Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April 10, 2012

What Does "Protestant" Mean?

When religion comes up in conversation, when there are forms to fill out, or when the subject inserts itself in some other way, there are different ways a Protestant might answer concerning his faith. Saying “Methodist,” “Lutheran,” or whatever the particular denomination happens to be is one way to avoid confusion. Some do not like the word “Protestant” because it is too broad and has sadly lost much of its original meaning. Or perhaps they think of the newer evangelical and fundamental faiths as Protestant and thus will not use the name. 

In my mind the word has a far different meaning. In the 16th, 17th, and even 18th century, people had no question what Protestant meant. I realize, of course, that there were and are important differences between Calvinist and Lutheran branches of the “Reformation faiths” of Protestantism, but I also think that believers were willing in those times, at least in part, to bear the same name as a symbol of pride and solidarity. They were proud of the name. It was the word that could condemn them but also the word that justified their courage, that described the faith for which they were willing to die. While enemies used it as a badge of scorn, Protestants used it as a badge of pride. 

“Protestant” referred to the survivors. Those who dared to be different. Those whose families were immolated in the flames, carted off to prison, and suffered grievous treatment and lack of rights simply for believing only the two sacraments set forth in the Bible and for advocating Scripture alone. It meant “protesters” against the corrupt order of the day. It meant freedom. So the next time you are loathe to answer “Protestant” for the reason that it encompasses too much, consider the word’s original meaning and whom it originally referred to. Consider telling the asker what exactly it means to you.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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