Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Is the Reformation ending?

posted by Rod Dreher

My friend and colleague Charlotte Hays has a Wall Street Journal commentary up today, in which she reflects on Pope Benedict’s recent outreach to disaffected Anglicans. This passage, about Father Eric Bergman, a former Episcopal priest turned Catholic priest, caught my attention:

Father Bergman and his wife, Kristina, have six children. They and more than 60 members of his Episcopal parish came into the Catholic Church in 2005. He is now chaplain of the St. Thomas More Society in Scranton, Pa., which seeks to establish Anglican Use parishes.
Naturally, many liberal Catholics are less than thrilled at the prospect of stodgy former Episcopalians importing traditional opinions along with their non-Catholic thou’s and thy’s. In a Nov. 23, 2009, story “Where Hype Meets Reality,” the liberal National Catholic Reporter pooh-poohed the idea of large numbers of Anglicans coming in under the pope’s new rules.
But Father Bergman not only predicts a mass movement toward Rome. He believes Anglican Use may mark the beginning of the end of the Reformation. There will be “a flourishing of this throughout the world,” he says. “Wherever there are Anglicans, there will be people who want to enter Holy Mother Church.” As he told a rapt audience at St. Mary’s, “If we look at histories, heresies run themselves out after about 500 years. I believe we are seeing the last gasp of the Reformation in the mainline Protestant groups.”

I’d love to hear what my readers think about Father Bergman’s statement. Let’s discuss this calmly and coolly, in a historical mode. What do you think he meant by that? Naturally he is a partisan in this discussion, but he nevertheless raises an interesting question. What would it mean for the Reformation to end, at least among the mainline Protestants? Can the Reformation ever end as long as there are Christian churches outside of Catholicism and Orthodoxy? I ask out of genuine curiosity, and I would very much appreciate answers that are not offered in a spirit of triumphalism or polemical combat, but in one of seeking to understand a historical process.



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CalvinIsMyHomeboy

posted February 26, 2010 at 11:13 am


I don’t think I’ll bowing my head to the Bishop of Rome anytime soon, but I will say that the educational drivers behind the Reformation are definitely fading. Consider that most theologically liberal people would probably turn away from organized faith in this day and age where the lack of church attendance is not even a blip on society’s radar. The congregation that do seem ascendant are either associated with the “Mother” church or Fundamentalist outfits whose reading of the scripture is, shall we say, unlearned…



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lancelot lamar

posted February 26, 2010 at 11:21 am


The Reformation certainly has not come to an end among Southern Baptists and other conservative evangelicals, including the orthodox reformed churches. These are still vigorous and vital churches who are still self-consciously placing themselves in contrast with the Catholics and Orthodox on several key points of doctrine, although they have been more willing lately to engage them in productive dialog. (See the excellent work of the group, “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.”)
The air has gone out of mainline Protestantism, but I don’t think that has anything to do with the Reformation coming to an end. In fact, mainline Protestantism has abandoned the Reformation as much as it has the historic Christian faith generally. The mainline churches are reaching their end because they have adopted a revisionist form of Christianity, at least among their elites and leaders.
Mainliners who want to be serious about historic, catholic and orthodox Christianity will continue to move to either the Evangelical or Catholic and Orthodox churches. That’s what happened with me and with so many others who were formerly of the Protestant mainline.



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Joshua

posted February 26, 2010 at 11:28 am


Rod,
A fascinating question, and one I’ve been debating/discussing with both religious and non-religious friends recently.
The latent difficulty in Protestantism is that it lacks a rationale against further divisions. That is, the foundation principle is secession from a larger church/tradition on account of deep philosophical differences, backed by Scripture (or, if you like, interpretation of Scripture). Once this principle is admitted, there’s nothing to prevent sects from proliferating ad infinitum.
Now, even if we grant that, say, Methodism is the “correct” theological, philosophical, and liturgical interpretation of Christianity, what is to stop persons from leaving and starting anew if they disagree with this or that aspect of the interpretation? Of course, that weakens the entire project to a “pick-and-choose” Christianity, if taken to the logical conclusion. In that vein – and I say this as a Protestant – the appeal of Catholicism and Orthodoxy is very straight-forward: there’s two millennia of coherent and consistent teaching. You may not *like* it, but there it is.
Does this mean necessarily that the Reformation is “ending”? Well, it depends how you mean that. While many Protestants may have great interest in certain aspects of Catholicism or Orthodoxy and a desire to emulate, the nature of the ecclesiastical polity is a big hurdle. To appreciate Thomas Aquinas’s conception of natural law is one thing, to accept papal supremacy is quite another.
Of course, demographics may make this whole question moot. That is to say, if the liberal-to-mainline versions of Protestantism fail to replicate themselves over generations, it won’t matter what the theological differences are, will it?



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Scott

posted February 26, 2010 at 11:29 am


Viewing this from a Reformed Presbyterian angle, it gets a shrug of the shoulders. I do agree that we will see more old line Protestant churches look at rejoining with Rome. This is a result of the losing at least one of the Solas – Sola Scriptura.
Almost all conservative Protestant churches don’t accept Roman Catholic, Anglican, or Orthodox baptism as legitimate so these older groups are already considered “non – Christian” by the bulk of churches outside Rome and Orthodoxy.
I think if things develop as Bergman foresees it will be a very good thing indeed. It will draw the lines more clearly and accurately.



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Frog Leg

posted February 26, 2010 at 11:35 am


His historical comment about heresies with a 500 year lifespan is nonsense.
(1) There is the historical counterexample of the Orthodox/Catholic split. Each one views the other as heretical, to some extent. Te split however has been there for 1000 years (and was latent for centuries prior to that).
(2) The heresy of Gnosticism has always been present with Christianity. It always finds different aspects of the present culture to incorporate. It has no chance of dying anytime soon.
(3) As lancelot says, many other parts of Protestantism are not dying off any time soon.
It is dispiriting to see a member of the clergy following for the myth of progress, Hegelian style thinking.



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Charles Cosimano

posted February 26, 2010 at 11:36 am


Well, in the true, historic sense the Reformation ended around 1600. If people are talking about Protestantism, anyone who thinks that that will end is living in a very strange dream world. I think that there are relatively few Protestants who are inclined to kiss the Pope’s big toe or tolerate ecclesiastical authority of any variety. To the good Protestant, they have God and the Bible and they do not need any human or institutional intermediaries. There is no way around that.



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Ostrea

posted February 26, 2010 at 11:37 am


The Reformation is not dying but old line Protestant churches are dying and should be completely dead within about 50 years.



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Al-Dhariyat

posted February 26, 2010 at 12:02 pm


One would think that as long as Catholicism or Orthodox are the major alternatives to Protestantism, there will be no end to the Reformation, so to speak.
The old-line churches (to this outsider’s view) seem to incorporate too much centralized power and ritual for a “good Protestant”, to use Charles Cosimano’s term, to accept.
(Rod, I occasionally commented on your old ‘blog under this avatar but fell off because I grew weary of politics. Finding myself re-energized lately, for some unknown reason, I’m happy to see you writing in this new format. Cheers!)



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me

posted February 26, 2010 at 12:09 pm


Sorry, but I think this guy is living in lalalalalalfalalalala land. Aside from the fact that many protestant denominations are doing just fine, Rome is not where even those who recognize that we need a firmer grounding in tradition and history look. For many of us, the Roman church gained it’s position over the other schools of Christianity which existed in the first centuries of the church on the back of Roman political machinations and not from any divine will. Even worse, the behavior of the church at various points in its history was so outrageous as to completely sever any claim it may have had (dubious though it always was) on legitimate apostolic succession. Right now, one of the things which actually is gaining some traction in protestant circles is a sort of paleo-orthodoxy. There is a move to reclaim some of the old traditions and practices of the very ancient church, but the Roman church is not in the least the vehicle they are trying to use to do that.



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Molly Roach

posted February 26, 2010 at 12:33 pm


Perhaps what is coming to an end is the inheritance of rancor which grew up around the Reformation and created many misunderstandings about motive, belief, etc.



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Joel W

posted February 26, 2010 at 12:34 pm


It seems to me that this priest should read Jenkins “Next Christendom” or anything else about the Global South. Not only is the Reformation ending in Africa, but there are massive and flourishing sects that most of us in the West have never heard of.
Further, the Catholic Church in America seems to be right behind the Protestant mainlines in terms of being liberal, sappy and weird. It is divided between gay-affirming Jesuits and hardcore conservative Opus Dei types. It is a mish-mash of theology and practice that contains the entire spectrum of liberal Protestant errors, but stays united on paper. In my experience, many of the Anglo-Catholics that Rome is poaching love high liturgy and music, but have problems with Rome on priests marrying, gay issues and abortion. In other words, they are liberals in the first place. It’s not like Cranmer and Ridley are converting, more like Spong and Pike.
Also, on the heresies thing, has he ever heard of Nestorians and Copts who still stand outside the Conciliar decisions and yet are around today?



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Jeremy

posted February 26, 2010 at 12:41 pm


“(1) There is the historical counterexample of the Orthodox/Catholic split. Each one views the other as heretical, to some extent. Te split however has been there for 1000 years (and was latent for centuries prior to that).”
On the contrary, I believe the majority of Catholic and Orthodox do NOT consider each other to be heretical, but rather schismatic. Meaning that those on the other side of the divide have separated themselves from the Church sinful reasons, rather than that the Church has cast them out for heresy. True, there are plenty of crackpots on both sides who go to greater extremes and call each other heretics. But generally Orthodox don’t see Catholicism as a heresy, nor vis versa.



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Midwesterner

posted February 26, 2010 at 12:44 pm


Mainline Protestant denominations will continue to diminish. Coffee shop churches with generic “Have you accepted Christ as personal savior” as their complete doctrine will continue to grow. There is always going to be some person with no sense of history that is going to break from their traditional church and go “where the spirit leads them”. He’s right though. Anglican priests and devout Anglicans, especially if they start looking at early Christian writings and see that a lot of them believed in the primacy of Peter, will become “Roman” Catholics more and more.
Read early Christian writings. It cracks me up how commenters really think that the early Church had Protestant beliefs when they practically never read early Christian writers. Apostolic succession was believed across the board by early writers.
The non-Catholic Bible colleges refusal to look at the first three or four hundred years of Christian history really amazes me. It’s there. You can read them.



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Jonathan Hunt

posted February 26, 2010 at 12:50 pm


_Some_ Anglicans going to Rome means nothing. If all of Koreans presbyterians and pentecostals, all of China’s house churches, the south american pentecostals, and the southern baptist convention* all went to Rome, then perhaps he might have a point.
*A few large christian groupings selected for illustrative purposes only, not to imply that they are all that there is.



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Jon in the Nati, non-Catholic

posted February 26, 2010 at 12:52 pm


“Perhaps what is coming to an end is the inheritance of rancor which grew up around the Reformation and created many misunderstandings about motive, belief, etc.”
I think this could be the case. While there is still quite a bit of anti-Catholic (or anti-Rome, or anti-Papist, or whatever) sentiment in conservative evangelicalism, the anti-Catholic beginnings of the old-line Protestant churches have largely fallen by the wayside. Rarely does one hear even a conservative Lutheran or Methodist speak against Rome with the vitriol that characterized these groups’ attitude for most of their history.
My grandmother, a WELS-Lutheran and the first member of her German-immigrant family to be born in the US, always used to talk about she and her classmates were not allowed to play with the kids from the nearby Catholic school (also largely German), or go to their dances, or socialize with them in any way. Now, in that same little town, the Catholic parish works together with the Episcopal parish and the various Lutheran churches to put on Bible schools for kids, and various other activities. The animosity simply isn’t there anymore.



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Greg

posted February 26, 2010 at 12:54 pm


It can only mean the tribulation is coming. This is a move back to a one world religion.



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TUCK

posted February 26, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Peter

posted February 26, 2010 at 1:07 pm


I guess it depends on what is meant by the “end of the Reformation.” The number of Protestants who are going to swim the Tiber to join the Vatican are going to be very few. Mostly cranky white Anglicans in the U.S. and Europe who didn’t get their way. But the Anglican powerhold in Africa isn’t going to jump ship because Catholicism has nothing to offer them and the Catholicism is in disarray in Africa. The rise of Pentecostalism in Africa and South America also appear to doom the idea that Catholicism is ascendent. And Orthodoxy isn’t growing anywhere except in the former Communist bloc.



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Houghton

posted February 26, 2010 at 1:07 pm


Just sharing my own personal experience here: As someone who was raised Catholic, became an atheist, then an agnostic and Buddhist, then a theist and eventually a Christian, I would personally find it very difficult to come under the aegis of Rome.
There have been too many theological innovations since the Reformation (and you would have thought the Reformation would have chastened the Catholic Church) — the 19th century doctrine of papal infallibility being the foremost example.
Really, the doctrine of papal infallibility could be compared to the dispensationalist errors (think “Left Behind” and the “rapture”) within fundamentalist evangelical circles. Both come about in the 18th/19th century, and both have created deep and unnecessary divisions among Christians.
I would be much more comfortable becoming an Orthodox.



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Rod Dreher

posted February 26, 2010 at 1:58 pm


Peter: The number of Protestants who are going to swim the Tiber to join the Vatican are going to be very few. Mostly cranky white Anglicans in the U.S. and Europe who didn’t get their way.
That’s a rather tendentious remark, Peter — as if their conclusion that TEC had finally broken with a recognizable Christian orthodoxy such that they could no longer be a part of it was merely a case of racist sour grapes. And you perfectly well know that there are far, far more Anglicans in Africa, and that on the key issues fracturing TEC and the Church of England, they are very much with the conservatives.
On the broader point, insofar as the Reformation is primarily an assertion of the individual’s rights over and above institutional authority, it’s clear to me that if the Reformation is ending, it’s because we are nearing a point of the final atomization of Christianity: every man his own Pope. Where else could it possibly go, once reform has reached the state where each individual asserts the right to interpret Scripture as he wishes, bound by nothing other than what seems right to him? The Reformation is only the expression of modernity within the Christian Church. I see it as having reached a dead end, at least logically.
Yet, these Pentecostal churches are booming in the Third World. This cannot be denied. Even though they share with other modernist Protestants a belief that they have the right to interpret Scripture as they see fit, they are hewing to a more conservative and charistmatic (versus rationalistic) interpretation — and there’s a lot of power in that. I don’t see how mainline Protestantism survives this century. It wouldn’t make me happy or sad to see it go, understand; it’s just that I don’t know the rationale for it hanging on.



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Peter

posted February 26, 2010 at 2:11 pm


And you perfectly well know that there are far, far more Anglicans in Africa, and that on the key issues fracturing TEC and the Church of England, they are very much with the conservatives.
Yet they aren’t going to become Catholics. My only point was that the people who are going to switch from Anglican to Catholic are tiny pockets of Anglicans in the U.S. and Europe who lost the battle with Canterbury but don’t care enough to side with Akinola and the other African Anglicans.
I don’t see how mainline Protestantism survives this century. It wouldn’t make me happy or sad to see it go, understand; it’s just that I don’t know the rationale for it hanging on.
There’s always going to be a demand and interest in a Christianity that isn’t controlled by the Vatican or the Patriarch in Moscow or by a store-front Pentecostal without a theology degree. Whether it will be as significant as it was in the 19th and 20th Century is a fair question, but it is going to survive if for no other reason that Catholicism and Orthodoxy and Pentecostalism don’t offer a lot to many believers.
Reformation as modernity flourishes in what we see in the emergent churches in the West, in non-denomenational churches, even in the redefinition of orthodoxy in Judaism. How that will play out in the Global South will be interesting.



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Lord Karth

posted February 26, 2010 at 2:31 pm


I suspect that His Holiness’ efforts are being made more as a defensive action to find allies against the secular powers—including the post-Western welfare-States—that threaten the Church than with a mind towards ending any Reformation.
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Dharmashaiva

posted February 26, 2010 at 3:13 pm


Is the Reformation ending?
It has yet to begin!



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lord bill

posted February 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm


I hope Anglicanism doesn’t disappear.
With that said: for all the talk about the ascendancy of Pentecostalism (traditional or neo), no one seems to be paying attention to the back door of that movement. A lot of folks are leaving (especially in Brazil and other latin countries). The drop out rate of 2nd and 3rd generation pentecostals is high — 42%.
That doesn’t mean that it’s going to disappear, but there’s no great ascendency either, in their trajectory or in the polls. It seems to converge a lot and dip, depending upon the generation.
Finally, the Reformation will ALWAYS be around because the Catholic church and other Western churches have digested it, dig it in whole or in part, for better or worse.



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Richard

posted February 26, 2010 at 3:18 pm


“The Reformation is only the expression of modernity within the Christian Church. I see it as having reached a dead end, at least logically.”
Luther a modern?! In 1527 Germany?! I believe I understand your point, but that statement may be how the Proetstant movement has evolved, I don’t think you can make a case that it’s what Luther et.al. had in mind in the 16th century.
Could you explain how it’s logically reached an end?
I agree with others that I think the good Father is quite right when it comes to mailine Protestantism. But I often think the same thing about Catholicism – how many “Catholics” can we name without even thinking about it who reject many of the church’s core teachings? What does being Catholic really mean anymore?
This is not tit-for-tat, I genuinely wonder what will become of many churches.



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lord bill

posted February 26, 2010 at 3:24 pm


I hope Anglicanism doesn’t disappear.
With that said: for all the talk about the ascendency of Pentecostalism, traditional or neo, no one seems to be paying attention to the back door of that movement. A lot of folks leave (especially in Brazil and other latin countries). The drop out rate among 2nd and 3rd generation Pentecostals is high — 42%. That doesn’t men it is going to disappear, but there no great on going ascendency either. It seems to converge and dip on their trajectory (and in the polls).
Finally, the Reformation is here to stay and is alive as ever. It will always be around because the Catholic church (1.1 billion self-identified members) had digested it, whole or in part, for better or worse.



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Jenny Green

posted February 26, 2010 at 3:37 pm


Well, this letter appeared in one of our papers up here:
For decades, the Anglican Church has welcomed Roman Catholics who feel called to be faithful to a tradition that dates back to St. Peter but who wish to do so in a church that has democratically elected bishops, male and female clergy, married clergy, provision for remarriage after divorce, and the courage to be affected by the dynamic interplay of scripture, tradition and reason. We haven’t made a public announcement for fear of offending our sisters and brothers in the Roman Church.
Very Rev. Shane Parker, dean, Anglican Diocese of Ottawa



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FormerCalvinist

posted February 26, 2010 at 3:50 pm


Evangelicalism is changing rapidly. There’s no doubt about. How? Creeds are no longer in the mix. Where I live there are a TON of independent churches starting. But they are built around worship and practical teaching. Their statements of faith never reference the historical creeds. I think this comes down to Rod’s point that the logical conclusion of the Reformation is every man submits to the Bible on his conditions. Catholics and Orthodox submit to the Bible on their Church’s conditions. Big difference.
Per the ending of the book of Judges, evangelicals live by the creed “each man did what was right in his eyes”.
But as mainline Protestant churches die out and evangelicals begin to question themselves, I don’t see them coming into the Catholic or Orthodox churches.



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Rod Dreher

posted February 26, 2010 at 4:14 pm


Richard: Luther a modern?! In 1527 Germany?! I believe I understand your point, but that statement may be how the Proetstant movement has evolved, I don’t think you can make a case that it’s what Luther et.al. had in mind in the 16th century.
Yes, absolutely — but by “modern,” I don’t mean “contemporary.” I’m talking about “modern” in the historical sense. Modernity as a discrete historical era began with the end of the Middle Ages, which is to say, with the Renaissance and the Reformation. Modernity is all about the Individual, for better and for worse, and that has meant, over time, emancipating the individual from all traditional authority. Daniel Bell has written that the fundamental condition of modernity is a rejection of the idea that there is a basic telos, or goal, to human existence, outside of the meaning that individuals choose to project onto their existence. Which brings us to…
Could you explain how it’s logically reached an end?
Yes. Once we have reached the point when Christians believe there is no binding religious authority outside of their own desires, what is left to reform? How would you even make a case for reformation if you cannot get people to accept your authority?
Whoever it was above pointing out that Catholicism, at least in the West, offers only a facade of unity over an essentially Protestant core, is really onto something. Orthodoxy is too tiny in the West to make much of an impact, and I would not be surprised to discover that cradle Orthodox are as Protestantized in their relationship to doctrines, dogmas and disciplines of the Church as are American and European Catholics. It’s a mess.



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Lord Karth

posted February 26, 2010 at 4:15 pm


Jenny Green, @ 3:37 PM writes:
“For decades, the Anglican Church has welcomed Roman Catholics who feel called to be faithful to a tradition that dates back to St. Peter but who wish to do so in a church that has democratically elected bishops, male and female clergy, married clergy, provision for remarriage after divorce, and the courage to be affected by the dynamic interplay of scripture, tradition and reason. We haven’t made a public announcement for fear of offending our sisters and brothers in the Roman Church.”
With all due respect, that sounds (in many aspects), as if the Very Reverend Shane Parker is preaching that ” ‘Do As Thou Wilt’ is the whole of the Law”….
Your servant,
Lord Karth



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Charles Curtis

posted February 26, 2010 at 4:28 pm


I think there is a lot of miscomprehension out there, still, even now, amongst American Protestants about the Apostolic (Catholic/Orthodox) Churches. But I’ve noticed a shift lately, these last few years. It used to be, back in the day, when I would debate evangelicals that they would be full of distorted ideas about Catholicism. Now, thanks to the internet, television and things like the new Catechism, they are much better informed, and when many used to be outright dismissive, I’m noticing more and more grudging respect.
One thing: FormerCalvinist like many people misses an important thing. Catholics and Orthodox don’t submit to the Bible. The Bible is a product of the Church. The authority rests in the Church, not in scripture. That’s to say that scripture derives its authority from the Church, which wrote and collated and approved the canon, and not vice versa. If the Bible where to be lost to history, the Church would still persist in the Holy Spirit (as Christ promises) with full authority to witness to and preach the Incarnation.
In other words, the Bible is a Catholic book, a part of the Tradition, and sola sciptura is a heresy.
Modern nominalism and positivism flow from the fetishization of scripture. Higher criticism is a sort of fundamentalism.
Christianity is a sacramental faith, the Word is a person. Not a Book.
We all need to stop aping the Muslims, already.



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Quiddity

posted February 26, 2010 at 4:36 pm


No way is the Reformation ending. The cat is out of the bag, and not going back, thanks to the printing press – which was a HUGE driver of the Reformation.
There will be some consolidation and “mopping up” of groups that aren’t too far from Catholicism, but if anything, the Reformation has matured and developed a robust theology over the centuries.
So, no end to the Reformation, but there certainly will be fascinating developments with the Roman Church and other mainline groups. Actually, I’d expect a renewed interest in theology as attempts are made to merge divergent views. It could be educational for everyone.



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Mark in Houston

posted February 26, 2010 at 5:17 pm


As long as mainline Protestant churches operate good private schools that people will do just about anything (including changing their church and denomination membership) to get their kids into, there will be mainline Protestantism.



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Hector

posted February 26, 2010 at 5:32 pm


I remember a few years ago trying to figure out what church to join. I was ready to accept that Christianity was true, but was trying to make up my mind about where to go from there, and what narrative made the most sense to me. One of the things that kept me away from the Anglican communion was the fact that it was losing members, fast. I remember talking to a friend of mine who was just about to become a (theologically liberal) pastor in the United Church of Christ. I asked him something like, “Why do you want to become a pastor in a church that’s in a demographic spiral? Why get on a sinking ship?”
His answer was, in a word, withering.
“Because I believe it’s the truth.”
Indeed.
That’s the only legitimate reason to become Catholic. Or Orthodox. Or Anglican. Or Disciples of Christ. Or Evangelical. Or, hell, Mormon. Or to found your own school of thought. Anything less is a betrayal of the conscience that God gave us.
I’m an Anglican today, deeply unhappy about the state of the Episcopal church in America, but also deeply committed to what I believe is the interplay of scripture, tradition, and reason, and to the principles of the Oxford movement, and to what led King Charles the Martyr to lose his head under Cromwell’s axe. We should never, ever, ever join a church because it seems like the Coming Thing, or because it seems to be growing, or because it seems to be popular. That would have led us to become Arians in the fourth century, or Monothelites in the seventh, or probably atheists or Mormons today. Whatever faith you profess, do it because you believe it with all your heart, and with all your soul. Anything less is a terrible reason to be religious.
My two cents.



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Cecelia

posted February 26, 2010 at 5:34 pm


this is a very interesting topic – I suspect Father was being a bit over enthused unless his reference is to the English Reformation which is always considered seperate from the larger reformation in Europe. Part of what is intriguing about the idea of the reformation ending is all that accompanied the reformation – capitalism, the centralized modern nation state, the rejection of authority and the emphasis on the individual with the consequence of weakening the notion of community etc. Since modern society still is characterized by all of those features I doubt one can say the reformation is done although there sure are signs that some if not all of those features are being questioned.
Re: apostolic succession – it is not a function of behaving well so behaving poorly doesn’t invalidate it. At any rate – there are few Christian denominations that do not have some pretty unpleasant things in their history – if we used that standard then the apostles would have no successors.
Re: Catholics of the roman sort and the orthodox there seems to be a pretty clear understanding that the issue with the orthodox and RC’s is schism not heresy. After all most Catholics do see the Pope hanging out with the various Patriarches. I think you’d have a hard time finding a lay Catholic who really cares about the Anglican Ordinate – it excites the chattering class but most Catholics won’t even notice any difference. I do find the whole liberal versus conservative thing on virtually every topic to be divisive and promoting of inaccurate info. The comfort or discomfort with the possibility of Anglicans coming to the RC Church is not strictly confined to liberals or conservatives – some conservatives have qualms about it too while some liberals are positive about it. There are few commentators either liberal or conservative who are expecting large numbers of Anglicans to jump ship. It would seem the whole thing was a response to requests for communion from specific Anglicans. We have had Anglican Use in the US for a long time now and it did not result in large numbers only 8 – 12 parishes I think- why would this be any different?
Papal supremacy is no longer a non negotiable issue. Pope Benedict has made a number of statements and there has been a lot of discussion in the various journals etc about reconsidering the meaning of Papal supremacy and returning to an earlier historic understanding of what that means. From what I have read this is primarily directed towards the orthodox and has caused a lot of discussion and some hope for reunion.
Houghton – yeah clearly not chastened. But most historians think what saved the RC Church from becoming nothing more than a historic oddity was the refusal to be chastened (see Council of Trent). Also – what we know as the Papacy now is very much a function of that Council and not just a failure to be chastened but a determination to go even further into those things the Protestants were reforming. The Papacy ended up being stregthened by the Reformation – hence the notion of returning now to a more historic understanding of the role of the Pontiff.
I do agree with Lord Karth – Pope Benedict does appear to be creating alliances with an eye towards threats to Christian belief in general. I also think that resentments may have become less but they still exist – they are apparent even in this thread. I think the Moravians have it right – In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, love.



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Rod Dreher

posted February 26, 2010 at 5:53 pm


Mark: As long as mainline Protestant churches operate good private schools that people will do just about anything (including changing their church and denomination membership) to get their kids into, there will be mainline Protestantism.
Ouch. True.
John E., you are confused. To believe in religious liberty, as I do, does not entail believing all religious beliefs are equally true. The latter was my point. To say that people have a right to be wrong, as I affirm, does not require one to believe that nobody can ever be wrong.



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Jon

posted February 26, 2010 at 6:32 pm


Re: Part of what is intriguing about the idea of the reformation ending is all that accompanied the reformation – capitalism, the centralized modern nation state, the rejection of authority and the emphasis on the individual with the consequence of weakening the notion of community etc.
The first two in your list were already well in progress when the Reformation began. Captalism and the nation state may have enabled the Reformation, but they were not products of it.
Re: I would not be surprised to discover that cradle Orthodox are as Protestantized in their relationship to doctrines, dogmas and disciplines of the Church as are American and European Catholics.
Lay people (in all churches) have always been a bit lax, and often quite a bit ignorant, about doctrine, dogma and discipline. If you could take a time trip to the Middle Ages and ask a Russian or English peasant questions about church doctrine you’d be astonished at how totally wrong some of the answers would be. Likewise you’d find the nobles and the burgers picking and choosing what disciplines they would follow, save for a deternmined and pious few. In other words, Plus ça change, Plus la même chose. The Orthodox Church at least has always recognized that One Size Fits All nitpicking is usually bad for the Faithful, and thus extends economia on a wide range of matters, from divorce to the fasts. So I think Orthodoxy may be better equipped to handle some waywardness and foolishness in the laity.
Re: Yet, these Pentecostal churches are booming in the Third World. This cannot be denied. Even though they share with other modernist Protestants a belief that they have the right to interpret Scripture as they see fit, they are hewing to a more conservative and charistmatic (versus rationalistic) interpretation
Often enough they veer into outright heresy (hardly a boon for traditionalism!), as when they deny the Trinity. Yes, not all of them go there, but there’s enough unsound (even by Protestant standards) doctrine in the Pentacostal churches to make me wary of them all.



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Your Name

posted February 26, 2010 at 7:12 pm


The problem with most of those commenting on non-denominational churches (whether evangelical or charismatic) is they completely misunderstand what those churches are like, either through ignorance or snobbery. They also completely misunderstand the nature of the members. Most are tired of the intellectual pomposity that permeates many churches. They see Christianity not as assent to denominational confessions but as a relationship to a Savior Who is the quintessence of love, compassion and empathy — qualities they probably have not received in their former churches. Such people — including myself — have long since disregarded denominational labels. Indeed, they find such labels not only irrelevant but, to a certain extent, idolatrous.
BTW, I would like those who claim that Bible colleges disregard the first 400 years of church history to provide specific examples.
Regarding whether the Reformation is over: To the extent that it has resulted in Protestant churches that are equally as ossified as the Catholic and Orthodox churches (“orthodox” Calvinists and liberal Episcopalians, take note), then yes.



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted February 26, 2010 at 7:18 pm


I am the author of the 7:12 p.m.comment.



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MH

posted February 26, 2010 at 7:27 pm


I don’t have a dog in this fight, so I don’t care if the reformation is ending or not.
But what’s odd is I see Rod replying to John E, but no original post from John E.



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Anonymous

posted February 26, 2010 at 8:58 pm


The Reformation cannot come to an end until the return of the Catholic Church to Holy Orthodoxy because the Pope himself was the first Protestant, and the Reformation merely the fruits of the Schism. In his desire to rule over the whole Church, the Pope desired to interpret Sacred Scripture and Tradition himself, outside the framework of the Ecumenical Councils and the Church as a whole. The natural outgrowth of this was to cause every individual to want to interpret the Bible for themselves, which is against all Tradition in the Orthodox Church.
Let us all hope and pray for the restoration of Communion between the Roman and Orthodox Churches.



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Your Name

posted February 26, 2010 at 9:38 pm


“Let us hope and pray for the restoration of Communion between the Roman and Orthodox churches.”
It might be a long time coming! Pope Benedict recently discarded the title, Patriarch of the West,” with which the Orthodox feel comfortable when addressing him. Benedict, however,let it be known that he (like his predecessors) prefers “Vicar of Christ.”
And though the Orthodox regard him as “first among equals” (of the five ancient Patriarchal Sees of the first millennial churches), he is only first “in honor,” not jurisdiction.
Whether that can change remains to be seen. If they do unite, however, then 65% of global Christianity will be in communion with five Patriarchs (and each other).



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lord bill

posted February 26, 2010 at 10:22 pm


Sorry, I’m the author of the 8:39 comment.



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Jeff

posted February 26, 2010 at 11:43 pm


Interestingly, we Methodists have adopted some of the RC liturgy of late. It’s in preparation for joint communion with the Episcopalians, but our services have a distinctly more Catholic “feel.”



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Cecelia

posted February 27, 2010 at 12:22 am


Jon – there are some who would argue that assertion with you – there are capitalists like things going on even in the 1200’s but a case can be made that the emergence of capitalism as the dominant form of economic activity occurs along with the emergence of the centralized nation state and protestantism – that all three are necessary for each other. Example – pre reformation England is most assuredly not capitalist nor is it a centalized nation state – English kings can barely hold the throne. Enclosure – a sure sign of capitalism in England – begins with Henry XIII. There is capitalist activity in Venice for certain – but it still relies on Jewish bankers. Throw in as this stew bubbles along – that land no longer is the generator of wealth so we now have a new wealthy – and protestant – class.
I think Weber overstates his case in saying protestantism is necessary for capitalism – but clearly all of these “modern” developments are occurring in the same time frame and have a relationship to each other. Certainly attitudes about poverty radically change after the reformation and are largely the same now.



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Matthew

posted February 27, 2010 at 12:47 am


Interesting topic, Rod.
I think one needs to be careful of the use of labels in this context. I think Luther, Calvin, and others appealed to their peers because of socio-religious shifts in the Europe during their time whose time had come and was seized. Similarly, there are socio-religious shifts happen today, though the motivations are different. New Christian movements, specifically, “coffee shop Christianity” (as mentioned by another poster) and perhaps, in a larger context, televangelism, play off post-modern culture, especially here in America, where we are used to comfort, friendly discussion, and 30 second sound bites. I wouldn’t necessarily use the term “mainline” or “evangelical” to describe them, and I definitely would never use the term “Protestant”. The time for those terms has long past, but like gnosticism, there will always be a (declining) remnant.
Modern evangelicals, and protestants in general are woefully ignorant of their church’s history. It is no surprise to me to see many converting to Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, the latter especially because of magisterial teachings moral issues. However, if these evangelicals and protestants would read up on on the founders of their movements, they would soon discover that the teachings on moral, ethical, and cultural issues was, in most cases, of higher value and of greater rigidity than either the Eastern Orthodox Church or Roman Catholic Church places on them today. It is a huge mistake for one to reduce the reformers teachings to one of doctrine alone, but one that is oft repeated. In the past 20 years or so, there have been movements springing up (the so-called “Federal Church” movement, for example), specifically within reformed circles, to return to the original sources and live out an authentic Christianity as penned by the protestant reformers (in the Federal Church movement, one can consider the Doug Wilson’s church in Moscow, ID as a model for what this might look like). If many protestants and evangelicals would take the time to read the writings of their founders, I suspect many would be horrified and disavow them completely.
In the sociology of religion, it would be technically accurate to say that the reformation ended four-hundred years ago, and has been dying ever since as the Christian community continues to adapt its message to fit the needs and personality of the culture it finds itself in. One should not expect to see Luther pushing Christians of his time to pull their children out of state run schools any more than we should expect Chuck Swindoll bashing the current papacy. Both would be unfounded.
Finally, many a convert has entered the doors of a Catholic or Orthodox church only to leave after a spell. For starters, is difficult to live in a deeply cultural church that has no relation to current culture. But perhaps more frustrating for the convert is that the things they read on paper that attracted them in the first place are no where to be found in their neighborhood parish. Christianity, ultimately, is a story that is not meant to be told in the past tense, but lived in the present.
-Matthew



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Jon

posted February 27, 2010 at 2:19 am


Re: there are capitalists like things going on even in the 1200’s but a case can be made that the emergence of capitalism as the dominant form of economic activity occurs along with the emergence of the centralized nation state and protestantism
I disagree firmly there. Capitalism got its main kick in the 15th century– Renaissance merchant princes and all that. Modern banking emerged first in Italy, with the Church either turning a blind eye, or smiling on it (the Church shared the fruits after all; hence the corrupt Renaissance papacy).
The underlying source of capitalism’s growth spurt: the Black Death. It freed up a lot of capital since about 1/3 of the population died, but their capital goods (other than livestock) came through the disaster intact. And the horrible pogroms against the Jews drove many of that people out of Western Europe altogether, toward refuge in Islam, Poland or the Eastern Orthodox lands, so that banking, formerly the province of the Jews, fell into Christian hands. (Yes, this is the Cliff Notes version of history; the Devil In The Details is hissing at me).
It really wasn’t until the 1600s that Protestant Europe (mainly England and the Netherlands) began to make a name for itself in finance and commerce, and the general shift of trade from the Mediterranean to the North Atlantic had a lot to do with that.



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John Spragge

posted February 27, 2010 at 3:19 am


It seems to me that Fr. Bergman’s arguments incorporate at least two magical beliefs: first, that the passage of a fixed if approximate period of time will inevitably incline minds in a particular direction, and second, that popularity determines truth. I don’t believe the first, and Jesus disavowed the second pretty clearly. I enthusiastically second Hector (and through him C. S. Lewis) in his call to base belief only on our discernment of the truth, not of the popular, or enduring, or (apparently) demographically prosperous.



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Richard

posted February 27, 2010 at 7:35 am


Thanks for clarifying, Rod, although I’m not sure I agree that the goal of modernity is to liberate man from ALL traditional authorities. But point taken.
Charles Curtis wrote: “Catholics and Orthodox don’t submit to the Bible.” I can’t speak for the Orthodox, but of course Catholics do. The Bible is the Word of God in print just as Christ is the Word of God in flesh. The Bible does, in fact, give authority to the church, not the other way around.
It seems to me that the greatest chance for reconciliation among separated Christian brothers and sisters – is to get back to our common Biblical roots. Its is, after all, the basis for our beliefs. Once again, might I suggest listening to the great Peter Kreeft on the subject: http://www.peterkreeft.com/audio/03_ecumenism.htm
Unlike so many culture warriors, Kreeft sees the problems with the Protestant churches while at the same time understands hw Catholics have – in many instances – forsaken a relationship with Christ for smells and bells. He’s possibly the one person who could convince me that that the Catholic Church is indeed the One True Church.



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Hank

posted February 27, 2010 at 8:06 am


I think one thing that HAS run its course is the term “mainline Protestants” which usually refers to older, “high-church” Protestants. Do the math. They aren’t and have not been the “mainline” of Christianity in the US for a long time, nor do trends show anything but further marginalization.



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michael

posted February 27, 2010 at 10:11 am


I’m surprised that more has not been made of the psychological aspects of this. Consider the benefits of atomization…The warm feeling you get when your 30-person church (with its own pastor/pope) is ‘an outpost for the gospel’, or when your 50,000-person denomination is ‘the restoration of the true Reformation’, not like those other errorists. Do you really think the thousands of Protestant splinters can even unite with each other, much less Rome?
For example I find myself a member of a ‘conservative reformed’ church. In our little grouping, we have separate denominations called the PCA, OPC, URC, RPCNA, PRC, ARP, BPC, and more… which cannot possibly unite because of the precious truth and polity [to say nothing of fiefdoms] each uniquely hold. They can’t even unite with each other… so with other Protestants? Rome? Inconceivable. (Sorry if this sounds cynical but it has been my experience).



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Hector

posted February 27, 2010 at 11:09 am


Re: The time for those terms has long past, but like gnosticism, there will always be a (declining) remnant.
I think this is an important point. I think that heresies (from the Catholic/Orthodox point of view, bearing in mind that by their standards I’m also a heretic many times over) don’t go away- the really successful ones are successful because people find them compelling, and because they speak to some basic human intuitions, and even if they’re quashed they have a tendency to keep cropping up down the ages. The Albigensians revived a lot of the ideas of the Bogomils, who in turn revived ideas from the Manichaeans. The Socinians revived ideas from the fourth century Arians. Various medieval and modern movements revived the charismatic, anticlerical ideas of Montanism. the Seventh Day Adventists revived the ideas of the first century Judaizers. The twentieth century denial of hell borrows from people like Origen and Gregory. Whether or not you think there was anything to these heterodoxies, or whether you think the orthodox view was 100% correct, they certainly have a capacity to keep springing up at intervals throughout history, and to experience ‘revivals’. Which suggests, to me, that the dream of a single united church will always remain a dream. The church has never, really, been united; not in the first century, not in the thirteenth, and not in the twenty-first.



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Jon

posted February 27, 2010 at 11:19 am


Re: Example – pre reformation England is most assuredly not capitalist nor is it a centalized nation state – English kings can barely hold the throne.
Actually England was one of the most unified states in Europe during the Middle Ages. The Norman-Plantagenet dynasty had very little trouble holding its throne from William the Conqueror down through Edward III. Only the dynastic strife between the Conqueror’s grandchldren, Stephen and Maude, saw a seriously disunited nation. The real trouble started after Edward III, but it was purely the result of historical accident. Edward III lived long and had many surviving children; he outlived his oldeest son and as a result the throne passed to a child of ten, and at the worst possible time as England, like all Europe was in turmoil in the aftermath of Black Death (see: Wat Tyler). Richard II proved arrogant and incompetent and was dethroned by his cousin Henry of Lancaster; Henry’s son Henry V conquered most of France, deposed the French king, married his daughter anmd crowned himself King of France as well– then promptly died of dysentery leaving the crown of two nations to an infant. Following the usual greedy and quarrelsome regency it developed that this Henry VI was mentally deficient, leading to the loss of France (see: Joan of Arc) and the War of the Roses as the kindred House of York sought the throne in turn. All of it finally brought to an end, and England soundly reunited, by Henry Tudor, well before the Reformation. Religion played no role in any of this, and the kingdom that Henry passed on to his son, Henry VIII, was prosperous, peaceful and united. Yes, the Tudors further centralized the state, steered it through the white water rapids of the Reformation and made England a great power– but all those were trends long in place. Had England remained Catholic (as, say, France did) it would still have entered into the modern era as one of the premier powers of Europe. Protestantism was not essential to the centralized state. Catholic Spain, Portugal and France achieved that state, along with Protestant England, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and eventually Orthodox Russia.



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Your Name

posted February 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm


“…many a convert has entered the doors of a Catholic or Orthodox church only to leave after a spell. For starters, it is difficult to live in a deeply cultural church that has no relation to current culture.”
Matthew, What ever to you mean by “current culture”?
Possibly a black convert to Catholicism might find it difficult (unless from Louisiana, where there is a large black Catholic population) to joina Catholic or Orthodox parish in the east. Black Protestant forms of worship are so different, so spontaneous, less liturgical. However, my experience with Catholic parishes in general is that they encompass everyone, lately, all cultures: Euro-Americans, Latinos, black, Asians, etc. I am perplexed by what you mean by “current culture.” Possibly you mean exclusively Anglo-American culture? But even Episcopal churches, though very small, are increasingly multi-cultural as are formerly all white Evangelical southern churches.
Possibly you might mean sub-culture, something found in university associated parishes that are into the arts, lecture circuits, concerts, etc. But that is definately sub-culture to the norm in all churches.



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public_defender

posted February 27, 2010 at 3:16 pm


There is a limit to the number of Americans who see Gene Robinson a greater threat to traditional morality than thugs like Akinola. Much of the emotion (and therefore power) of the split from the Episcopal Church has been driven by two issues–the role of women and the role of gay people.
Mr. Dreher, you have conceded that the US is becoming increasingly tolerant of gay people. Do you really think that in 20 years, more Americans will agree with the Akinola wing of Anglicanism (that gay people should be imprisoned merely for saying that they are gay) than with Gene Robinson (who wants to encourage gay people to enter monogamous relationships)?
One other major problem from hierarchical “orthodox” faiths is democracy. As you’ve pointed out, a lot of the growth in conservative religions is in countries with no democratic tradition (or a weak one.) Democracy teaches people to be skeptical of claims authority. Democracy teaches that power must be checked. Democracy teaches that legitimate power goes from bottom up. That’s a challenging environment for many conservative religious institutions.



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jamesonofthunder

posted February 27, 2010 at 3:59 pm


Since Anglicism is by extension a part of the Church of England and the Church of England sees itself as an extension of the Church of Rome (though reformed so they say) it is no large leap to see them become intertwined. The real “end” of the reformation is to see the ecumenical movement between the Roman Catholic Church and churches like Lutherans, Presbyterians and evangelicals. Wasn’t Martin Luther the first in the reformation to exclaim that the Papacy is the Beast of Revelation 13 & 17? Being the first in the reformation to conclude this with his ’99 thesis’ I was shocked to find out there has been a movement to reunite with the Papacy. These protestant churches looking to give the beast their power are the ten horns on the beast giving it’s power to the beast. But there will ALWAYS be a remnant until the end!!!



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Your Name

posted February 27, 2010 at 4:38 pm


“There is a limit to the number of Americans who see Gene Robinson a greater threat….”
Public Defender, I don’t think most Americans really care about Gene Robinson’s marriage to another gay man. It is a concern for the Episcopal Church; but that church is less than 1% of the United States, of the whole American population.
The gay marriage thing, however, is a concern in many states; but even among members of the “hierarchical ‘Orthodox’ faiths,” it is not their biggest concern by a long shot. For example, I doubt you will find most Catholics laypeople (24% of the US) who fall under the “hierarchical faith” category nearly as upset over gay marriage as members of a non-hierarchical faith community like the Southern Baptist Convention.
My point: I think the issue goes deeper than your two categories(democracy and/vs. hierarchical orthodox faith churches) suggest.
Finally, Pope Benedict has said over and over again that the Catholic church thrives in a pluralistic, democratic society best. Though he is head or occupies the chair of a very hierarchical orthodox faith community, he “apes,” as it were, democracy and pluralism.



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lord bill

posted February 27, 2010 at 4:39 pm


Sorry I forgot again to attach my name to 4:38 post.



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Richard

posted February 27, 2010 at 5:30 pm


Lord Bill & Public Defender make some pretty good points, I think. There is no doubt the Reformation was/is a movement against authority – I would argue tyrannical authority, especially at its start. And there is no doubt that democracy-type movements can lead to atomistic movements as an every-man-for-himself spirit can take over.
There is no doubt that Catholics will end up declining just as mainline Protestant denominations have if people continue to call themselves Catholic while rejecting the authority of the Church and its teaching.



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Cecelia

posted February 27, 2010 at 6:41 pm


Jon – thanks for the history lesson but you and I are talking apples and oranges – I am not talking about stability but centralization of power – the Tudors are the great centralizers of English history – consider the events in the North and Eliabeth’s establishment of the Council of the North.
I also am not asserting protestantism causes centralization – but that the same dynamic involved in the establishment of capitalism as a dominant economic system, the emergence of centralized nation states and protestantism are relatd to one another (along with other events such as shifts in the origins of wealth and the demise of the landed nobility).



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lord bill

posted February 27, 2010 at 9:16 pm


“…that Catholics will end up declining just as mainline Protestant denominations….”
Richard, It is hard to say what is happening. The churches that accomadate too little (to “popular culture”) and those that accomadate too much still have people leaving. The mainline churches accommodated too much, the Catholic and evangelical churches too little, more or less. One thinks of Ronald Knox’s observation in regard to the mainline churches: “Dogmas may fly out the window but congregations do not come in at the door.”
But what about all those lapsed and former Catholics who don’t think the Catholic church has accommodated fast enough. A lot have left. According to the Pew 2003 Research surveys, 34% of the American population should identify themselves as Catholic, not 24% of the population.
There is also a lot of cross-fertilization occuring: according to the same Pew survey, 10% of those Protestants polled said they were former Catholics and 8% of the Catholics polled said they were former Protestants.
Finally, it is hard to say that the evangelical churches are benefiting from these shifts. Protestant/evangelical Christianty is almost under 52% according to the survey, the lowest it has ever been in the history of the country. It seems the only category benefiting these shifts is the “unaffiliated category,” whose “membership” keeps going up and is not more than 15%. It was 6% 20 or less yrs ago.
Now you figure it!



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted February 27, 2010 at 9:20 pm


Why sir, I am a true blue Protestant, and I thank God for it. Father Bergman is really full of himself, if he thinks that the Anglican tradition is the font of the Reformation. I admit, a good deal of the Protestant presence in the world took shelter for a time under the British navy, or it might have been limited to a few north German and Scandinavian principalities. However, may I remind the good father of John Wycliffe, who preceded Henry VIII by over a century, and had the good fortune to be burned for heresy only after he was dead and buried? His immortal insight, that man has no earthly spiritual overlord but Jesus, that we must each read the Bible for ourselves, is the true foundation of my faith, not some horny King of England’s desire to divorce the wives he couldn’t behead.
As the Wittenburg Door pointed out, in reviewing the anniversary of Henry Newman’s conversion from the Anglican to the Roman church, “Yeah, like that’s a big difference.” The real Reformation in the English-speaking world was spear-headed by the Dissenters, not the Church of the King of England. As to the silly preoccupation with “heresy,” the Greek word Paul used had connotations of party and faction. By this token, orthodoxy (small o) is merely the heresy in power. There is nothing more conducive to party and faction then a centralized hierarchy of power. The very notion that bishops should rule is heresy — early Christians were a fellowship of believers, each congregation equal to all the others.
In short, no, Father Bergman’s personal choice to take his married self under the self-serving cover of a compliant Rome, does not mark the end of anything much. It marks his personal choice, in which he may be joined by a statistically insignificant few thousands of like-minded sheep. It is his right to the free exercise of his own faith, for which we may all thank the Reformation.



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lord bill

posted February 27, 2010 at 9:20 pm


That the last few words of the near last sentence should read: …keeps going up and is now more than 15%.
That’s all!



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Matthew

posted February 27, 2010 at 9:45 pm


Your Name,
You asked, “Matthew, What ever to you mean by “current culture”?
By this I mean what passes for current culture – dress, music, art, speech, in 21st century America. I was not referring to ethnocentric subcultures, though I think one could add these to add some depth.
Since you make point in your post about the Catholic Church, let me put it this way: The Catholic Church in Europe during the medieval period was *distinctly* medieval. The architecture, art, and music from the culture were grafted onto and assimilated into the church. The great frescoes we see in Italy, the polyphony of Palestrina, the style of vestments are all uniquely medieval. Now, it is true that since the second Vatican council there has been a renewed interest in allowing modern forms of cultural expression in the church, but it is also true that there is a growing movement within the church to return to the culture of the medieval church, including the language. This can be seen even more clearly in the Orthodox Church, having never formally experiencing the “renewal” of the 60’s, liturgically speaking. The secular and sacred music of Vivaldi were essentially of the same character, as was the secular and sacred art of da Vinci. This was the culture. This was the church. But the culture today does not breathe in union with the historical church. Evangelicals have attempted, with some degree of success, to embrace and “Christianize” the culture’s music, art, and dress. The historical churches, not so. I challenge anyone to show me a regularly scheduled Catholic Mass, supported fully by the hierarchy, where the priest feels comfortable wearing ripped jeans and a tee-shirt, in a sanctuary painted by graffiti artists, while a Christian Snoop-Dog raps the Responsorial Psalm in contemporary English. But there are plenty of such examples that can be seen in the “New Evangelicals.”
And just to be clear – I’m NOT suggesting that the Orthodox or Catholics do these things to attract converts. I’m only pointing out from a socio-religious perspective that the historical churches, especially liturgically, are not in line with the culture as they once were.
-Matthew



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Clive Moebeetie

posted February 27, 2010 at 9:51 pm


Rod asks “Is the Reformation ending?”
You’re kidding, aren’t you?
Well, my answer is, going by the huge multitude of truculent calvinist blogs out there, that it’s not only not over, but things are in full swing as if we were still back in the 16th and 17th Centuries.
They’re even battling it out between themselves over who’s the most “truely reformed.”



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted February 27, 2010 at 9:52 pm


After more careful reflection and perusal, I would like to note that the anonymous comment “The Reformation cannot come to an end until the return of the Catholic Church to Holy Orthodoxy because the Pope himself was the first Protestant, and the Reformation merely the fruits of the Schism,” is truly delicious. It is AS good a claim as any made by the Bishops of Rome, and at least defers to a more collegial authority, rather than individual infallibility.
And setting aside my penchant for sarcasm, Hector’s true-life anecdote about the proper reason for making any spiritual commitment is indisputable. It is not about everyone being their own Pope, but recognizing with more humility than any hierarchy can muster, that none of know with any precision exactly what God intends. We all have to struggle with it, knowing we will be in part wrong, and that’s where “by grace alone” has a legitimate place. No doctrine can unify all Christians in good conscience — that is why the Reformation happened in the first place.



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lord bill

posted February 27, 2010 at 9:58 pm


“early Christian were a fellowship of believers….” Yes, but at least in the larger cities like Rome and Antioch the early first century Christians were more than just that, a fellowship: they had organizations and an infra-sturcture, they had leaders called “overseers” in Paul’s epistles (in Greek called “episkopos”; in English called “bishops”), they had stewards managing finances (and helping poorer congretations), strategists for evangelization, etc. They loved God with their brains, their recollections of Peter and Paul, their memories of a not-yet-put-together biblical canon, their copied versions of the gospels (from the “right authorities”), and not just their spirits, however free.
Just think it was a bit more sophisticated in first century Rome than we think!



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Jon

posted February 27, 2010 at 10:16 pm


Re: I challenge anyone to show me a regularly scheduled Catholic Mass, supported fully by the hierarchy, where the priest feels comfortable wearing ripped jeans and a tee-shirt,
At no time in history did clergy wear the casual garments of the period to celebrate the Sacraments. And do you think there weren’t bawdy, even quite lewd, tavern songs in the Middle Ages? Or scurilous drawings on latrine walls?
Re: I’m only pointing out from a socio-religious perspective that the historical churches, especially liturgically, are not in line with the culture as they once were.
The problem here is that we lack a “high culture”. In eras past there was ample vulgar culture (meaning the culture of the common folk) but also an elite culture intended for the ruling class. Our ruling class pretends to be “just folks” and so does not culivate a High Culture of their own which might cross-polinate with the culture of the Church. (Note that even before Constantine the Church was absorbing and using the high culture of an elite officially hostile to it; this has nothing to do with how Christian a society is). That’s why churches nowadays are forced either to try to use the vulgar culture, or else draw on the past.



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lord bill

posted February 27, 2010 at 10:40 pm


“…they are not in line with the culture as they once were.”
Matthew,
But that’s all the New Evangelicals have. Whether that “gig” or arrangement works, remains to be seen. The 220 Catholic colleges and universities have their own gigs or arrangements. Go to some of the dorm liturgies at Notre Dame University, for example. They are very moving and just as much attended throughout the university (in each dorm) as arrangements at some evangelical concert. Notre Dame or Georgetown students would be culture-bored at a New Evangelical concert/liturgy.
It also depends on where you’re at, your background, taste: whether at some “hip” or “high church” Catholic college/university liturgy, whether at some Hispanic Spanish liturgy in the southwest, or some black Catholic liturgy, heavily gospel. It depends on the parish, school, part of the country, etc.
These are just as much in line with American culture (which is not monolithic, but heavily based on race, class, ethnic background, musical taste, access to travel, degree of education, etc.) as the evangelical Snoop-Dogs.



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public_defender

posted February 28, 2010 at 5:58 am


Also, to emphasize my previous point about hierarchical faiths and democracy, I remember Dreher writing about how the faithful should read texts writing by church leaders. I’m paraphrasing from memory, so I apologize if I’m off a bit, but it was something like, “The faithful should read the texts with goal of seeing how the writers are correct.” To many raised in democracies, that sounds a lot like “How I learned to love Big Brother.”
I don’t mean that as a cheap shot. I mean that as an explanation of one difficulty that hierarchical faiths face in democratic cultures. I also think it helps explain why the Reformation is not ending.
Lord Bill writes:
Public Defender, I don’t think most Americans really care about Gene Robinson’s marriage to another gay man. It is a concern for the Episcopal Church; but that church is less than 1% of the United States, of the whole American population.
The gay marriage thing, however, is a concern in many states; but even among members of the “hierarchical ‘Orthodox’ faiths,” it is not their biggest concern by a long shot. For example, I doubt you will find most Catholics laypeople (24% of the US) who fall under the “hierarchical faith” category nearly as upset over gay marriage as members of a non-hierarchical faith community like the Southern Baptist Convention.
My point: I think the issue goes deeper than your two categories(democracy and/vs. hierarchical orthodox faith churches) suggest.
Finally, Pope Benedict has said over and over again that the Catholic church thrives in a pluralistic, democratic society best. Though he is head or occupies the chair of a very hierarchical orthodox faith community, he “apes,” as it were, democracy and pluralism.
As to 1%, well, I was responding to the main example that Dreher used in his post. If you think that’s not representative, I’m not going to quibble on that point. But I stand by my point that the splits in many protestant churches in the US (and in the Anglican Communion worldwide) center on two, and pretty much only two, issues–the role of women in the church and the role of gay and lesbian people in the church.



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public_defender

posted February 28, 2010 at 7:23 am


One more example of the struggle that hierarchical faiths have in democracies. No rational person would say you couldn’t call yourself an “American” if you disagreed with Obama or the US Supreme Court on, say, the question of whether the Second Amendment conveys an individual right. But that’s the attitude of many conservative members of hierarchical faiths.
In some ways, democracy may be reforming hierarchical faiths. Many, many American Catholics (a firm majority on some questions) disagree with the church’s leaders, and they still feel free to call themselves “Catholics.”



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lord bill

posted February 28, 2010 at 2:23 pm


“…center on two…issues….”
Public Defender
I thought there were five issues affecting the Anglican Communion: public dissent among the bishops over doctrine (one bishop against another); ordination of active gays and lesbians to priesthood and episcopacy; ordination of women to priesthood and episcopacy; the split of the communion into a 2 tier hierarchy of bishops, with the voices of one tier counting more than the voices of the other tier; and the formal dissociation of Anglicanism from Orthodoxy and Catholicism (over these issues). In effect, Anglicanism is just becoming another Protestant or Reform church, which doesn’t seem like a big deal (unless you believed Anglicanism was part of the Catholic and Orthodox tradition). I hope this makes sense. Just my thoughts this afternoon. What Anglicanism is doing also validates that the (Protestant) Reformation is still alive and kicking.
that’s my take right now.
“…they still feel free….” The future Saint Mary MacKillop was excommunicated for insubordination and disagreeing with her bishop, her religious leader; but that didn’t stop her from calling herself a Catholic. Catholics, to my knowledge, historically have always had issues with their leaders (but never, of course, over basic doctrines, creeds, the essentials). And bishops have never (at least in public) attacked each other.



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Jon

posted February 28, 2010 at 2:39 pm


Re: the formal dissociation of Anglicanism from Orthodoxy and Catholicism.
Didn’t that happen a long time ago, as when Elizabeth I reestablished the English Crown as Head of the Church, thereby splitting from Rome; and of course in 1054 when the English Church sided with the Papacy over the filioloque qestion? Neither Rome nor Constantinople has ever recognized the validity of Anglican sacraments (except Baptism) after all.



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public_defender

posted February 28, 2010 at 3:03 pm


“lord bill,” I’ll take your word that there are five issues, but according to the coverage I’ve seen (and I admit that I may have perceived it), the issues always seem to come back to gays and women. The ordination of women would prevent reunion with the Roman Catholic Church. Also, I though that the different tiers of bishops was a reaction to, again, matters concerning gays and women. And the public dissent of bishops comes back, again, to issues concerning gays and women.
On your other point, maybe Anglicanism is becoming “just another Protestant denomination,” but as a Protestant, I have always viewed Roman Catholicism as “just another Christian denomination.” I’d say the same thing about Anglicanism.



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted February 28, 2010 at 5:56 pm


lord bill,
According to the Mennonites, the role of bishop in the first century was that of a local officer in an autonomous local congregation. Mennonites have bishops, which are one of three local offices — as one such bishop explained to me during my last sojourn in West Virginia. The notion that a bishop was administrator over an expanded territory, with many local churches under his jurisdiction, was a later development. Churches with a congregational form of government, which includes Baptists and Unitarians as well as UCC, continue to teach that this was the original relationship between churches, with Jesus Christ, but not a human potentate, as head of the church. True or not, or partly true for reasons none of us can any longer discern clearly, these understandings, and the reasons these understandings appeal to Christians, are among the reasons that the Reformation will not be ending anytime soon, if ever.



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lord bill

posted February 28, 2010 at 8:10 pm


“”…in 1054 when the English Church sided with the Papacy….”
Jon, A part of the Western Latin Church (like the Gallic or Italian or English church community in 1054) couldn’t align itself with another part of itself when it already had a singleness of Western identity, theological purpose, and episcopal action organically in sync with the Bishop of Rome (or “Patriarch of the West,” as the Orthodox prefer to call the pope).
There was never a question of “siding” in 1054 any more than the state of Connecitcut (thinking itself as an organically separate political identity) would “side” with President Obama in a treaty the US would allegedly make with Russia. Maybe representatives or theologians of the English church community were consulted (as were reps of the Gallic or Italian ch. communities), but they were sought out as individuals of the whole Western Church, not as representative of a distinct ecclesial entity.
Today, of course, the English church or ecclesial community is split into Anglican, Catholic, and Dissenter (Baptist,etc.) fractions. So you can’t speak of it as a unified church community or region as it was in 1054. Such is life, I guess.
“…to issues concerning gays and women….”
Public Defender, Yes, right. But those issues are big (hence I tried to spell them out more)and seem beyond the hope of dialogue. Does discussion have any function today? I hope for our survival.
“…just another Christian denomination.”
I like yours better. We’ll all Christians just trying to get the Gospel right (when you come down to it)! Heavens, the world is so broken, I wish christians all together could get it right for the Master, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus!



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Jon

posted March 1, 2010 at 6:52 am


Re: , the role of bishop in the first century was that of a local officer in an autonomous local congregation.
Yes, but once then numbers of Christians began to increase, bishops ended up with multple confregations under their direction. It was never the case that there would have been multiple bishops in the same city. And when Christianity spead out into the countryside some of the bishop’s congregations were at too great distance for him to visit on anything like a weekly schedule. The Church’s governance structure was very much as result of the Church’s success.



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Janice Fox

posted March 2, 2010 at 3:23 am


Re Elizabeth I
She had herself titled “Supreme Governor” of the Church in England. Christ is the Head of the Church. She inherited a mess from Edward VI and Bloody Mary Tudor. She was so well educated that she read the New Testament in Greek everyday for her private devotions. She was probably as well qualified to run the church as any bishop of her day.



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lord bill

posted March 2, 2010 at 5:07 pm


“…and Bloody Mary Tudor.”
To Mary I’s credit, she never committed regicide.
As “bloody” Mary, Mary Tudor, for example, could have had Elizabeth I murdered (as Elizabeth had Mary, Queen of Scotland, murdered), but chose not to.
Both Mary I and Elizabeth I, though half-sisters, were alike in many ways; and like their father, bloody Henry VIII, didn’t hesitate execute lots of foes. Mary, however, preferred to execute her foes for “heresy” and Elizabeth for “treason.”
Like Catherine the Great of Russia, all three women were bloody. I am sure, under the political circumstances, they had to be. But thank heavens they were not bishops.
I can think of a lot of other women in the past who would have made excellent bishops. One was Catherine of Siena.



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Janice Fox

posted March 2, 2010 at 9:41 pm


As I recall, Mary I imprisoned Elizabeth for a while in the tower. I had the impression that she wanted to do away with her but could not because of Elizabeth’s popularity and the inability to prove anything against her. Mary I also executed children. Lady Jane Grey is one example. The traditional number of Mary’s executions used to be 277, but on Jeopardy about a year ago, the number rose to over 500. I was surprised and do not know the basis for that.
Elizabeth supported Mary Stuart for 19 years under close guard and Mary S. plotted against her four times. Mary S. had also put the lion of England on her coat of arms giving notice where she intended to ascend. My source is DANGER TO ELIZABETH by Allison Plowden. Elizabeth is portrayed as one who did not want to execute Mary.
At this time England is slowly turning into a constitutional monarchy with Parliament choosing the successor. The process is complete one hundred years later when James II is shown out the back door. James II was planning to reconvert the nation to Roman control.
Henry VIII began his reign with the execution of two collectors as part of his coronation celebration. That is cruel. Thomas More had four men burned at the stake and forty others tortured for their heretical beliefs. This is not well known. More thought that he should be allowed his conscience, but he did not extend that priviledge to others. I guess they were just men of their time; but they were hardly Christians.
I think Catherine of Aragon should be canonized.



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Janice Fox

posted March 2, 2010 at 9:45 pm


Correction: Henry VIII executed two tax collectors who had worked for Henry VII.



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lord bill

posted March 3, 2010 at 1:56 pm


“My source is DANGER TO ELIZABETH….”
Good lord, it was a terrible time in English history, with Christian against Christian. Both Mary and Elizabeth Tudor used a syndicate of religious conviction and political control/repression to secure the success of their particular religious agendas. Mary lost, so she’s “bloody” and Elzabeth won so she’s “good queen Bess.”
In his book, FIRES OF FAITH, Oxford historian Eamon Duffy says Mary could have won had she lived. Who knows! All we do know is that it was a bloody, bloody time, that the victors got to write the history, and that, according to another Oxford historian, Dairmaid MacCulloch (in THE REFORMATION) when England was under a Protestant/Anglican regime, it judically murdered more Catholics than any other country in Europe.
In this context, Mary and Elizabeth were children of their times and very much like their father, Henry VIII. (Read Geoffrey Moorhouse’s THE PILGRIMAGE OF GRACE to get a real sense of Henry’s “policies” and slaughter!)
If you want to simplify Elizabeth’s ghost, fine. More power to you!
I’m sure more than one Anglican or Catholic or Dissident during Elizabeth’s time or Mary’s wanted (like Ivan Karamazov) to return to the good Almighty his or her ticket to heaven as long as salvation was built on so much carnage, suffering and slaughter.



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lord bill

posted March 3, 2010 at 2:03 pm


“judically” in line 8 should read judicially.
Sorry for typo



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted March 3, 2010 at 3:34 pm


Janice Fox, could you please cite your sources regarding More? I would love to know more about this.



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Janice Fox

posted March 3, 2010 at 10:52 pm


Joseph D’Hippolito: First read the tenth paragraph of the online Catholic New Advent Encyclopedia which talks about More’s prosecution of heresy. He was successful in getting most people to recant; only four got the severest penalty. Protestant historians believe that he was responsible for two more burnings.
This aspect of his life has been well hidden by his apologists and by the play A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS. The theatrical program called THE TUDORS recently portrayed these events. However, I would caution everyone against believing that theatricals are accurate history.
The names of his victims have been posted on one or two Protestant/Reformed websites. I cannot find these websites by google, unless I type in the name of a martyr. If you are interested, I could try to learn these names by asking some historians I know. I am homebound most of the time and cannot get out to do research and I cannot remember these names.
There is one Reformed martyr, Balthasar Hubmaier who lived on the European Continent and wrote a tract against burning people at the stake. He was betrayed by his royal protector to the Hapsburg monarch and burned at the stake by the Hapsburg Inquisition. His wife who would not desert him was weighed down with a rock and thrown into the Danube. Now they are what I call martyrs. They understood the teachings of Christ who gave wrong thinking people forgiveness 70X7.
One other surprising fact that I learned from Diarmid MacCullough’s book THE REFORMATION was that the system of checks and balances that we so value in our system of government was the creation of the Reformed Clergy of Switzerland, mainly Heinrich Bullinger. Checks and Balances help prevent one person or group of people from gaining too much power in a governing organization and thus are in contrast to absolute monarchies and their modern equivalent, dictatorships. This is an important legacy of the Reformation indeed.
Elizabeth I was certainly not a saint, and she did practice Roman Catholicism when it was the law of the land. At her coronation she did accept the Bible in English which had been banned under Mary I. There were numerous Roman Catholic plots against her life, and I once read that numerous meant nineteen. She tried to create a moderate course in religion and did not want to look into men’s souls. Of course, she could not please everyone.



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Janice Fox

posted March 4, 2010 at 3:29 am


Correction: Joseph D’Hippolito, please read the 10th paragraph of the article on Thomas More in the online Catholic New Advent Encyclopedia.
Roaming around on Google I found these persons: Thomas Hitton, Thomas Bilney, James Bainham, John Frith. Richard Bayfield, John Tewkesbury, and William Tyndale who are said to be victims of Thomas More. That is seven. I did not know that Tyndale was considered one of his victims; although I did read that More gave money toward to burning of Tyndale’s books.



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Your Name

posted March 6, 2010 at 7:04 am


“Portestant historians believe he was responsible for two more burnings.”
16th century England is not the United States today, lost in 16th century England. England in Thomas More’s day (population between 4 and 5 million) was another reality, totally different — politically and religiously — from the US today. When we journey into More’s, Elizabeth I’s, and Mary Tudor’s 16th century, we ought to interpret it differently. It’s so easy, of course, to read the words, deeds and opinions of More’s time through the wisdom and brilliance of our American moral framework.
English “heretics” in More’s time (and English Catholics later in Elizabeth’s time) were seen (in modern terminology; in degree of menace) as bio-terrorists. I am sure, for example, the word “heretic” conjured up in More’s mind as much horror, disgust, and anitpathy as the word “bioterrorist” does in Obama’s mind today.
Thomas More and the Tudor gov. at the time believed it necessay to rid England of “terrorists” by burning them, legally. It was as legal as capital punishment today, or incinerating 100,000 Japanese citizens at Hiroshima during the war, another 100,000 at Nagasaki, etc. Was Thomas More’s gov. policy to burn some people (they deemed terrorists) really that horrific along side our national wartime incineration of the Japanese? We thought nothing of incinerated men women and children.
Thomas More was canonized a saint for his martyrdom (and personal life), not for his national security policies under Henry VIII.
“This is an important legacy of the Reformation.”
Sure, we all benefit from the ideas of the violent Reformation as we do from the peaceful Renaissance (and from what preceded those periods of Western civilization); but the Reformation like the US Civil War (to digress) was fought with such violence and at SUCH A COST OF LIFE (the first to divide the western church; the second to keep the US from dividing itself [until 1 Jan. 1863] AT ALL COSTS — today if the Civil War were fought it would take 6 million lives), that many today are still shocked at the carnage, reflecting on those two events.



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lord bill

posted March 6, 2010 at 7:14 am


I just posted 7:04 block.



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Janice Fox

posted March 7, 2010 at 3:32 am


Popes and bishops are responsible for bringing violence into Christianity by means of crusades and inquisitions.
It irks me that a man who used gestapo tactics against “heretics” is now the Patron Saint of Politicians and Lawyers.
John Foxe who wrote the ACTS AND MONUMENTS of the Protestant martyrs, better known as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, was ahead of his time by promoting tolerance. He wrote furious letters of protests to Elizabeth I and her council concerning the executions of the Flemish Anabaptists and the Jesuits in the 1570s. My source is the Encyclopedia Britannica.
He should be the Patron Saint of Tolerance.



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Joseph D'Hippolito

posted March 7, 2010 at 4:50 pm


Janice Fox, I wonder what Calvin would have thought about Bullinger’s ideas when it came to secular governance, since Calvin behaved as nothing better than a dictator in Geneva.
Lord Bull, to equate the death of heretics with the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is obscene. If I recall correctly, heretics did not form a government which intended to dominate the world through brute force (as the Japanese did), enslaved and oppressed those they conquered (as the Japanese), enforced a racist perspective upon even fellow Asians, let alone Europeans (as the Japanese) and determined to turn civilians into instruments of death in case of invasion (as the Japanese).
Reputable historians (unlike revisionist apologists like Mark Shea and Jimmy Akin) agree that if Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not destroyed, far more military and civilians lives would have been lost in an invasion that would have extended WWII by, at least, two years. The Japanese militarists knew what the terms of surrender where. They refused to abide by them until Emperor Hirohito personally intervened. Ultimate moral blame for Hiroshima and Nagasaki lies, ultimately, with them.



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Janice Fox

posted March 8, 2010 at 7:24 pm


Joseph D’Hippolito, Bullinger worked with Calvin and Martin Bucer to develop the structure of Reform Churches. Bullinger was a friend and a pastor to Calvin who was very depressed in later years because of the death of his wife.
Calvin is one of the most maligned persons in history. He was not a dictator. He was hired by the Geneva City Council to run the church there. When he was not given the authority to excommunicate people, he refused to serve Communion on Easter Sunday Morning. For this he was fired. Three years later he was rehired because the church was floundering and some of his supporters had been elected to the council. I do not know if he ever got the power to excommunicate.
In the case of the burning of Michael Servetus, Calvin wrote a letter to him telling him not to come to Geneva because he would never get out of there alive. Servetus came anyway and was arrested. Servetus had already been condemned by the Inquisition in Lyon, France. Now it was the time for the Council in Geneva to show that they were no better. Calvin visited Servetus in prison and tried to get the penalty changed to beheading, but he was not successful. At his execution Servetus said “Jesus, Son of the Eternal God , save me.” If he had said “Jesus, Eternal Son of God, save me” he would not have been a heretic.
It was Calvin’s opponents on the city council who voted to execute Servetus, not his supporters. Therefore, Calvin was not looking to kill Servetus, but he could have protested the execution more vigourously.
The only Reformer to protest was Sebastian Castellio of Basel.
Calvin believed in the absolute omnipotence and omniscience of God to the point that God knows us so well that He knows whether we are going to choose to follow Him to or not. I am not qualified to go any farther than this on the concept of Predestination.
Unlike Luther, Calvin was not antisemetic.
My sources on Calvin are previous readings, the Encyclopedia Britainnica, and the September 2009 issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
Reformed churches do not in any way believe that Calvin was infallible, and they adjust his instructions to their own needs. The term “Calvinist” was first used as a derogatory term for Calvin’s followers.
This is all I remember about Calvin. I grew up in the Presbyterian Church, served as a Ruling Elder in the early 1980s, and I visited the similarly structured Christian Reformed Church just a couple years ago. If I have posted anything inaccurate here, I will be happy to stand corrected by any contributor to this blog that has studied Calvin more closely.
I am not now an active member of any Presbyterian Church. I am a serious and objective student of history.
I have a thoughtful question for my Roman Catholic brethren on this blog. Why has a man such as Thomas More been canonized and Catharine of Aragon has not? She led a life of long suffering, deprivation, courage, fortitude, fidelity, rectitude and sanctity. She wrote to both Pope Clement VII and her nephew Charles V and begged them not to send armies into England so that no blood would be shed on her account. I have always been puzzled by this.



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Janice Fox

posted March 9, 2010 at 12:44 am


lord bill and anyone else interested in Elizabeth I’s relationship with loyal Roman Catholics: Please read the Wikipedia’s article on Nicolas Heath, Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor of England at the time of the death of Mary I. In short, Heath would not go along with Elizabeth’s church reforms. He would not even conduct her coronation. However, he always maintained that she was the lawful Queen. She had to retire him, and he lived in peace for nineteen years. She even visited him from time to time.



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Janice Fox

posted March 10, 2010 at 2:18 am


Earlier Siarlys Jenkins made a reference to John Wycliffe one of the early Bible translaters and reforms who was lucky enough to die in his bed. Ten years later, Pope Martin V ordered that his body be exhumed and his bones burned in order to prevent his resurrection, evidently. This insanity was only surpassed by the infamous “Cadaver Synod” of the late 9th century. The medieval structure of the Church allowed for this absolute monarchy kind of insanity.
John Wycliffe and other reformers were fond of saying that they would work until the poorest peasant pushing a plow could read the Bible and understand it as well as any bishop. This is a great legacy of the Reformation which is carried on today by the small group called Wycliffe Bible Translators who work on a slim budget to translate the Bible into as many languages as possible.



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non-metaphysical stephen

posted March 10, 2010 at 11:56 pm


I read once that the Roman Catholic church has by and large accepted many of the reforms that Luther proposed. If so, are we really seeing the end of the Reformation, or its completion?



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Janice Fox

posted March 11, 2010 at 3:04 am


non-metaphysical stephen: I also read a few years ago that all the controversies with Luther had been resolved except for the marriage of the clergy.
There will always be a need for reformation in the church and in politics because there will always be corrupt people in these organizations. The Legionnaires of Christ comes to mind. Wherever money and power are to be had, ambitious people will seek to gain them. I have seen it happen even in the smallest of churches.
There was a contributor on this blogsite not too long ago who said that he donated only so much money to the church as to keep the lights on in the building. It is a good idea!



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Papist Ken

posted March 16, 2010 at 2:42 pm


The statement that heresies generally run out in 500 years is an optomistic statement. I prefer to say there’s nothing new under the sun. There have been heresies ever since there has been truth- but nobody quotes the antinomians anymore- their 500 years is up. Nobody quotes the montanists, their 500 years is up. Nobody quotes the pelagians (except to unwittingly plagirize them) because their 500 years is up. If the heresy of individual salvation through the bible goes extinct, there will be new heresies in it’s place. There will always be truth, and there will always be heresy- and we will always have to choose between them with fear and trembling. God bless us all. -PK



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Siarlys Jenkins

posted March 16, 2010 at 11:22 pm


Frankly, I believe the most important result of the Reformation was not any specific doctrinal question or answer, from Luther or Calvin, much less the bishops of England, but rather was that the secular and military power of the Bishop of Rome was shattered. After the dust settled, anyone who voluntarily chose to be a Roman Catholic was free to submit themselves to Roman rule, but everyone in Christendom didn’t have to do so. This varied somewhat by country of course, but at least there were parts of the earth one could go to where worship was either free, or the state church was amenable to one’s own choosing.
Heresy has been with us as long as doctrine has been with us. The Greek word Paul used has connotations of party or faction. The first time anyone said “This that I tell you is the truth about Jesus, that which my brother in Christ over there has told you is error” we had heresy — the dispute itself, and both sides of it, not one side or the other. Orthodoxy is merely heresy in power. That’s why Wycliffe was so necessary.



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