America, Chesterton said, is a nation with the soul of a church. And that church is a Protestant one. The Protestant conception of the church–or, perhaps, one particular Protestant conception–has profoundly influenced the institutional expression of Christianity, and indeed all religions, in this country. When most Americans think of “church,” they imagine a voluntary, self-supported collection of like-minded believers–a congregation. If the congregation goes astray in its doctrine and practice, the remedy is to form a new congregation.

In a provocative new book from Brazos Press, The End of Protestantism: Pursuing Unity in a Fragmented Church, theologian and essayist Peter Leithart argues that the fissiparous character of Protestantism, which Americans take for granted, is both unhistorical and inconsistent with Christianity. He argues for another approach that he says is more consistent with the central truths of the Reformation.

The publisher’s description follows:

9781587433771One of the unforeseen results of the Reformation was the shattering fragmentation of the church. Protestant tribalism was and continues to be a major hindrance to any solution to Christian division and its cultural effects. In this book, influential thinker Peter Leithart critiques American denominationalism in the context of global and historic Christianity, calls for an end to Protestant tribalism, and presents a vision for the future church that transcends post-Reformation divisions.

Leithart offers pastors and churches a practical agenda, backed by theological arguments, for pursuing local unity now. Unity in the church will not be a matter of drawing all churches into a single, existing denomination, says Leithart. Returning to Catholicism or Orthodoxy is not the solution. But it is possible to move toward church unity without giving up our convictions about truth. This critique and defense of Protestantism urges readers to preserve and celebrate the central truths recovered in the Reformation while working to heal the wounds of the body of Christ.

One thought on “Leithart, “The End of Protestantism”

  1. Thought provoking!! You are correct, the fragmentation was unforseen and was certainly an unintended outcome of the Reformation. I believe in terms of the English speaking world, the damage was done during the English Civil War, when there was failure for the different parties within the Church of England to reach accommodation. I do believe, however, that Catholicism in it’s quest for external uniformity fails to take cognisance of cultural differences which make one kind of Church order more acceptable in one nation than in another. Often, however, the narrow sectarianism within Protestantism, had failed recognise the universality of Christ’s mystical body. I have often felt, as a Post Millennialist, that prior to Christ’s return the true Church will experience a new and beautiful unity challenging the power of the Apostate Church.

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