Kristor’s recent announcement that he’s moving to Rome leaves Yours Truly as the only Protestant regular contributor to this website. More generally, there appears to this writer to be a pronounced bias among Christian traditionalists toward Catholicism or (capital-O) Orthodoxy. Presumably this is because Rome and Constantinople emphasize the authority and tradition that are perhaps the defining elements of traditionalism, whereas contemporary Protestantism, as opposed to the faith of the Reformers, not only lacks this emphasis but often tends (unfortunately) toward antinomianism.
But let it be known that this author is not moving to Rome and, more generally, that traditionalism and Protestants need one another.
For (switching temporarily to the first person) I am a Protestant by conviction, not just dislike of Romish practices. I was, in fact, raised in a liturgical (albeit liberal) United Methodist church, with robed ministers and choirs, organ music, stained-glass windows; the whole nine yards. (Or at least eight of them.) I have fond feelings for high-church Western Christian ritual. But I will not join Rome, for she has diluted and sometimes even contradicted the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
But the chief point of this post is not to badmouth Rome and Constantinople. It is to assert the need we Protestants have for traditionalism. Protestantism has an unfortunate tradition of flirting with antinomianism and libertarianism, and not just in the sphere of religion. But this tendency is not authentic Protestantism, and the need of the hour is for men to recognize and submit themselves to the great, overarching, God-ordained order of being, an order that is not only religious, but also political, social, esthetic, and intellectual. And only traditionalism can lead man to recognize this order fully.
While Protestantism rightly emphasizes Christ as fully sufficient for the salvation of the sinner and as the true head of the church, it often tends to neglect the need for authority and tradition. Protestants generally see politics, even in the broad sense of any activity that produces social order, as a corrupt business that will never make men holy and that only distracts from the Christian’s highest calling of bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ. But this view is distorted. Our nation has become disordered under the onslaught of liberalism, and the greatest social need of the hour is to promote a more sane social order. For this reason we also need Protestants to participate in the contemporary traditionalist movement, which calls people to acknowledge their participation—often unconscious—in the corrupt liberal system of the world and aspire to the formation of a more proper social order, one that, inter alia, promotes traditional sex roles, protects our people from mass immigration and other forms of suicidal “tolerance,” and honors Christianity.
Indeed, one of the greatest problems with Protestantism is that it has largely ceased being Protestant. The Reformers did not risk their lives in order that men and women could attend worship services wearing vulgar clothing, or join the latest goofy Christian fad, or remain grossly ignorant of the doctrines their fathers in the faith died to uphold.
No, the Reformers saw themselves as following in the footsteps of the Apostles, the church Fathers, and the rest of the great tradition of (lower case c) catholic Christianity. The Reformation did not seek to erase all Christianity prior to the year 1517 and start over. It asserted the truth of the faith founded by Christ and the Apostles, and it sought to remove the errors that had crept into Christendom over the centuries, by going “back to the source” (ad fonts) of true Christian doctrine, Scripture. Those beliefs and practices that contradicted clear scriptural teaching were opposed by and removed from the Protestant churches.
The Reformation did not seek to free men from authority, only from illegitimate authority. In addition to recognizing the supreme authority of Scripture (yes, God Himself is a higher authority than the Bible, but He does not hold regular office hours), the Reformation also recognized the authority of pastors and bishops, councils and consistories, creeds and confessions, teachers and pastors, kings and princes. And it also recognized the validity of tradition, provided that tradition does not violate the clear teaching of Scripture. True Protestantism affirms the authority and tradition that man needs in order to live well.
The Reformers, our fathers in the Protestant faith, were not revolutionaries. Our Protestant tradition is one of fidelity to Christ and the Apostles, a tradition which, regrettably, sometimes requires us to oppose institutions and practices that are of ancient vintage. But we oppose error because it really is error, not because we are contrarians, libertarians or antinomians.
And we contemporary American Traditionalists find ourselves in a situation similar to that which faced the Reformers: We are calling people back to the true American tradition that has been corrupted by many years of misguided innovation. We are simultaneously loyal to our nation and in opposition to the institutions that currently rule her. Our loyalty is based on our understanding of the truths that American tradition used to acknowledge, as well as a love for our people and its history. In this, we can learn from the Reformers, who loved people enough to call them back to the true Christian tradition.
Judd Wilson of the Founding Americans Political Action Committee has a four-minute video titled “Hope for America comes from our Identity” in which he makes the important point that whereas ideas and institutions can be infiltrated and subverted, a person’s identity is much more resilient. By a person’s identity, Wilson means who he is, who he belongs to, who made him, and what he lives for. The man who has a strong sense of all these will not likely be corrupted into the kind of nihilistic, hedonistic, rootless way of life that characterizes so many Americans nowadays.
So let us affirm our identity, for this gives us strength and stability in troubled times.
Our identity as Protestants is one of fidelity to Christ and the Apostles by reasserting the two fundamental principles of the Reformation: The authority of Scripture—the Word of God—over all human authority, and the non-negotiable Christian message to mankind that all must repent and have true faith in Jesus Christ—and nothing more—in order to be saved from the wrath of God. As a consequence of this second fundamental, our Protestant identity is reinforced by sermons that promote repentance and faith by the accurate expounding of Scripture, for the Bible says that “without faith it is impossible to please him [God]” (Hebrews 11:6) and “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17.)
But this is not the totality of our Protestant heritage and identity. Protestantism is not just rejecting the Pope, calling people to personal repentance and faith, and ignoring all else. The Reformers (to say nothing of Christ and the Apostles) would never have endorsed modern “separation of church and state,” or the anarchy let loose by mass immigration, or the official endorsement of feminist rebellion against God-ordained sex roles, or the official institutionalization of the sexual revolution, or any of the other leftist corruptions of our society. They would never have done what so many of our churches now do: tacitly (or openly!) accepting most of the leftist revolution. The liberal churches do it because they agree with the Left, and the conservative churches do it because they think that fighting to preserve a properly-ordered society is not part of their job. But consider the following quote often attributed to Martin Luther:
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that point which the world and the Devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.
Luther was probably thinking of Christian preaching when he penned these words, but they have a wider meaning. The Devil is attacking us at many points, not just Christian doctrine. The accurate proclamation of God’s Word is of first importance. But it will take more than Christian preaching to restore America. All aspects of society will need to be strengthened and restored. All traditionalists, including Protestants, are needed for this effort.