The Future of Protestantism


Last year, Peter Leithart wrote a provocative piece entitled ‘The End of Protestantism‘, which provoked considerable discussion in many quarters. A couple of evenings ago, the Torrey Honors Institute, First Things, and the Davenant Trust collaborated to arrange a debate between Peter Leithart, Fred Sanders, and Carl Trueman about the future of Protestantism, moderated by The Calvinist International‘s Peter Escalante. I don’t think anyone familiar with this blog and my personal interest in the work of a number of the persons and parties mentioned above should be surprised that I believe this is well worth your time.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Controversies, Lectures, On the web, The Church, Theological, Video, What I'm Watching. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Future of Protestantism

  1. Thank you for this, Alastair.i also feel it is well worth the time. This is still a painful subject for me but considerably less painful than it was – God has been healing me. I come from an Irish Catholic/Welsh Baptist background. One of my lecturers at Uni called it ‘a volatile mix’ 🙂 I pray daily for the healing of the broken Body of Christ. Peace. Christine

    • Your background is interesting, Christine. I was raised in the Republic of Ireland, which was heavily Catholic at the time. My parents were Baptist missionaries. I later studied at the Evangelical Theological College of Wales (later WEST). I imagine that there are a number of common threads in our backgrounds.

  2. Thank you so much for your reply, Alastair. Yes, there are probably a number of common threads in our backgrounds. My Mum was a ‘cradle Catholic’. Her family moved from Waterford to Swansea before she was born. My Dad has a Welsh heritage & he was baptized in a baptist Church (full immersion) at the age of 19. When my parents got engaged, my Mum was ex-communicated from the Catholic Church. The Baptist minister had some harsh words to say about the Catholic Church & both of my parents stopped going to church at all, but later sent my two sisters & me to Sunday School in a Baptist church!

    I didn’t go to church at all between the ages of 18 & 48 & then I collapsed at work & was prayed over & became what some people call ‘a born-again Christian.’ ( I seem to be allergic to such labels!) I joined an Anglican Church via Christian friends & was baptized and confirmed two
    yrs later.

    4 yrs after that, my mother decided she wanted to go back to the Catholic Church but she was afraid they wouldn’t receive her. With the support of a lovely curate at our church, I made an appointment with the Monsignor at Mum’s local church. I said very little at the meeting other than to describe the priest who ex-communicated Mum as ‘That priest from hell!’ I gasped after I said it, but Monsignor just smiled 🙂 I remained on friendly terms with him until his death. He fondly called me ‘The Anglican daughter’

    I yr before my mother died, my father was also received into the Catholic Church.
    Well…. I went to mass on several occasions & I felt that the people I met really had their hearts in the right place…. but I remained silent when it came to ‘Hail Mary’ & praying to dead saints 🙂
    The most hurtful thing for me was that I couldn’t share in Communion (Eucharist) at my Mum’s funeral.However, I did receive a blessing & I was invited to read from the Bible & offer a prayer of thanksgiving for my Mum’s life. The priest who led the service said to everyone present that he felt very sad that some people were unable to share in the Eucharist, & he said he prayed daily for church unity. Hearing that was a very healing experience for me.

    My Mum was very fond of Vincent Nicholls, who, as I’m sure you know, was in Birmingham before he became the head of the Catholic Church. I feel encouraged by the links between him & Justin Welby, just as I feel encouraged by the debate in the link above.

    This is long!! I just read through , intending to edit – but I have a feeling you won’t mind, so I’ll leave it as it is! Thank you for all you do & for giving us all the opportunity to post on your site.
    Many blessings,

  3. philjames says:

    Thank you for this, Alastair.

    Have you read The Gospel And The Catholic Church by Archbishop Ramsey? I kept thinking of this book. He argues that each of the ‘essentials’ of the church is given by God to embody an aspect of the gospel. It is the full confession of the gospel which makes word, sacrament, etc necessary. When a tradition is impoverished in one of these treasures, a part of the gospel goes unproclaimed in the life of that tradition. Reclaiming those unrecognized common possessions (for if they are truly essential, they belong to all of us whether we know it or not) is a blessing of Dr. Leithart’s vision.

    Near the end Fred Sander’s makes a comment about how Roman Catholics are considered unified though at odds ‘internally,’ but the unity among evangelicals, which actually extends to the sharing of ministers (something obviously going on in the Roman Communion, too) doesn’t count. He attributes this to branding.

    I couldn’t help but think that what is present in the Roman and Eastern communions, but is lacking in the Evangelical traditions is precisely the office which was meant to be the enactment and confession of the gospel truth of our unity- the apostolic office of the Episcopate.

    I believe it is no coincidence that those who don’t treasure this unity (and aren’t seen as unified by the world), are without this truly catholic embodiment of that unity. I’m not sure which came first- being without the ‘memorial’ of this part of the gospel; or having no appreciation for this part of the gospel.

    • I would have rather different views from Catholics about the episcopate. However, evangelicals’ lack of a robust institutional church and the weakness of their sacramental theology are definitely significant reasons why their differences are too commonly expressed as fissiparous disunity.

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