Whatever happened to the Protestants?

Whatever happened to the protestants?

In my ill-spent younger years I tried to learn Latin. My unwillingness to learn the kind of grammar-swotting that was the modus operandi of those school days left me with a sketchy understanding of that classical language. But even so I learned enough to be able to cut the waffling doctors short when they tried to impress me with Latin terminology. And to this day I find myself returning to Latin phrases in all sorts of connections.

I hear churchmen speak with reverence of the Reformation as if the known names and events from that multiple movement were as important as the Bible itself. In many cases grave and serious issues of direct contradictions of scriptural truth hide behind “Sola scriptura”. And I see that when the actual word is analysed the exuberant use of “reformare” does take a knocking. It can mean two very different things: either it means razing a ruin to the ground, dig out the original drawings and rebuild from scratch, or it means giving a building a facelift, a mere façade renovation without dealing with what lies behind that façade. It looks good but may be dangerous to enter because the decay of inner structure is invisible behind the mask.

A similar and even more devastating shift in the word “protestant” is ongoing and must also be scrutinized.  The Latin verb behind our “protestant” is “sto, statum, stare” meaning to stand. Coupled as it is with “pro” it means to stand for something. In legal terms the common word was known as “protestari”.

The word protest is first recorded in English in the 1300s. It comes from the Latin prōtestārī, meaning “to declare publicly.”

In other words, a protestation was a standing up for something, someone or some idea. It was a declaration of positive intent. And what does it mean today?  “I am against this that or that.” And rarely do those whose only mode of movement is backwards have anything of positive alternatives to offer. It is the most eloquent sign of infantility to cry no no no whatever is offered. The corruptive power of the “no” is a drug for the thwarted soul. Make no mistake: there is many a good cause for making protest in the negative sense.

But that is not how the original Protestors saw their role. They knew that they stood up for something which had been shamefully neglected and/or deliberately lost. I write this against the backdrop of a contemporary reality as I am writing in June 2023. Virtually every denomination which arose as a result of the Reformation has since then turned almost 180 degrees away from what they fought for then. Some have long since cut every tie with anything to do with the Bible as the Word of God or as final truth about both God and Man and why they still cling to a façade of “Christianity” is either a deliberate betrayal or a thoughtless remainder of times past. Nostalgia dressed up as theology. But the God who revealed Himself to mankind is nowhere to be seen or heard.

When you carefully look at the 16th century Reformation and take off  the blinkers of prejudice you will see that what that Reformation accomplished was by no means a 180 degree turn back to the New Testament realities, but only a partial restoration of some long lost truths. Because the actual history of what happened shows that the “non reformed” elements became the very ball and chain fetter which is toppling them into ignominy in our time.

Let me ask you, have you ever heard of the Donatists, the Waldensians, the Cathars, the Stäbler, the Läufer, the Winkelprediger, the Anabaptists, the Sacramentarians, the Communists, the Rottengeister or Dissenters?  Some of the terms are pure Middle age German, some are derived from the names given to movements that refused to be reformed by the Reformers. All of these terms are derogatory and were used by all the “great names of the Reformation “against people who were not amused” by the way the reformers refused to actually return to the Bible as the Word of God in all but a few select areas.

Before I give a short description of the meaning of each of these terms I must draw the larger picture. At the back of this division among those who either had already left the Church of Rome or were about to do so lies one crucial and hitherto unsolved issue. I can do no better than to cite a book called “The Reformers and their Stepchildren” by Leonard Verduin p 17.

“Luther was faced with a dilemma, the dilemma of wanting both a confessional Church based on personal faith and a regional church including all in a given locality. This dilemma was a cruel one. Those who think of the Church as a community of experiential believers are bound to oppose him who thinks of it as a fellowship embracing all in a given territory: he who operates with that territorial view of the Church must by necessity look with an evil eye on those who claim that the Church is only the fellowship of those who actually believe. The one view is that of the Church as the Corpus Christi, the very body of Christ, the other is that of Corpus Christianum, those who (by whip or carrot) are included in the “christened” society of the Church. Until this day no one has managed to bring these two totally opposite positions in line with each other.”

Luther, Calvin, Zwingly, Melanchthon et al all started out in favour of the Corpus Christi idea. Because reading the bible in either French or German as well as Greek and Hebrew left them no other option. The very claim to “Sola scriptura” made it impossible for them to support this other collectivist view from the scriptures. They could not find that using coercion towards salvation was according to the word of God. “The whosoever will” left out all those who would not be force-baptized.

But there was another reality facing them. The Roman Church they had fled had ever since Constantin the great in the end of the third Century welded the Sword of the Civil magistrate to the Cross and a hundred thousand had lost their lives because they would not receive the cross, and who for their refusal found the edge of the sword separating their heads from their shoulders. All in the name of the Church and Christ! Faced with the imminent danger of the wrath of the Pope-cum-Caesar all the Reformers in all three or four camps (adding the English reformers) turned 180 degrees and welded the Sword of the Spirit to the Sword of civil authority. 

Having narrowly escaped from Rome thousands found themselves coming out of the ashes and falling into the fire. Fires that were now stoked by the Reformers! The first front was between the Reformers and Rome, the second front was between the Reformers and the aforementioned. Leonard Verduin calls them the Stepchildren of the Reformation. The mighty men of Reformation renown truly experienced “fears within and fightings without”. And they all, without exception, apprehended and acquired the same tactics as the Church of Rome which they had left.

The idea of “one Faith, One people” is distinctly Old Testament. The Reformers had no other choice but to use the people of Israel and their monolithic oneness under the law as the pattern for their Reformation once they faced the sword of Rome. A composite society of “not yet believers together with believers” was not their cup of tea. The modern day World Council of Churches follows the same idea. All believers under the same headship. As the Popes of Rome have expressed multiple times. And from all the old denominations that arose in protest against Rome and in “protestari” of true NT Christian faith people are today fleeing back to Rome. The main reason being that those denominations have lost their relationship to Christ and have become merely another branch of “Christendom”. And Rome offers rich symbolism, spectacular ritual and apparent authority. Which cannot be said for the dying denominations.

The Donatists were no news in Luther’s day. They had been around ever since “Constantinianism” had “christened” a basically pagan nation without the Christian change of heart. The idea that People and Church must be made one is called “sacralism”, And the Donatists would rather die than accept that. Those who claimed that the Christian life was a gift of Grace and from God, which demanded prior loyalty to Christ rather than the State, were nicknamed “Donatists” from again Latin: Dono: to give. Giving to Caesar what did not belong to anyone but God was for them unthinkable. And they lost livelihood, limb and life for it over a thousand years. When the Church took the role of the Caesar things went off all rails.

The unholy Roman Church plundered the people of their hard earned wealth in an unprecedented manner. Remember that it was the flagrant and totally shameless selling of s c “indulgences”, meaning forgiveness for real and imposed sins by putting money in a coffer administered by taxcollecters a hundred times graftier than Zacheus, that started the whole reformation. Luther’s theses nailed to the door of the Church in Wittenberg were by and large entirely about that shameful business. The St Peters Basilica in Rome was largely built on such “taxation”. The Waldensians, following Peter Waldo from the 12th Century, espoused  a totally opposite code. No personal belongings. No gilt-edged bibles, nothing more than the bare necessities. Their existence was a nail in the eyes of opulent popes and thieving prelates and obese monks all over Europe. They challenged Rome with the simplicity of the life style of Christ. Hunted and killed wherever they were found. Ideologically their modern equivalents are found among Mennonites, Amish, Bruderhöfer et al. Lots of Christian communities still exists on the principle of only common possessions.

When the church becomes filled with people who are Christian in  name only the end result will be “average conduct” only. The holiness insisted on by the Gospel through separation from the World, the subjection of the Flesh and ongoing sanctification as a matter of course cannot be maintained in the lives of the unregenerate. Cathar comes from a Greek word “katharos” meaning “pure”.  Catharsis is the cleansing from all unrighteousness. But how could such a standard be upheld when the worshipping majority was not either born of the Spirit or filled with the Spirit but rather lived according to the lusts of the world? Impossible. To read how the reformers defended this state of affairs makes me cringe for shame. A quote from Martin Bucer may illustrate: “Their (the Cathars) most pointed argument is always this that we keep house so badly: with this argument they lead astray many people.God help us, so that we may one day be able to take this argument away from them, yes from our own conscience and from the Lord our God.” What an admission. One of Luther’s close associates was Rector of one University but left his position when he realized that although “justification by faith” was upheld, there was a rampant lack of moral correction within the very Lutheran Church. Gotthard Arnold cried out his disgust over the state of moral decay which was so visible throughout the sacralistic Church of the day. It has not changed to this day.  Cathars insisted on the pursuit of Holiness. Away with them! All holiness movements are decried by the sacralists. To this day.


The Stepchildren refused the horror of the cross welded to the sword of the state. And their protest took the form of always walking with a staff, reminding the powers that be that they refused to fight with the sword but fought with the implements of a shepherd. The German “Stäbler” means ”staff carriers”. The issue of Christians and arms has had ramifications way beyond the middle ages.  Some adopted the sword for their own ends, and soon met the Sword of the Reformers. They held nothing back against those who tried to sanctify the Sword for “holy war”. That is another mad chapter of dissent. (See Munster uprising for further insight. The way the Stepchildren were haunted and hunted led to some far out wild misconduct on their part too.)

Läufer (Runners)
The ministry of teaching and preaching the Word of Christ was monopolized by the Reformed Churches. Unauthorized preaching was strictly banned, forbidden and if it happened, was penalized, often in the most brutal way. Since these people who held to the calling of God for their service were going wherever people were found, the Reformers, each in their own way, made it illegal for anyone not ordained by the Church to preach. And further they added to it that a man may only preach in a certain given locality. The Läufer however ran wherever they felt called and refused to stay in one place.  So the “runners” were to be shunned and anybody giving them attention or bed and board was severely chastised, fined and humiliated.

Forbidding them to preach anywhere near the areas under the control of Authorities these people who “could not contain the word of God within them” like the prophet Jeremiah, were forced to find hidden corners for their preaching. Just like the Covenanters in Scotland about the same time, they were chased and hounded and when found out either killed on the spot, and all their families suffered from their deeds too, or hauled to Edinburgh where they were hanged or worse. Any corner out of sight where a few people would gather was “pulpit” for them. Corner is German “Winkel”. And those who were thus designated were Cornerpreachers. They never sang “You in your small corner, and I in mine.”

Wiedertäufer, Anabaptists

At the earlier stages of the Reformation the issue of the Sacramentswas much under fire from many quarters. The Seven Sacraments of the Church of Rome were seen as part of the ecclesiastical bondage from which the Reformation would free people. And the common consent was that only those who were believers should be baptized and that the holy Communion was for bona fide (In good faith standing) believers. Neither Luther, Calvin or Zwingly could find support for any other type of baptism in the Scriptures. But the dilemma was this: how can we bring about a unified Church among all the people if Baptism was up to the individual?

Many who embraced the new faith had been baptized as children in the Church of Rome. Disregarding that ritualistic baptism  led without hesitation to “believers baptism” when those who first as believing and able to discern for themselves that they had faith asked for Baptism. But that meant a “rebaptism”, which of course went against the doctrine that says “ One Faith , One Baptism. Etc The Anabaptists refused to acknowledge the paedo-baptism  of  both the Catholic Church and  the identical action of the Reformed Churches. Because although none of the Reformers could manage support for this “christening” mode of child baptism in the Bible as such, they still embraced it and what is more, used force to command all children to be baptised, even at the cost of all parental rights or agreement.

The staunch refusal to baptize children did not start with the Anabaptists of the 16th Century. It was part of the original gospel insight based squarely on the commands of Christ, the practise of the Apostles and the available teaching from the New Testament. The sadness of this era is manifold. Famous are the cases of men who for the sake of their belief in the necessity to be immersed in baptism were bound hand and foot and thrown into the river Limat in Zuerich where they drowned, instigated by the Swiss reformer Huldreich Zwingli himself. All the great Reformers became turncoats in the matter of Baptism. Sola scriptura? Forget it. When it came to church politics Scripture was always sacrificed at one end or the other.

The Stepchildren were  very early on showing a strong aversion to the way the remaining sacraments were used as means of a rather graceless regiment in the hands of the rulers and governors of the “new” Churches. Forced Baptism of children was coupled with excommunicating anybody who disagreed with accepted doctrine, however unbiblical it was, from the Lord’s supper. It was used as punishment of real or imagined breaches of the hegemonic authoritarian power of the Church. Today denominational boards throw out, defrock, excommunicate ministers who disagree with such new-fangled practises as same sex marriage and for many other reasons, all without biblical warrant.


The charge of being “communists” came against them who said that it was totally immoral to let people starve while priests and bishops gorged themselves with delicacies. They insisted that true worship includes looking after the poor, to deliver the captives, to heal the blind and the lame and many such virtues. The one thing they never did was to say what they were accused of. That of taking everything everybody had and sharing it equally among all. That kind of communism was not theirs even though it had happened in the city of Jerusalem during the first fledgling months of the new born Church of Christ. Neither did they, as the reformers accused them of have all wives sin common as if they were orgiastically free in their views of “mine and thine” as far as women were concerned. The much vaunted Reformers had no scruples whatsoever when it came to spread and maintain direct downright lies about these who sought to maintain “the faith that had once and for all been committed to all the saints”.

“Rottengeister”, i e Dissenters
To be sure, the crowning calumny against them all was that they deliberately sought to break apart the  true church with their partisan view. They were lambasted with the cries of “Dissenters”, disturbers of the piece, of dividing Christ by their insistence on the freedom of the believers to convene for fellowship in their houses and homes just as in Acts 2 and straight through the New Testament. Christ and Belial cannot be one and the same, they said. Darkness and Light cannot be mixed, they said. They were put in the doghouse of “sectarians”, as those who cut themselves away by their sectarian and unapproved views of so many things that the “Sacralist Church” insisted on being the sole owner and rightful interpreter of.

But they themselves were of a totally different opinion. They saw themselves as those who still, after 1600 years once again heard the Spirit of God explain the scriptures to those who had been born again to a newness of Life in Christ. They would have neither Pope or Bishop tell them another truth than the one they now, thanks to the Reformers themselves, could access in their own mother tongues. Had the Reformers been truly reformed men, none of the large Reformed Churches would have become what they are to this day.  These other men and women could have been accommodated in the Church but it was the Church herself that cut herself off from the Headship of Christ and created a tyrannical and prohibitive monolith with no room for that freedom to which Christ has set us free. No they were no schismatic sectarians, not those who cut themselves off (in Latin: secare, to cut.), they were those of whom it should be said that they “followed” ( Latin: seqour)  Christ, even if not ever the monstrosity called Christianized paganism, disguised as “the Church”. But following Christ has always been enough to get thrown out of a “church”. Friends of mine met and worshipped in a lutheran Church building in Uppsala for half a year. When the incumbent “bishop” found out that they were “bible believing” they were thrown out. That was not in an historic long ago, that is happening now.

And now? Where are we today? What happens to those who still, 2000 years later protest at the re-paganisation of the Churches through many diverse machinations, where the 2000 years of experience and knowledge of the truth is being sacrificed on the altar of the approval of the world rather than staying true to the Lord Jesus Christ and His word. As the denominations, one by one all fall into the same Moabite camp and curse those who do not run with them, where will all who stand up for truth find themselves? We know what happened to the Stepchildren of the Reformation. Will their fate be ours too? An ominous verse from Hebrews 12 runs like a red thread through the years since the half-hearted Reformation gave a face lift to the old Roman church. “You have not yet resisted to the shedding of blood in your fight against sin.”

It could well come to that. “If you have been wearied while walking with the foot men, how will you manage to run with the horses?””Do not run before you can walk.”
In reality the “modern” churches are more pagan than ever. They unashamedly elevate “the spurious evolution of man” over the words of the bible.  They insist that man in his unregenerate state knows better than the Holy Spirit knew when he had the scriptures penned down for all men in all ages. They lower the human race to the lowest common denominator: the lust of the eye, the pride of life and the lust of the flesh. And allow man to be defined by his merely animal propensities. Thus denying that man is made in the image of God, or worse, claiming that this beastly sort of “manimal” is a true reflection of God.

And looking from the murderous and child-sacrifice demanding called  Baal of  old Israel to this new “revamped God made in the image of fallen man”, no one is able to tell the difference.
And it all began so deceptively simply: “has God said that you will die if you eat of that tree? Oh no, no, no, on the contrary, eat and you shall be like God yourselves. And you shall from within yourselves know for sure the difference between good and evil. That will be your freedom, your emancipation from being mere shadows of eternity. Take control of your destiny, be Gods.”

Who said that? He who is a liar from the beginning.

“Let God be true, even if that makes every man a liar.”
What is our Protestari, our public declaration, today and tomorrow, and at what cost?

Teddy Donobauer Doncaster June 29th 2023

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.