Protestants make an interesting claim:
For 1500 years, the churches of the time made the claim that they are the descendants of
the original church--the blood line, if you will.
Martin Luther comes along and says that although they are not in communion with the
church in their jurisdiction (Roman Catholic), they are indeed the true church in a spiritual sense.
It is analogous to the Christians being the spiritual --rather than physical--descendents of Israel.
I never heard it described by Protestants this way, but it seems accurate to me. Correct me if I am wrong.
While the Catholics have the right lineage, the Protestants have the right faith, so they claim.
Therefore, it does make sense that there are so many denominations out there, since their
legitimacy comes in the fact they possess the "true faith." I really have no problem with this thinking.
The problem is that I don't think Protestants possess this faith. Let me illustrate why with simple examples:
1) Use of incense in services. Malachi 1:11 says the incense is used in the worship of God. Yet no Protestant
churches use it that I know of. When I asked why in another thread, a wonderful poster replied that it
smacks too much of Catholicism. I tend to agree, but it was nice to hear it from a Protestant.
I find it strange that something called for in Scripture, and Protestants claim to get their authority only from
Scriptures, would never be used in a Protestant service. It seems to me that the lack of incense
in Protestant churches is simply a reaction to Catholicism. This is understandable from a historical perspective
(we tend to overreact to our oppressors) but not from a church that claims its authority on the basis that they
have the right doctrine. In short, Protestants don't use incense because they didn't think it through:
You can reject incense but then you can't claim that the Bible is your sole authority. Yet Protestants do both.
2) The addition of the filioque to the Nicene Creed. Here we have the opposite situation: the Protestants
continued a Catholic practice simply because it was a Catholic practice. See other threads about the filioque and
its problems. So, the same people who claim they are spiritual descendants of the early church have no problem
accepting something that was added centuries later. What this has in common with the incense example is that
in both instances they didn't think it through. Here my guess is Protestants accept the filioque because it said nice
things about Jesus. I have never heard a Protestant father (nor modern Protestant leader) address an issue that was a
huge deal 500 years earlier. They simply didn't think about it.
These examples make the claim that the Protestants have the correct faith not very likely. Rather than think through
what is correct doctrine, in one case (incense) they just reacted to of their opponents and
in the other (filioque) accepted a practice simply because they were born into it. And for a church that bases its legitimacy
on that the fact that they have the right doctine, they can't get away with the ignorance excuse.