Today, with the Culture Wars the emphasis is on continuity with the Middle Ages and the whole of Christendom. But even a generation ago this was not the case. Some claimed the proto-Protestant groups because of their anti-Catholicism. Some exploited them for nationalistic purposes and created narratives concerning the true faith being present in this or that land...a sort of 'God has always been with us' badge. Those that use them in this way show a lack of understanding, a failure to grasp what these groups were actually about. The Hussites of course would be something of an exception. There are always exceptions. This is the nature of history and exposes the problems of those who wish to use it for their own ends. Both the Taborites and Utraquists were nationalistic. And yet other Hussites weren't and the groups which formed after the dissolution of the Taborites were not. As always it's complicated.
Sometimes a narrative is created regarding the 'True Church' and often this is tied to the British Isles or the Anglo-Saxon or Teutonic race. These narratives are unacceptable and reveal deeper theological and historical misunderstanding.
Today as Protestant Evangelicals dream of a revived Christendom the Dissenters of the Middle Ages are more misunderstood than ever. Now I find those espousing extreme Right Wing ideas trying to set themselves up as Neo-Lollards or other proto-Protestants. Somehow Capitalism and guns are the hallmarks of medieval protest. The Waldensians become Glenn Beck style Right Wing guerillas.
Or, they receive a patronizing nod but are ignored as they did not participate in the so called 'great' achievements of the Middle Ages. The idea that we would reject the castle and cathedral heritage is unthinkable.
I love to see those things too, but I don't view them as being Christian.
Others have written them off preferring to accept the blasphemies and idolatries of Rome as the real Church rather than the power-eschewing remnant surviving in cellars, woods and caves and yet clinging tenaciously to the Bible as the sole standard of authority. The rich fat sodomite bishop sitting in palace represented Christ and the hunted people huddled around the Bible in a cave were simply misguided zealots. Wisdom is justified by her children.
As I've often argued Sacralism is a religion concerned with power. The imagery of Revelation 17 is so poignant in this regard...the harlot Church joining with the Beast. The followers of the false lamb who speaks like a dragon worship the beast and in doing so think they worship the True Lamb of God. The see their Church as pure and white but in reality it is an idol worshipping adulteress dripping with blood. This is the city of Zion called Sodom that slew Christ and persecutes his followers.
Thus far I've used the term proto-Protestant to describe my set of beliefs and to define this writing project. I have meant it in the sense of pre-Reformational protest against the Constantinian Shift. This is quite different from how many others would view proto-Protestantism. Those that wish to use the term or emphasize these groups are usually thinking in terms of some kind of continuity with Magisterial Protestantism. That is definitely not what I wish to emphasize, in fact that is precisely what I am against.
The term is so complicated in its use and misuse as to be almost worthless. All too often these terms (like Evangelical) are thrown about, and become so broad and inclusive that they end up being essentially meaningless and we're driven to come up with something new. Lamentably the word Christian has certainly reached that point. When someone says they're a Christian, what does that say? Without explanation, it's an empty term.
Though I can greatly sympathize with the Anabaptists, I'm not one of them. I think they have a better understanding of the Kingdom than most Protestants but beyond that I have little in common with them and sadly I would argue many of these groups have also degenerated into a legalism so severe as to overthrow the Gospel itself.
The theology I espouse is definitely a minority position in the history of the Church. There is no camp and I'm thankful for that. But after years of study, I believe my own positions are closest to what the majority of Waldensians embraced and certainly if I had to pick a favourite theologian, a figure I can resonate with more than any other, it's Petr Chelcicky of Bohemia. Many believe that he represents Waldensian theology and if that's the case, then his writings are the most exhaustive explanation of their position.
I could identify this theology with terms such as Pilgrim, Remnant, or Martyr but I would have to emphasize this does not mean to suggest a group in retreat or in hiding. Our role isn't to transform society. Only the gospel can transform. We can't water it down in order to bring in the numbers. We see it so clearly today and many Protestants denounce the modern Finneyite and Seeker Church but do not see that their Reformation forebears made their own compromises to retain the numbers.
We are to bear witness, to cast down the idols, and to speak the truth. No man made system can work and even begin to solve the problems of this world. Our message is to repent and believe the gospel. We know that only a minority will ever do this and so with that understanding we confess that we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth. This affects our ethics and the totality of our lives.
Pilgrim Theology is probably the term I would say is closest to what I'm advocating. Sadly, a Reformed theologian recently appropriated this label for a recent book. It's sad because the Kuyperian theology he espouses is anything but 'pilgrim' in its nature.
Thus, though it will prove confusing, I'm changing the name of the site. Proto-Protestantism is too nebulous and in some ways unhelpful and it definitely confuses some into thinking I'm somehow advocating connections with the 16th century Reformation which I do wish to suggest. Divorcing myself from the label of Protestant affords me a certain liberty and ability to break with a certain period of history.
Rather than appear to be offering a system (an –ism) it's more accurate to say that I'm trying to open the gate to help others see the Third Way, a different road, a different path. I am not advocating the teaching Karl Barth or the Emergent Church. I believe these teachings and groups to aberrations from what the Scripture teaches. I advocating a very old fashioned, historically conscious, intellectual Biblicism and I would argue the same cancer which bred the Roman Church of the Middle Ages lives on in the Protestant West. The cancer looks different because the context is different. But it's the same disease. We can learn from those who protested before and now more than ever we need a dissenting movement.