Did God Divide the Church 500 Years Ago?

JOSEPH MATTERA, MATTERA MINISTRIES INTERNATIONAL

As a student of church history (I am not a church historian) and one who has tried to dig deep into my Christian roots so I am best able to position myself and the congregations I influence, I have a strong connection to both the ancient and future church — since the height of the tree is limited by the depth of the roots!

As part of my journey, I have often wondered if the Protestant Reformation was worth it. In other words, did the Reformation do more harm than good regarding the health of the church and the influence of the Kingdom of God? I ask myself if the Reformation was something that could have been avoided since it dissolved Christendom into mere Christianity. This is something many on the Anabaptist, pietistic side welcome, while those working for a Kingdom witness and reconstruction of the nations are working hard to recapture. Some of us fall between these polar-opposite positions.

One of the unsung heroes of church history was the Catholic theologian Erasmus. He represented a third option besides the positions of the Roman Catholics and Protestant pioneer provocateur Martin Luther. Erasmus wanted to reform the church, return the church to its biblical roots, and rid it of internal abuses; but was not willing to break the ecclesial unity of the church. Often I have wished that Erasmus won the day instead of Luther. But unfortunately the popes of his day did not heed his warnings, resulting in a third schism.

Besides the first schism of East and West in the eleventh century, this was the most devastating schism of the church. It wasn’t until Vatican II of the early 1960s, almost 450 years too late, that the Catholic Church finally started coming towards Erasmus! I have also wondered if there was biblical precedent for the Reformation. I have come to the conclusion that the Scriptures are clear: God honors His name above all else and He does not tolerate abuses in His name by any faith community, whether Israel of the past or the church of the past and present!