A PROTESTANT MANIFESTO
WINFRED ERNEST GARRISON
THIS book is not, and does not include, a “Protestant creed.” Neither I nor anyone else, nor any church assembly, is competent to produce a formula of doctrine full enough to be called a creed and to declare that this is what all Protestants must believe, or even what they ought to believe.
But even a modest observer—who has also been a lifelong participant in a small way—may, without unseemly presumption, set forth some of the most important things that Protestants in general do believe. Such a statement is descriptive, not normative.
The purpose of this book, then, is to state in clear and simple terms the basic convictions of those Christians and Christian communions that call themselves Protestant. Within this total company there are wide differences of attitude, belief, and practice. Any description or discussion of the characteristics which distinguish the various kinds of Protestants from one another is therefore incidental to the main purpose. One must go to other books for full information as to the specific and distinguishing positions of the different Protestant groups.
There will be, of necessity, frequent references to the existence of differences. One of the most obvious facts about Protestantism as a whole is that it is not a whole. It is divided, and the understanding of its position would not be served by ignoring this feature which leaps to the eye of even the most casual observer. But what the casual observer often fails to observe is that the diverse and divided Protestant groups have a very solid body of agreements. This body of agreements may be overlooked, also, by many who are deeply committed to some particular part of the Protestant cause or professionally devoted to its advancement. If this book does not tell these experts anything that they do not already know, it may remind them of the validity of an emphasis which in their preoccupation with specific denominational loyalties and responsibilities they may occasionally forget.
One of the aims of this book is to make more evident the degree of unity that now exists among Protestants. In my opinion the present degree of unity is not enough. No argument on that point is proposed. But certainly no controversy will be provoked by saying that the degree of unity which actually exists, however large or small, adequate or inadequate, ought to be recognized and utilized so far as it can be.
It will be seen at once that one of the basic ideas of this book is that Protestantism cannot be adequately described or evaluated by paying attention only to those things which are distinctive of it. The spiritual resources of any form of religion would be thin, meager, and of shallow rootage if it had no share in anything that other forms of religion also have. The content of Protestantism includes some things that are distinctively its own, but also some precious and indispensable possessions which it holds in common with other forms of Christianity, and some that it shares with the great non-Christian religions. The attempt, therefore, has been to state the content of Protestantism comprehensively and inclusively in this respect, even if simply, briefly, and without too much elaboration of detail.
If “Manifesto” in the title seems a somewhat pretentious word, I would like to forestall that criticism by saying at once that it is used in a free and loose sense and with no implications of authority. The title was suggested by my ever helpful friend Dr. Nolan B. Harmon, whose advice and assistance at many points have been so valuable that I could not lightly disregard his recommendation in this matter. We are both aware that the dictionary definition of the word suggests that a manifesto is usually issued either by a “person claiming large powers” or as “a statement of policy or opinion, issued by an organization, party, or school.” The book meets none of these specifications. It would be impossible for any person or organization to put forth what would be in this strict sense a Protestant manifesto. On the other hand, while no one can speak officially for the whole of Protestantism, anyone who thinks he knows the facts may speak unofficially. The concurring opinions of several persons whose judgment is widely respected fortify me in the belief that, for substance of doctrine, this is a true statement of the common loyalties, convictions, and attitudes of Protestants. This is all that I mean by “Manifesto.”
Winfred Ernest Garrison
R. SEEBERG.- History of doctrines in the middle and modern ages.
H. WATKINJONES.- The Holy Spirit in the mediaeval church; a study of Christian teaching concerning the Holy Spirit and His place in the Trinity from the post-patristic age to the counter-reformation