It’s funny how words change their meanings over time — or, perhaps, more accurately, how our perceptions of certain words change over time. Take the word “Protestant” for example. It is based upon the word “protest” and everyone knows that this implies being opposed to things. Thus, according to the Roman church’s take on history, the “Protestants” disagreed with the Church and didn’t like submitting to its authority and wanted to be able to teach whatever they thought the Bible taught (in contrast to Church tradition) and that’s why they came into existence. Protestants opposed the church, rebelled against it, and caused a great division. Sadly, this is not only the Roman church’s take on Protestant history, it is also the popular Protestant take on themselves. To be a Protestant is to be the personification of Opposition.
Words are powerful. They mold and shape; they build up or tear down; they form psychologies, ways of seeing, and self-identities. So it is. And the perception surrounding the word “protestant” has done a number on us.
The word “protest” originally meant (and of course, still means) “to affirm, declare, or attest” to something. It means, in the first place, affirming a truth or taking a positive stand for something. To protest is to be in favor of something rather than merely being “agin” it. Of course, if I protest something, I’m obviously against it’s contrary, so there is a negative aspect to “protesting” but the focus is upon affirmation rather than dissent. This is what the reformers were doing in the Reformation. They stood in favor of the truth revealed in the Word and called the Church to reform in those areas where it had departed from Biblical teaching. They stood to promote positive reformation; a return to a faith and practice that more closely conformed to the teachings of the Scripture. (more…)