In this piece, I shall be looking into the Substack piece written by Reverend Calvin Robinson about Christianity and if it’s being divided. Let me say, no, it’s not.
You see it’s quite clear that there are two premises held by the Reverend which are entirely false and as such render responding to this piece in its entirely irrelevant but I shall anyway. Those premises are that Catholicism and Protestantism are equal in truth and that even if one was true or more true than the other, it doesn’t matter because any large appearance of “Christianity” is better than a small appearance of actual Christianity.
- Is Truth Divisive?
- Are We Stuck In The Past?
- What Are The Differences?
- Two Camps; Who Is Right?
- Differences Matter
- Bigger Battles
- Who Are Christians?
- Sources (In order of use)
Is Truth Divisive?
Increasingly, I am receiving messages from my brothers and sisters in Christ, which appear to be an attempt at dividing the kingdom. The number of sectarian comments and direct messages is concerning. But then, I suppose we are tribal by nature.
As we begin, the premise is shown, by the Reverend saying someone one way or another, we are “dividing”. Is it dividing to say a man is a man and a woman is a woman? To say what is true is not divisive. Even if we say it is divisive, why does it matter? But of course, it appears, the Reverend doesn’t believe that there is a truth difference between Protestantism and Catholicism. To him, Catholicism and Protestantism are equally true; they are not.
He understands, perhaps, this, in actuality because he acknowledges that there is tribalism. It’s almost an acknowledgement but he treats it as though it is simply ‘us and them’ rather than a factual difference. At the bare minimum, he should be defending his premise that these two groups are equally truthful because he can see we don’t think they are.
Imagine two siblings are fighting over the last piece of bread but then their mother comes in and says the bread is equally theirs. And in the great vain of trying to please everyone, she pleases no one. You see, you don’t fix the issue by saying everyone is equally right until you prove it to be so. Say that one of them had eaten more than their share and are still claiming more. Or maybe they are both equal claimants. Either way, you need to justify why you chose who, if any are right.
The point is that both cannot be right. A side must be chosen because there are claims that clash made by the two groups. ‘Crisis, what crisis?’ logic doesn’t change a thing.
Are We Stuck In The Past?
It appears to me that some people are stuck in the Reformation in much the same way that many a Remainer is immovable from the Brexit referendum, and in the same way some Americans could not get past the election results of either 2016 or 2020, #notmypresident.
One can only be stuck in the Reformation, Reverend, if that is all that one is discussing. We aren’t putting ourselves into boxes of Protestant and Catholic but right or wrong. This isn’t a battle of team red and team blue, where what we are saying is irrelevant in the big picture or something in the past which is unchangeable.
Saying we are stuck in the Reformation is like saying we are stuck in biology for maintaining the truth that XX is female and XY is male. It’s poor reasoning to suggest that we are “stuck” because we are unwilling to waiver from the truth or at least what we say is the truth.
I am not stuck in the Reformation if those same issues that arose then are still needing to be addressed now. Moreover, some of these issues, such as if the Pope is literally a Satanist, weren’t even a consideration in the Reformation period; so to say these are Reformation issues is slightly disingenuous.
What Are The Differences?
As an Anglican, and an Anglo-Catholic at that, I don’t easily fit into any of the usual boxes, and that can be difficult for some people. I don’t subscribe to papal infallibility, but I do pray the rosary daily; I love the Book of Common Prayer, but I go to Mass regularly. I am not confused, my theology has been perfectly articulated by many scholars before me, from William Laud to Edward Pusey, King Charles I to Vernon Staley. I see the Anglican Church as the English expression of the Catholic faith and the Reformation as an unfortunate necessity – recovering the Gospel, returning to the Church Fathers, restoring the faith and ridding the Church of corruption and superstition. All very noble ideas in principle, and as Mark Twain is accredited as saying, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform, pause or reflect.” Lord knows the Church needed reform. Papal corruption (armies, empires/dominions, illegitimate families, greed) and dodgy practices (the ‘selling’ of indulgences) needed addressing. But in the process of reforming, the more puritanical Protestants took to being anti-Catholic, in opposition to the majority who saw the reformation as pro-Catholic, if anything. That problem has never been resolved. Whilst many Puritans were driven out of the Church, wars raged, attempted coups were fought off, and tribal lines were drawn in the sand. I am, of course, condensing a vast period of history, but the point I am trying to make is that, as Christians, we were never intended to be divided. Schism is not good, separation is not to be desired, and we should pray and work toward a united Church. The Council of Vatican II reported that Catholics today should not hold Protestants of today to blame for the sin involved in the separation, and I think that works both ways. We should focus on the things that unite us, such as our faith in Christ, over the things that divide us, such as our worship styles.
There’s a bit to unpack here. I don’t think the Reverend is confused but he is picking and choosing what he believes. He is just as theologically sound as any actual Christian and then he throws in the Catholic doctrines that chooses. The point is that these doctrines run counter to the Bible. So why pick those ones? And why any Catholic doctrine at all since their basis is outside the Bible?
He is right that Christians were never intended to be divided… which is why division was and is necessary. These divisions weren’t and aren’t between Christians and Christians but Christians and non-Christians. It was precisely because the institutional church had departed from being part of the Church, which is the body of Christ and from Scripture, that the Reformation was necessary.
Anti or pro Catholic are irrelevant labels because what matters is truth. Are we pro or anti truth? So it is completely wrong to say, at least unqualified that, it was a “sin” to separate from the Catholic Church. Does the Reverend believe that it was a sin to denounce falsehoods and does he believe those falsehoods to matter or even exist? You can’t in one breathe say the Reformation was good and then take on the Catholic premise that pointing those things out and not being a part of those things as sinful.
It is far beyond an understatement to say the issue is “worship styles”. I am fairly traditional in a Protestant sense, though I attend a church that is thorough Biblical with mostly modern music; which generally is not to my taste or eardrums. That’s what a worship style is. Worship style is not whether we pray to Mary or another alleged saint or ask them to pray for us as if they can hear us. So for the Reverend to say “worship styles” is just wrong and he knows it.
Insert X Denomination Doesn’t Matter
It is also worth mentioning I will not even entertain the tired revisionist argument that the Church split entirely because King Henry VIII wanted to re-marry. That dismisses the call for reformation from the continent, ignores the Catholicity of Henry VIII, and forgets we were still a Catholic nation until Elizabeth I was excommunicated by Pope Pius V. The English people maintained their Catholic faith and chose to submit to the King over a foreign Pope. They didn’t instantly become ‘Anglicans’ in the sense that we use the word today. The Church of England was historically Catholic (I shall write a separate piece on that), and followers were described as Anglicans as far back as 1215, centuries before the Reformation. Anglicanism is a 19th-century innovation – encompassing the ‘via media’ approach of the Reformation, being broad enough to allow for nuanced disagreements in doctrine (i.e. real presence vs transubstantiation, or sola scriptura vs prima scriptura) and worship (evangelical, charismatic, catholic). For better or for worse.
The issue of Anglicanism is a side issue and certainly not worth a discussion. It is rather ironic that the Reverend says that the issue of the Church of England had little to do with remarriage but then he notes correctly that King Henry VIII was quite Catholic. If it wasn’t that then what was it?
Two Camps; Who Is Right?
The two camps that are most prominent in my inboxes at the moment are the Roman Catholics and the Protestants:
That is correct.
There are the Roman Catholics, who claim to own the Truth and claim to belong to the “one true Chuch”. Christ is the Truth; no one owns Christ. The Church is Christ’s body; all those baptised in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are members of that body. Christ founded his Church and instructed his apostles to spread the Gospel – he didn’t tell Peter and Paul in Rome to disregard Andrew in Constantinople, Mark in Alexandria or Thomas in the East. Where institutions drive us apart, Christ brings us together. Roman Catholics who claim to be the only ones to be saved sound more like the Calvinists they purport to oppose. There is charity in the common statement, ‘come home’, that is for sure. But there is also an incredible lack of humility in the assumption that they have all the answers and have no need for reformation. The Holy Spirit does, indeed, work through the Church – but the Church is also an attractive target for the Devil. We must not forget that. No institution made up of sinners can ever be perfect.
Reverend Calvin is right that the Catholic Church is certainly not the only correct “church”, nor is there an institution that is 100% correct because it is the body of believers which are the Church and human institutions cannot grasp Christianity any more than those who make it up are Christians… or not.
What is missed here is that there is no discussion of doctrine. The issue isn’t just that Catholicism claims to be the only truth but that they are wrong in what they say is true. They place human authority over God’s word and read the Bible as a blank book and write in it, metaphorically speaking, as per their need to justify their doctrines.
Then there are the Protestants, who seem to think Catholics are not even Christians. The Protestants who constantly misinterpret Catholic doctrine – and it must be on purpose because they have been defined and explained so clearly for centuries – especially on the Mass, the veneration of the BVM Mary, the invocation of the Saints and prayers for the dead. Protestants who think they understand the Bible better than their Catholic brethren. The assumption is that they’re the only ones to have ever read and/or understood the Bible properly, and in doing so, they disregard the wisdom of the Church Fathers. These are the Protestants to whom Church history began 500 years ago rather than 2,000 years ago. The problem here is that they spend so much time being anti-Catholic, they are no longer reforming, they are corroding. The physical repulsion to any beauty in worship shows the vacuous nature of Puritanism that has seeped into Protestantism over time. Beauty is transcendental – it takes us out of ourselves and redirects our gaze toward God. That is what good art should do, as well as holy music and ritualistic worship. A solid liturgy should help us empty ourselves of our inner desires and facilitate our prayer, to be filled with God’s will. How can any Christian be against beautiful worship?
We don’t misinterpret Catholicism, we see it in action. Reverend Robinson here mentions doctrine, which he didn’t in the previous section, so I have a chance to actually give some examples. Tell me where in the Bible it says to ask dead people to pray for you and then to have pictures of them to look at when you do it?
This is the test, with respect, Reverend. Almost doctrines of Catholicism, with one I mentioned, are extra-Biblical, that is outside the Bible. So which is it? Is the Bible right or wrong when it says that Jesus Christ is our one mediator and that when people worshiped Apostles, they prompted told them to get up and worship God instead? You can’t pick and choose when these disagree.
It’s not that us Protestants think we know better than anyone else, it’s that we take the Bible over any single person. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Church Father or a hobo on the street; do you line up with what we know to be God’s word or not?
Tradition may be true but it may not be. So it is logically incoherent to trust something that we are unsure of its authenticity over what we know. I know the Reverend does believe the Bible to be the word of God; so it isn’t a complicated response to simply disregard what goes against it.
History Is Pro-Protestant
The topic of history has to be one of the biggest jokes when it comes to Protestantism vs everything else. We don’t say church history and Christianity began at the Reformation because we go straight to the Bible. Religion of God began in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. It continued with God’s chosen people the Israelites (and any who joined) until Jesus died on the cross to bring God’s religion to all people, regardless of nationhood, now in the form of Christianity. Who takes the longest view of history now?
Why do I say this? It is because it is just wrong to say that after Jesus a new religion began as if people before that time did not have a true religion of God. And as such it is just as wrong to disregard that history as it is to disregard early church history too. This idea of intuitional church supremacy, whether Catholic or Orthodox, ignores the Bible and it is precisely why Protestants make such a point of it because we aren’t just taking the New Testament but the Old also. No church can change what was written by God. We are taking the entire word of God and holding ourselves up to it and seeing if we are doing what we should be. The Bible is the standard, not a group of people.
I should also mention that the reformers didn’t just hand everyone a Bible and say to read it, they also argued from the Church Fathers what is true doctrine. Though, even if they didn’t, it still wouldn’t change a thing. Truth is truth.
Being “anti-Catholic” and “corroding” are loaded phrases but without substance. What does it mean to those? If it is pointing out the truth as I said, it is no more a useful label that all the “-phobes” and “-ists” that the woke hand out en masse.
No one is arguing against beauty. Period. It is, as I’ve said constantly, what is true? We aren’t repulsed by beauty but the utter vanity of elaborate acts of religion which are completely against Christianity yet claim to be the fulless of it. Any discussion of beauty is fundamentally irrelevant, much like any topic, whether it be tradition, history, etc; it’s all a distraction. The question is, are the application of such things correct? Do they go against the Bible?
There is no wonder Christianity is in decline in the West. We cannot acknowledge our brothers and sisters in Christ because we are too focused on our theological and liturgical differences. Sectarianism is as much a threat to the Church as wokeness and Mohammedanism.
No. Just no. Differences matter. We are not worshiping the same God if one person says the Bible is God’s word and the other takes that word when they like it and ignores it when they don’t. It’s also quite funny that the Reverend says we shouldn’t worry about liturgical differences but he claimed we Protestants are repulsed by beauty. So what if we are? You being quite divisive if you say we can’t have our unbeautiful worship… wink, wink.
We don’t have to worry, in terms of threats, about any outside threat in the Church, as I said because that is the body of Christ. And so those who are true Christians will be saved and those who aren’t won’t be, to be curt. But the broader point made by the Reverend about the institutional church being threatened and actually corrupted, by anti-Christian Satanic forces, is correct.
Labels Mean Nothing When Reality Kicks In
More specifically, the issue are institutions claiming to be the Church; the issue are those part of such institutions. It’s not sectarianism to say that. It’s precisely the opposite of what is stated, in that regard. That’s not what I believe the Reverend is saying directly but the point is the issue does go beyond Catholicism vs Protestantism because sometimes these labels mean nothing when fake Christians use them. I have equally no interest in being part of “Protestantism” that denies the words of God than I do in Catholicism which does it far more openly. As I said, I am about what’s true and not a label.
Things work themselves out when actual Christians worship in their own ways in their own denominations according to the Bible. We acknowledge churches which do that. Saying that we are “too focused on our theological and liturgical differences” is just not right. Perhaps we are talking too much about them, if we take these as minor differences and become distracted in the latest episode of being distracted from what is really happening in the world.
We are often not focussing on these differences, if we take these as the type of real differences between Protestantism and Catholicism, let alone even more fundamental ones because people are scared of upsetting someone else. Let’s state some nice and clearly. You are not a Christian institution if you promote immorally made death shots masquerading as a vaccine for a fictional virus. You are not a Christian institution if you say there are other ways to salvation other than Jesus. You are not a Christian institution if you say anything will end the world, for example carbon and not Jesus who actually will end this world and bring about a new one.
What Even Is Communion?
We may not all be in Communion with each other. But we are all in Communion with Christ. That should be a good starting point.
What does that even mean? Perhaps the Reverend is saying we are all Christians even if we don’t acknowledge it. That does beg the question because this discussion about is who is right about Christianity.
Whilst we remain divided amongst ourselves, the enemy grows stronger and more targeted. We are doing the enemy’s job for them.
That depends, as I said. Are we actually the “we” or are some actually the enemy? Without accepting the premise of this piece, as I wrote at the top, this is irrelevant.
Where Is Home?
I am sure I am not the only one who observes these fault lines in comments/DMs/replies. The RCs say, “come home”. The Prots say, “avoid Romish superstition”. Fewer and fewer Christians say, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
Why would the Catholics say “come home”? It is because you, Reverend, refuse to condemn explicitly Catholicism in its entirety and have slowly but surely turned in that Catholic direction away from Protestantism; viewable in your change in “worship styles”. They are merely seeing your actions and asking for you to do the natural thing, so it would appear because you have seemly given up using the Bible as the sole authority for correct worship, even though you acknowledge it as the word of God.
Why are we Protestants warning you? Because you changed. You once described yourself as an “Evangelic Catholic”. Though I don’t like the term, “Evangelical”, as all Christians should evangelise and share the Gospel, it generally is code for actual Christianity. When we see you not just enjoying the traditions of Catholic worship but partaking in their heretical doctrines, we will say something, as I am now.
There are bigger, more urgent battles to be fought. There are those who would drag the Church into apostasy with heretical views on issues of human sexuality, denigrating the sacrament of holy matrimony. Same-sex marriage is not an issue exclusive to Anglicans; it is also a threat in Roman Catholicism, thanks to the German bishops and the Synod on Synodality.
He is bringing up issues like I said before. But as I said, they are just as important as whether, for example, one prays to Mary or not. Using the Catholic term “sacrament” is just unhelpful because marriage isn’t more or less important because of Catholic language.
Some People Are More Wrong Than Others
The argument about which corner of the Church contains the most errors is a fatal one. Any institution made up of fallen individuals will have problems. The twentieth century has not been kind to either camp. Contraception, women’s ordination, trans-re-baptisms, and now same-sex blessings have been tearing apart the Anglican Communion, whilst the liberal progressive spirit of Vatican II, the child abuse scandal, and now the suppression of the Traditional Latin Mass have been ripping apart Rome.
We are not heeding the warnings.
Here are the warnings you are not heeding, Reverend. Don’t use the word Church to refer to institutions. Because then it’s as if you are attacking the body of Christ which is without error. It is precisely because there are institutions, as we both said, that we should be arguing and defending truth within those institutions and outside of it.
Here is another warning, if you don’t have a bold form of actual Christianity, you let these fake Christian institutions determine what “Christianity” (or actual Christianity) is presented to society. So it very much does matter that we speak truth and point out who has errors and their magnitude. And even if we don’t worry about how society views Christianity, it is for our own sake, according to the Bible that we correct according to it.
Who Are Christians?
It is our duty to save souls by leading them to Him. Our Great Commission is to disciple the nations. Not each other. If we spent half as much time preaching the Gospel to the world as we do fighting amongst ourselves, we’d be fulfilling our calling and pleasing God.
Once again, the premise comes into play. This assumes we are all Christians if we say we are and by pointing out who aren’t Christians, we are doing a disservice; this is wrong.
Also, we are to disciple each other. In fact this may be the most incorrect statement here from the Reverend. We are told explicitly throughout the Bible to correct Christians according to the Bible and this link will show you some passages which shows this. So even if I grant that these are not fake Christians but simply wayward ones, it is completely correct, pardon the pun, to correct them. We don’t have to forsake correcting Christians for the preaching the Gospel. We would be in deep trouble if we can’t do both.
As Christianity declines in the West, the battle is no longer between Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations, or even amongst us Anglicans, between Ango-Catholics and Evangelicals. The battle now is increasingly between orthodox and heterodox, between conservatives and liberals. We must band together, Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox, Evangelical, Baptist, Methodist, and Pentecostal, to protect the faith against liberal-progressive secularisation. To do that, we must live out our faiths fully and in unity.
Reverend Calvin Robinson, finishes strongly and with a sentiment I can agree with. These labels that we spent the past 100s of words debating are irrelevant because what matters is truth and falsehood. What I tried to explain is that one of those labels just starts off being wrong, Catholicism, without adding in whether that person actually follows that label or not.
What I do have to add is that we are not fighting “liberal-progressive secularisation” but Satanism. We are fighting against those dark unseen forces who are invading Christianity/”Christianity” and destroying its label. We are fighting the wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Purity Matters Because Truth Matters
More importantly and I’ll say it again, we should be discussing what is true. We cannot argue about defending orthodoxy, that is truth, if we don’t even agree what that even is. So therefore, it matters that we can disagree and discuss the differences. This is not an attack piece again the Reverend because I know, on most things, he is indeed doctrinally sound; this is a correction piece. In the hopes of trying to preserve a larger Christianity, he is happy to go along with the wrong; such as why this is an issue that I must speak about.
To show a non-Christian example of such attitude, I have one comment from him. See below.
The point is it doesn’t even matter if Scotty is wrong. What matters is that sometimes, especially when it comes to salvation, being accurate actually matters. You don’t need to have all your favourite players in your favourite sports team but it does matter that the news is actually news. It does even more matters that churches are presenting the Gospel truth, literally or not.
It isn’t “V supportive”, a apparent reference to the dystopian novel about England where “V” is a terrorist/freedom fighter who fights the regime without regard to innocent life, to talk about truth. This is the problem. GB News may not be our ally if they push something that goes against us and the truth.
I get the appeal of a large, imperfect movement. Sometimes, though , you do need to draw that line and kick out the ‘baddies’. It is ignorant of Biblical and broader history ignore what happens when you don’t remove the chaff from the wheat and when you do. God frequently told the Israelites not to partake in particular sinful things one bit. Is that puritanical? It doesn’t matter if it’s right.
Vouchsafe, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, to grant unto the whole Christian people unity, peace, and true concord, both visible and invisible; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen
That is correct. But what matters is who are the Christians? If we don’t know that, this discussion has all been in vain.
Sources (In order of use)