What if Protestantism in its present form is the fractured remains of a Catholic protest movement that began in 1517, but which has long since forgotten not only what it was protesting, but that it was formed by Catholics, in protest over conditions and practices within the Catholic Church? What if Protestantism has forgotten that its original intention was to return to full communion with the Catholic Church when certain conditions were satisfied?
But what if Roman Catholics are sectarians dreaming they constitute the historic and perpetual center of the identity of the Church?
What if the real Catholic Church is simply continuing on and the Roman Catholic Church is pretending that it is not lacking that full communion because it has created without warrant autistic conditions for fellowship?
Evangelicals have many issues to work on as they continue through history. But there is nothing to rejoin. If the Roman Catholic Church and another denomination join and receive, then that is simply two denominations uniting together. And if they join and receive under the shared assumption that the Roman Catholic Church is some kind of perpetual “center” that all others are “peripheral” to and must come “back” to, then all that would mean is that the Christian people of the other denomination have become persuaded of sectarian superstitions.
Look, Luther never stopped being a Catholic. Neither did anyone else. If any group should be held suspect on that charge, the case against the Papal party and Vatican II is far more convincing.
I totally and emphatically agree that Protestants should recover their understanding of their history in the ancient and medieval Church. They can then learn how the Church has grown and matured in grace. To claim that they have any less solidarity with that history of the Church than do Tridentine Catholics is utter nonsense.
One lesson from this is that Protestants who insist on holding up the Roman Catholic Church as an inherent and eternal enemy are endangering their own identity. The Roman Catholic Church as we now know it may be gone in a century or less–just as could happen with the PCA or any other denomination. They are not some kind of everlasting historical force over against which the “true” Church can always identify itself.