Religious Reality
By A.E.J. Rawlinson

Presented by

Public Domain Books

Chapter VIII - Protestant and Catholic

The last chapter sketched the ideal of the Church and her essential mission. The realization of that ideal in the existing Church, visibly embodied here in earth is extremely fragmentary and imperfect. The Church that is one, and holy, and apostolic, and catholic, the brotherhood in Christ of all mankind, knit into unity by the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, remains a vision of the future, though a vision which, once seen, mankind will never relinquish until it be accomplished. “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church,” it has been said, “but I regret that she does not as yet exist.”

What does exist is a bewildering multiplicity of competing “denominations,” whose points of difference are to the plain man obscure, but whose mutual separation is in his eyes an obvious scandal and an offence both against charity and against common sense. Why cannot they agree to sink their differences, and to unite upon the broad basis of a common loyalty to Christ? To what purpose is this overlapping and conflict? The reluctant tribute of the ancient sceptic–"See how these Christians love one another"–has become the modern worldling’s cynical and familiar jibe; and when to the spectacle of Christian disunion is added the observation that professing Christians of all denominations appear to differ from other men, for the most part, “solely in their opinions” and not in their lives, the impulse to cry “A plague upon all your Churches” may seem all but irresistible.

Yet the problem is not susceptible of any cheap or hasty solution. Unity is the Church’s goal; but the Church cannot arrive at unity by mere elimination of differences. Agreement to differ is not unity: an agreement to pretend that the differences were not there would not even be honest. What is needed is a sympathetic study of the divergent traditions and principles which lie behind existing differences, with a view to discovering which are really differences of principle, and which rest merely upon prejudice. Unity, when it comes, can only be based upon mutual understanding and synthesis. The task will not be easy, and the time is not yet.

Meanwhile the individual’s first duty is to be loyal in the first instance [Footnote: Of course in the last resort no loyalty is due to any lesser authority than that of truth, wheresoever it is found and whatsoever it turns out to be.] to the spiritual tradition and discipline of the “denomination” to which he in fact belongs, unless and until he is led to conclude that some other embodies a fuller and more synthetic presentation of religious truth. It is a mistake for a man to be content either to remain in ignorance of his own immediate spiritual heritage or to refuse to try to understand what is distinctive and vital in the religious heritage of others. Most fatal of all is the attempt to combine personal loyalty to Christ with the repudiation of organized Christianity as a whole. True loyalty to Christ most certainly involves common religious fellowship upon the basis of common membership in the people of GOD.

As a matter of fact, so soon as the various sects and denominations into which modern Western Christianity is divided are seriously examined, they are seen to fall into three main types or groups. Standing by herself is the Church of Rome, venerable, august, impressive in virtue of her unanimity, her coherence, her ordered discipline, and her international position, representing exclusively the ancient Catholic tradition, and making for herself exclusive claims. At the opposite end of the scale there are the multitudinous sects of Protestantism, differing mutually among themselves but tending (as some observers think) to set less and less store by their divergences and to develop towards some kind of loosely-knit federation–a more or less united Evangelical Church upon an exclusively Protestant basis. Between the two stands the Church of England, reaching out a hand in both directions, presenting to the superficial observer the appearance of a house divided against itself; representing nevertheless, according to her true ideal, a real attempt to synthesize the essentials of Catholicism with what is both true and positive in the Protestant tradition.

Protestantism stands for the liberty of the individual, for freedom of thought and of inquiry, for emphasis upon the importance of vital personal religion, for the warning that “forms and ceremonies” are of no value in themselves, but only in so far as they are the expression and vehicle of the spirit. Protestantism proclaims the liberty of Christian prophesying, the free and unimpeded access of every human soul to the heavenly Father, the spiritual equality of all men in the sight of GOD. The Protestant tradition is jealous for the evangelical simplicity of the Gospel, and in general may be said to represent the principle of democracy in religion.

Catholicism, on the other hand, bears witness to the glory of Churchmanship, to the importance of corporate loyalty to the Christian Society, to the value of sacramentalism, and the rich heritage of ancient devotional traditions, of liturgical worship and ordered ecclesiastical life. For Catholicism rites and sacraments are not anomalies, strange “material” excrescences upon a religion otherwise “spiritual.” They are themselves channels and media of the Spirit’s operation, vehicles of life and power.

Catholicism is more inclusive than Protestantism, including, indeed, some things which Protestants are apt to insist should be excluded. The future would seem to lie neither with the negations of pure Protestantism nor with a Catholicism wholly unreformed; but rather with a liberalized Catholicism which shall do justice to the truth of the Protestant witness. For the present the best opportunity for the working out of such a liberalized Catholicism is to be found within the Church of England: and it is from the point of view of an English Churchman that the remainder of this book will be written.


Preface  •  Author’s Preface  •  Introduction  •  Part I - The Theory of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - the Man Christ Jesus  •  Chapter II - The Revelation of the Father  •  Chapter III - The Fellowship of the Spirit  •  Chapter IV - The Holy Trinity  •  Chapter V - The Problem of Evil  •  Chapter VI - Sin and Redemption  •  Chapter VII - The Church and Her Mission in the World  •  Chapter VIII - Protestant and Catholic  •  Chapter IX - Sacraments  •  Chapter X - The Last Things  •  Chapter XI - Clergy and Laity  •  Chapter XII - The Bible  •  Part II - The Practice of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - The Christian Aim  •  Chapter II - The Way of the World  •  Chapter III - The Spirit and the Flesh  •  Chapter IV - The Works of the Devil  •  Chapter V - The Kingdom of God  •  Chapter VI - Christianity and Commerce  •  Chapter VII - Christianity and Industry  •  Chapter VIII - Christianity and Politics  •  Chapter IX - Christianity and War  •  Chapter X - Love, Courtship, and Marriage  •  Part III - The Maintenance of the Christian Life: Chapter I - How to Begin  •  Chapter II - Prayer  •  Chapter III - Self-Examination and Repentance  •  Chapter IV - Corporate Worship and Communion  •  Chapter V - The Devotional Use of the Bible  •  Chapter VI - Almsgiving and Fasting

[Buy at Amazon]
Religious Reality
By A. E. J. Rawlinson
At Amazon