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How the Papacy Was Able to End the Protestant Reformation

David Shin


Pastor David reflects on how Pope Francis was able to declare that Protestant Reformation was officially over 500 years after it's inception. How were they able to do it?


David Shin

Pastor, Hillside O'Malley Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Anchorage, AK



  • September 2, 2017
    11:30 AM
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Father in Heaven, we thank You for this beautiful Sabbath that You have given to us, this reminder of creation and redemption. And as we pause for a few moments of reflection on Christian history and education, we pray that You’d bless us. Speak to us, we pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


This is the five-hundredth year since the Protestant Reformation, 2017. Remarkable event, Martin Luther nailed the 95 Thesis on the door of the Wittenberg chapel, and it sparked, not just a reformation, but really it was a revolution. I have a quotation from a historian just marveling at the events that transpired after that document was nailed to the Wittenberg chapel, “How a revolution erupts from a common-place event, a tidal wave from a ripple, is cause for endless astonishment. The Reformation caused for,” and I quote, “transfer of power and property in the name of an idea.”


So the Protestant Reformation was not just about theology. There was a dramatic power shift that took place in Western Europe, Germany became Protestant, the Scandinavian countries became Protestant, England became Protestant, and we are living in Protestant America today. Here we are, 500 years after the Reformation, and I read a fascinating piece in the Catholic Herald reflecting on the Protestant Reformation. And I quote, “Somewhere in Pope Francis’ office is a document that could alter the course of Christian history. It declares an end to hostilities between Catholics and Evangelicals and says the two traditions are now united in mission because we are declaring the same gospel. The holy father is thinking of signing the text in 2017, the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation alongside Evangelical leaders representing roughly one in four Christians in the world today,” and the article goes on. “Francis is convinced that the Reformation is already over. He believes it ended in 1999, the year the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation issued a joint declaration on justification, the doctrine at the heart of Luther’s protest.”


There’s a lot that we can go and grapple with about the statement that is made here in the Catholic Herald. I agree with this assessment, by the way. I want to hone in on this notion here, “Francis is convinced that the Reformation is already over.” Here we are, 500 years after the Reformation, and I agree with this assessment. The Reformation, in a sense, in mainline Protestant circles, is over. This is a correct assessment by Pope Francis.


Now, to be clear from the very beginning, this presentation today is not about theology, about the rightness or wrongness of Protestants versus Catholics, nor is this to talk about who is saved or who is not saved. And, by the way, I believe that there are going to be Protestants and Catholics in Heaven (Amen?), people that are not associated with denomination, so that’s not what this is about at all. And just so that you know, full disclosure, our son Hudson was born at Providence, a Catholic hospital, and we were ministered to, blessed, stellar mother-baby unit, I mean, just what a vulnerable moment. We felt loved and appreciated, and so I have warm feelings about Catholic institutions. That’s not what this is about at all.


What I want to do today is just for a little bit reflect on history and ask the question, “Why and how this was made possible?” How is it possible, after 1517 the Protestant revolution is declared over 500 years later? How did they do this? And this is a lesson from history that we, as Seventh-day Adventists, can learn and apply, believe it or not. So, let’s back up in history.


You actually have to go to the year 1540, September 27, not too far away from the nailing of the 95 Thesis there in Wittenberg. Pope Paul III was sitting forlornly in his private reception hall waiting to meet a small band of priests that filed in. One of them stood out. He had a prominent nose, balding, walked with a noticeable limp that he earned as a soldier in Spain; His name was Ignatius Loyola. And I have a quotation here on the screen from the Catholic author Malachi Martin. In his book, he paraphrased what Loyola said to the pope, and here it is, “Holy father, the papacy, and the Roman Catholic Church are in mortal trouble. Needed is a modern weapon to fight this totally new warfare. Give us a new charter like no other, we will go anywhere at anytime at any cost to life and comfort in order to do anything.”


See, you can just grasp the gravity of what is taking place here. Pope Paul III recognizes that there is a transfer of power taking place in Western Europe. Protestantism is spreading like wildfire. Loyola walks in and says, “Look, we need to do something about the Protestant Reformation.”


And the secular historian put it this way, “The Protestant Reformation being a revolution, it would seem logical that the Catholic Counter-Reformation devised at the Council of Trent in 1545 and went on to 1553 should be called a counter-revolution. The order founded by Loyola as the Society of Jesus was to reconquer the countries lost to Protestantism.” So there was a concerted effort in the Protestant Reformation or the Counter-Protestant Reformation to bring Protestantism back to bridge the chasm, as it were. And it’s ironic that in 2017 the first Jesuit pope would declare that it has been completed. We are living in a historical time when you look at it, not in terms of decades but in terms of centuries; 2017 is a significant year.


Now, how did they do it? There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there about Jesuits, but it’s no secret how this took place. The way that the Jesuits and the Society of Jesus were successful in bringing Protestantism back was through education. Let me read you a quotation from the historian, “This order established by Ignatius Loyola found its special mission in combatting the Reformation as the most effective means of arresting the progress of Protestantism. It aimed at controlling education. More than other agency, it staid the progress of the Reformation and it even succeeded in winning back territory already conquered by Protestantism. Although employing the pulpit and the confessional, it worked chiefly through its schools of which established and controlled large numbers.”


It goes on, “The Jesuit system of education was intended to meet the active influence of Protestantism in education. It was remarkably successful, and for a century,” following 1584, “nearly all the foremost men of Christendom came from Jesuit schools. In 1710 they had 612 colleges, 157 normal schools, 24 universities, and an immense number of lower schools.” I know what you’re thinking, “But, David, come on! This is just Protestant revisionist history.”


I have a book in my library, the cover is falling off; this is one of my most provocative books I have in my library. It is From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life. This guy is a genius. Five hundred years of history in this book; it’s over 800 pages. This man sat down to write this book when he was 84. He had written like 40 books before that. He published it when he was 93. And just in case you think that this was a senile old man just thinking and documenting, the critics went wild when this book hit the press. And, by the way, this man is a secular historian.


One of the critics said that, “This book showed the erudition and the brilliance of a man that could not have written this book when he was 50.” Now, here are a few critics, “From Dawn to Decadence, in short is peerless. This astonishing and monumental work may fairly take its place alongside Gibbon,” that’s The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, a timeless classic. This book…I don’t get any royalties from, you know, anything, but this book is phenomenal.


It starts in 1500, 500 years of history. He starts chapter one with the Protestant revolution and the Reformation, and I about fell out of my chair when he ended chapter one with this quote. I have it here on the screen. You can look up the quote afterwards so you know I’m not making things up. It’s here for your reference.


Here it is, From Dawn to Decadence, from the brilliant historian Jacques Barzun, ends chapter one on the Reformation with this quote, “Meanwhile, by care and thought and continual revised methods, the Jesuits shown as schoolmasters unsurpassed in history, unsurpassed in the history of education, their success was due to the most efficient form of teacher training ever seen. They knew that born teachers are scarce as true poets and that the next best cannot be made casually out of indifferent materials. So they devised a preparation that included exhaustive learning and a severe winnowing of the unfit from every phase of long apprenticeship.” In other words, they were serious about education. So serious, that if you were a half-baked teacher, you were cut. No nonsense.


It goes on, “The Jesuits set up schools by the scores. In the mid-seventeenth century Europe, there were more schools than pupils than in the mid-nineteenth century. Indeed, there soon was complaint of too many schools for the population. All likely use, rich and poor, were given means to attend, and the merits of the system were shortly seen in the galaxy of brilliant minds they produced, from Descartes to Voltaire and beyond, and a good many philosophers and scientists were educated by the Jesuits.” How were they able to reverse the Reformation and declare it over, 500 years later? It was through education!


And just in case you think that the early Adventist pioneers that were reformers were Catholic haters, I want to read you a quotation from E.A. Sutherland who was president of Walla Walla College and then later went on to found Immanuel Missionary College, which later became Andrews University. This is arguably the greatest Adventist reformer in terms of education. Here is a quote that I also have from a book in my library called Living Fountains or Broken Cisterns.


Here it is, as he looks at the history of education, E.A. Sutherland, “As the progress of the papacy through the Jesuit schools is followed into one country and then another,” listen to this, “one admires the constancy and self-sacrifice of those who have committed their lives to the order. Had the Protestants been one-half as diligent in advocating the principles of the Christian education as the Jesuit teachers had been in counter-action of the influence of the Reformation, far different results would today be seen in the world.”


In other words, E.A. Sutherland, an Adventist pioneer in education, looks back in admiration at the sacrifice and the dedication of the Jesuits. He goes on, “It is without the slightest feeling of animosity toward the Jesuits or the papacy that these facts are traced. These both do for their cause what will best serve to have built it. Their method insofar as they accomplished their desired end are to be commended, and their zeal is ever to be admired.” In other words, E.A. Sutherland is saying, “You know what? If Protestants had the same dedication, the same spirit and sacrifice that the Jesuits had in terms of education, history would be very different today.”


Now, the point I want to draw out of all of this is we as Seventh-day Adventists cannot afford to minimize the impact and the power of education. Amen? That’s my point. If you miss everything that I’m trying to say today, I mean, that’s why I’m going through all this history, just to bring up this fundamental point. Look, if the Catholic Church, through education, can declare the Reformation over 500 years later, and the method they used was education, we as Seventh-day Adventists better regard education seriously because what happens in the classrooms of today dictates the revolutions of tomorrow. And if we fail to capture the imaginations and the passions and the desires of our own youth here at Hillside O’Malley, we have lost a tremendous opportunity to change this state, and, I would argue, the world.


But you say, “Ah, come on! Education? Our little school?” I mean, “little” relatively, compared to the monoliths in Anchorage. Have you driven by these schools? Massive.


I want you to remember that when Jesus began as an educator, and, yes, He was an Educator, it wasn’t a big operation. How many did He appoint? He appointed 12. It wasn’t large, and He was a Teacher. I want you to think about, this is the greatest revolution in history. Secular historians say Jesus changed history. And look what He did. He educated 12 men, and they turned the world upside down.


Acts of the Apostles, “For three years and a half the disciples were under the instruction of the greatest Teacher the world has ever known.” After this education, “No longer were they ignorant and uncultured. No longer were they a collection of independent units or discordant, conflicting elements…The advancement of His Kingdom was their aim. In mind and character they became like their Master, and men ‘took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.’”


So the question is, why Seventh-day Adventist education? Why is it that we spend almost a third of our annual budget? We had church budget today. You want to know where that money goes? A third of that goes down the road to support our school. That is why, because we believe that education changes the world. That’s evangelism! A third of our budget goes to it, and here is the philosophy of Seventh-day Adventist education, just in case you’re wondering, I want to encourage you to read chapter one of the book Education.


Here it is, profound chapter, “In a knowledge of” (whom?) “God all true knowledge and [real] development have their source.” In other words, the premise of Adventist Christian education is that you cannot become truly educated if you remove God out of the equation. It’s like trying to understand the sun…I should say, trying to understand light without the sun. “The mind of man is brought into communion with the mind of God, the finite with the Infinite. The effect of such communion on body and mind and soul is beyond estimate. In this communion is found the highest education.” Adam and Eve, how did they receive their education? Face-to-face communion with God. A fundamental difference.


You know, since the Enlightenment, there has been a shift in our educational system. It came to the conclusion that you could remove God out of human learning and arrive at objective truth. This counters the notions of that movement. “In the highest sense the work of education and the work of redemption are one.” In other words, if our educational system is not leading people to a decision to accept Christ, it is a false education. That’s what this is saying.


Now, I did youth ministry for a number of years in Berrien Springs, and it was fascinating because I would go through the different classrooms, do worships on a rotation with the other pastors every month. And as you went through the different classes, you start out kindergarten, and then first grade, second grade, third grade, it’s amazing the wonder of the younger children. My worships were very simple. I would pull out a rock out of my pocket, and they’d be like, “Wow!” just the wonder and the awe. But then when I started hitting seventh and eighth grade, I really had to spruce up my worships because it just wasn’t wowing them anymore. I also noticed something else. When I would walk into fourth, fifth and sixth grade and I’d say, “How many of you love Jesus?” and, “How many of you want to be baptized?” almost every hand would go up. I go to seventh and eighth grade, a dramatic decrease. I’d go to high school, forget about it.


And Barna research came to a similar conclusion that I did by experience, going through the different classes. The Barna Research Group surveys demonstrate that American children aged 5 to 13 have a 32-percent probability of accepting Christ. But youth or teen-aged, 14 to 18, only have a 4-percent probability of doing so. Adults aged 19, it goes up a little bit, have just a 6-percent probability of becoming Christians. Barna wrote that, “Habits related to the practice of one’s faith develop when one is young and change surprisingly little over time.” Barna stated, “It is during those preteen years that people develop their frames of reference for the remainder of their” (what?) “of their life.” He later stated, “The early impressions we make go a long way toward shaping a person’s worldview, relationships, dreams, expectations, and core reality.”


I tell parents that are a little bit reticent to baptize their children when they are fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, this research because the studies have shown, look, if you get baptized fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, when you get in your teen years, you may stray a little bit, sow your wild oats, but the statistics show that the majority of them come back. And you know these youth you hear about leaving the church? The majority of them grew up in a Seventh-day Adventist Church but were not baptized. And they had nothing to come back to. And so, you have this window, I tell parents, when they want to be baptized, baptize them! You don’t have to be perfect, praise God. You’re not perfect when you’re adults when you’re baptized either. That’s not what it’s about.


And so this is startling. And so, Barna concludes, “The implication of these findings is clear,” says Barna, “Anyone who wishes to have significant influence on the development of a person’s moral and spiritual foundation had better exert that influence while the person is still openminded and impressionable.” In other words, while the person is still young! We need to invest in our children, not only physically and emotionally, but spiritually while they are young. And that is why I praise God for AJA. They allow me to go there once a week one semester and give baptismal classes. It’s a priceless window of opportunity for decisions for Jesus.


Educational philosophy, “Our [ideas of education] take too narrow and too low a range. There is need of a broader scope, a higher aim. True education means more than the pursual of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man…It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come.” In other words, true education takes into consideration, not only this life but our eternal life.


Now I borrowed this illustration from a gentleman by the name of Francis Chan. He’s an Evangelical preacher, Chinese guy that I can relate to because he’s an Asian preacher, and he used this illustration, and so I borrowed it from him. Here’s a piece of rope here, and I didn’t know what to tie it to, so I tied it to our dog bone. So just imagine and pretend that this rope goes on forever, just forever that way. It stops there, but just imagine that that goes on forever. And this represents the full potential of human existence – eternity. Have you ever thought about that? Just…It’s not even a billion years. You live a billion years, that’s not even…I don’t know where you’d put it on the rope, but it just goes on forever.


And this taped part of the rope (it’s a blue part) represents your life on Earth. And you know what most of us do, myself included? We get so focused and immersed with this part. You say, “Oh, I’m going to save up and just live my life so that I can really enjoy this part right here. Whew! And then I’ll be really living. I’m going to retire, enjoy that part.” Just so immersed. Now, I’m not saying that this life isn’t important, but when it comes to education, it needs to take into consideration not just this part because I have news for you: Secular education today prepares you just for a career. I’m not saying that’s wrong, but that’s just this, so that you can retire and enjoy this part, not taking into consideration that this is the total possible existence of man.


And some people look at me and say, “David, you’re so stupid in that decision because that’s really going to affect this.” And I’m like, “No, you’re stupid because it’s going to affect all of this!” We need to live our life, not only with this consideration but what about all of this?! And Seventh-day Adventist education not only prepares you for this, but what about this? And this? And this? I mean, this is forever. And our young people are a priceless entrustment as we are stewards of their educational responsibility. Is education, Adventist education, a good investment?


Now, I’m the son of Korean immigrants, was born in Washington, D.C. My parents came to this country from Korea. I went to a Korean church. And my parents made a life-altering decision, and they chose me to put me into Adventist schools. It was a sacrifice, two kids, one income. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. And I remember being resentful at the type of vehicles that my parents drove. It was embarrassing. One of them needed a facelift, so we spray painted it. And being short Koreans, there was a part of the car that we could not reach, on the roof. So there was this section of the top of the vehicle that was not the same color as the rest of the vehicle. And that thing would role up to pick me up after school, “Man! Are you for real?” We lived in an older house, older cars.


At the same church was another son of immigrants about my same age, and they made the decision to send their kids to public school. After all, taxes were paying for them. And they drove new cars, lived in a new house, and when he turned 16, he got a new car. And I inherited, not that car, a different car that had 200,000 miles on it. I’m like, “What are my parents doing? This is just ___!”


Fast forward ten years later. Graduate from seminary, I’m in my first district as a pastor. I’m at a youth conference, and I meet that friend, the son of immigrants that drove a new car - ten years later, shook his hand. And it was that moment that a wave of emotions just swept over me because he had just been released from the state penitentiary for attempted murder.


To be clear, I’m not saying that everyone who goes to public school is going to end up in the state pen. Nor am I saying that everyone that gets a Seventh-day Adventist education is going to turn out wonderful. That’s not what I’m saying at all. But I couldn’t help but walking away from that handshake of wondering what if? What if my friend had a Christian teacher and Christian friends in a Christian environment and had been led to Christ in a Christian school? Would the outcome have been different? That’s probably the greatest what-if question. And, you know, those cars are rusting away in a junkyard somewhere, but the impact of the investment in education lives on, I believe, for eternity.


Education, page 18, “As the perfection of His character is dwelt upon, the mind is renewed, and the soul is re-created in the image of God. What education can be higher than this? What can equal [it in] value?”


Pray with me. Father in Heaven, Lord, we come to You today with this awesome responsibility. Lord, it may not look as glamorous as the other institutions, but we believe in the power of true education. Bless us as we seek to move forward with this precious stewardship of trust that You’ve given to us in training our young people to love, to honor, and to serve God. Father, we pray that through the transformations that take place in the classroom, that the world would be changed and won for Christ. Bless us as a church as we seek to step out in faith with limited resources to support Christian education. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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