There is ideal Protestantism and real-life Protestantism

And they are often confused in comparisons.  And this happens in everything.  People will criticize some empirical abuses of monarchy over against the most falsely-idealized democracy.  But that’s not fair.  If we are going to compare things, we must either compare real-life empirical data to real-life empirical data, or idealised views to idealized views.

Some of the things the Federal Vision movement has done is point out weaknesses in Protestantism, re-read ancient and medieval sources alongside the tough philosophical questions, and at the end of the day try to stay Protestant.  And it’s a heady brew.  (I will give an account of the Federal Vision movement later. )

Accordingly, the Federal Vision narrative of Protestantism is more attractive and more defensible than the standard “17th century only” Protestantism.  However, let’s be fair.  Your average Protestant is not a Federal Visionist who is currently reading St Thomas Aquinas alongside the latest monograph on St Gregory of Nyssa.  Shucks, your average Protestant isn’t even a Calvinist (and with all the flaws of Calvinism, it is an intellectually rigorous and not subject to the critiques given to Evangelicalism and Liberalism).

No, your average Protestant is a slappy-clappy Sudn’ Baptist.  You cannot say Protestantism in general is true simply because the Protestant can boast of Zanchius, Ursinus, Hooker et al.  Worthy and learned men.  But they are NOT the average Protestant.

I am referring to this recent defense (see especially the comment by Arturo).

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5 Responses to “There is ideal Protestantism and real-life Protestantism”

  1. The Ecclesiastical Hipster Says:

    Your average Protestant doesn’t know enough about history or Catholicism to properly protest it, and thinks Calvinism is a cuss word. There are exceptions, of course (and they all blog), but your average Protestant is exactly what they accuse the Orthodox of being — cultural Christians.

    This is not to say there aren’t plenty of things that could be said about the average RCC in America, as well.

  2. Right…and I am beginning to see the problem applies to all Churches in America. Many Protestants accuse–or at least implicitly think–that all Orthodox are phyletists, and there might be some truth to that.

    But as you note, your average Evangelical soccer mom often functions as an American phyletist.

  3. If you were being called a communist and attacked on your way to worship on Sunday, you’d probably stick with your own “kind” as well!

    However, the Church in America is recognizing that phyletism is a problem and it is being addressed. The fact that most Orthodox in America will be converts in the next generation is an astounding — and promising — prospect.

    I’m thankful to be at a parish where all tongues, tribes and nations are welcomed (and all get along) — even people from Ethiopian and Oriental backgrounds with different calendars. This will become the norm, and not the exception, as Orthodoxy becomes more widespread in America. We have to remember, it has only been known to English speaking people in America for about a generation and a half, and for most of that time, America was entangled in something called the Cold War and fighting Communism (with which Orthodoxy was wrongly categorized).

    Peace,
    GVM

  4. Exactly, Gabe.

    And I think the ‘Marikun church is as openly phyletist as they accuse the Orthodox. I have a mean-spirited post I thought about doing. It was called: “Phyletism and the Evangelical Soccer Mom.” Point was, how many Protestants: 1) blindly support Israel; 2) are pro-war, any war (and I do not disparge the troops); 3) are anti-all things Slavic? The list could go on. Even among the best Calvinists, American presuppositions are dominant.

    • Well, most American Christians thought black people were sub-human fairly recently. Not much point in finger-pointing, really. We’re all sinners. That’s besides the point when it comes to “What/Who is the Church?”

      Peace,
      GVM

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