October 19, 2017

Ways We Get the Reformation Wrong

ref wrongGetting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings
by James R. Payton, Jr.
IVP Academic, 2010

* * *

For Reformation Day, 2013

Dr. James R. Payton, Jr. is a professor of history at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario. He grew up in an evangelical home and went to a Christian college, but says that he knew next to nothing about church history. It wasn’t until early graduate studies that he became aware of and hooked on the subject. After serving as a pastor in Presbyterian and Christian Reformed congregations, he became a history prof, focusing on the Reformation.

In that role, he realized that Christian teaching about the Reformation lagged behind the scholarship that has expanded exponentially in the last century.

The result is that, however well intentioned, much of what is presented in churches and Christian colleges offers viewpoints and interpretations that have been weighed in the balances and found wanting by careful Reformation-era scholarship.

Payton finds that what is presented to Christians often “gets the Reformation wrong” in several ways. In this post, I will simply list the ways he says this happens so that we can see the big picture and have a conversation about this pivotal period of our history.

1. “One way in which some people get the Reformation wrong is by overlooking or neglecting its historical rootedness.”

Payton discusses the “intense, ongoing, multifaceted crises” throughout all aspects of life and society that marked the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and how the Catholic Church, the mainstay of Western Christendom, proved incapable of alleviating those crises. Anticlericalism and calls for reform were pervasive long before Luther.

2. “One sure way to get the Reformation wrong is to misunderstand its relationship to the Renaissance that preceded it.”

A standard way of presenting the development of Western civilization, thought, and religion is to say that the Renaissance and the Reformation were two rival, competing ways of responding to the corrupt medieval Church. The earlier Renaissance is portrayed as a human-centered movement that turned away from God and prepared a path for the Enlightenment, whereas the Reformation was God-centered, a movement that called humans to profound humility before a transcendent Deity. Payton calls this “a great schematic but lousy history.” The fact is that the Reformation could not have happened without the Renaissance. In fact, it grew organically out of the Christian Humanism that the Renaissance produced. As the author affirms, “To the Reformation, the Renaissance was friend, not foe.”

3. Another way of getting the Reformation wrong is to think that, when Luther came on the scene, the insights of the Reformation were immediately apparent and proclaimed, presenting people with a clear choice between truth and error.

James Payton counters this by saying, “However, what actually transpired in the sixteenth century was not nearly as clean and neat as this myth, in all its variations, assumes; the reality was actually quite messy. Rather than initially advancing by sure understanding, the Reformation was carried along by misunderstandings.” Luther’s own thought developed, and the people to whom he spoke were not blank slates but had their own thoughts and issues with which they were dealing. Payton describes the reality vividly, “German society jumped on the reforming horse and galloped off in all directions at once.”

4. Add to this the significant disagreements and competing views of the various Reformers, and any neat conception of “THE” Reformation is profoundly challenged.

So Payton: “Neither Luther nor his Christian humanist associates desired conflict. All of them hoped that truth would prevail and all would agree. However, they differed in significant ways as to what that truth was, what it required, how to implement it and how to defend it. None of them wanted the conflict, but they disagreed on how to deal with it and overcome it.”

5. We get the Reformation wrong when we think the Reformers taught that “sola fide” means “solitary faith” — without any connection to “good works.”

James Payton strongly criticizes forms of extreme fideism that have blossomed particularly since the advent of revivalism, with its emphasis on “the moment of decision” that seals everything. “This calls people to rely on a spiritual birth certificate to know they are alive; the Reformers called them to live.”

luther-statue6. “What much of Protestantism thinks the Reformers taught about religious authority is a significant misrepresentation of what they actually taught.”

Many Protestant Christians have a simplistic “Bible good, tradition bad” frame of reference that James R. Payton charges “trivializes the Reformers’ views on religious authority.” About their actual views he says: “For the Reformers, sola scriptura found its boundaries in the faithful teaching of the church fathers, the ancient creeds and the doctrinal decrees of the ecumenical councils.”

7. We have misunderstood the role of the “Anabaptists.”

Those who have been considered part of the “Radical” Reformation had significant differences among themselves as well as with those who comprised the “Magisterial” Reformation. Because they were significantly at odds with both religious and societal conventions in the sixteenth century, they were lumped together as “radicals” and viewed as equally dangerous. They have often been “tarred with the same brush,” Payton observes, and there remains much work to be done in understanding these groups and their legacy.

8. We get the Reformation wrong when we imagine that the Protestant Reformation was the only reforming movement within the Roman Catholic Church.

Reformation scholars note that four movements of reform in the Church antedated the Protestant Reformation: (1) northern Christian humanism, (2) Spanish clerical reforms, (3) Italian confraternities, and (4) the rigorist movement that called the church back to scholastic theology. Also, the so-called “Counter-Reformation” was not merely a response to Protestantism, but a serious and wide-ranging effort toward renewing the Church itself. It produced such stalwarts as Ignatius Loyola and the Jesuits as well as a renewed papacy. The Council of Trent was not only a doctrinal council but included such thoroughgoing reforms in Church life that the popes themselves feared its impact.

9. We get the Reformation wrong when we do not carefully recognize the differences between the Reformers and the later Protestant scholastics who constructed theological systems to articulate the Protestant faith.

Payton argues that the Reformers’ successors “rushed to adopt scholastic methodology and Aristotelian reason” in the context of the Enlightenment, and that this led to real differences between their teaching and that of the Reformers in terms of content, methods, and emphases. The author makes a simple contrast to summarize the distinctions: “With the hymn-writer, the Reformers would sing, ‘I know whom I have believed,’ while the Protestant scholastics would rewrite that line to sing, ‘I know what I have believed.'”

* * *

James-paytonTo conclude his book, James R. Payton asks two questions:

  1. Was the Reformation a success?
  2. Is the Reformation a norm?

In the end, he thinks we must view this momentous period of Church History as both triumph and tragedy. As for whether it was a “golden age” that should serve as a template for future generations (including ours), Payton notes that the Reformers themselves mourned the faithlessness of their own generation to live up to the ideals of the patristic Church, which they saw as a brighter era of Christian faith and practice.

One thing is for sure. The Reformers would not be happy with how ignorant most Christians are concerning Church History, especially the foundational teachings of the Fathers, the creeds, and the church councils. Given the resources we have today, the paucity of our knowledge and wisdom would likely shock and disturb them. In fact, it is likely that they would think today’s Church in need of thorough Reformation.

Thanks to Dr. Payton, we have a source that enables us to think a bit more deeply and clearly about our heritage, challenging not only our views of the past but also our present convictions and practices.


  1. 5. We get the Reformation wrong when we think the Reformers taught that “sola fide” means “solitary faith” — without any connection to “good works.”

    Of course Christians will exhibit (‘do’) “good works”. Just as when newborns breathe…and continue to do so all throughout their lives.

    But in NO WAY is the way God views us in Christ dependent on our “good works”. Not one iota.


    Luther wrote this in his Heidelberg Disputation;

    “The law of God (our works), the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.”


    “Although human works always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.”

    These statements made the Roman Catholic Church very angry. They still do, in many quarters. As well as making many Evangelical types angry.

    The Reformation continues.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And again, the cry of “NO POPERY!”

      This has nothing to do with “The Reformation Continues”.
      (Which itself parallels or maybe inspired Comrade Trotsky’s dogma of “Continuous Revolution”.)

      This is what you get when you have a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.
      Me and JEESUS and Me and Faith and Me and Bible and nothing else.

      What does it matter that today’s Christians are “ignorant concerning Church History, especially the foundational teachings of the Fathers, the creeds, and the church councils” — we can Recite the Exact Year/Month/Day/Hour/Minute/Second we Recited the Sinner’s Prayer and Were SAVED! See My Free Rapture Boarding Pass? Any Minute Now… Any Minute Now… Any Minute Now…

    • “These statements made the Roman Catholic Church very angry. They still do, in many quarters. As well as making many Evangelical types angry.”

      And why should they not? Think about what those quotations mean. ‘The law of God…hinders him’ ‘Human works…are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.’ Do you really believe that? That doing what is right will always and inevitably take us away from God? That being honest, being faithful to my spouse, showing kindness, loving enemies, feeding the hungry, looking after orphans and widows- that these things are mortal sins?

      Grace alone is a salutary doctrine. But this is not grace alone. This is something else. Whatever your other disagreements with the Catholic Church, it was right to call Luther out on statements like these.

      • Glenn, I have a feeling that these statements might make more sense (agree or disagree) when read in context. (Not meaning to be an apologist for Luther; just wary of cherry-picked quotes in general.)

        • Fair cop. There may well be hyperbole here, I suppose. I hope so.

          I’m honestly curious if Steve really believes these though, given it was he who quoted them (out of context, as you say) in the first place. Or does he assume some knowledge of their context which would add important nuances to them, that perhaps I’ve missed? I was a bit shocked by these statements, to be honest. It’s one thing to believe good works don’t contribute one iota to our salvation; it’s quite another to say good works are sinful, and an impediment towards knowing God.

          Is that what you believe, Steve? I honestly would like to know.

          • Whether the statements are fair to Luther, I don’t know, but I’m fairly sure Steve picked them precisely because they are that extreme. He was not “calling Luther out” as much as holding these quotes up to show us how awful “works righteousness” is, and that Luther taught that. I’ve pushed back on his posts and I haven’t seen any budge. Good luck sir.

    • Dan Crawford says:

      One of the common mistakes made by the inheritors of the Reformation is that every statement made by Martin Luther was either rational or infallibly true.

    • St. Paul was right.

      Luther was just parroting Paul.

      If we need be doing something besides what Christ did…then why the Cross?

      • So, do you follow your own interpretation (or some random Reformer’s interpretation of a few things Paul said in the Bible) or do you follow Jesus to the cross?

        I consider “pick up your cross and follow me” to be a work – a huge effort actually. So what if a letter Paul wrote to a Jewish-born, persecuted, Ancient Roman church says something you think trumps that. I follow Christ, and read Paul through Christ, so there is work to be done to be a follower of Jesus (taking up a cross and following someone is w.o.r.k., plain and simple (it doesn’t just happen btw, it is intentional on our parts). Do you really want to test out the theory of “no works” and do nothing? There will be a day Jesus separates the sheep from the goats. If I say a sinners prayer, yet don’t transform to be more like Christ, there are parables about plants that don’t make it…

        Again, Christ’s teaching is what I follow. His Cross allowed me to be his child, but it is up to me to become transformed, he doesn’t force or do it for us. In the end, if we want to be with him, we have to go where he leads, we can’t just sit under the salvation tree. That following is work.

    • Steve, James 2:24 clearly speaks to this issue. But, it also explains why Dr. Luther wanted to leave the book of James out of his “Bible.” It didn’t fit with his theology.

  2. The Reformation was quite obviously not “a success”; but then, neither was the Roman Catholic (or Eastern Orthodox) Church “a success” before the Reformation. Their failures are of the same kind, and many of them continue in the present, along with new ones.

    The Reformation is not a “norm”; but then, neither is the Roman Catholic (or the Eastern Orthodox) Church as it existed before, or since, the Reformation “a norm”.

  3. Steve Newell says:

    We get it wrong in that the Reformers what to start new churches. Luther and the Lutheran Reformers wanted to reform those aspects of the Roman Church that were contradictory to Holy Scripture. They were willing to have their issues be reviewed and addressed by the Roman Church. The Augsburg Confession, when is the first of the Lutheran Confessions, was presented to the head of the Holy Roman Empire.

    If we had not had the Roman Church after the fall of the Roman Empire through the Medieval age , we would not have a Western Christian church for the need for a reformation.

    • this is an excellent point. denominationalism is rampant and ridiculous.

    • Yes. Luther wrote, “My dear pope, I will kiss your feet and acknowledge you as supreme bishop if you will worship my Christ and grant that through His death and resurrection, not through keeping your traditions, we have forgiveness of sins and life eternal.” I really wonder what he would make of today’s Pope, who does, as Luther saw more fitting, bend to wash the feet of his flock rather than allowing them to kiss his feet.

      Now, I fear, as often as not it’s the Protestant side who holds out in stubborn faithfulness to their traditions. Thus LCMS will commune only every other week or so lest they look too popish, and the ELCA will go to the rail with Zwinglians and neopagans so long as the NPR confession is held in common.

      • Josh in FW says:


      • Katharina – really, you’re calling out the ELCA on allowing a relatively open table? If we don’t extend grace to each other – regardless of differences – I fear we are doomed. (Even your use of “Zwinglians” troubles me – seems unnecessarily divisive, given the context, but that’s just my take.)

        Also, could you give some examples of “neopagans” communing in the ELCA?

        • The last question is altogether too easy to answer. Go to herchurch.org and enjoy. They are only the most brazen, too, with their “goddess rosaries” and Kali mural. I was most surprised to see that WELCA’s facebook feed was encouraging me to pray to the Gnostic goddess “Sophia” along with the Persons of the Trinity a while back. Some of the people promoting it may be too confused and naive to know exactly what it is they are promoting, but it’s neopaganism, plain and simple. This isn’t “alternate wording about God” or gender neutrality, this is plain old cribbed from the language, rituals, and pantheons of 20th century neopaganism. Ask anyone who had a teenage Wicca phase to look over this stuff and they will tell you exactly what inspired this “feminist spirituality” du jour. (More like 30 years ago jour but anyhow.)

          And that’s just the one with the little ELCA globe logo on their pages. Let’s talk about those ~full communion partners~ in the UCC another day.

          Besides if you have an “open table” does that not mean that by definition everyone, Christian or not, baptized or not, believing or not, is welcome to come get a snack? It’s only if you really, truly, and to the bottom of your soul KNOW that it is NOT a mid-morning snack up there, it’s NOT tea and crumpets you offer to everyone just to be polite and “inclusive,” that this starts to get really horrifying, I suppose.

          Zwinglian is not a slur. It describes people who, for all their other good points and piety, don’t believe Christ is really and truly there at the table. Lutherans do–or at least are SUPPOSED to. That matters a great deal when we are to dine together. Pretending it does not matter, or does not matter much, is neither hospitable in a true sense nor gracious.

          The tradition of pairing up with anyone who is on the left end of the American political spectrum, and who draws from the same pool of old white folks with money, has completely superseded Lutheran theology in this case.

          • with respect… you are making it sound like one group of people in the ELCA are representative of the entire membership of the ELCA. Not so!

          • I think that continuing the whole thing re. Zwingli is unfortunate at best. It’s over; it happened a very long time ago – people make their choices as to what to believe, and it may well be that some people you refer to as “Zwinglian” might have (and might still) come to a different understanding of communion.

            Is it really a good idea to continue a 500-year-old fight?

          • It’s not about continuing a fight. I can be perfectly good friends with someone and not share ANY religious beliefs with them, let alone share at the communion table. I can work in common with someone in the community, pray together, and respectfully exchange ideas about theology without sharing at the communion table.

            But when it comes to the Sacrament of the Altar, I think we’d all better be in pretty close agreement about what exactly is going on there before we kneel down together. Not 100% understanding–it is, after all, a mystery–but at least understand whether Christ is actually in the bread and wine or not.

            I realize not everyone in the ELCA is represented by the extreme examples. But the fact that those examples have existed without a hint of episcopal discipline or admonishment for the full 25 years now, and have started moving into the mainstream of the denomination, is not a meaningless fact.

          • As a practical addendum:

            If it’s bread and wine in commemoration of an ancient Passover seder, you dump it in the garbage when you’re done. You don’t fuss if it spills, except if it stains the linen.

            If it is the Body and Blood, you drink it all, reserve it, or dispose of it respectfully, like a loved one’s remains. If a crumb falls on your blouse you quickly scoop it up. You don’t let it fall on the floor.

            Just examples…

          • Katharina – in all honesty, your posts on this issue sound more LCMS than ELCA – far closer to the RC view than anything I’ve ever heard in the ELCA in my entire life. (Please don’t get me wrong; I am not anti- either of them.)

            But… I have a feeling that my having grown up in a particular geographic area, with particular emphases on doctrine (and general church culture) within the LCA might have something to do with my differences of opinion here.

            Ultimately, *none* of us on this earth truly understand *exactly* what’s happening during communion, because it’s beyond human comprehension. I think most all of the various views have a part of the truth in them, but not the whole. God is the one who knows the heart, and who sorts things out, and somehow I don’t think he’s particularly concerned with the exact ramifications of any given individual’s understanding (or lack thereof) of communion, baptism or quite a lot of other things that I could name.

            My view is more “When in doubt, look to the creeds” – and don’t sweat all of the details. (fwiw, I believe in sacramental union, but would not feel comfortable insisting that other people take it to heart, unless they wish to.)

          • As for “reserving,” again, your description sounds more like what happens in the RCC than in any Lutheran church I’ve attended (including LCMS).

            and … “Do this in remembrance of me” is what the texts say, last time I checked. That’s light years off from your claim that most other Protestants take communion solely as a commemoration of a 2,000+ – year old Seder, though of course, that’s part of it, too. (For all xtians.)

      • Also,… I grew up in the LCA, which existed prior to the merger of various synods as the ELCA.

        We had communion once a month – the idea of doing it more often (even biweekly) was sometimes perceived not having the proper reverence for the sacrament.

        times change.

    • @ Steve N.;

      In reality,if we had not had Irish Christians who re-evangelized Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire through the Medieval age, we would likely not have had a Western Christian church of much consequence. And, if Rome hadn’t asserted control in Ireland and the Irish Christians had been allowed to continue in the light they possessed of the Gospel, it is quite possible that the Reformation need never have occurred.

  4. David Cornwell says:

    “In the end, he thinks we must view this momentous period of Church History as both triumph and tragedy. …

    “The Reformers would not be happy with how ignorant most Christians are concerning Church History, especially the foundational teachings of the Fathers, the creeds, and the church councils.”

    Sometimes it seems as though what we like to view as triumph is in reality tragedy because of the way it continues to unfold in our era. And much of that is due to our total ignorance of history and tradition. It is almost as if we glory in our lack of knowledge. A few days ago someone was explaining to me how the church has gone amiss. The explanation had nothing to do with actual facts, because the “facts” were a garbled rendition of something a pastor said, probably in a series of sermons. Now this is a good person, and I would trust my life with her. But I would not trust her “facts.” And starting an argument in these situations is almost always counterproductive.

  5. Mike – great post. Will put this book on my reading list…

  6. I believe variations of points 3 and 4 would be relevant to the formation of the canon of Scripture. We completely forget the multiple centuries it took to give us Scripture, the reshaping that took place at certain points along the timeline and the finalization of the canon of Scripture.

    I bring up this point so that we approach Scripture a little more humbly, a little more non-omniscient. You’d think that were obvious, but each and every group/individual believe they have the corner market on Scripture. The early chapters of Genesis & origins, slaughter of the Canaanites, varying details that don’t line up across similar accounts, etc. I say none of this to question the importance, authority and God-breathed nature of Scripture. But only that we, each, take a step back in humility as we engage with and discuss Scripture. I’m also not advocating that we just say we can never know and that it’s all relative, like some antirealist extreme. But we simply keep our humility (and cool), not lob bombs of question people’s salvation, labeling as heretics, etc, because we disagree.

    Anyways, it doesn’t relate fully to this article, but it does because of the re-shaping of our concept of Scripture over the past 500 years following the Reformation. Such a beautiful, holy and authoritative book. We’ll spend the rest of our lives still coming to grips with all that God is looking to reveal and teach his people through Scripture.

  7. One might look at it this way: the Church before the Reformation was a great tower built by Christians, who all spoke the same language, to reach to heaven; starting with the Great Schism, proceeding through the Western Schism and the fitful calls for reform in its wake, and then finally culminating in the full blown cacophony of the Reformation, God shattered the tower and scattered its occupants across a thousand different lands, speaking a thousand different languages. Did God undo what he did at Pentecost? No, because what happened at Pentecost involved the Spirit condescending to be among his people as he wished and wanted. On the other hand, Heaven can not be stormed by human pretensions to holiness, and God can not be found at the end of any religious way.

  8. The more I learn of this period & Luther the more I see parallels between Luther & Christ. Just as we need to remember that Luther was an RC monk who had no desire to break from the RC church but to reform it, Christ was born a Jew, died a Jew & came to fulfill the law not break from it. They were of their time; their time gave birth to all that they were. And what they birthed was so profound that we can still access it for our living today. Luther blasted the RC hierarchy for their emphasis on selling indulgences as the way to heaven in the same way Christ blasted the Pharisees for their emphasis on the law as the only way to God. Luther made scripture more accessible by translating it into the people’s language just as Christ made the kingdom more accessible by calling everyday people into his closest circle & speaking to the masses. Yet Luther was still a priest of the church & fully supported the traditions (works) which he knew were inntstrumental in shaping people’s lives just as Christ celebrated the Seder as his last supper & told us to continue doing the same.

    So a book like this is instrumental in shedding light in our historical darkness. And every time I hear someone claim “faith alone” after reading a post like this, I want to tear my hair out. How do you not see that one points to the other? We may begin with faith as Christ enters our hearts & minds, but it’s DEAD if we do not live it out through our works/practices.

    • Your last paragraph made me wince, and smile. For those who have made up their mind that works are BAD, or lead to sin, there is not a wwhole lot to say. Quoting scripture will only elicit their favorite scripture, and on and on. Enjoy your posts.

  9. As I have been grappling recently with issues like tradition as a source of authority and salvation as walking with Christ rather than an isolated moment of accepting Jesus as savior, I’ve been guilty myself of misunderstanding what sola scriptura and sola fide actually were originally intended to mean. In recent years I’ve been around a lot of Protestants who really do believe (unlike Luther and the original reformers) that the Bible is the ONLY source of authority, but that does not really excuse me for misunderstanding my own Protestant heritage.

    First heard about this book when reading a Light from the Christian East, by the same author, and would love to get a chance to read Getting the Reformation Wrong at some point as well.

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

      I’m a pretty traditional Anglican (and a newbie priest), and thus I have a pretty high view of tradition. With respect to Sola Scriptura and the Reformers, one of the priests at our parish said in his sermon this week, “Tradition makes a great teacher, but a poor master.” I think this is a good summation.

  10. Christiane says:

    One of the most interesting statements on Luther by a pope in recent times is this:

    ” the Holy Father continued, at the moment of Paul’s encounter with Christ, the Apostle “understood that with Christ’s resurrection the situation had changed radically.”
    “The wall — so says the Letter to the Ephesians — between Israel and the pagans was no longer necessary,” he said. “It is Christ who protects us against polytheism and all its deviations; it is Christ who unites us with and in the one God; it is Christ who guarantees our true identity in the diversity of cultures; and it is he who makes us just. To be just means simply to be with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Other observances are no longer necessary.”
    And it is because of this, the Bishop of Rome continued, that Luther’s expression “by faith alone” is true “if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love.”

    “Paul knows,” he added, “that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity. We are just when we enter into communion with Christ, who is love.”


  11. First, I’m Eastern Orthodox, so I’m partially speaking from ‘the outside,’ though I was brought up in low-church Evangelicalism before converting to Orthodoxy, so I’ve also some inside perspective, I suppose. That said, most of my continuing contact with Protestantism has been through historiography; I study late medieval and early modern Islam, so I’ve some interest in developments in Western Europe as well. From my perusal of more recent historiography- which this article alludes to- and from my occasional readings of the writings of the magisterial Reformers themselves, and their followers in the century or so afterwards, I’m struck as often as not by just how ‘medieval’ much of it seems, at least in comparison with the Protestantism I am more familiar with in the modern world. Obviously discontinuities exist- and they would become more pronounced as the years advanced, partially just out of a concern to distinguish confessional boundaries- but the continuities and things shared are truly striking.

    I would suggest, and I think the gist of historical scholarship now is tending in this direction, that the really important point of change for Protestantism (and the rest of Christianity) was not the Reformation, but the Enlightenment and the transition into ‘modernity,’ a transition we are still living out, in many ways. From the eighteenth century onwards Western European ways of thinking and life practices began to change in ways they simply had not in previous centuries, changes that spread and developed in other parts of the world in time (and are still taking root and being contested and reshaped). I think that as Christians of any sort- and this is as true in fact for us Orthodox, for all our adherence to Tradition- must come to terms with what these changes means for our faith, even if we identify ourselves as ‘traditional’ or ‘conservative’ or ‘orthodox’ or whatever. For Protestants this is especially true, as it is in Protestantism, for various reasons, that the transformations of modernity have been most pronounced, at all levels and in all tendencies of Protestant faith and practice. But it is something we must all grapple with, ultimately.