"WHAT IS A PROTESTANT?"
Rev. Henry P. Van Dusen
President, Union and Auburn Theological Seminaries
New York City
Sir:---Of all the 17 Protestant articles on religion that have appeared in "LOOK" magazine, your What is a Protestant? ranks in the forefront of those that are devoid of right-reasoning and full of anti-Catholic declarations.
One need go no further than your definition of the term "Protestants," which you say is "not protesting against anything," to find evidence of that. To hold "its primary meaning to be positive and affirmative" is to disregard the origin and application of the term, which was entirely negative.
Surely the President of two Theological Seminaries must know that the term, applied to religion, originated in Germany as a protest against granting Catholics religious liberty. It originated in a protest of Lutheran princes against the Diet of Spires, for tolerating the exercise of the Catholic religion. It was against permitting the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass, even privately, which had been conceded to Catholics, because Germany had enough of a battle on its hands, in the threatened invasion of the Turks.
Your declaration that "Protestantism is a branch of sixteenth century Christianity" (that was Catholic Christianity) is as far from right-reasoning, as it would be to say that the United States remained a branch of the British Empire, after the 13 Colonies broke away from the Government of King George III.
If Protestantism came into being, as you aver, "in an attempt to recover original, authentic Christian faith and life by purging the Church of the West in that day of its worst perversions, abuses, and excesses," then should it be expected to come into existence through persons of a higher moral order than those of the Catholic Church, the Church that dates back to the days of Jesus, its Founder. On the contrary, Protestantism owes its birth primarily to two degenerate personages, Martin Luther and King Henry VIII. One was a coarse, vulgar, lustful, murderous apostate Monk; who licensed the living of the Landgrave of Hesse with two wives; and urged the princes to crimson their swords in the blood of the German peasants, with the result that about one hundred thousand peasants were slaughtered.
The other historic personage, to whom Protestantism owes its existence, is the Bluebeard King of England, second to Luther as Father of the "Reformation," which "was engendered in Lust, brought forth in hypocrisy and perfidy; cherished and fed by plunder, devastation, and by (the flow) of rivers of innocent blood," as William Cobbett, the Protestant historian, says in his History of the Reformation.
Regarding religious liberty, not "all Protestants," as you claim, but all Protestants in the United States "accept the fundamental American principle ... that no particular religion or church should be 'established' or given preferred privileges." The First Amendment to our American Constitution, against the establishment of a religion, was aimed at one of the mother churches of Protestantism, the "church by law established," and not the Catholic Church. It is so closely united to the State, that the King or the Queen of England is its head; the Prime Minister selects the names of the bishops to be appointed; and only church of England clergymen are members of the House of Lords.
A union of church and state still exists in Protestant Sweden, Protestant Norway, and Protestant Denmark; and the Kaiser was head of the Protestant church in Prussia, until the War drove him from Germany into Holland. It is an historically established fact, that if it were not for the union of the Protestant church in Germany, and the Protestant church in England, with the State, Protestantism would have died aborning.
Jefferson had Protestants, not Catholics in mind when he proposed the First Amendment. He had in mind the protection of the Episcopalians of Virginia against the Methodists in North Carolina; the Dutch Reformed church in New York against the Congregationalists in Mass.; the Baptists of Georgia against the Quaker of Pennsylvania, etc. A union of Protestant churches and the state existed for almost 240 years after the Pilgrim Fathers landed on Plymouth Rock. Catholics and other non-Protestants, were compelled to pay taxes in eight of the 13 Colonies to sustain public schools in which Protestant religions were taught, for more than a half century after the First Amendment to our Constitution was adopted.
Your declaration that in Protestantism "there are four main types---Lutheran, Calvinist, Reformed, Anglican or Episcopal, Independent or Radical, or 'Free church'; (that) there are Baptists, Congregationalists, Disciples of Christ, Evangelicals, Friends, Methodists, and many other groups;" while claiming that Protestantism was a return to original Christianity, simply amazes one who contrasts it to the unified Christianity that existed before Luther and Henry VIII afflicted the world with Protestantism, that divided Christendom.
You say that "the Bible is the final authority for the understanding of the will of God;" that "it is the inspired Word of God."
Pray, tell me, how do you know? If you were to put that query to me, my answer would be the one and the only reasonable one. It is because the Church that Christ established, the Catholic Church; the Church that gave the New Testament Bible to the world; the Church that is divinely safeguarded from error when she defines Bible matters of faith and morals, says so.
I have seen Herman, the magician, pull a rabbit out of a hat; but I have never witnessed a Protestant Minister, even one who heads a Theological Seminary, pull any texts out of the Bible that would sustain the assumption that the hundreds of differing Protestant sects are "branches" of the Church Christ established. On the contrary, texts have been produced in which Christ, the Good Shepherd, declared that He set up one and not hundreds of Sheepfolds (St. John 10:16); the ONE He placed under the jurisdiction of Peter, "feed My sheep" (St. John 21:15-17); to whom His "key," His delegated authority, was given (St. Matt. 16:17-20). The Church that Christ Our Lord established is recorded in the Bible as "one body," not hundreds of bodies: it was to be "one faith," of "one "mind" (Rom. 12:4; 1 Cor. 10:17-18; Eph. 4:4); and the "gates of Hell" were never to succeed in prevailing against that Church, even though they operated through a Luther or Henry VIII, or any other religious rebel. That body of "one faith," of universal, indestructible existence, is the Church under the universal jurisdiction of the occupant of the Christ-instituted Chair of Peter, Pope Pius XII.
I prayerfully hope you will think this over.