Pastoral trends

The end of Protestantism?

15 October 2016

Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Independent Christians still show healthy attendance numbers. But in a way “Protestantism” as a concept is at an end. The term has less and less traction for ordinary people.

Surveys show this: fewer and fewer people describe themselves as “Protestant” as the years go by. People say they are “nondenominational,” “Christian,” “evangelical,” and so on. There is a multiplicity among Christians where there once was a duality: Protestant and Catholic.  The one not only implied not the other, it needed the other for its very existence. Without Catholicism, there could be no Protestantism. And without Protestantism, what would Catholicism have been these past 500 years?

If this is the end of Protestantism, might we also say it is the end of Catholicism as we have known it? Certainly it is the end of simple oppositional thinking and self-definition. Both Protestantism and Catholicism in that sense have collapsed in lockstep with the collapse of their old foils, a previously overly defined, massive unity that no longer exists.

Today there are evangelical Catholics, charismatic Catholics, traditional Catholics, devotional Catholics, cultural Catholics of one place or kind or another. If this is the end of Protestantism, it is also the end of a one-size-fits-all Catholicism. We now experience a truly world-wide and yet highly diverse, locally expressive and globally united, Catholic faith, an  expression of the faith that is more relevant than ever, more suited to our time than ever--unless of course we lock ourselves into a past that no longer exists.