As the Pope bid farewell to the United States, he reminded Roman Catholics that obedience to the authority of the church is the foundation of their religious faith.
That’s true in all respects for the Roman Catholic; their faith is determined by the official positions of the church as defined by the Pope and the Magisterium.
But Protestants see it differently.
When Luther and Calvin engaged in reforming the church, this very “authority” is what they sought to shift – from church to Christ; from the teaching of the Magisterium to the text of Scripture, from an institution to a personal God.
At the heart of the Reformation, a new authority located in the heart of every believer through the fellowship of faith and the work of the Holy Spirit.
At the heart of this new authority, the Bible!
Luther was instrumental in reforming education so that children could learn to read, because reading the Bible in their own tongue was essential to his efforts.
Calvin wrote commentaries and instruction manuals to help believers learn the faith and make it theirs.
The Roman Catholic Church said to Luther, “It’ll never work. You’ll end up in chaos.” In some respects, they were right. The Protestant experiment is still an experiment, and the Protestant world is chaotic even on a good day.
As a pastor for 38 years, I’ve devoted myself to the Protestant experiment – teaching the Bible and helping every believer make personal decisions about the faith, finding the “authority” within their own soul, founded upon and fed by the Bible.
God bless the Pope and our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. They have a lot on their plate right now, and so do we.
There are differences, and those differences are instructive, yet we’re all in this together.
Just a few church-history thoughts today.