Two dates in October tell the story of a divided Christendom. October 11, 1962, marks the beginning of the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church. October 31, 1517, signals the coming of the Protestant Reformation. Today the Protestants, among others, are being beckoned “homeward.” The general thesis of Pope John XXIII concerning the council he has called has often been repeated: The One True Church of which the successor of St. Peter is the Shepherd, must be purified in truth, charity and unity. It must be without spot or blemish and reinforced and made more relevant to the present age. Then one can say to those who bear the name of Christian but are outside the fold, “The way is open, this is our Father’s House, take or retake your place in it.”
A call to return home can conjure up delectable visions which brighten the eye and quicken heart and step. But will this one? Protestants are not readily inclined to identify home and Rome. If home is where the pope is, then where have the Protestants been all these years, and where are they now? Evangelical Protestants confess to be pilgrims pressing toward a city whose builder and maker is God. They have in view not Rome but the New Jerusalem. They trace their pilgrim procession back to a sixteenth-century light which crashed upon a darkly glowering face of Europe. The flashes of light had names: sovereignty of God, supremacy of Scripture, human depravity, God’s grace, justification by faith, sole mediatorship of Christ, priesthood of believers. But the pilgrimage of grace goes back behind the Reformation, for the Reformers sought not innovation but a restoration of the primitive excellence of Apostolic Christianity, and were at home in the writings of the Fathers ...1
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