Sunday, April 11, 2010

Backpedaling Without Knowing It: "Rediscovery" in Protestantism

Many Protestant churches today have been rediscovering lost Christian practices of the past. Some have begun to incorporate art into their worship. Others are beginning to use ritual again, reviving old Christian rites. There is a movement nowadays called the New Monasticism. There is even a renewed interested in Mary and doctrines related to her.

But in truth, these things were not lost. This is true in two ways.

First, these things were not lost, they were rejected – protested against, to be more specific. They were deemed to be a part of the corruption of the Whore of Babylon – that is, the Catholic Church – and were reformed out of the communities of Reformers.

Second, these things were not lost seeing as they have been a part of the Catholic Church this whole time. Want to see an appreciation for Christian art? Step inside a cathedral. Want to experience ancient Christian ritual? Attend a Mass. Looking for communities of Christians dedicated to living a life together devoted to God? There are Catholic monasteries and convents all over the world. Interested in how Jesus’ mother Mary, the woman who bore the Son of God in her womb, relates to salvation history? Open up the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Many churches with contemporary services have been acknowledging that they have been neglecting the arts. Many are now encouraging their congregations to create Christian art for use in their churches. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, was the patron of great masterpieces such as the Sistine Chapel and Notre Dame. But even walk into newly built local Catholic Churches and you will most likely find beautiful art throughout.

Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today, has written the book Beyond Bells & Smells calling Christians to return to liturgy. The Catholic Church has maintained essentially the same Mass for centuries.

Shane Claiborne, co-founder of The Simple Way (a community associated with the “new monasticism”) says that he has been inspired by St. Francis of Assisi (see his book Irresistible Revolution, good book by the way). Well, there are thousands of Franciscan monks still around today. No need revive something that wasn't ever lost.

Several news outlets, including TIME (read the subtitle on the right) and US News and World Report, have run stories in the last few years regarding a renewed interest in Mary by Protestants. One article, published in Christianity Today, was entitled "The Mary We Never Knew". Catholics have only been growing in their understanding and appreciation of Mary over the centuries while Protestants are now trying to play catch up.

As Protestants of today find themselves feeling the void which the lack of these things have left, I ask them to remember why their communities don’t have them in the first place.

Remember, it's not that the Catholic Church "rediscovered" these things a few years before Protestants. Catholics have had these things for centuries. They had them before, during, and after the Reformation.

These things that are being “revived” are good, and now that Protestants are removed far enough from the Reformation that they are open to learn from Catholics, they are seeing the goodness of these things as well.

The wisdom and truth of the Catholic Church has stood the test of time.


  1. Good work. (I'm an old evangelical Catholic.)

  2. Brilliant!