So yesterday I was reading about the history of Protestantism in Vol. 15 of my 1974 edition of the ever-awesome Encyclopedia Britannica (that I bought in a thrift store about 10 years ago for $20 because God loves me). And under a section called "The ongoing reformation of the church," I read this:
"In few respects [did Protestantism differ from Catholicism] more than in its establishment of the principle of an ongoing reformation. While most of the Reformers, once established, tended practically to resist extensions of reformation that would jeopardize their status and definition, almost all Protestants, at least nominally, assented to the idea that "ecclesia reformatat semper reformanda"--i.e., that the church was always reformed and always in need of further reformation. The Protestant movement, then, was conceived as an unfinished product, constantly to be judged by a reading of the Bible, its polity continually subject to debate, its policy open to ongoing appraisal and change."
We're in the midst of a time where Protestantism is contending with issues that are proving as divisive to it as anything in its history. So I find it comforting to learn that we're supposed to change, that we're supposed to rethink, reassess, reconsider. We should be encouraged that the founders of our system of theology conceived of that system as an "unfinished product," and that they believed the church was "always in need of further reformation." I definitely think it's something we should bear in mind as we all try to figure out where we stand relative to the issues in our church that are every day causing us such turmoil.