My comments started here:
I would have loved to have attended college in the 50's or early 60's, when much of the older-style rigorous and classical kind of education was still part of the picture. By the time I got there in the 70's, basket weaving and women's studies were all the rage. I think technology over the last 30 years has changed things in ways that we still don't understand -- why might a computer science person need to understand German or Latin or Koine Greek? -- and of course, the economic gyrations of the 1999/2000 and the last few years have got people understandably nervous about just how to prepare themselves to make a living and maybe prepare for retirement.In this regard, while I don't want to be uncritical of Protestantism, I'm less inclined to be critical of folks on the Protestant side even though I can see how all of this came about. I have this sort of unstated (now stated, I guess) version of Reagan's 11th commandment: "Thou shalt not say anything bad about a fellow Republican" (and in this case, a fellow Protestant).
Of course, I've been caught up in all of that like many people. And having as many kids as I do, I wonder what's coming next down the pike," especially in an economic sense. The "American Dream" was such that there was a constant opportunity to improve yourself. In the early day, land was cheap, and almost there for the taking. As people moved further west, a whole economic structure developed to help people to get there. From the railroads, and the coal and oil and steel industries that grew up to support all that - then the auto industry, and the wars of the early 20th century and the recoveries from those -- expansions of the 50's and 60's and even the development of the whole new areas of technology over the last 30 years -- all of these things in their own eras were tremendous drivers of economic growth.
But aside from some of the technology refinements like cell phones and iPad types of gizmos, the normalization of streaming video, it doesn't seem like technology can go too much further. The internet has as much bandwidth as it will ever need. Corporate computer networks are in great shape; just needing maintenance and tweaks. All of our homes are both "wired" and "wireless" to the point that they're not going to need to change much at all. There's not a "revolutionary new thing" on the horizon, as I see it. There's not an internet-style transformation of communication "out there". What there's going to be is a slow equilibrium. There will be pockets of growth as some other countries modernize, but we've maxed out technology as an economic driver, and reached "diminishing returns."
Instead, I look at my own home town, Pittsburgh, where we've fared well, in things like education and technology and medicine. Where's the "growth opportunity" here? UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) is now the largest employer, and we've got an aging population. My kids are going into the medical arena, because that's where there's a need, but that's not a thing that's going to drive hope, growth, and opportunity in the future.
But I do think there is a strong need, now, in the human person. The need to "understand it all," to put life into perspective. Where did we come from, where are we going? Those question, now that all of our physical and entertainment needs can constantly be met, are still going to be there, where they always are. And that's where blogs (and other sources) like this one are going to fill a tremendous need.
My purpose here is to write to fellow Protestants -- to share the Protestant heritage as I understand it (and with as much honesty and accuracy as I can bring to it). There were some rough moments, but Schaff is correct: on balance, the Reformation was one of the greatest "moments" in church history, and in fact, in human history. There is a richness in the study of the Reformation that you can't really get from other forms of study. I think that Protestants of all stripes -- Lutherans, Reformed, Anglicans, Anabaptists, and all their descendants -- can gain a tremendous amount of perspective by just bringing these things to mind (much less, studying the period in detail). A rising tide will lift all boats.
Another, equally important goal of mine, though, is to specifically address the "buyer's remorse" that I know some of these "Catholic Converts" must be feeling. Some of them aren't dumb. So they have got to realize the "90% nonsense and self-deceiving foolishness" that they find themselves participating in. They're human like the rest of us.
Roman Catholicism has had a lot of great minds flow through its system [especially during the medieval years, when it was "the only game in town]. It has had much time to "get its story together." It promises a lot. As time goes on, people realize very many of its promises are false promises, based on untruths in many cases -- and when you're in search of answers to some of those basic questions that we all have, you don't want to have to admit that something foundational to you is an untruth. I'm sure that eats away at these guys, despite all the bravado that they lead with. Over time, the untruths will eat away at them like a cancer -- all of them, except for the most idiotic partisans. (I think this is why Steven Wedgeworth points to some of the more honest Catholic scholars -- individuals like Raymond Brown and Francis Sullivan an some of the others that he mentions. They're at least trying to look for ways to understand "the promise" of Catholicism in the light of the historical research that denies it.)
And as the internet facilitates the spread of knowledge and understanding, that process of cancerous untruth is going to come more and more into the light.
We may not have the largest numbers, in terms of conservative confessional Protestantism. But I believe this is where the truest of the "true truth" can be found. That's a body of knowledge that will continue to build, and it will be sought out by more and more people in a world that seems to have everything else but meaning.
There's not going to be any end to the "bad" types of Protestants out there -- the TBN types, the Socinians, the Remonstrants -- or those who will be misled to follow them -- but I do think that not only is "inoculation" possible, but that a grounding in the genuine history of the church will give Protestants a real sense of purpose and hope for the future.
It's a long road, and as Turretin noted, we must examine things point by point, doctrine by doctrine -- but such Biblical and foundational exercises have always been both necessary and fruitful.