11 the results of the reformation


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11 the results of the reformation

  1. 1. The Protestant Perspective: Civilization And The Protestant Reformation, by John W. Robbins In the small east German town of Wittenberg, a 34-year-old Augustinian priest walked to Castle Church and nailed 95 theological propositions for debate on the door. The debate Martin Luther began nearly 500 years ago turned the world upside down. Democracy, civil rights and liberties, constitutional government, religious liberty, and the free market all find their roots in the Reformation. Pope Leo X, engaged in an expensive cathedral building program in Rome, had authorized a Dominican monk and church inquisitor named Johann Tetzel to sell indulgences in Germany. Tetzel had a fee schedule for the forgiveness of sins: Witchcraft, 2 ducats, Polygamy6 ducats, Murder, 8 ducats, Sacrilege, 9 ducats, Perjury, 9 ducats. When Luther protested the sale of indulgences, he assumed that he would have the support of the pope. When Luther realized he was on his own, Luther broke away from the Catholic church and the Reformation had begun. The Priesthood of All Believers and Democracy Luther articulated the idea of the priesthood of all believers, and it became the foundation for modern political democracy--the equality of all men before God and the law. Ecclesiastical monarchy and aristocracy were destroyed by the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, and with them went the theological underpinnings for civil monarchy and aristocracy. The Bible Alone and Constitutionalism Luther translated the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into German so the people could read it in their own language and not be subject to an ecclesiastical ruling class. By translating the Bible into the common language, Luther freed the German people from ecclesiastical totalitarianism: The Bible was the written constitution of the church, which the people could now read for themselves. His second major contribution to Western political thought was the idea of a written constitution--the Bible--limiting the power and authority of church (and later political) leaders. There is a direct connection between the Reformation cry of sola scriptura and the American idea of the Constitution--not any man or body of men--as the supreme law of the land. Protestant Faith and Religious Liberty Luther argued that Christians were free of the arbitrary control of either the church or the state. God alone is lord of the conscience. Religious liberty, freedom of conscience, is an idea that Luther derived from the Bible's teaching about faith The Reformation in Law And Economics Democracy, constitutionalism, and religious liberty were not the only social consequences of the Reformation. They were the beginning of a revolution that has implications for all aspects of life even five centuries later. The Protestant concept of the individual became central to the development of the modern law of property and contract...." This, along with Luther's idea that all callings--all labor, not just the labor of monks and nuns-could be done to the glory of God, led to the development of the free market economy. A free society and a free market were the political and economic expressions of the religious ideas of the Reformation. Capitalism was the economic practice of which Christianity was the theory. One of Luther's most brilliant followers, John Calvin, systematized the theology of the Reformation. The seventeenth-century Calvinists laid the foundations for both English and American civil rights and liberties: freedom of speech, press, and religion, the privilege against self-incrimination, the independence of juries, and the right of habeas corpus, the right not to be imprisoned without cause. The German sociologist Max Weber wrote a book in 1908 titled The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in which he argued that capitalism historically emerged in Protestant countries because they inculcated those virtues that led to the development of capitalism: hard work, honesty, frugality, thrift, punctuality. These virtues, coupled with the idea of a calling, provided the impetus ending serfdom and establishing a free political and economic order.
  2. 2. The nobles were enabled to cast off allegiance to the Holy Roman emperor and to enrich themselves by seizing the immense landed estates of the church. Those who were feeling the first and welcome experience of nationalism were anxious to shake off the hand of Rome. Absolutist rulers, particularly in Scandinavia, welcomed the opportunity to end the interference of the church in state affairs; by creating national churches they were able to escape outside influence. Merchants and capitalists found the air of individual freedom exhilarating. The peasants, chafing under the old restrictions of feudalism, lifted up their heads in hope that the new dispensation would take away their burdens. In the realm of science, it is generally granted by modern historians that there never would have been modern science were it not for the Reformation. All scientific investigation and endeavor prior to that had been controlled by the church. Only through sheer ignorance of history do many modern scientists believe that Protestantism opposes true science. The Reformation laid down once and for all the right and obligation of the individual conscience, and the right to follow the dictates of that individual conscience. Many men who talk lightly and glibly about liberty neither know nor realize that they owe their liberty to this event. The theology and values of the Bible, rediscovered by the Protestant Reformers in the 16th century, have been the principal ideas creating what we know as Western civilization. The Catholic Perspective The Reformation destroyed the unity of faith and ecclesiastical organization of the Christian peoples of Europe, cut many millions off from the true Catholic Church, and robbed them of the greatest portion of the salutary means for the cultivation and maintenance of the supernatural life. Incalculable harm was thereby wrought from the religious standpoint. The false fundamental doctrine of justification by faith alone, taught by the Reformers, produced a lamentable shallowness in religious life. Zeal for good works disappeared, the asceticism which the Church had practised from her foundation was despised, charitable and ecclesiastical objects were no longer properly cultivated, supernatural interests fell into the background, and naturalistic aspirations aiming at the purely mundane, became widespread. The denial of the Divinely instituted authority of the Church, both as regards doctrine and ecclesiastical government, opened wide the door to every eccentricity, gave rise to the endless division into sects and the never-ending disputes characteristic of Protestantism, and could not but lead to the complete unbelief which necessarily arises from the Protestant principles. Of real freedom of belief among the Reformers of the sixteenth century there was not a trace; on the contrary, the greatest tyranny in matters of conscience was displayed by the representatives of the Reformation. The most baneful Caesaro-papism was meanwhile fostered, since the Reformation recognized the secular authorities as supreme also in religious matters. Thus arose from the very beginning the various Protestant "national Churches", which are entirely discordant with the Christian universalism of the Catholic Church, and depend, alike for their faith and organization, on the will of the secular ruler. In this way the Reformation was a chief factor in the evolution of royal absolutism. In every land in which it found ingress, the Reformation was the cause of indescribable suffering among the people; it occasioned civil wars which lasted decades with all their horrors and devastations; the people were oppressed and enslaved; countless treasures of art and priceless manuscripts were destroyed; between members of the same land and race the seed of discord was sown. Germany in particular, the original home of the Reformation, was reduced to a state of piteous distress by the Thirty Years' War, and the German Empire was thereby dislodged from the leading position which it had for centuries occupied in Europe. Only gradually, and owing to forces which did not essentially spring from the Reformation, but were conditioned by other historical factors, did the social wounds heal, but the religious corrosion still continues despite the earnest religious sentiments which have at all times characterized many individual followers of the Reformation. In sum, the Reformers built a false freedom from a false premise. Assuming that each person can decide their eternal destiny outside of the Church hierarchy and traditions is disasterous. The individual is not a god in any arena of life. Individuals often create chaos through religious heresy and political anarchy. Individual economic freedom inevitably leads to exploitation of the poor by the rich. By making individuals believe themselves to be gods, the Reformation has destroyed the genuine freedom which comes from obeying God through His Church and the political systems God puts in place. (not from the Catholic Encyclopedia.)