The Reformers and their Stepchildren ©2010 | free PDF
Another necessary outworking of the state/church is that outward action must trump the teaching of scripture; ritual and performance must be equated with the religion itself, and individual familiarity with the scriptures must be minimized. The Roman church had used direct assault since Constantine, but substitution is always more effective in the long run since it is less liable to elicit radical opposition. Thus the Reformers decided to tell people that God only accepted their worship in approved buildings, led by approved clerics. Of course this is exactly what Rome had been doing for centuries, but the Reformers had no problem with the nature of its institution. Control was the primary objective, and it left no room for individualism.
There are two activities associated with Christian life in the New Testament: the "love feast" or meal of remembrance, and baptism. To subvert the former required only a few subtle twists: from meal to sacrifice, from table to altar, and a change of emphasis from the partaker to the dispenser. Thus the one handing out the bread and cup became the "priest" who alone could offer the "sacrifice". Those things whose purpose had been to unite people in a common faith were now pressed into the service of religious activity, which was the needed control mechanism. The pagans of Constantine's time would have no qualms about such things, since they were familiar elements of their former religions. Yet these seemingly small adjustments had terrible ramifications for the Body of Christ. And one must wonder why any Protestant church has an altar.
It should be noted that not many— in fact almost none— of the Reformers were trained in the handling of scripture, but only in the handling of sacraments and activities. Neither the priest nor the supplicant mattered, but only the activity, which in the Reformed mind disarmed the "heretical" objection that a priest of unsavory character was unqualified to serve as such. It also ensured that only those loyal to the system would ever be given the position of a priest, and it erected a barrier between the laity and the clergy— which, ironically, became the "real" Church as a separate class from the larger community. So much for the objection to separation.
Another ingredient in this replacement religion was the "mystery" of transubstantiation, whereby the priest would magically transform ordinary bread and wine into an actual sacrifice by saying Latin words which the people did not understand, giving rise to the phrase "hocus-pocus" (the people's phonetic version of the priest's words) for any act of magic. With this it was clear that Christianity could not be practiced without priests, due to their having received this mysterious power which, they were told, had been passed down from the original apostles. And naturally, the Bible was not to be distributed in the common tongue, so anyone who supplied or received one drew the ire of the state/church.
Along with the earlier question as to why any Protestant church would have an altar, we should also ask why only "pastors" are permitted to "serve communion" or perform baptisms. Is this not a capitulation to the priestly class of the state/church, especially since such "offices" are recognized by the secular government and approved to perform weddings and funerals? And does something mystical happen to offerings of money placed upon an altar, both of which use the terminology of pagan sacrifice? Why are Protestants who have not been baptized frowned upon as "rebellious" and their salvation questioned regardless of evidence of a changed heart, and why are such people forbidden to participate in "communion"? Are they not members of the Body of Christ unless they perform a ritual? How is this not exactly the same as the sacramental system?