Sunday, November 20, 2011

Catholics and Protestantism

"Catholicism and Other Religions," the continuing series now running in the Peace Weekly, takes up Protestantism, beginning with its emphasis on the devotio moderna. A professor of the Korean Church History Research Institute feels that it's necessary to understand the part 'modern devotion' had in the life of the 14th century Catholic to understand the beginnings of Protestantism.

The movement started in Holland and was different from the old devotion of the Scholastic school, which emphasized the liturgy and the sacraments. The new devotion placed greater importance on meditating on the passion and the Beatitudes. Individuality and practice were emphasized, and contemplation was to develop the inner life and deepen our relationship with God.

This faith life was intent on uncovering a person's individuality and interiority; it was to be the Protestant model of religion. This was the spirituality of the Brethren of the Common Life (1383). Erasmus, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ignatius of Loyola were all influenced by this movement. It was the 'devotio moderna' that influenced Erasmus when he claimed that grace can be confirmed only by the Scriptures and faith; this emphasis was instrumental in putting more importance on the Scriptures than on tradition in determining the truths of the Protestant faith.  

There was within the humanistic period of the Renaissance a movement among Catholics to change the way things were being done in Catholicism. However, their efforts were not as successful as those of Luther and Calvin.

In Korea, the Presbyterian missioners from Canada and the United States did the first missionary work and had the most numbers. Presbyterianism, Methodism and Pure Gospel are the three largest Protestant denominations in Korea.

The professor asks what can we learn from Protestantism? Catholics can use them as a negative model, he says, as a mirror to see ourselves. Reflection on the quick growth of Protestantism is now no longer only a Protestant issue. The unregulated spread of churches, the excessive number of seminarians being sent out, lack of content in the teaching of theology, the extreme form of exclusivity--all are concerns Catholics should ponder. Especially necessary, says the professor, is changing from a dictatorial clericalism to another form of leadership within the Church. 

Some Protestants see their many denominations as harming their public image. Some also believe there is a shirking of public service, a dualistic view that separates the Church from the world, too much emphasis on material growth, and hostility toward other religions. 

On the other hand, what can be imitated is the devotion to the study of theology and the study of how to acculturate religion into the Korean culture. The professor lists many Protestant theologians who have added a great deal to the study of comparative religions and their cultural significance within society.

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