A guy who ponders deep theological thoughts recently shared two concepts with me: intentional Protestantism and accidental Protestantism. Both relate to the Reformation of the Christian church, some five hundred years ago.
Back then, a group of people saw problems in the church and broke from it, forming something new; they became Protestant by intention. The other group desired to foment change from within the church, but when that didn’t happen, they became Protestant by accident. (Later the Catholic Church did indeed make most of these needed changes, but it took a few more years.)
What if there was no intentional effort to break away? What if the other group had been successful at reforming the church from within? Then, today Christianity would look much different and we would be more unified, just as Jesus wanted.
Now, take this concept back two thousand years. For a time, the early followers of Jesus existed within the Jewish church of the day. They were emerging as a sect of Judaism, potentially a third element, along with the Pharisees and Sadducees (two groups who didn’t agree on much but found a way to mostly coexist anyway).
Some of Jesus’ first followers wanted to remain within the Jewish culture but became accidental Christians, while others were intentional Christians. What if Christianity didn’t form that way? What if Jesus’ followers found a way to coexist within Judaism? The thought intrigues me. I already feel an affinity for our Jewish forebears, and this would connect us even more.
We all do serve the same God, so would it really matter? Of course, this is all hypothetical, but I think God would be okay with it.
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