Why be Protestant?

Phillip Cary locates the heart of Protestantism in the gospel promise it reveals.

Weeks before Christians ac­claimed their hosannas while hunkered down in their Zoom rooms, I paid a pastoral call to a 97-year-old shut-in from my congregation. Vince was worried that “when the virus finally gets here, I’m exactly the kind of geezer who will have a bad go of it.”

“I try to have faith,” he told me, sipping his Folgers. “Sometimes it feels like I have Jesus in my heart, but other times I don’t know. I’ve tried to be good, and I’ve always gone to church and done for others, but I’ve not been perfect.” He went on in that vein for a few minutes more, somewhere between anxious and genuinely terrified by the truth that none of us is getting out of life alive.

Finally, I interrupted him: “Christian­ity isn’t about trusting what’s in your heart. That wouldn’t be good news. Christianity’s about trusting Christ, who promises that you’re forgiven and loved. Hold fast to that promise; don’t look into your heart.” Vince looked skeptical. I stood up, made the sign of the cross over him, and said, “Vince, in the name of Jesus Christ and by his authority alone, I declare unto you the entire forgiveness of all your sins.”