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“The End of Protestantism…?”

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Pastor Jordan Cooper, a good historical theologian in the Lutheran tradition, responds here to an article by the classical Reformed scholar Peter Leithart entitled, “The End of Protestantism.”  One of the reasons I have occasionally identified myself as an “Anglo-Lutheran Evangelical Catholic” (who is currently a confessional Lutheran) is for the very reasons detailed by both Cooper and Leithart, namely, that Protestantism at its worst is simply a reactionary negative theology, and goes about things with the attitude, “the catholics (always an implied dirty word) do it, so we should avoid it like the plague.”  It is as if the church disappeared for over 1,000 years, and that while Luther gets some credit, “he didn’t go far enough.”

What gets thrown out instead is the faith and practices, some of which date back to the apostolic era, of the church catholic that everyone both east and west is supposedly a part of.  In the words of Cooper, “Luther’s Reformation kept the traditional Roman Mass with some necessary changes, while Zwingli rejected the traditional Roman service. While Calvin certainly held to a liturgical form of worship, the insistence on the regulative principle of worship essentially cut off the Reformed from continuity of worship with the patristic and medieval church.”  I sensed this sort of “cutting off” in my youth, and this started somewhat oddly, with a love for the music of Mozart and Haydn and reading the liturgical texts they set to music.  Is it wrong to say/sing “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy?” I would hope not.  Is it wrong to say, “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us?” In the words of Paul, “God forbid!” (KJV).  Yet there are some in the large blanket of “evangelical Protestantism” that say exactly that, all in the name of “not being catholic.”  I encourage all of you who may not be comfortable with the continuity of the classic Christian faith to read both articles:

The End of Protestantism, by Peter J. Leithart, First Things  

Just and Sinner: The End of Protestantism? (Jordan Cooper)

Thoughts and Comments welcome of course!  


  1. Scholiast says:

    I haven’t read those two articles yet (about to), but I like to say that Anglicans and Lutherans are ‘real’ or ‘original’ Protestants, in that we are groups who protested against certain of Rome’s beliefs and practices and are therefore separated from communion with her, but not because everything Rome does is evil. So long as I believe the differences between my belief and theirs are sufficient, I will remain in impaired communion with Rome and thus persist in the protest, and hence am a Protestant, even with the BCP and a little incense, even if some from the Reformed and Radical wings of the protest will protest that I protest too little.

  2. Hey there,

    I read your comment on Jordan Cooper’s original post. Are you on Facebook or twitter where we could connect? I more or less have a similar story, attending an evangelical Christian school, coming out as a staunch catholic Christian (through the Lutheran Confessions of course!)

    This blog looks interesting so I will make sure to follow it.

  3. Have you seen some of the other responses to Leithart’s peice?

    There’s one by Fred Sanders (evangelical Arminian, I believe)

    …and then Leithart’s response to him:

    …and another from a Confessional Reformed perspective by R. Scott Clark.

    • I had read the Clark response, but not the Dialogue between Sanders and Leithart. I’m more inclined to respect Sanders’ comments, as you probably would surmise. I will quote Cooper’s response to Clark:

      “Clark’s point is correct. The Reformation is not over, and the difference that divide us are deep and important. We cannot simply ignore our difference and pretend the issues the reformers had with Rome have now suddenly been fixed. We still disagree over Sola Scriptura, as well as Sola Gratia, and Sola Fide. We can’t simply ignore these issues in the interest of ecumenism. However, the fact that the Reformation is still important does not necessitate Clark’s assertion that Rome is a false church. Can’t we, as a church, recognize our catholic heritage without having to compromise our Reformational beliefs on the one hand, and condemning all Roman Catholics to hell on the other?”

      Now if we are talking about the very confusing and post-modern sounding statements coming from Pope Francis, that’s another conversation…

  4. […] little over a week ago, as I learned at Apologia and the Occident, Peter J Leithart published a piece over at First Things entitled ‘The End of […]

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