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Catholic Vancouver Sept. 2, 2017

'We all lost in the Reformation,' says Protestant theologian

By Agnieszka Krawczynski

Hans Boersma. (BCC File Photo)

VANCOUVER—The Reformation is a piece of history both Catholics and Protestants should “lament and confess,” says theology professor Hans Boersma.

Martin Luther published his famous 95 theses in 1517, an event that snowballed into a great schism between Catholic and Protestant churches that exists to this day.

“We should not talk about it in any triumphalistic manner,” said Boersma, who teaches at Regent College at UBC. “We all lost in the Reformation. The unity of the Church was empirically damaged; that’s a loss whether you’re a Catholic or a Protestant.”

Now, in the 500th anniversary of that historical event, Boersma said all Christians should find ways to unite and build relationships.

The key, which he will discuss at an upcoming public lecture Sept. 9, is a sacramental mindset.

“The natural world we see around us isn’t simply run by secondary causes that we can observe by the senses. God is actively involved and in it,” Boersma said. “The created order shares in the life of God. Heaven and earth are not separate compartments.”

That kind of understanding of the world can cause Christians to “treat the world differently.” Boersma believes both Catholics and Protestants will benefit from a sacramental mindset.

“The evangelical world tends to think of a relationship with God as something that is immediate or direct,” said Boersma, a member of Immanuel Christian Reformed Church. With a sacramental mindset, “Protestants become much more open to immediate agencies such as the church, such as certain rituals.”

Meanwhile, Catholics “might take more seriously the graced character of the natural world.”

Such progress won't solve our theological differences, Boersma admitted, but they will provide a starting point for healthy relationships and a tool to reach out to the secular world.

“In our secular, de-sacramentalized, disenchanted world, we can’t afford to be talking against each other,” he said.

Boersma’s public lecture on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Uniting Heaven and Earth, will be held at Regent College Sept. 9.