By St. Hilarion (Troitsky) the New Hieromartyr
"The truth of the Church was greatly distorted in the West after Rome had fallen away from the Church. In the West, God's kingdom began to be viewed more as an earthly kingdom. Latinism obscured the Christian concept of the Church in the consciousness of its members with its legalistic account of good deeds, its mercenary relationship to God and its falsification of salvation. Latinism gave birth to a legitimate, although very insubordinate, offspring in the form of Protestantism. Protestantism was created from the soil of humanism which was not a religious phenomenon; on the contrary, all its leading ideas are purely earthly, human. It created respect for man in his natural condition. Protestantism, having carried over the basis of humanism into the religious field, was not a protest of genuine ancient Church Christian consciousness against those forms and norms which were created by medieval Papism, as Protestant theologians are often inclined to claim. Far from it; Protestantism was a protest on the very same plane. It did not re-establish ancient Christianity, it only replaced one distortion of Christianity with another, and the new falsehood was much worse than the first. Protestantism became the last word in Papism, and brought it to its logical conclusion. Truth and salvation are bestowed upon love, i.e., the Church - such is Church consciousness.
Latinism, having fallen away from the Church, changed this consciousness and proclaimed: truth is given to the separate person of the Pope, and the Pope manages the salvation of all. Protestantism only objected: Why is truth given to the Pope alone? - and added: truth and salvation are open to each separate individual, independently of the Church. Every individual was thus promoted to the rank of infallible Pope. Protestantism placed a papal tiara on every German professor and, with its countless number of popes, completely destroyed the concept of the Church, substituting faith with the reason of each separate personality. It substituted salvation in the Church with a dreamy confidence in salvation through Christ in egoistic isolation from the Church. In practice, of course, Protestants departed from the very beginning and by roundabout ways, by contraband, so to speak, introduced some of the elements of the dogma about the Church, having recognized some authorities, although only in the area of dogma. Being a religious anarchy, pure Protestantism, like all anarchies, turned out to be completely impossible, and by that, testified before us to the indisputable truth that the human soul is Church-prone by nature. Still, the theoretical side of Protestantism appealed to human self-love and self-will of all varieties, for self-love and self-will received a sort of sanctification and blessing from Protestantism. This fact is revealed today in the endless dividing and factionalism of Protestantism itself. It is Protestantism that openly proclaimed the greatest lie of all: that one can be a Christian while denying the Church.
Nevertheless, by tying its members by some obligatory authorities and church laws, Protestantism entangles itself in a hopeless contradiction: having itself separated the individual from the Church, it nevertheless places limits on that freedom. From this stems the constant mutiny of Protestants against those few and pitiful remnants of Church consciousness which are still preserved by the official representatives of their denominations … It is easy to understand that Protestantism corresponds to the almost completely pagan outlook generally approved in the West. There, where the cult of individualism blossoms luxuriantly, finding prophets in fashionable philosophy and singers in the belles-lettres, Christ's ideal of the Church can, of course have no place; for it negates self-love and self-will in people and demands love from them all … Even independently of Protestantism, however, many now come to the denial of the Church, assimilating, in general, the western European attitude which developed outside the Church and which is completely alien and even hostile to the spirit of the Church … love is forced out by pride and self-love (which is called "noble" - although the holy fathers of the Church speak of self-love and pride only in connection with the devil), when self-denial is substituted by self-assertion and meek obedience is replaced by proud self-will, then a dense fog shrouds the truth of the Church, which is inseparably linked with directly opposite ideals … Thus there is nothing easier than to re-interpret Christ's teaching according to one's personal taste and to invent "Christianity," passing off, under this name, the dreams of one's heart and the images of one's own idle fantasy. The sacred books of the New Testament were written by practical, unscholarly apostles. Throughout the centuries there have been "correctors of the Apostles," as Saint Irenaeus of Lyons calls them, ones who considered themselves higher than the Apostles, those "Galilean fishermen." Does it become a highly educated European of the twentieth century to accept on faith all that is said by some "fishermen"? So many free themselves from the authority of the Apostles and desire to interpret Christ's teaching while being guided only by their personal whims.
Excerpted from "'Christianity' or the Church?"