As the question of being Protestant by conviction continued to go around in my head, there as another one that joined it. This question was even more disturbing to me than the first one. It started in a Sunday School class.
We were discussing angels, good and bad. The question came up of whether the good angels could become bad. I spoke up that the good angels had been confirmed in righteousness after their battle with Satan and, therefore, could no longer sin. One man in the class looked at me and said, with some irritation, “Where did you get that?” I said, “Well, Dr. Wes taught us that. It’s in my notes somewhere, but I’d have to look it up because I don’t remember off the top of my head.”
I could tell the gentleman was annoyed and, I assume, I’d probably been spouting off like an expert. After all, anyone who knew Dr. Wes just knew that he only taught what was true. (After all, he had helped translate Romans for the NIV Bible.) However, I was now among those who had no idea who Dr. Wes was and, therefore, did not possess the instant understanding that, of course, this was true because he had said so.
But the question set off a chain reaction in my head that went like this:
“I got that from Dr. Wes. Where did he get it? Probably his own professors. Where did they get it? And before them? How do I know that it’s true? It isn’t in Scripture. So where does that come from? In fact, where does any of what I believe come from?”
Around this time Nolan had an experience that also shook us a bit. He had been at the annual conference of our denomination and there arose a discussion concerning the church’s teaching. There were two different views on how a situation was to handled and those holding them were getting a bit steamed. Finally, one pastor had walked up to the head table with the Discipline in one hand and a Bible in the other. He slammed them both down and said, “You tell me which one I’m supposed to preach from!” He then turned on his heel and walked out of the room.
What happens when there are differing interpretations of Scripture? As a lifelong Protestant I simply accepted the differences and never gave it a lot of thought. After all, as long as we all agree in essentials, it doesn’t really matter that some of the finer points differ, right?
Which leads to the next question: What are the essentials?
Here’s my list:
Salvation–how do you get it? Can you lose it?
Sin–what about the sins I commit after accepting Christ? If sin is forgiven for past, present & future, what does it matter that I sin again?
Free Will–has God appointed some to salvation and others not? Is grace irresistible?
Works–Do works play any part in salvation?
Hell–does it exist? Does it end?
Salvation for the Unreached–do all those who’ve never heard the name of Christ go to Hell? Heaven?
The list could go on and it does. These are just a few of the things that have separated Protestant Christians into ever-more denominations for the last 500 years.