Saturday, October 27, 2012

Why am I a Protestant Christian?

In this blog entry, I want to share on why I have consciously positioned my stance as a Protestant Christian. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, Protestants in my understanding are Christians that protest submitting to a pope or papal authority as the final authority in matters pertaining to the Christian faith. Protestants generally hold the view that the final authority to which they must submit is God's written word which in this case is the Christian Bible. (I however always like to point out that early Christians only had the Jewish canon of scriptures for their guidance in determining doctrines and matters of the faith, and that the entire Christian canon of Scriptures came up later due to papal authority. This makes it paradoxical to be a Protestant Christian).

I am more sympathetic to the Roman Catholic Christianity and their challenges than in my early twenties. No other Christian denomination is known to carry out so much poor relief globally. At the same time, the same denomination is often haunted with a history of intolerance, violence and inquisitions. Add to that, the denomination also suffers from more modern stories of sexual scandals and pedophile leaders. While I have not always been sympathetic based on the historical works I have read, more modern news have satisfied me to conclude that the Roman Catholic church in particular no longer fits Protestant Christianity's traditional ideas of the beast. In fact, radical Islam seems a more likely candidate, which is something that is hinted in one of my previous blog entries.

Protestant Christianity has its own history of intolerance, sanctioning slavery and committing genocide of indigenous people, killing pagan practitioners of witchcraft etc. Hence Protestant Christianity like Roman Catholicism also has its sins. Despite the past, I still find that even though the messengers did evil, the message is still appealing. It appeals to my fears and to my hopes for utopia. The truth is, after evaluating other religions, only Christianity (and possibly Islam) paints the most awful picture of what might happen to you if you do not believe their message. I like to take calculated risk, but the uncertainty that death presents is not something that I think I want to gamble with.

However, having been raised as a child in a Christian environment and milieu, while experiencing God for myself within those boundaries, I have consciously decided on the path of Protestant Christianity. Apart from the obvious reason being that I was born into a Protestant family, as an adult now, I find myself with good reasons to be a Protestant Christian as opposed to a Christian submitting to some papal authority. One notes that there are other papal Christian groups apart from Roman Catholicism such as the Eastern Orthodox Church or the Ethiopian Orthodox (also Russian and Greek and perhaps other regional variations). If I were to choose among papal Christianity, I would definitely go for Ethiopian Orthodox as a Jamaican influenced by Rastafarian ideas and racial consciousness. After all, I can find more spiritual connection to Ethiopia, which is mentioned so many times in the Bible, from Genesis down to the book of Acts.

However, I find good theological grounds to adopt a Protestant stance to Christianity, rather than submit to papal authority. In my view, no one person should be given the authority or control over the interpretation of the Bible or how Christianity must be practiced. I know that this poses a problem, as it permits the possibilities of multiple interpretations, traditions and practices. However, this very problem is necessary in order to permit the growth and spread of Christianity. Let me explain.

There is in the book of Acts and Galatians  the mention of the story of how the Jerusalem church had conflict with the Gentile churches established by Apostle Paul (See Acts 15). Apostle Paul, following revelation, made a trip to Jerusalem to hold a meeting with the credentialed apostles (the inner-circle trio that got special attention from Jesus), that is Peter, James and John (Galatians 2:9).  From that meeting, the 3 apostles (not one) made decisions that they would assume control over the Christian outreach to the Jews, while Apostle Paul and Barnabas were to be given equal authority to assume control over the Christian outreach to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:9). As such, Apostle Paul and Barnabas were given similar authority and worked in a similar capacity as Peter, James and Peter. Hence, there was no one person that was apparently elevated to be head over the church.

Hence this to me, raises the issue that earthly church government is a democratic affair, and not a monarchy. Decisions about the direction of the church must be made by at least three persons, and not one. After all, most of Christianity believes in the tri-unity concept of God, three governing as one (). It therefore makes sense to me that if there is to be a papacy at all, there should be 3 or at least 2 persons who comprise that Papacy.  Three or two witness are required to enforce a decision to be made as evident in Paul's writings (see 2 Corinthians 13:11 Timothy 5:19), Jesus teachings (Matthew 18:16)  as well as the Jewish Scriptures (See Deuteronomy 17:6; and even John 8:17). 

From the same story, I also perceive that if the Galilean Jewish apostles had not compromised with apostle Paul and Barnabas, then entire growth and spread of Christianity beyond Jerusalem could have been compromised. Hence, there is wisdom in not having one man vested with all the decision-making authority and the power to interpret the mind or heart of God. Doesn't even the Bible tell us that a cord or strand of three is not easily broken? Further, doesn't even the same wise book tell us that the multitude of counsel is valuable to establishing a thing?

Even the canon of Christian scriptures, which is another story altogether, is incomplete. It does not seem to me that God would have only given us 66 books. That very number is too co-incidentally close to the infamous 666 of the Anti-Christ. In addition, there are numerous books mentioned or quoted in the Bible that were not included in the canon, including the book of Enoch, which is cited at least twice by Jude and Peter (see this blog entry on that topic). Yet, Protestant Christianity, while believing in principle that they must not be limited in their interpretation of the mind and heart of God by  a pope, are yet still limiting their own reformation by sticking to the orthodox practices, traditions and even actions established by popes - including the definition of the Bible as being the 66 books canonized by papal authority, as well as celebrating festivals, occasions and times sanctified by papal authority. Hopefully, I will not be persecuted for posting this. After all, even the Roman Catholic's papal see could benefit from this insight in reforming the political or papal structure of the Roman Catholic church in keeping with the Biblical traditions that they have seemingly drifted away from.

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