest the Kingdom of God.

18

Making disciples is training them in church doctrine.

Making disciples is training them in church doctrine.

Making disciples is training them to live by the power & voice of the Holy Spirit.

19

Detached knowledge concerning Church.

Detached knowledge concerning Bible.

Revelation-based learning from the Holy Spirit.

20

Training from pulpit and classroom.

Training from pulpit and classroom.

Apprenticeship: on-the-road modeling, experience.

21

Structure is rows of pews in church buildings; focus on Eucharist altar.

Structure is rows of pews in church buildings; focus on pulpit, preacher.

Structure is one on one and circles in home meetings.

22

Church must control with threat of excommunication.

Denomination must control with threat of excommunication.

Believers seek repentance, reconciliation with one another with their gifts.


Resources

 

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Anonymous's picture

Very interesting, insightful and explanatory blog post. My question is at the end, context first. Neither Catholicism nor Protestantism has sat well with me. I was raised the latter and had strong negative feelings toward the former- though not by virtue of my family or any rational explanation - and my life has been a journey to God. No. Maybe a journey to understanding God. Or maybe a journey to partnering with God better. Or serving Him better. Or all of those wrapped up with personal growth via lessons and guidance.

Though I only recently subscribed to your blog, I found CWG Ministries a while back via your course, which I didn't order because I've been having those conversations for years. So much so, so gratifyingly so, I designated a special color marker for them, which I use for nothing else. Pages and pages of conversations that when I read them, fill me with peace and awe, the wisdom and love and guidance they contain.

Recently I read When God Talks Back by T.M. Luhrman. A fascinating book about His Vineyard that suddenly made sense - in contrast to Catholicism and Protestantism, both of which feel too limiting relative to what and who He is. When people talk about spiritual vs religious - what am I? Not the latter - to me, that's blind following of dogma.. Sometimes "Sunday Christians", Pharisees as I think you note. Not sure I'm the latter - which seems a bit more woo woo and nebulous, more attuned to some "universal force" and less to specifically and Jesus and God.

My question - is your third column in your above chart evangelical? What is Communion With God ministries? Not that I need a label, but it certainly helps me ascertain a better direction for study and finding a church that fits better with who I am. I've recently been going to a Catholic church which - funny how God works - by virtue of how I ended up there and a few other interesting occurrences, has healed my antagonism of it. That doesn't mean I want to be one though.
Thanks much,
Judi

Mark Virkler's picture

Judi,
Great questions, and yes, it is interesting how God leads us. It is a challenge to find a church which offers what is in the right column. I would suggest checking out charismatic churches, Vineyard churches, River churches, and Word of Faith churches which have embraced the Holy Spirit and Word of faith both.

The key question is, is the church pursuing life in the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, and training it's people in these things. Some home churches are in this stream. It is really a matter of checking out churches and discovering one you feel comfortable in. My list above is just some places you could look. Perhaps other readers will suggest additional places.

Our training courses provide training in these areas, so you can access that, and we love throne room worship (type that phrase in on our website).

Anonymous's picture

The church in the last days is prophesied to get back to the original ideal of God, and we see who Satan persecutes in Revelation 12:17, "the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus." Jesus said that if we truly love Him, we will keep His commandments, and He is the Word who spoke them to Moses, and Paul confirmed that by saying circumcision is nothing, but what is important is keeping the commandments of God. This idea of contrasting laws of dos and don'ts with hearing from God's heart is not biblical. Conceptual thinking is God's way of thinking rather than right-brain. The precepts will agree, but God thinks out of the box, just like His conceptual, original language o f Hebrew demonstrates.

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