In June of this year, the largest Presbyterian denomination in America voted to allow their clergy to perform same-sex “marriages” within the church, thus joining the ranks of other Protestant denominations, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Episcopalian Church, and United Church of Christ.
This “evolution” of theology and “modernizing” of church doctrine is a trend that I predict we’ll continue to see in non-Catholic Christian circles for years to come, and not just with marriage. Today, nearly all Protestant denominations support and even advocate the use of artificial birth control, turn a blind eye to divorce, and many allow at least some level of support for abortion.
Of course, not all Protestants are willing to “move with the times”, so to speak; there remains, especially among the more conservative groups, quite a bit of dissent. However, it cannot be denied that many modern day Protestant denominations are falling further into the depths of secularism.
While it pains me to see Christians turning their backs on the sanctity of life and marriage, I have to admit that whenever the media lights up with news of another Protestant church endorsing an otherwise wholly unchristian act, I find myself entirely unsurprised.
The reason for my utter lack of shock lies, interestingly enough, within two of the critical tenants of Protestant Theology: the doctrines of sola scriptura (scripture alone) and sola fide (faith alone). (I discuss these two at length here and here)
As Catholics, the Bible is not our sole source of authority, nor was the Catholic Church based upon it. In fact, what we now call “The Bible” — the collected Old Testament and New Testament writings — was put together by the Church herself, and is meant to enrich and support our doctrine and Tradition.
(Consider too that the Gospel is the written testimony of the teachings of the apostles, which, due to apostolic tradition and the God-given teaching authority of the Church, precedes the written text. Thus, any authority of the Scriptures is derived from the recognition of the Church.)
Yet, the Protestant Reformation severed the Tradition from the Bible, and put all other authorities beneath it. By doing so, they created a type of religious relativism (unwittingly, I’m sure) that opened the door for an “anything goes” mentality. So long, of course, as it can be found — or not found — in the scriptures.
For years, sola scriptura was a major weapon against Catholic theology, claiming that our practices were either absent or directly forbidden by Sacred Scripture. However, since the latter part of the 20th century, the charges that “Jesus never said (x)” or “That’s not in the Bible” have turned on themselves and have now become, “Jesus never said (x) was wrong, so that means (x) must be okay.”
This idea blends well with many in my generation, the millennials, who wish to hold on to some shred of spirituality but cannot bring themselves to relinquish the desires of the flesh. It is also a base notion of “Progressive Christianity”, which is basically the feel-good parts of following Christ without any actual sacrifice.
The same problem goes for sola fide. Though the only place in the Bible where the words “faith” and “alone” appear next to one another is in James 2:24 (“See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone”), it still remains a significant tenant of Protestant Christianity. However, much like sola scriptura, it has seemingly evolved into an even more bastardized version of itself that states, “As long as I’m a good person and believe in Jesus, I’m okay.”
Now, understand, I’m not among the ilk who believe that Protestants can’t go to Heaven (though the path is significantly more challenging, and not in a “take up your cross” kind of way). They can, and many will. I do believe, however, that Christianity was never meant go in this direction. And I certainly believe that, should things continue in the manner, modern-day Protestants will eventually have nothing left to call Christian at all.