Sunday, October 15, 2017

This article was published by Nick Page in Premier Christianity Magazine in October 2017. He is trying to help Protestants understand that there were problems created by the Protestant movement. He explains five big loses: 1) Loss of unity, 2) Loss of monasteries, 3) Loss of silence, 4) Loss of “doing things”, and 5) Loss of color and beauty. I think this is must reading for Catholics and Protestants.

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And now for the bad news: what we lost because of the Reformation

Sorry to intrude on the Reformation celebrations, but Nick Page has some not-so-great-news to share.

It’s the anniversary! Woohoo! Five hundred years since Luther published his ninety-five theses and lit the touchpaper to launch the Protestant Reformation. There are books and TV programmes and celebratory articles. There will be cards and parties and bunting!

There will be cakes in the shape of Zwingli (with a low-fat, sugar-free, extra-roughage version in the shape of Calvin). Even Playmobil have joined the party and released a figure of Luther (over 34,000 of them were sold in three days, making it the fastest selling figure in the company’s history).

The anniversary of the Reformation is clearly a cause for celebration. But it’s worth remembering that for all its undoubted benefits, the Reformation wasn’t good news for everyone. Its heroes were not entirely without flaws, nor its villains entirely without merit.

Sometimes this comes as a shock to people. Many biographies of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli et al simply repeat the myths (such as Luther throwing ink at the devil, or even, dare I say it, the famous story about Luther nailing the theses to the Wittenberg door). The darker sides of these characters are carefully Photoshopped. Luther was famously abusive to his enemies and was responsible for some vile anti

Semitic writings. Zwingli had his theological opponents drowned in the river. Leaving aside his role in the arrest and execution of the Unitarian Michael Servetus, Calvin was so unpopular within Geneva that people tried to empty their chamber pots on him as he walked beneath their windows.

All three of these Premier League reformers – and many others in the lower divisions – had a propensity to banish anyone who spoke out against them. Now, I know all the arguments: they were not alone in this behaviour, it was the culture of the time, the Catholics were just as bad, etc, but if we want to truly remember the Reformation then the best way is not merely to get all excited about the theology, but also to be honest about the dodgy goings-on. Here are five key ideas which were lost from the Church.

We lost unity

 

The Reformation destroyed the idea of a single, unified Church. True, this was already a bit of an illusion, given that the Western and Eastern churches had undergone the ‘Great Schism’ in 1054. And there had been that unfortunate business when there were two Popes. Then three

Popes for a bit. But, nevertheless, in Western Europe there was the idea of one catholic or ‘whole’ Church to which everyone could claim some sort of allegiance. But the Reformation shattered any semblance of unity. And it didn’t just split Western Christendom into ‘Catholic’ and ‘Protestant’, but into ‘Catholic’ and ‘Protestants’ – the latter encompassing many different flavors of evangelical and reformed belief.

The Reformation began an endless, fractal splintering of the Church. Because, as anyone who has ever tried to do the splits can tell you, once you start it’s very difficult to stop, and if there’s one thing we know about theology, it’s that other people always get it wrong. Even among the reformers themselves there was disunity. Luther and Zwingli hated each other….

For the rest of the “five things we lost”, click HERE.

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