HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

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Dictionary of Art and Artists

 


 

 


History of Religions


 

 

 

 

History of religions

Human beings’ relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, spiritual, or divine. Religion is commonly regarded as consisting of a person’s relation to God or to gods or spirits. Worship is probably the most basic element of religion, but moral conduct, right belief, and participation in religious institutions are generally also constituent elements of the religious life as practiced by believers and worshipers and as commanded by religious sages and scriptures.

For treatment of particular religious systems, as well as founders, reformers, and other religious personages, see

biblical literature; Buddhism; Calvinism; Christianity; Confucianism; Daoism;
Eastern Orthodoxy; Greek religion; Hinduism; Islam; Jainism; Jesus Christ; Judaism; Lutheranism; Middle Eastern religion; Moses; mystery religion; Protestantism; Roman Catholicism; Shinto; Sikhism; Zoroastrianism.

For cross-cultural discussion of religious beliefs and practices, see

ceremonial object; creed; death rite; dietary law; doctrine and dogma; feast; myth; nature worship; prayer; purification rite; religious dress; religious experience; religious symbolism and iconography; rite of passage; ritual; sacrament; sacrifice; sacred; theology; worship.

For philosophical and ethical aspects, see
ethics; metaphysics; philosophy of science.

For a review of the efforts to systematically study the nature and classify the forms of religious experience, see
philosophy of religion;
study of religion.
 

see also:
DAVID HUME "The Natural History of Religion"
A Brief History of Western Philosophy

Egyptian religion
Key Ideas: Judaism; The history of Judaism
Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Shinto; Hundred Schools of Thought
Greek Mythology
Manichaeism; Zoroaster
Key Ideas: Christianity; The history of Christianity
Key Ideas: Islam
In Focus: The Reformation; Reformation; Lutheranism; Protestantism; Calvinism

 

 


Protestantism

Christianity

Main
movement that began in northern Europe in the early 16th century as a reaction to medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices. Along with Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism became one of three major forces in Christianity. After a series of European religious wars in the 16th and 17th century, and especially in the 19th century, it spread throughout the world. Wherever Protestantism gained a foothold, it influenced the social, economic, political, and cultural life of the area.

Origins of Protestantism
The name Protestant first appeared at the Diet of Speyer in 1529, when the Roman Catholic emperor of Germany, Charles V, rescinded the provision of the Diet of Speyer in 1526 that had allowed each ruler to choose whether to administer the Edict of Worms. On April 19, 1529, a protest against this decision was read on behalf of 14 free cities of Germany and six Lutheran princes who declared that the majority decision did not bind them because they were not a party to it and that if forced to choose between obedience to God and obedience to Caesar they must choose obedience to God. They appealed either to a general council of all Christendom or to a synod of the whole German nation. Those who made this protest became known to their opponents as Protestants, and gradually the label was applied to all who adhered to the tenets of the Reformation, especially to those living outside Germany. In Germany the adherents of the Reformation preferred the name evangelicals and in France Huguenots.

The name was attached not only to the disciples of Martin Luther (c. 1483–1546) but also to the Swiss disciples of Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531) and later of John Calvin (1509–64). The Swiss Reformers and their followers in Holland, England, and Scotland, especially after the 17th century, preferred the name Reformed.

In the 16th century Protestant referred primarily to the two great schools of thought that arose in the Reformation, the Lutheran and the Reformed. In England in the early 17th century, the word was used to denote “orthodox” Protestants as opposed to those who were regarded by Anglicans as unorthodox, such as the Baptists or the Quakers. Roman Catholics, however, used it for all who claimed to be Christian but opposed Catholicism (except the Eastern churches). They therefore included Baptists, Quakers, and Catholic-minded Anglicans under the term. Before the year 1700 this broad usage was accepted, though the word was not yet applied to Unitarians. The English Toleration Act of 1689 was entitled “an Act for exempting their Majesties’ Protestant subjects dissenting from the Church of England.” But the act provided only for the toleration of the opinions known in England as “orthodox dissent” and conceded nothing to Unitarians. Throughout the 18th century the word Protestant was still defined in relation to the 16th-century Reformation.

W. Owen Chadwick


The context of the late medieval church
The Protestant Reformation occurred against the background of the rich ferment of the late medieval church and society. It has been difficult for two reasons to gain a proper understanding of the relationship between the late Middle Ages and the Reformation. One reason is the tradition of the sectarian historiography of the period. Catholic historians had an interest in showing how much reform occurred before and apart from the activities of the Protestant reformers of the 16th century. Protestant historians, on the other hand, portrayed the late medieval church in the most negative terms to show the necessity of the Reformation, which was characterized as a movement that broke completely with a corrupt past.

The second reason for difficulty in understanding the period is that the 15th-century critics of the church were not “Pre-Reformers”; they neither anticipated Protestantism nor acquired their importance from the Reformation. The events of that period were also not “Pre-Reformation” happenings but had an identity and meaning of their own.

The existence of reform efforts in the 15th-century church from Spain and Italy northward through Germany, France, and England has long been acknowledged. Some of these were directed against abuses by the papacy, the clergy, and monks and nuns. The pious, for example, abhorred Pope Innocent VIII (1484–92), who performed marriage ceremonies for his own illegitimate children in the Vatican, and Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503), who bribed his way to the throne of St. Peter and had fathered eight children by three women by the time he became pope. The public was also increasingly aware of and angered by extravagant papal projects—patronage of art and architecture, wars of conquest—for which funds were exacted from the faithful.

The distaste for the papacy increased at a time of rising nationalist spirit. The popes, who had long intervened in European political affairs, faced setbacks when European monarchs acquired new power and asserted it against both the papacy and the local clergy.

During this time of rising national consciousness, a generation of theologians appeared who remained entirely within the context of medieval Roman Catholicism but who engaged in fundamental criticisms of it. Thus William of Ockham (died 1349?) spoke up as a reformer within the Franciscan order, which he hoped to return to its original strict rule of apostolic poverty. Ockham argued that Pope John XXII was a heretic because he denied that Jesus and the Apostles were possessionless. Ockham saw the papacy and empire as independent but related realms. He believed that when the church was in danger of heresy, lay people—princes and commoners alike—must come to its rescue. This meant reform.

Another English theologian, John Wycliffe, also challenged the church’s abuse of power and questioned its doctrines. Wycliffe encouraged reform of the church and its teachings and granted uncommon spiritual authority to the king. His primary source of inspiration for reform was the Bible. Wycliffe gave impetus to its translation, and in 1380 he helped make it available to rulers and ruled alike.

In Bohemia, Jan Hus, who became rector of the University of Prague, used that school as his base to criticize lax clergy and the recent prohibition of offering the cup of wine to communicants. He also exploited nationalist feelings and argued that the pope had no right to use the temporal sword. Hus’s bold accusations were judged heretical and led to his death by burning at the Council of Constance in 1415.

Alongside a piety that combined moral revulsion with nationalism, Christian humanism was a further sign of unrest in the late medieval church. In Italy Lorenzo Valla (1407–57) used philology and historical inquiry to expose a number of forgeries, including the Donation of Constantine, which purportedly granted control over the Western Roman Empire to the pope. In Germany Johannes Reuchlin (1455–1522) studied Greek and Hebrew, the biblical languages, and was involved in an international controversy that pitted intellectual freedom against ecclesiastical authority. Desiderius Erasmus (1466/69–1536), the most famous and important of the Northern or Christian humanists, used his vast learning and his satiric pen to question the practices of the church. Because of his philosophy of Christ, which stressed a focus on the Bible and rejected much medieval superstition, Erasmus, a lifelong Catholic, was accused of laying the egg that hatched Luther.

While these reformers attacked people in high places, they also regarded the Catholicism of ordinary people as needing reform. Such practices as pilgrims visiting shrines or parishioners regarding the relics of saints with awe were open to abuse. The pestilences and plagues of the 14th century had bred an inordinate fear of death, which led to the exploitation of simple people by a church that was, in effect, offering salvation for sale.

Despite instances of anticlericalism and polemics against the church, most of the faithful remained loyal and found the church to be the vehicle of their eternal salvation. Nothing is more erroneous than the notion that, early in the 16th century, Europe was ripe for a reform of the church.

Martin E. Marty


The continental Reformation: Germany, Switzerland, and France » The role of Luther
Luther said that what differentiated him from previous reformers was that they attacked the life of the church, while he confronted its doctrine. Whereas they denounced the sins of churchmen, he was disillusioned by the whole scholastic scheme of redemption. The church taught that man could atone for his sins through confession and absolution in the sacrament of penance. Luther found that he could not remember or even recognize all of his sins, and the attempt to dispose of them one by one was like trying to cure smallpox by picking off the scabs. Indeed, he believed that the whole man was sick. The church, however, held that the individual was not so sick that salvation could not be earned through faith and good works.


The continental Reformation: Germany, Switzerland, and France » The role of Luther » The indulgence system
The church’s anthropology and soteriology (doctrine of salvation) allowed a system of indulgences to develop. Based on the notion that Jesus and the saints had built up a treasury of merit that could be shared with worthy Christians, the indulgence at first applied only to penalties imposed by the church on earth. One of the earliest examples of this practice was Pope Urban II’s grant of a plenary indulgence to the knights of the First Crusade. Over time the benefits of the indulgence were expanded to include penalties imposed by God in purgatory, and ultimately the means of acquiring an indulgence were so diluted that one could be purchased. The granting of indulgences proved to be a popular way of raising money for the church particularly because, unlike tithes, it was voluntary. By this means crusades, cathedrals, hospitals, and even bridges were financed. In Luther’s day immediate release from purgatory was offered, and the remission not only of penalties but even of sins was assured. Thus the indulgence encroached upon the sacrament of penance.

Luther was desperately earnest about his standing before God and Christ. The woodcuts of Christ the Judge on a rainbow consigning the damned to hell filled Luther with terror. He believed the monastic life was the best way to acquire the extra merits that would more than balance his account. Becoming a monk, he subjected himself to rigorous asceticism, but he felt that this effort would not enable a sinner like him to stand before the inexorable justice and majesty of God. Frequent confession simply convinced him of the fundamental sickness of the whole person, which caused him to question the goodness of a God who would make human beings so weak and then damn them for what they could not help. Relief for Luther came through the study of the Psalms, particularly the 22nd Psalm, which contains Christ’s words quoted on the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34). Evidently, Christ, who was without sin, so identified himself with sinful humanity that he felt estranged from God. Christ the Judge seated upon the rainbow had become Christ the Derelict upon the cross, and here the wrath and the mercy of God could find a meeting point that allowed God to forgive those utterly devoid of merit. He could justify the unjust, and humanity need only accept the gift of God in faith. This doctrine of justification by faith alone became the watchword of the Reformation.

The formulation of Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith alone coincided with the expansion of his own duties. He had become professor of the newly founded University of Wittenberg and a vicar in his order with pastoral duties over 11 houses. At the same time, the new archbishop of Mainz, Albert, initiated the sale of indulgences—feverishly hawked by the Dominican Johann Tetzel—with half of the proceeds to be retained by him as reimbursement for his installation fee as archbishop, the other half to go to the pope to fund the building of the Basilica of St. Peter’s at Rome. For this indulgence Albert made unprecedented claims. If the indulgence were on behalf of the donor himself, he would receive preferential treatment in case of future sin, if for someone else already in purgatory, he need not be contrite for his own sin. Remission was promised not only of penalties but also of sins, and the vendor of the indulgences offered immediate release from purgatory. Luther was outraged by the sale of indulgences and claims made for them. His doctrine of justification not only was critical of the abuse of the doctrine of indulgences but denied the very idea that humans could earn salvation.


The continental Reformation: Germany, Switzerland, and France » The role of Luther » Ninety-five Theses
Against the actions of Albert and Tetzel and with no intention to divide the church, Luther launched his Ninety-five Theses on October 31, 1517. In the theses he presented three main points. The first concerned financial abuses; for example, if the pope realized the poverty of the German people, he would rather that St. Peter’s lay in ashes than that it should be built out of the “skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.” The second focused attention on doctrinal abuses; for example, Luther argued that the pope had no jurisdiction over purgatory and if he did, he should empty the place free of charge. The third attacked religious abuses; for example, the treasury of the merits of the saints was denied by implication in the assertion that the treasury of the church was the gospel. This was the crucial point. When the papacy pronounced Luther’s position heretical, he countered by denying the infallibility of popes and for good measure that of councils also. Scripture was declared the only basis of authority.

Luther found support in many quarters. Already a widespread liberal Catholic evangelical reform sought to correct moral abuses such as clerical concubinage, financial extortion, and pluralism (i.e., the holding of several ecclesiastical benefices by one man). He also ridiculed the popular superstitions associated with the cult of the saints and their relics, religious pilgrimages, and the like. This movement had representatives throughout Europe, notably John Colet in England, Jacques Lefèvre in France, Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros in Spain, Juan de Valdés in Naples, and, above all, Erasmus. Although he would come to oppose Luther, in 1519 Erasmus wrote to the elector Frederick III the Wise, Luther’s prince, telling him that as a Christian ruler he was obligated to see to it that his subject should have a fair hearing.

Yet despite this, Luther would have been speedily crushed had Pope Leo X and the curia not been over zealous in silencing the putative heretic. Leo’s difficulties were worsened by the contemporary political situation. At the moment when Luther appeared to be foredoomed, an election for the office of Holy Roman emperor was pending, and Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, and Charles I of Spain were all candidates for the office. The pope opposed all three because the position entailed control over Germany, and the augmentation of power to one would destroy the balance of power. Instead he preferred a minor prince, and none fitted the role better than Luther’s protector, Frederick the Wise of Saxony. In consequence the pope dallied in his response to Luther, and even after Charles was elected, the pope was willing to play Frederick against the new emperor. Finally, on June 15, 1520, nearly three years after the Ninety-five Theses, Leo issued the bull Exsurge Domine (“Arise, O Lord”), which condemned Luther’s teachings on 41 counts. Luther burned a copy of the bull in Wittenberg, declaring his action a trifle and that the pope and papal see should be burned.


The continental Reformation: Germany, Switzerland, and France » The role of Luther » Luther’s manifesto
Luther employed the summer of 1520 to bring out some of the great manifestos of the Reformation. His Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation called upon the ruling class in Germany, including the emperor, in whom Luther had not yet lost confidence, to reform the church externally by returning it to apostolic poverty and simplicity. This appeal to the civil power to reform the church was a return to the earlier practice of the Middle Ages when emperors more than once had deposed and replaced unworthy popes. Luther also argued that the papacy of his day was only 400 years old, meaning that it was the Gregorian reform that had extended the church’s jurisdiction into secular and political matters and had asserted that the lowliest priest did more for mankind than the loftiest king. Luther countered with the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, including Christian magistrates. Any layman was spiritually a priest, though not vocationally a parson. The Christian ruler, then, being himself a priest, could reform the church in externals, as the church might excommunicate him in spirituals. The liberal Catholic reformers could sympathize with Luther’s program except for its identification of the papacy with Antichrist, which recalled the accusations of medieval heretics.

Another tract, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, suggested that the sacraments themselves had been taken captive by the church. Luther even went so far as to reduce the number of the sacraments from seven—baptism, the Eucharist or mass, penance, confirmation, ordination, marriage, and extreme unction—to two. He defined a sacrament as a rite instituted by Christ himself as revealed in Scripture; therefore only baptism and the Eucharist were strictly sacraments, and penance and the other traditional sacraments were either dropped or their definitions were altered. For example, extreme unction was dropped, but confession, which Luther thought was wholesome, was preserved as a voluntary act that could be made to any fellow Christian. Marriage, on the other hand, was not a Christian sacrament, because it had not been instituted by Christ but by God in the garden of Eden and was valid not only for Christians but also for Muslims and Jews. Baptism was to be administered but once and to infants on the grounds of their dormant faith.

Luther’s greatest offense, however, concerned his teachings on the mass. The wine, he asserted, should be given to the laity along with the bread, as in the Hussite practice. No masses should be said for the dead by a priest alone without communicants, because the Eucharist involved fellowship not only with Christ but also with believers. The most drastic change, however, was that Luther denied the doctrine of transubstantiation, according to which, during the performance of the rite of communion by a priest, the elements of bread and wine, though retaining their accidents (i.e., appearance) of colour, shape, and taste, lost their substance, which was replaced by the substance of the body of Christ. He rejected transubstantiation because he believed it was an opinion developed by medieval theologians and was not revealed in Scripture.

Luther taught the doctrine of consubstantiation, though he never used that term. He believed that the Lord’s Supper was one of the central mysteries of the faith and that the body of Christ was physically present in the communion offering because Christ said, “This is my body.” Therefore, Christ’s body must be “with, in, and under” the elements of the offering. The bread and wine, however, do not change their substance, and, for Luther, there was no miracle of the mass in which the priest was thought to alter the substance of the sacrifice. This view undercut sacerdotalism, which emphasized the intermediary role of the priest between God and humankind, since the words of the priest did not bring the body of Christ to the altar. The undercutting of sacerdotalism destroyed the hierarchical structure of a church that culminated in the papacy.


The continental Reformation: Germany, Switzerland, and France » The role of Luther » Diet of Worms
But what was to be done with Luther? On December 10, 1520, instead of submitting, he defiantly burned the papal bull together with a copy of the canon law. The normal course would have been to excommunicate him (which indeed occurred on January 3, 1521) and then turn him over to the political authorities for execution, but Frederick the Wise insisted that he be given a fair hearing. Consequently, the diet of the empire (not an ecclesiastical council), meeting at Worms in the winter and spring of 1521 would hear his case. Luther was brought before the diet and given an opportunity to repudiate his books and recant his teachings. He did neither and gave a long speech, in German and Latin, defending his ideas. When asked for a simple answer he replied: “I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” The emperor then placed Luther under the imperial ban. The bull of excommunication by the church was formally released only later. Frederick the Wise at this point intervened and wafted Luther away to a place of hiding.

Luther was concealed for a year at Frederick’s castle of the Wartburg. During this period he produced one of his most important works, a translation of the New Testament from the Greek text of Erasmus into an idiomatic and powerful German that contributed greatly to the shape of the modern language. Nothing did so much to win popular adherence to his teaching as the dissemination of this translation.

But some were not so convinced. Many of the liberal Catholic reformers, like Erasmus, recoiled from Luther’s paradoxes, from his confidence that his interpretation of Scripture was correct, from his acceptance of the doctrine of predestination, which makes of God a tyrant when he elects some and damns others regardless of their behaviour. The German national movement collapsed. Then in Luther’s own circle, variant forms of Protestantism arose, which in the aggregate are variously described as the left wing of the Reformation or as the radical Reformation. The terminology does not matter so much as the recognition that no neat classification is possible.


The continental Reformation: Germany, Switzerland, and France » Radical reformers related to Luther’s reform
Luther’s impact on his contemporaries was profound, particularly on two figures whose activities anticipated many developments to come. One was Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt (c. 1477/81–1541), who believed that art and music should be abolished as external aids to religion and that the presence of Christ’s body on the altar should be interpreted in a spiritual sense. He extended Luther’s doctrine of the priesthood of all believers to mean that all laymen were pastors. Accordingly, if one person was assigned the tasks of a parson, he was to dress no differently than other parishioners and, like others, should work with his hands. Moreover, the clergy was not only permitted to marry but required to do so. The sabbath was to be strictly observed. This program, involving a blend of spiritualism and legalism, anticipated the Puritan movement. The sensory aids to religion were to be discarded by those advanced in the spiritual life and by law snatched away from those still weak.

A much more disquieting figure than Karlstadt was Thomas Müntzer (c. 1490–1525), a man of learning and an apocalyptic firebrand, who may be regarded as the first formulator of the concept of the Protestant Holy Commonwealth. Unlike Luther, with whom he was first associated, Müntzer believed that the elect, those predestined by God for salvation, could be sufficiently identified to form a distinct group. Müntzer’s test was the new birth in the spirit. Recognizing that among the wheat there might be some chaff, however, he did not regard the test as an absolute determinant. Rather he accepted it as an adequate trial for the formation of a community bound together by a covenant. The mission of this group was to set up the Kingdom of God on Earth, the Holy Commonwealth, by wiping out the ungodly, often identified with the rich and powerful. In the attempt they would have to endure suffering, and here Müntzer drew from German mysticism the theme of walking in Christ’s steps toward the cross. But the trial would end in triumph, for the Lord Jesus would speedily come to vindicate his saints and erect his Kingdom.

Müntzer appealed to the Saxon princes to implement his program, but they banished him. He found a following among the rebels of the German Peasants’ Revolt (1524–25) and led them at the Battle of Frankenhausen, where they were butchered, and he was captured and beheaded. Luther execrated Müntzer’s memory because he seized the sword in defense of the gospel and challenged the social order. Some Marxists, on the other hand, later exalted Müntzer as the prophet of social revolution because he was the only one of the Reformers who had a deep feeling for the suffering of the socially oppressed. In grasping the sword he did not essentially differ from Huldrych Zwingli, Gaspard de Coligny, or Oliver Cromwell—three other militaristic Protestants.


The continental Reformation: Germany, Switzerland, and France » Zwingli and his influence
Zwingli (1484–1531), the great figure in Swiss Protestantism before Calvin, was more committed to military action than Müntzer and died in battle. He became a Reformer independently of Luther, with whom he agreed concerning justification by faith and predestination, but with whom he disagreed concerning the rite of communion. The Lord’s Supper was understood by Zwingli simply as a memorial to Christ’s death and as a public declaration of faith by the recipient. Zwingli, in fact, denied that Christ was present in the bread and wine of communion and thus rejected the teachings of both Luther and the Roman Catholic church. Although Luther, Zwingli, and others met at Marburg in 1529 to resolve their differences, they could not find common ground on the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. Luther and Zwingli’s failure to create a unified front among Protestants at the meeting had fatal consequences for Zwingli.

His other teachings reveal further differences but also similarities with the other Reformers. Zwingli drew from Erasmus and Karlstadt, notably from their disparagement of the sensory aids to religion. Zwingli, though an accomplished musician, considered that the function of music was to put the babies to sleep rather than to worship God. Consequently, the organ was dismantled and the holy images removed from the cathedral at Zürich. Like Luther, Zwingli retained the baptism of infants, a rite that he believed recognized that the child belongs to the people of God just as the child in the Hebrew Bible belonged by circumcision to Israel. Analogy with Judaism applied at many points because Zwingli, like many before him, regarded the Christian congregation as the new Israel of God, an elect people, reasonably identifiable not by the new birth Müntzer anticipated but by adherence to the faith. This company could be called theocratic in the sense that it was under the rule of God, whom church and state should alike serve in close collaboration. The identification of the whole populace of Zürich with this elect people was the more tenable because those not in accord with the ideal were disposed to leave. Zwingli approved of an aggressive war to forestall interference from the Roman Catholic cantons. In 1531, he fell in the second war of Kappel but left an important legacy, especially for the group who formed the mainstay of the radical Reformation.


The continental Reformation: Germany, Switzerland, and France » Zwingli and his influence » The Anabaptists
The radicals restricted their biblicism to the New Testament and espoused three tenets that have come to be axiomatic in the United States: the separation of church and state, the voluntary church, and religious liberty. They called themselves Baptists but were called Anabaptists by their enemies because they were accused of rebaptizing adults. They believed, however, that immersion of infants was not true baptism because the rite itself was not regenerative but the outward sign of an inner experience—the rebirth in the spirit—of which only an adult was capable. The Anabaptists also believed in the possibility of a Christian society whose members were marked both by the conversion experience and by a highly disciplined deportment. In obedience to the New Testament, they repudiated swearing oaths and recourse to violence, whether at the behest of a magistrate or in war, respectively. The saints, they believed, should withdraw from the wicked world.

The Anabaptist program was perceived as a threat to the social and political order by Catholics and Protestants alike. The Diet of Speyer in 1529, for example, subjected the Anabaptists to the penalty of death with the concurrence of Catholics and Lutherans. One of the first Anabaptist leaders, Felix Manz, was drowned in Zürich in 1527, and persecution eliminated other Anabaptist leaders, most of them educated and moderate men, over the next decade. Less temperate spirits came to the fore, sustaining their courage by setting dates for the speedy coming of the Lord. One band of Anabaptists filled with apocalyptic zeal and led by John of Leiden, gained control of the town of Münster in Westphalia in 1534. Contrary to the pacifist tenets of their fellows, they seized the sword and, in accord with Old Testament practice, they restored polygamy. The town was captured by an army of Catholics and Lutherans who executed the leaders and publicly exhibited their bodies in iron cages hung from the tower of St. Lambert’s Church.


The continental Reformation: Germany, Switzerland, and France » Zwingli and his influence » Other groups
In Holland Menno Simonsz (c. 1496–1561), the founder of the Mennonites, returned to the original Anabaptist teachings and repudiated violence, polygamy, and the setting of dates for the coming of the Lord. The Mennonites survived partly by acceding to military service in Holland, partly by migration first to eastern Europe and then to the Americas. The Hutterites, followers of Jakob Hutter (died 1536), were allowed to establish themselves on the estates of tolerant Moravian nobles who accepted excellent craftsmanship in field and shop in lieu of military service. Because of subsequent persecution the Hutterites also migrated to the New World. The Swiss branch, called the Amish, still survives in the United States. The entire pattern of ideas has reappeared in various combinations in subsequent history, not only among the Church of the Brethren and the Quakers but among all of the free churches disclaiming a state connection.


The continental Reformation: Germany, Switzerland, and France » The role of Calvin
Another form of Protestantism was Calvinism, named for John Calvin (1509–64), a French humanist and doctor of law whose conversion to the Protestant reform forced him to flee France. In Basel, at the age of 27, he published Institutes of the Christian Religion, which in successive editions became the manual of Protestant theology. Calvin agreed with Luther on justification by faith and the sole authority of Scripture. On the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper he took a position between the radical Swiss and the Lutheran view. Thus he believed that the body of Christ was not present everywhere, but that His spirit was universal and that there was a genuine communion with the risen Lord. Calvin likewise took a middle view on music and art. He favoured congregational singing of the Psalms, which became a characteristic practice of the Huguenots in France and the Presbyterians in Scotland and the New World. Calvin rejected the images of saints and the crucifix (that is, the body of Christ upon the cross) but allowed a plain cross. These modifications do not, however, refute the generalization that Calvinism was largely opposed to art and music in the service of religion but not in the secular sphere.

In contrast to Luther, Calvin began his Institutes not with justification by faith but with the knowledge of God. Luther found refuge from the terror of God’s dispensations in the mercy of Christ. Calvin could more calmly contemplate the frightfulness of God’s judgments because they would not descend upon the elect. Luther, as noted, saw no way of knowing who were the elect. He could not be sure of himself and throughout his life struggled for faith and assurance. Calvin had certain approximate and attainable tests. He did not require the experience of the new birth, which is so inward and intangible, though to be sure later Calvinism moved away from him on this point and agonized over the signs of election. For Calvin there were three tests: the profession of faith, as with Zwingli; a rigorously disciplined Christian deportment, as with the Anabaptists; and a love of the sacraments, which meant the Lord’s Supper, since infant baptism was not to be repeated. If a person could meet these three tests he could assume his election and stop worrying.

If one could achieve such assurance, an enormous release of energy could be directed to the glory of God and the erection on Earth of a holy commonwealth. Calvin once observed that “the Church reformed is the kingdom of God.” He saw more of a possibility of its realization through the efforts of the elect because service to the Kingdom did not require a particular vocation. Any worthy occupation is a divine calling demanding unremitting zeal. Luther had emphasized the secular callings instead of the monastic, which in the Middle Ages alone had been called a vocation. With Calvin the point was not so much that one should accept one’s lot and rejoice in the assigned task, however menial, as that the work would contribute to the larger realization of the Christian society.

Calvin had a concrete opportunity to realize his vision. The city of Geneva had recently thrown off the authority of the bishop and of the duke of Savoy and had not yet joined the Protestant Swiss Confederation. The Protestant city of Bern, Geneva’s ally in the struggle for independence, was the source of Protestant preachers who evangelized Geneva. The city was threatened by civil war. The bellicose preacher Guillaume Farel, unable himself to contain the violence he had helped to unleash, laid hold of Calvin, who was merely passing through the city, and impressed him into the unwelcome task of leadership. After several turbulent years, banishment, and recall, Calvin directed for the last two decades of his life the city that John Knox considered “the most godly since the days of the apostles.”

Attempts to achieve independence had been made by Protestant churches in Basel and Strasbourg but had failed. In Geneva, the goal was made more attainable, despite the turmoil, by the establishment of control over the composition of the population. At the outset all the Catholics who would not submit to the new regime had to leave. For those who remained, excommunication from the church meant banishment from the city. Calvin ensured that one who was not in the graces of the church could not for long be a member of the community. A further factor ensuring a select constituency was the influx of 6,000 refugees from France, Italy, Spain, and, for a time, from England into a city of 13,000. Thus in Geneva, church, state, and community came to be one. The ministers and the magistrates with differentiated functions were both the servants of God in the erection of this new Israel; and the comparison with ancient Israel was the more striking and the inner cohesion the more intensified because Geneva also was begirt by foes, the duke of Savoy and the duke of Alba, like the old Canaanites and Philistines.


The continental Reformation: Germany, Switzerland, and France » Calvinism in France
The situation in France was not altogether unlike that in Germany. Although the decentralization of government was not as great, some French provinces enjoyed considerable autonomy, particularly in the south, and it was in the Midi and French Navarre that the Protestant movement had its initial strength. Then, too, noble houses were continually conspiring to manipulate or eviscerate the monarchy, and, as a result, religious issues came to be intertwined with political ambitions. The ruling houses—first the Valois from Francis I through Henry III and then the Bourbon, beginning with Henry IV—sought to secure the stability of the land and the throne by quelling sectarian strife either by the extermination or toleration of religious minorities.

The ground was better prepared for the reform of the church in France than in Germany because of the efforts of the Catholic scholar Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples and the bishop of Meaux, Guillaume Briçonnet, and others. King Francis I and his sister Margaret of Angoulême not infrequently intervened to save humanist reformers from the menaces of the obscurantists, and Margaret’s daughter, Jeanne d’Albret, the queen of Navarre, a feudatory of France, provided an asylum for the persecuted in her domain, though she did not herself espouse the Huguenot cause until 1560. When Lutheran teaching first began to infiltrate France, Francis I, who would not abet heresy, fluctuated in his policy of repression, depending on whether he desired a political alliance with the pope, the Ottoman Turks, or the German Lutherans. The year 1534 precipitated a crisis when placards were posted in Paris savagely attacking the mass. Severe repression followed. Bishop Briçonnet made his submission. Farel fled to Geneva, Lefèvre to Strasbourg, and Calvin to Basel. Henry II, the son of Francis, intensified repression, particularly when France and Spain made peace in 1559 and thus were free to devote attention to the suppression of heresy at home. The persecution of the Huguenots, as the Protestants came to be called in France, would have been intense save for the death of the king in a tournament.

At this point the rivalry of the noble houses injected itself more overtly into the religious struggle. The crown, with its alternating policy of eradication or recognition, was flanked by two extreme houses, the Catholic House of Guise and the Huguenot family of Admiral Coligny, for whom the religious issue was of intense concern. Under Francis II the Guises were ascendant because the queen, Mary (later queen of Scots) was of that house. Some of the Huguenots, foreseeing the suppression in store, hatched the Conspiracy of Amboise, an attempted assassination of the leaders of the Guise party and transfer of power to the House of Bourbon.

This was plainly rebellion and acutely raised a problem with which Protestants had long been wrestling. The Lutherans had to face it earlier when the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 gave them a year in which to submit on pain of war. The Lutheran princes then formed the Schmalkaldic League to resist arms with arms, but Luther was loath to condone any use of the sword in defense of the Gospel and absolutely forbade any recourse to violence on the part of a private citizen against the magistrates. This had been his reason for opposing the Peasants’ War. But now the jurists pointed out to Luther that the emperor was an elected ruler and that if he transgressed against the true religion he might be held to account by the electors, who also were magistrates. Thus arose the doctrine of the right of resistance of the lower magistrate against the higher. The concept lost its pertinence in Germany after the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, which granted toleration to the Lutherans in the territories where they predominated. Minorities in Lutheran and Catholic lands were granted the right of migration without loss of goods.

But the Calvinists were not included in the peace, which had no legal bearing in France, and the problem of armed resistance again became acute. Calvin would not condone the Conspiracy of Amboise because it was not led by a lower magistrate. The term was now applied to the princes of the blood in line for succession to the throne. This meant the House of Bourbon. The Conspiracy of Amboise failed. Francis II died, and was succeeded by his brother, the young Charles IX. The queen mother, Catherine de Médicis, took the lead and sought to avert religious war by granting the Huguenots limited toleration in restricted areas in the edict of 1562. When François, duc de Guise, discovered the Huguenots worshiping outside the prescribed limits, as he claimed, he opened fire, setting off the Massacre of Vassy and the wars. The Huguenots now were led by a prince of the blood, Louis I, 1st prince de Condé, of the House of Bourbon. Calvin approved. There followed three inconclusive wars. Condé was killed in the first and François, duc de Guise, was assassinated. His son, Henri, who succeeded him as the duke of Guise, believed in the complicity of Coligny, the new leader of the Huguenots. At the end of 10 years of indecisive conflict, Catherine made another effort at a settlement to be cemented by the marriage of Henry of Navarre, a Bourbon, the son of Jeanne d’Albret and the hope of the Huguenots, and her own daughter Margaret (Marguerite de Valois), a Catholic. The leaders of all parties came to Paris for the wedding. The duke of Guise made an attempt on the life of Coligny, which failed. Then the Guise, with the connivance of Catherine and her son Charles, who panicked, tried to wipe out all of the leaders of the Huguenot party in the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day in August 1572. Other massacres followed in the provinces.

Charles IX was succeeded by his brother, Henry III, two years later (1574). Such was the revulsion against the massacre that the king could rule only by forming an alliance with the Huguenot Henry of Navarre. A fanatical Catholic was thereby so outraged that he assassinated the king. Both sides had abandoned the fiction of the inferior magistrate and had gone in unabashedly for popular revolution. Henry of Navarre became Henry IV, but he was unable to take Paris and rule France so long as he was a Protestant. In order to pacify the land he made his submission to Rome and promulgated an edict of toleration for the Huguenots, the Edict of Nantes, in 1598. It gave them liberty of worship again in limited areas but full rights of participation in public life. The edict remained in force until the revocation in 1685.


The Reformation in England and Scotland » Henry VIII and the separation from Rome
In the meantime the Reformation had taken hold in England. The beginning there was political rather than religious, a quarrel between the king and the pope of the sort that had occurred in the Middle Ages without resulting in a permanent schism and might not have in this instance save for the overall European situation. The dispute had its root in the assumption that the king was a national stallion expected to provide an heir to the throne. England did not have the Salic law, which in France forbade female succession, but England had just emerged from a prolonged civil war, the Wars of the Roses, and the new dynasty needed a male heir to maintain its hold on the throne and to prevent the resumption of civil war. Catherine of Aragon, the queen of Henry VIII, had borne him numerous children of whom only one survived, the princess Mary, and more were not to be expected. The ordinary procedure in such a case was to discover some flaw in the marriage that would allow an annulment or a divorce. In this instance the flaw was not difficult to find, because Catherine had been married to Henry’s brother Arthur, and canon law, following the prohibition in the book of Leviticus (20:21), forbade the marriage of a man with his deceased brother’s widow. At the time of the marriage the pope, Julius II, had given a dispensation to cover this infraction of the rule. The question now was whether the pope had the authority to dispense from the divine law. Catherine said there had been no need for a dispensation because her marriage to Arthur had not been consummated and there had been no impediment to her marriage to Henry. The knot would have been cut by some casuistry had Catherine not been the aunt of Emperor Charles V, who was not prepared to see her cast aside in favour of another wife. Clement VII, wishing neither to provoke the emperor nor to alienate the king, dallied so long that Henry took the matter into his own hands, repudiated papal authority, and in 1534 set up the independent Church of England, with the king as the supreme head. The spiritual head was the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, who married Henry to Anne Boleyn. She bore the princess Elizabeth, and still another wife, Jane Seymour, bore the future Edward VI.

Henry’s basic concern was political, but the alterations in the structure of the church gave scope for a reformation that was religious in character. Part of the impulse came from the survivals of Lollardy, part from the Lutheran movement on the Continent, and even more from the Christian humanism represented by Erasmus. Although Henry retained much Catholic doctrine, especially transubstantiation, and ecclesiastical organization, he did introduce important changes, including the suppression of the monasteries, the introduction of the Bible in the vernacular in the parish churches, and permission to the clergy to marry, though this last reform was later revoked. The resistance to Henry’s program was not formidable, and the executions resulting were not numerous. Henry was impartial in burning some Lutherans who would not submit to his later reactionary legislation and toward some Catholics who would not accept the royal supremacy over the church, notably John Fisher and Thomas More.

On his ascension to the throne in 1547, young Edward VI was hailed as England’s Josiah, the young 7th-century-bc king of Judah who enforced the Deuteronomic reform. Edward, it was held, would rid the land of idolatry so that England might be blessed. Protestantism advanced rapidly during his reign through the systematic reformation of doctrine, worship, and discipline—the three external marks of the true church. A reformed confession of faith and a prayer book were adopted, but the reformation of the ecclesiastical laws that would have defined the basis of discipline was blocked by the nobility in Parliament.

The death of Edward and England’s return to Roman Catholicism in 1553 under Queen Mary was interpreted by Protestants as God’s judgment that England had not taken the Reformation seriously enough. Many, including Cranmer, died as martyrs to the Protestant cause, and others fled to the European continent. Those in exile experimented with more radical forms of worship and discipline, and published material justifying rebellion against an idolatrous ruler. Exiles also produced two large volumes of incalculable consequence for English religious thought, John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments, popularly known as The Book of Martyrs, and the Geneva Bible. The most popular books in England for many years after their publication, they provided a view of the country as an elect nation chosen by God to bring the power of the Antichrist (understood to be the pope) to an end.

Elizabeth I, assumed the throne in 1558 and was hailed as the glorious Deborah (a 12th-century-bc Israelite leader), the “restorer of Israel.” She did not, however, restore it far enough for some English Protestants, particularly the Puritans. Indeed, she distrusted the challenge to authority and feared the disorder that either extreme evangelical zeal or extreme Catholic zeal could cause. Two statutes promulgated in her first year—the Act of Supremacy, stating that the queen was “supreme governor” of the Church of England, and the Act of Uniformity, ensuring that English worship should follow The Book of Common Prayer—defined the nature of the English religious establishment. In 1563 the church’s primary legislative body, the Convocations of Canterbury and York, defined standard doctrine in the Thirty-nine Articles, but attempts to reform the prayer book further and to produce a reformed discipline failed. Defeated in the convocation, the reformers came to rely more on Parliament, where they could always depend on strong support.


The Reformation in England and Scotland » The role of John Knox
In Scotland the Reformation is associated with the name of John Knox, who declared that one celebration of the mass is worse than a cup of poison. He faced the very real threat that Mary, Queen of Scots, would do for Scotland what Mary Tudor had done for England. Therefore Knox defied her in person on matters of religion and, though a commoner, addressed her as if he were all Scotland. He very nearly was, because in the period prior to 1560 many an obscure evangelist had converted much of the lowlands to the religion of John Calvin. The church had been given a Presbyterian structure, culminating in a General Assembly, which had actually as great and perhaps a greater influence than the Parliament. Because of her follies, and very probably her crimes (complicity in the murder of her husband), Mary had to seek asylum in England. There she became the focus of plots on the life of Elizabeth until Parliament decreed her execution. Presbyterianism was established in Scotland, making possible the union of Scotland with England.

Knox is frequently reproached for his intolerance regarding the celebration of mass, but one must remember that the year 1560 marked the peak of polarization between the confessions. Similar intolerance had been mounting at Rome. Paul III, after an abortive attempt at reform, had introduced the Roman Inquisition in 1542. His successor, Paul IV, placed everything that Erasmus had ever written on the Index. The Council of Trent began sitting in 1545, introducing rigidity in dogma and austerity in morals. The Protestant views of justification by faith alone, the Lord’s Supper, and the propriety of clerical marriage were sharply rejected. All deviation within the Catholic fold was rigidly suppressed. When Carranza, the archbishop of Toledo, returned to Spain in 1559, after assisting Mary in the restoration of Catholicism in England, he arrived in time for the last great auto-da-fé of the Lutherans. Under suspicion for ideas no more heretical than those of Erasmus, he was incarcerated for 17 years in the prison of the Inquisition. The liberal cardinal Giovanni Morone was imprisoned during the pontificate of Paul IV, and under Pius V, Pietro Carnesecchi, an Erasmian and one-time secretary of Clement VII, was burned in Rome. Knox and Pope Pius V represent the acme of divergence between the confessions.

Roland H. Bainton
James C. Spalding
Ed.


The Reformation in England and Scotland » The rise of Puritanism » Origins
Puritanism first emerged as a distinct movement in a controversy over clerical vestments and liturgical practices during the reign of Elizabeth. Immediately following the Elizabethan Settlement, Protestant clergy could, within reason, choose what to wear while leading worship. Many preachers took this opportunity to do away with the formal attire as well as other practices traditionally associated with the Roman Catholic mass. In 1564, however, Elizabeth demanded that Matthew Parker, the archbishop of Canterbury, enforce uniformity in the liturgy. He did so somewhat reluctantly with the publication of his Advertisements in 1566. Those who refused to wear the prescribed garb were mockingly called “Puritans” or “precisians” for their unwillingness to submit in these seemingly minor points to the supremacy of the queen.

The form of church government was a second controversial issue among Elizabethan Protestants. In 1570 Thomas Cartwright (1535–1603) delivered a series of lectures at the University of Cambridge proposing that presbyterian government, or government by local councils of clergy and laity, might be an improvement over the current system of archbishops, bishops, and appointments. Cartwright was dismissed for his opinions and fled to Geneva. Two years later John Field and Thomas Wilcox anonymously published an Admonition to the Parliament, which pushed Cartwright’s ideas even further. In reply John Whitgift, the vice-chancellor at Cambridge, maintained that the government of the church should be suited to the government of the state and that episcopal government best suited monarchy. In this dispute most Puritans shied away from extremes and supported some form of episcopacy, but a small number went beyond even Cartwright and Field in seeking to effect immediately a “reformation without tarrying for any.” These Separatists, such as Robert Browne (died 1633), broke with the established parish system to set up voluntary congregations that covenanted with God and with themselves, chose ministers by common consent, and put into practice the Puritan marks of the true church.

The leaders of the Puritan movement, however, including Cartwright (who had returned to England in 1585) and Field, repudiated the Separatists and sought to set up “presbyterianism in episcopacy,” or a “church within the church.” This compromise between presbyterianism and episcopacy was preferred by the most prominent Puritans, who instituted a system of informal public meetings of clergy and laity, called “prophesyings,” to expound and discuss the Bible. Edmund Grindal, who had succeeded Parker as archbishop of Canterbury in 1576, favoured these meetings because of their educational value for the rural population. But the prophesyings were also occasions for local Puritan clergy, laity, and gentry to mobilize, and they were viewed by Elizabeth as a political threat. An increasingly clear alliance between Puritans and certain factions within Parliament did not allay Elizabeth’s fears.

Thus, the queen ordered Grindal to suppress the prophesyings. When he refused, Elizabeth effectively suspended him from the exercise of his office. This suspension further alienated Puritans. Meetings continued, often in a modified form, called classis or conferences, which were loosely coordinated by Field in London. Following Grindal’s death in 1583, Whitgift, Cartwright’s old opponent, advanced to Canterbury. Whitgift had no hesitance in closing down the prophesyings, but he proceeded with caution in formal prosecution of Puritans. Extended ecclesiastical hearings by the Court of High Commission, under the leadership of John Aylmer, and civil proceedings by the Star Chamber were accompanied by the imprisonment of only a few of the most prominent Puritans.

Whitgift’s policy, along with the death of Field and other Puritan leaders between 1588 and 1590, effectively ended any grand plan for a continuing reformation of the English church under Elizabeth. The generally moderate Elizabethan Puritan movement was over, and the forces of reform dispersed into various parties and programs ranging from nonseparating congregationalism (as advocated by William Ames) to open subversion of the established hierarchy as in the anonymous Marprelate Tracts (1588–89). Despite failure to promote reform in matters of church structure, the Puritan spirit continued to spread throughout society. Protestants with Puritan sympathies controlled colleges and professorships at Oxford and Cambridge, had the ears of many leaders in the House of Commons, and worked tirelessly as preachers and pastors to continue the preaching of Protestantism in its distinctively “hot” Puritan form to the laity.

Martin E. Marty


The Reformation in England and Scotland » The rise of Puritanism » Puritanism under the Stuarts (1603–49) » Events under James I
Puritan hopes were raised when James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth as James I of England in 1603. James was a Calvinist, and he had once signed the Negative Confession of 1581 favouring the Puritan position. In 1603 the Millenary Petition (which claimed 1,000 signatures) presented Puritan grievances to the king, and in 1604 the Hampton Court Conference was held to deal with them. The petitioners were sadly in error in their estimate of James, who had learned by personal experience to resent Presbyterian clericalism. At Hampton Court he coined the phrase “no bishop, no king.” Outmaneuvered in the conference, the Puritans were made to appear petty in their requests.

The situation remained tense during James’s reign as he pursued monarchist and episcopal policies that failed to resolve contemporary difficulties. Following the Hampton Court Conference he appointed Richard Bancroft as Whitgift’s successor as archbishop of Canterbury and encouraged the Convocation of 1604 to draw up the Constitutions and Canons against Nonconformists. Conformity in ecclesiastical matters was imposed in areas where nonconformity had survived under Elizabeth. Furthermore, the enforced reading from pulpits of James’s Book of Sports, dealing with recreations permissible on Sundays, in 1618, was an additional affront to those who espoused strict observance of the sabbath, making compromise more difficult. For many Puritan groups compromise was unacceptable anyway, and in 1607 a congregation from Scrooby, England, fled to Holland and then migrated on the Mayflower to establish the Plymouth Colony on the shore of Cape Cod Bay in North America in 1620. Of those who remained in England, a number of clergy were deprived of their positions, but others took evasive action and got by with minimal conformity. Members of Parliament supported the Nonconformists and argued that the canons of 1604 had not been ratified by Parliament and therefore did not have the force of law. Moreover, men of Puritan sympathies remained close to the seat of power during James’s reign.

The Reformation in England and Scotland » The rise of Puritanism » Puritanism under the Stuarts (1603–49) » Events under Charles I
Despite the presence of controversy, Puritan and non-Puritan Protestants under Elizabeth and James had been united by adherence to a broadly Calvinistic theology of grace. Much of Whitgift’s restraint in handling Puritans, for instance, can be traced to the prevailing Calvinist consensus he shared with the Nonconformists. Even as late as 1618 the English delegation to the Synod of Dort supported the strongly Calvinistic decisions of that body. Under Charles I, however, this consensus broke down, creating yet another rift in the Church of England. Anti-Puritanism in matters of liturgy and organization became linked with anti-Calvinism in theology.

The leaders of the anti-Puritan and anti-Calvinist party, notably Richard Montagu, whose New Gagg for an Old Goose (1624) first linked Calvinism with the abusive term Puritan, drew upon the development of Arminianism in Holland. In contrast to Calvinists who emphasized God’s predestination of a few to salvation and damnation of the rest of humanity, Arminians stressed God’s offer of salvation to all humankind. English Arminians added to this an increased reverence for the sacraments and liturgical ceremony. Richard Neile, the bishop of Durham, was the first significant patron of Arminians among the hierarchy, but by the time William Laud was appointed bishop of London in 1628, he was the acknowledged leader of the anti-Puritan party. London was regarded as the stronghold of Puritanism, and a policy of thorough anti-Puritanism was begun there.

Laud, who became archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, was clearly a favourite of Charles. He promoted Arminians to influential positions in the church and subtly encouraged the propagation of Arminian theology. His fortunes turned, however, when he attempted to introduce into the Church of Scotland a liturgy comparable to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. When “Laud’s Liturgy” was introduced at the Church of St. Giles at Edinburgh, a riot broke out leading to a popular uprising that restored Presbyterianism in Scotland.

Charles sought to put down the Scots in the so-called Bishops’ Wars. To wage war Charles needed to raise revenue, but the only institution that could approve new taxes was Parliament, which had feuded with Charles in the 1620s and was dissolved by him in 1629. In April 1640 the Short Parliament met but was quickly dissolved by Charles because its members wanted to discuss a list of grievances before approving funds for the war. Charles proceeded against the Scots but, his armies were no match for Scottish forces. In 1640 he was faced with an army of occupation in northern England demanding money as a part of its settlement. Short of funds, Charles was forced to call Parliament again, and this time he would be forced to deal with it.

Religion played perhaps the key role in the parliamentary elections, and Calvinists came to dominate the House of Commons. Puritans, increasingly alienated from the ecclesiastical and civil hierarchy since the mid-1620s, saw an opportunity to turn the Church of England from Arminianism and to carry out reforms that had been held in check since the Elizabethan Settlement. Arminianism in theology, liturgy, and government was linked in the popular mind with Catholicism, as fears of a Spanish conspiracy to undermine Protestant England became widespread. The first act of the Long Parliament (1640–53), as it came to be called, was to set aside November 17, 1640, as a day of fasting and prayer. Cornelius Burges and Stephen Marshall were appointed to preach that day to members of Parliament. Their sermons urged the nation to renew its covenant with God in order to bring about true religion through the maintenance of “an able, godly, faithful, zealous, profitable, preaching ministry in every parish church and chapel throughout England and Wales” and through the establishment of a civil magistracy that would be “ever at hand to back such a ministry.” Hundreds of similar sermons were preached on monthly fast days and on other occasions before Parliament during the next few years, urging the people to adopt “true doctrine,” “pure worship,” and “the maintenance of discipline” as a means to claim God’s blessing so that England might become “our Jerusalem, a praise in the midst of the earth.”

The Reformation in England and Scotland » The rise of Puritanism » Puritanism under the Stuarts (1603–49) » Civil war
Charles, it had become apparent, was the patron of the Arminians and their attempt to redefine Anglican doctrine. Arminians in turn favoured Charles’s causes against Puritans and Parliament. This alliance held despite increasing pressure on Charles to cooperate with Parliament on economic and military matters. The resulting civil war between the forces of the king and those of Parliament was hardly just a religious struggle between Arminians and Calvinists, but conflict over religion played an undeniably large role in bringing about the Puritan Revolution. As Protestantism split, so did English society.

Fighting broke out in 1642, and after the first battles members of Parliament called together a committee of over 100 clergymen from all over England to advise them on “the good government of the Church.” This body, the Westminster Assembly of Divines, convened on July 1, 1643, and continued daily meetings for more than five years.

A majority of the Puritan clergy of England probably would have accepted a modified episcopal church government. Parliament, however, needed Scotland’s military help. It adopted the Solemn League and Covenant, which committed the Westminster Assembly to develop a church polity close to Scotland’s presbyterian form. A small, determined assembly group of “Dissenting Brethren” held out for the freedom of the congregation, or “Independency.” Others, called Erastians, argued that the church was subordinate to the state and wanted to limit the offenses under the power of church discipline. Because both groups had support in Parliament, the reform of church government and discipline was frustrated.

Dissent within the assembly was negligible compared with dissent outside it. Pamphlets by John Milton, Roger Williams, and other Puritans pleaded for greater freedom of the press and of religion. Such dissent was supported by the New Model Army, a Parliamentarian force of 22,000 men led by Sir Thomas Fairfax (1612–71) as commander in chief and Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) as second in command. The army’s support for this dissent was made all the more significant because its leaders had become the real power in England after their defeat of Royalist forces. Late in 1648 the victors feared that the Westminster Assembly and Parliament would reach a compromise with the defeated Charles that would destroy their gains for Puritanism. In December 1648 Parliament was purged of members unsatisfactory to the army, and in January 1649 King Charles was tried and executed.


The Reformation in England and Scotland » The rise of Puritanism » The age of Cromwell (1649–60)
Although the House of Lords was abolished, both Parliament and the assembly continued to sit on a “rump” basis (containing only a remnant of their membership after the purges). In May 1649 the government of the Commonwealth was declared and Cromwell emerged as England’s lord protector. He was a typical Puritan who saw the judgment and mercy of God operating in human affairs and believed that his military success was a sign of God’s blessing of his work.

The Independent clergyman John Owen guided the religious settlement under Cromwell. He maintained that the “reformation of England shall be more glorious than of any Nation in the world, being carried on, neither by might nor power, but only by the spirit of the Lord of Hosts.” Doctrinal error was a problem for both Cromwell and Owen, but, as Owen explained, it was better for 500 errors to be scattered among individuals than for one error to have power and jurisdiction over all others.

Such was the basis for a pluralistic religious settlement in England under the Commonwealth in which parish churches were led by men of Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist, or other opinions. Jews were permitted to live in England, but Roman Catholics and Unitarians were not allowed to hold religious views publicly. Cromwell was personally willing to tolerate The Book of Common Prayer, but Parliament was not. Voluntary associations of churches were formed, such as the Worcestershire Association, to keep up a semblance of order among churches and pastors of differing persuasions.

In the upheaval brought on by the wars, radical groups appeared that both challenged and advanced the Puritan vision of the New Jerusalem. The Levellers (a republican and democratic political party) in the New Model Army in 1647 and 1648 interpreted the liberty that comes from the grace of God freely offered to all through Christ as having direct implications for political democracy. In 1649, the Diggers (agrarian communists) planted crops on common land—first at St. George’s Hill near Kingston and later at Cobham Manor, also near Kingston—to bring forth God’s millennial kingdom, which they understood to be an unstructured community of love with a communal economy. In the same year, the Fifth Monarchy Men (an extreme Puritan millennialist sect), presented their message of no compromise with the old political structure and advocated a new one, composed of saints joined together in congregations with ascending representative assemblies, to bring all men under the kingship of Jesus Christ. As distinct units these groups were short-lived. A more enduring group was founded by George Fox (1624–91) as the Society of Friends, or Quakers, which pushed the Puritan position against popery to its logical conclusion by rejecting the need for ministers, sacraments, or liturgy in the church. Puritanism had never been a monolithic movement, and accession to power generated factionalism. The limits of the Puritan spirit showed clearly in the widespread persecution of the Quakers.


The Reformation in England and Scotland » The rise of Puritanism » The Restoration (1660–85)
After the death of Cromwell, chaos threatened, and in the interest of order even some Puritans supported the restoration of Charles II as king. They hoped for a modified episcopal government, such as had been suggested in 1641 by the archbishop of Armagh, James Ussher (1581–1656). Such a proposal was satisfactory, however, to many Episcopals, Presbyterians, and Independents. When some veterans of the Westminster Assembly went to Holland in 1660 to meet with Charles before he returned, the king made it clear that there would be modifications to satisfy “tender consciences.”

These Puritans were outmaneuvered, however, by those who favoured the strict episcopal pattern. A new Act of Uniformity was passed on May 19, 1662, by the Cavalier Parliament that required reordination of many pastors, gave unconditional consent to The Book of Common Prayer, advocated the taking of the oath of canonical obedience, and renounced the Solemn League and Covenant. Between 1660 and when the act was enforced on August 24, 1662, almost 2,000 Puritan ministers were ejected from their positions.

As a result of the Act of Uniformity, English Puritanism entered the period of the Great Persecution. The Conventicle Act of 1664 punished any person over 16 years of age for attending a religious meeting not conducted according to The Book of Common Prayer. The Five Mile Act of 1665 prohibited any ejected minister from living within five miles of a corporate town or any place where he had formerly served. Still, some Puritans did not give up the idea of “comprehension” (the idea that all ecclesiastical factions might yet find common ground). There were conferences with sympathetic bishops and brief periods of indulgence for Puritans to preach, but fines and imprisonment were frequent. Consequently, Puritanism became a form of Nonconformist Protestantism.

Charles, who converted to Roman Catholicism on his death bed, had steered a course through the turmoil among the various religious factions, but his successor and openly Catholic brother, James II (1685–88), could not. Fear of Roman Catholic tyranny and James’s poor judgment united both establishment and Nonconformist Protestants. This new unity brought about the Glorious Revolution (1688–89), establishing William and Mary on the throne. The last attempt at comprehension failed to receive approval by either Parliament or the Convocation under the new rulers. In 1689 England’s religious solution was defined by an Act of Toleration that continued the established church as episcopal but also made it possible for dissenting groups to have licensed chapels. The Puritan goal to further reform the nation as a whole was transmuted into the more individualistic spiritual concerns of Pietism or else the more secular concerns of the Age of Reason.


The Reformation in England and Scotland » The rise of Puritanism » Puritanism in the English colonies » Virginia
A decade before the landing of the Mayflower (1620) in Massachusetts, a strong Puritan influence was established in Virginia. Leaders of the Virginia Company who settled Jamestown in 1607 believed that they had a covenant with God, and they carefully read the message of their successes and failures. A typical Puritan vision was held by the Virginia settler Sir Thomas Dale. His strict application of laws disciplining the colony probably saved Jamestown from extinction in 1611, but he also earned a reputation as a tyrant. Dale thought of himself as a labourer in the vineyard of the Lord, as a member of Israel building up a “heavenly New Jerusalem.” Like Cromwell later, Dale interpreted his military success as a direct sign of God’s lending “a helping hand.”

Puritan clergy saw an excellent opportunity for their cause in Virginia. The Reverend Alexander Whitaker, the “apostle of Virginia,” wrote to his London Puritan cousin in 1614: “But I much more muse, that so few of our English ministers, that were so hot against the surplice and subscription, come hither where neither is spoken of.” The church in Virginia, however, became more directly aligned with the English establishment when the settlements were made into a royal colony in 1624.

The Reformation in England and Scotland » The rise of Puritanism » Puritanism in the English colonies » Massachusetts Bay
In New England, however, the Puritans had their greatest opportunity. Between 1628 and 1640 the Massachusetts Bay Colony was developed as a covenant community. Governor John Winthrop stated the case in his lay sermon on board the Arbella:

Thus stands the cause between God and us; we are entered into covenant with Him for this work; we have taken out a commission; the Lord hath given us leave to draw our own articles…Now if the Lord shall be pleased to hear us and bring us in peace to the place we desire, then hath He ratified this covenant and sealed our Commission, [and] will expect a strict performance of the articles contained in it.

The failure to perform the articles, in this view, would bring the wrath of God down upon them.

Church organization in the colony was determined by John Cotton, who pursued “that very Middle-way” between English Separatism and the presbyterian form of government. Unlike the Separatists he held the Church of England to be a true church, though blemished; and unlike the Presbyterians he held that there should be no ecclesiastical authority between the congregation and the Lordship of Christ. Cotton proposed that the church maintain its purity by permitting only those who could make a “declaration of their experience of a work of grace” to be members. Cotton’s plan ensured that church government should be in the hands of the elect.

Inspired by Thomas Cartwright, the Puritans of the Bay Colony fashioned the civil commonwealth according to the framework of the church. Only the elect could vote and rule in the commonwealth. The church would not govern, but it would prepare the “instruments both to rule and to choose rulers.” Biblical law was the primary law for ordering both church and state.

The colony prospered; thus it seemed evident that God was blessing Puritan performance. As a result the leadership could not take kindly to those who publicly criticized their basic program. Hence Roger Williams in 1635 and Anne Hutchinson in 1638 were banished from the colony even though they could declare their experience of the work of grace. More troublesome than these dissenters were persons such as Mary Dyer. She and other Quakers who returned again and again after being punished and banished were finally hanged. It was difficult for the state to keep the church pure.

Fearing that the Westminster Assembly, established by the Parliament to reform the church, would impose a new form of church government on them, churches from the four Puritan colonies—Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven—met in a voluntary synod in 1648. They adopted the Cambridge Platform, in which the congregational form of church government was worked out in detail. The standard for church membership came into question when it was found that numbers of second-generation residents could not testify to the experience of grace in their lives. This resulted in the Half-Way Covenant of 1657 and 1662 that permitted baptized, moral, and orthodox persons to share in the privileges of church membership except for partaking of communion.

Late in the 17th century it was apparent to all that the ideal commonwealth was not being maintained. Ministers pointed to wars with the Native Americans and other problems as signs of God’s judgment. Another sign of the failure of the commonwealth and God’s displeasure was the appearance of what many people thought were witches. The Salem witch trials and hangings took place in 1692 during a period of declining confidence in the old ideal.

The Reformation in England and Scotland » The rise of Puritanism » Puritanism in the English colonies » Other colonies
Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven were not the only variations on the main theme of realizing the holy commonwealth in America. Roger Williams and the other founders of Rhode Island must also be regarded as Puritans with the “one principle, that every one should have liberty to worship God according to the light of their consciences.” William Penn’s “holy experiment” in Pennsylvania represented the Quaker variation of the Puritan experiment. When Penn became owner of this vast tract of land, he saw it as a mandate from God to form an ideal commonwealth. In New Jersey, Puritans from the New Haven colony who were dissatisfied with the Half-Way Convenant sought to reestablish the pristine Puritan community at Newark. Maryland, which had been established under Roman Catholic auspices, soon had a strong Puritan majority among its settlers. Indeed, there was no colony in which Puritan influence was not strong, and one estimate identifies 85 percent of the churches in the original 13 colonies as Puritan in spirit.


The expansion of the Reformation in Europe
By the middle of the 16th century, Lutheranism had spread into the various principalities and kingdoms of northern Europe. The duchy of Württemberg, after the restoration of Duke Ulrich, adopted reform in 1534; its outstanding Reformer was Johannes Brenz and its great centre Tübingen. Brandenburg, and its capital Berlin, embraced reform in 1539, and in that same year ducal Saxony, until then vehemently Catholic, changed sides. Elisabeth of Braunschweig also converted in 1539, but only after much turbulence did her faith prevail in the land. Albert of Prussia, whose wife was Danish and who was a member of the Polish Diet and grand master of the Teutonic Order, took a stand that was very significant for the north. He secularized the order and in 1525 acknowledged himself a Lutheran. In Scandinavia Denmark toyed with breaking with Rome as early as the 1520s, but it was not until 1539 that the Danish church became a national church with the king as the head and the clergy as leaders in matters of faith. Norway followed Denmark. The Diet of Västerås (1527) officially declared what had for some time been true, namely, that Sweden was an evangelical state. The outstanding Swedish Reformers were the brothers Olaus and Laurentius Petri. Finland, under Swedish rule, followed suit. The Reformer there was Mikael Agricola, called “the father of written Finnish.” The Baltic states of Livonia and Estonia were officially Lutheran in 1554. Austria under the Habsburgs provided no state support for the evangelical movement, which nevertheless gained adherents. In Moravia, as noted earlier, the Hutterites established their colonies under tolerant magnates.

The reform movement also spread into eastern Europe. Although it remained predominantly Roman Catholic, Poland acquired a large Protestant minority in the late 16th century when the Danzig area, and its German Lutheran population, came under Polish control, and when a large contingent of the Bohemian Brethren migrated to Poland after the Habsburg ruler attempted their extermination. Several Polish nobles adopted their pacifism and wore only swords made of wood. In 1570 the anti-Trinitarian Socinians, named after their leader Faustus Socinus, flocked from Italy to Poland where they received asylum, perhaps merely because they were Italian, from the Italian queen of Poland, Bona Sforza. They flourished in Poland until dispersed by the Counter-Reformation and survived in small groups until the 19th century. Much more extensive was the Calvinist influx not only into Poland but into the whole of eastern Europe. This variety of Protestantism appealed to those of non-German stock because it was not German and no longer markedly French, as well as because of its revolutionary temper and republican sentiments. The Compact of Warsaw (1573) called the Pax Dissidentium (“The Peace of Those Who Differ”), granted toleration to Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Bohemian Brethren, but not to the Socinians.

In Hungary, the Turkish victory at the Battle of Mohács in 1526 brought about a division of the land into three sections, with the northwest ruled by the Habsburg Ferdinand, the eastern province of Transylvania under Zápolya, and the area of Buda under the Turks. Even before this date Lutheran ideas had made slight inroads in the German and Magyar sections of Hungary. Although Roman Catholicism would predominate among the Hungarian population, Calvinism made gains, and the anti-Trinitarians found a permanent home in Transylvania. The weakness of the government and the diversity of religion in this whole area made for a large degree of toleration.

On the other hand, the Reformation gained no lasting hold in Spain or Italy. In Spain this was primarily the result of the conflicts of the previous century, when Christians strove to achieve political, cultural, and religious unification by converting or expelling the unbelievers—the Jews and the Moors. The Inquisition was introduced in 1482 to root out all remnants of Jewish practice among the Marranos, the Jewish converts to Christianity. The non-Christian Jews were expelled in 1492. Then Granada fell and the same process was applied to the Moriscos, the Moorish converts, and the unconverted Moors, after a century, also were expelled. Because the process had thus far been successful, the pressures were relaxed, and Spain enjoyed a decade of Erasmian liberalism in the 1520s. But with the infiltration of Lutheranism, the machinery of repression again was brought into force.

In Italy sectarian and heretical movements had proliferated throughout the Middle Ages. But one by one they had been crushed or absorbed by the church. Furthermore, the Reformation failed to take hold in Italy because of the tradition of moral preaching by the friars. Another consideration was that the new religious orders—the Capuchins, Theatines, and Jesuits—tapped into currents of popular spirituality while gaining papal favour. The new orders became a mighty force in counteracting Protestant infiltration, which nevertheless did take place. Venice was a centre, with its branch house of the Lutheran banking family of Fugger, and so was Lucca. At Naples the Spanish mystic Valdés, though not a Protestant, expounded a Catholic reformist piety, and some of his followers were attracted to the movements coming from beyond the Alps. Calvinism gained a hold, but the Roman Inquisition, as above noted, was established in 1542, and those with Protestant leanings either made cloisters of their own hearts, went to the stake, or crossed the mountains into permanent exile. Ironically, the most radical theological views of the Reformation were those propounded by the Spanish and Italian anti-Trinitarians.

Roland H. Bainton
James C. Spalding
Martin E. Marty


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » The setting for renewal » Survival of a mystical tradition
The Thirty Years’ War (1618–48) was the background for the intensification of a desire for spiritual renewal. Although historical research has modified the exaggerated contemporary accounts of the war’s effects, it is unquestionable that distress in central Europe was widespread and profound. In some places the economy was reduced to barter, schools were closed, churches were burned, the sick and needy were forgotten. Spiritual and moral deterioration accompanied the physical destruction.

During the war notable signs of renewal appeared. For example, interest in earlier devotional literature developed, which reflected the pious mysticism of Johannes Tauler (c. 1300–61), Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380–1471), and other German, Dutch, and even Spanish authors. The mystical tradition had lived on into the Reformation century and found representatives in Caspar Schwenckfeld (1489–1561), Valentin Weigel (1533–88), and Jakob Böhme (1575–1624). Although both Lutherans and Calvinists opposed the ideas of these mystics, they adopted many of their religious and theological ideas.


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » The setting for renewal » Catholic recovery of Protestant territories
After the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 ended the last of the so-called wars of religion, sectarian competition continued and Catholic powers hoped to regain territory from Lutheran Protestantism. For example, Louis XIV identified French power with universal French acceptance of the Roman Catholic faith. In 1685 he revoked the Edict of Nantes and expelled thousands of Huguenots, who fled to England, Holland, or Germany, much to the advantage of those countries. French refugees became prominent in English religious life, and in Prussia they founded flourishing congregations known as the French Reformed. In 1702 a determined group of Huguenots in the mountains of the Cévennes in France, known as the Camisards, rose in rebellion but were suppressed by military power two years later. There was a further small outbreak of war in 1709. For a time the few surviving Huguenot congregations met only in secret. They were led by Antoine Court (1695–1760), who secured ordination from Zürich and founded (1730) a college at Lausanne to train pastors. French Protestants barely held out until the French Revolution, after which they had a revival.

France gained Alsace in 1648, which decreased Protestant numbers in that Reformation stronghold. Strasbourg, once one of the leading cities of the Protestant Reformation, returned its cathedral to the Catholics (1681) and became a town with a large Catholic population. Louis XIV ruled the Palatinate for nine years and allowed the French Catholics to share the churches with the Protestants; though he was compelled to surrender the country at the Treaty of Rijswijk (1697) to the Holy Roman Empire following the War of the Grand Alliance, a clause (the Simultaneum) of the treaty (added at the last moment and not recognized by the Protestants) preserved certain legal rights for Catholics in Protestant churches. As a result of France’s greater power Protestant authority in the Rhineland between Switzerland and the Netherlands diminished.

Another shock to Protestantism was the conversion of Augustus II, elector of Saxony, to Roman Catholicism in 1697. It appeared as though Protestantism was not even safe in its original home. The conversion involved political motives; Augustus was a candidate for the throne of Poland and was loyal to his new allegiance, assisting the Roman Catholic church in Poland and also, somewhat, in Saxony; but such assistance had no effect on the Lutheranism of Saxony.


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » The setting for renewal » Protestant scholasticism
The 17th century was at once the high era of Protestant systematic orthodoxy and the age when the first signs of its dissolution appeared. The axioms of the Reformation were worked out in a great and systematic body of doctrine, based on the notion that the Christian faith was best defined by its doctrines.

The theologians defended and the pastors taught Luther’s or Calvin’s dogmatic systems—relying also upon authoritative sources such as the Formula of Concord (1577) in Lutheranism or the conclusions of the Synod of Dort (1618) in Calvinism—which were extended and made into a tradition. Protestant theological systems of all variety were worked out in many volumes, appealing always to reason and to biblical authority and seldom to feeling or conscience. This period is known as the age of Protestant orthodoxy or scholasticism. But that pejorative term came later when the axioms on which the systems were founded were no longer accepted. These were the last scriptural theologians before the period of the Enlightenment, when the understanding of Scripture was altered. The old axioms were changed by Pietism, science, and philosophy.


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » The rise of Pietism
The influences of English Puritanism reached the Continent through the translation of works by Richard Baxter (1615–91), Lewis Bayly (1565–1631), and John Bunyan (1628–88). Most frequently read were Baxter’s A Call to the Unconverted, Bayly’s The Practice of Piety, and Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.

Dutch Pietism—influenced by Englishman William Ames (1576–1633), whose Medulla Sacrae Theologiae (1623; The Marrow of Sacred Theology) and De Conscientia (1630; On Conscience) were basic textbooks for federal or covenant theology and Puritan casuistry in England and New England—was represented by Willem Teellinck, Johannes Coccejus, Gisbertus Voetius, and Jodocus van Lodensteyn. Impulses from these men became a part of the reform movement that had already appeared in German Lutheran circles and was to be known as “Reform Orthodoxy.” Important representatives of Reform Orthodoxy were Johann Arndt (1555–1621) and Johann Dannhauer (1603–66). The “pectoral [heart] theology” of these orthodox Lutherans found its highest expression and widest audience in the writings of Arndt, who may well be called the “father of Pietism.” His chief work, Four Books on True Christianity (1606–10), was soon being read in countless homes. Although Arndt stressed the notion of the unio mystica (mystical union) between the believer and Jesus, a 17th-century Lutheran doctrinal addition, the central Arndtian theme was not that of mystical union but stressed repentance, regeneration, and new life, which would become the essence of Pietism.

Alongside the orthodox piety of the 17th century, among the most significant contributions to spiritual renewal were the rich treasures of Lutheran hymnody. Examples from this classical period of church song are the works of Philipp Nicolai (1556–1608; “Wake, Awake” and “How Brightly Beams the Morning Star!”), Paul Gerhardt (1607–76; “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” “O How Shall I Receive Thee,” “Put Thou Thy Trust in God”); and Martin Rinkart (1586–1649; “Now Thank We All Our God”).


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » The rise of Pietism » Pietism in the 17th century
The various streams of concern for renewal converged in the life and work of Philipp Jakob Spener (1635–1705). In 1666, after earning his theological doctorate at Strasbourg, he was called to be superintendent of the clergy in Frankfurt am Main in the principality of Hesse, where he was soon distressed by the conspicuous worldliness of the city. His sermons urged repentance and renewal, and each Sunday afternoon he held catechism classes for both children and adults. This led to efforts to revitalize the rite of confirmation, which, since the days of Martin Bucer, had been practiced in Hesse.

The origin of the so-called collegia pietatis (assemblies of piety) has been traced to a sermon of 1669, in which Spener exhorted the laity to come together on Sunday afternoon to review the morning’s sermon and to engage in devotional reading and conversation “about the divine mysteries” instead of meeting to drink, play cards, or gamble. In 1670, at the request of his parishioners, such meetings were held each Sunday and Wednesday at Spener’s home. Although some of the Frankfurt ministers, over whom Spener was superintendent, denigrated the collegia pietatis, the practice flourished and became a distinguishing feature of the movement. Those who attended the meetings were soon called Pietists.

In a relatively short time, Spener became a household name and Spener was called “the spiritual counselor of all Germany” because of his writings and extensive correspondence. Most significant was the publication in 1675 of his Pia Desideria (Pious Desires), the first part of which reviewed the low estate of the church. Spener charged civil authorities, who had been de jure heads of the church since before the Peace or Augsburg (1555), with irresponsible caesaropapism (the doctrine of state control over church). He likewise flayed the clergy, many of whom he regarded to be scandalous and self-seeking, often confusing assent to “true doctrine” with faith. The laity, too, he claimed, were not blameless. Drunkenness must not be excused as a German peccadillo; prostitution, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, thievery, and assault must be rooted out lest people lose God’s promised salvation, he declared. The second part of the work reminded readers of the possibility of better conditions in the church: “. . . we can have no doubt that God promised His church here on earth a better state than this.” When the full number of heathen (Gentiles) had been brought in, God would even convert the Jews. But the fulfillment of these hopes was not to be achieved by sitting with folded hands. Part three, therefore, set forth a six-point reform program:

1. The Word of God—the whole Bible, not merely the pericopes (biblical texts used in a set sequence in worship services)—must be made known widely through public and private reading, group study (conventicles under the guidance of pastors), and family devotions.

2. There should be a reactivation of Luther’s idea of the priesthood of believers, which included not only the “rights of the laity” but also responsibility toward one’s fellows.

3. People should be taught that Christianity consists not only in knowing God’s will but also in doing it, especially by implementing the command to love one’s neighbour.

4. Religious controversies with unbelievers and heretics unfortunately may be necessary. If they cannot be avoided, they should be entered prayerfully and with love for those in error.

5. Theological education must be reformed. Professors must see that future pastors are not only theologically learned but spiritually committed.

6. Finally, preaching should have edification and the cultivation of inner piety as its goal.

The book received popular acclaim. The clergy, however, felt threatened by the implications of the program’s emphasis on the laity even though Spener meant to focus on the clergy. Theology professors resented Spener’s criticism of their teaching and advocacy of curricular reform. Spener responded by emphasizing the collegia pietatis.

He faced further difficulties, however, because the conventicles became divisive and abrasively Donatistic (Donatism was a heresy from the early church that held that priests must be morally pure or the sacraments would not be valid), developing into “little churches within the church” (ecclesiolae in ecclesia). To stem separatism and unorthodox attitudes, Spener wrote tracts on the doctrines of the spiritual priesthood (1677) and ecclesiology (1684). In the latter he argued that despite the faults of the church its teachings were not false and separation from its worship services and sacraments was wrong.

Spener’s influence had spread widely by 1686. In many circles, not least among the nobility, he was praised and imitated. In other quarters his emphases produced vigorous and, in many instances, unjust criticism. Weary of opposition and controversy, Spener accepted a call to be the court chaplain in Dresden, where he was soon disillusioned by the unresponsiveness and vulgarity of the court and the hostility of the pastors. While in Dresden he wrote Impediments to Theological Study (1690), which was hardly calculated to win friends at the famous University of Leipzig, and made the acquaintance of a young instructor, August Hermann Francke (1663–1727), who became his successor and the second great leader of Pietism.

By 1691 Spener welcomed a call to Berlin from the elector of Brandenburg, who soon brought in other Pietists, opened his domain to persecuted French Huguenots, and made Berlin a strong spiritual centre, thus taking religious leadership away from rival Saxony. All of this was enhanced by the founding of a new university at Halle (1694), the theological faculty of which became, with Spener’s and Francke’s influence, the academic centre of Pietism.

Spener’s years in Berlin were not without bitterness. The conflict between Protestant Orthodox theologians and Pietists had mounted to a high pitch. The theological faculty at Wittenberg, for example, charged Spener with 284 deviations and prayed that God would save “our Lutheran Zion” from the ravages of pietistic heresies.

During his last years Spener collected and edited several volumes of his papers (Theologische Bedencken), continued his friendship with and support of Francke at Halle, and, significantly, served as a sponsor at the baptism of Nikolaus von Zinzendorf, who was to lead evangelical Pietism in a new direction. Spener died on February 5, 1705.

Meanwhile, Francke became the central figure of Pietism. While a student at Leipzig, he engaged in group Bible study and was one of the organizers of a collegium philobiblicum (assembly of Bible lovers), which was dedicated largely to the scholarly rather than devotional approach to the Scriptures. A religious experience in 1687 led Francke to make conversion, which was traditionally characterized by a severe penitential struggle and commitment to holy living, the norm for distinguishing true Christians from unbelievers. Francke’s Pietism stressed a legalistic and ascetic way of life. Under Francke’s leadership (he became professor in 1698) Halle became famous not only for its university but for the many “Halle institutions” that sprang up: an orphan asylum with affiliated schools, a publishing house and Bible institute, the Collegium Orientale Theologicum (Oriental College of Theology) for linguistic training of missionaries, and an infirmary that the medical faculty welcomed as compensation for the university’s lack of a hospital. All of this gave Halle and Franckean Pietism an energetic and activist character, particularly since Francke believed that religious reform and societal reform went hand in hand.


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » The rise of Pietism » 18th-century Pietism in central Europe and England
One of Francke’s institutions in Halle was the paedagogium (1698), a boarding school for the sons of well-to-do parents who lived at a distance. Nikolaus Ludwig, Graf von Zinzendorf (1700–60), the godson of Spener, who attended the Halle boarding school from 1710 to 1716, was greatly influenced by his godfather and then by Francke. At the age of 14 he organized the “Order of the Grain of Mustard Seed,” whose youthful members pledged themselves to reach out in ever-expanding love to “the whole human race.”

By 1721 Zinzendorf had settled down on his estate (Berthelsdorf) near the Bohemian border, where he organized believers into a nonseparatist ecclesiola in ecclesia, which denied the Halle Pietists’ demand for penitential remorse as a mark of “heart religion.” Zinzendorf formulated the slogan that came to be of great importance in the history of revivals: “Come as you are. It is only necessary to believe in the atonement of Christ.”

A small band of Moravian exiles took refuge on his estate in 1722. Looking upon this event as an opportunity to realize his cherished project of “the Mustard Seed,” Zinzendorf gave up his position in the Saxon civil service and welcomed other Moravian refugees, who, like him, had been influenced by Pietism. Zinzendorf soon organized the colony of Herrnhut into the community of the Bohemian Brethren. They were not to separate from the Lutheran Church of Saxony and would attend services in the village church at Berthelsdorf and call upon the local pastor for ministerial acts. They regarded themselves as “the salt” of the earth, an ecclesiola from which “heart religion” would be disseminated throughout Christendom. Under Zinzendorf’s “superintendency” the Herrnhut Brethren became more and more a distinct church, the reborn Moravian Church, or Unitas Fratrum (“Unity of the Brethren”). Although Zinzendorf received a license as a minister in 1734 and three years later was consecrated bishop, he left Herrnhut under pressure from the Saxon government in 1736. He did evangelical work in western Germany, England, and North America, where he established important missionary centres in Germantown and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He returned to Herrnhut in 1749 and presided over the Church of the Brethren until his death in 1760.

The influence of the Moravians on the Evangelical Awakening in England was significant. By 1775 there were 15 Moravian congregations in England, and at one of these John Wesley, founder of Methodism, had his famous “Aldersgate Street Experience” (1738). His conversion experience occurred while he was listening to a Moravian preacher reading Luther’s Preface to the Romans. As Wesley noted later,

while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt that I did trust in Christ . . .; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins.

Joining the Moravian society in Fetter Lane, London, Wesley also journeyed to Hernnhut to learn about the people to whom he owed so much. Although Wesley later parted from the Moravians, his initial experience of saving grace in the company of the Brethren shaped the wide-reaching evangelical movement associated with Wesley, his brother Charles, and George Whitefield.


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » The rise of Pietism » 18th-century Pietism in Scandinavia and America » Denmark-Norway
The age of orthodoxy in the Dano-Norwegian kingdom, as in Germany, had a deeply spiritual side, which was manifest in the hymns of Thomas Kingo (1634–1708) and the teaching of Holger Rosenkrantz (died 1642) and Bishop Jens Dinesen Jersin (died 1632). Arriving in Copenhagen at the turn of the century, Pietism was welcomed, strangely enough, by the unpietistic king Frederick IV (1699–1730), whose royal chaplain, the German R.J. Lütkens, approved of the pietistic pastors and won Frederick’s support for missions in India. The king sought out missionaries in his kingdom but found none. He then turned to Germany, where, through Lütken’s contacts, he discovered two young Halle-trained Pietists, Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (1683–1719) and Heinrich Plütschau (1678–1747). Ordained at Copenhagen in 1705, they became the founders of the famous Tamil mission at Tranquebar, India, in 1706. The Tamil mission stimulated interest among the Halle Pietists in evangelical work including the Norwegian Pietist Thomas von Westen’s mission to the Sami (then known as the Lapps) in northern Norway, and the Norwegian Hans Egede’s pioneering evangelical work in Greenland. King Christian VI, moreover, was known as the “Pietist on the throne” because he supported an orphan home and schools modeled after Halle, a missionary institute, and even conventicles (a 1741 decree permitted them only under pastoral leadership). Erik Pontoppidan, court preacher at Copenhagen and later bishop of Bergen in Norway, made a lasting contribution with his Truth unto Godliness, a commentary on Luther’s catechism that combined law and the gospel, orthodoxy and pietism. Virtually a national reader for many generations, especially in Norway, this “layman’s dogmatics” continued to influence American Lutheranism into the 21st century.

Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » The rise of Pietism » 18th-century Pietism in Scandinavia and America » North America
In 1703 three pastors from New Sweden on the Delaware River ordained Justus Falckner, a Halle-educated Pietist, for service among the mostly Pietistic Dutch Lutherans in New York. Many German Pietists emigrated to North America—often traveling through London, where they were helped by the Pietist court chaplain M. Ziegenhagen—including those from the Rhineland and southern Germany who settled in New York and Pennsylvania and from Salzburg who settled in Georgia. Accompanying the Salzburgers were two pastors selected by Francke, J.M. Boltzius and I.C. Gronau, who shaped the spiritual life of the Georgia settlement. Zinzendorf’s visit to America (1741–42) led to a clash between his type of Pietism and that of Halle, represented by Henry Melchior Mühlenberg (1711–87). The victory belonged to Mühlenberg, who became the organizing genius and spiritual leader of the American community and was later called “The Patriarch of American Lutheranism.”


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » Rationalism
From the early days of Christianity, some theologians had argued that Christian truth could be vindicated by reason. In the early 17th century a number of theologians, including the Latitudinarians in England, began to emphasize the use of reason. Their best representatives were the Cambridge Platonists—philosophical theologians at Cambridge (c. 1640–80)—who claimed that reason was the reflection of the divine mind in the soul.

During the 17th century the successes of science, especially the work of Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727), persuaded many people of the power of reason and of the necessity to test all things by reason. The German thinker Christian Wolff (1679–1754) of Halle approached theology as if it were a form of mathematics, seeking a truth that would be incontrovertible for all reasonable people. Under prompting from Pietists of Halle, he was expelled from Prussia in 1723. But before Wolff’s death Rationalist theologians had displaced the Pietists in control of Halle University and had made it the centre of Rationalist theology in German Protestantism.

In England the same trend among the disciples of John Locke (1632–1704) led to the rise of Christian Deism, which held that Christianity was a new version of the natural religion of the human race. The English Deists permanently influenced Protestant thought by forcing theologians to answer them and thereby to treat the philosophy of religion with seriousness. The most important of all the answers to the Deists lay in the work of Bishop Joseph Butler (1692–1752), whose sermons and Analogy of Religion formed the most cogent defense of traditional Christianity on the basis of science and philosophy.

Rationalist theology, contemporaneous though certainly not in harmony with Pietism and evangelicalism, began to modify or even destroy the traditional orthodoxies—i.e., Lutheran or Calvinist—of the later Reformation. Rationalist theologians insisted that goodness in God could not be different in kind from goodness in humans and therefore that God cannot do what in an individual would be immoral. Although they accepted the miracles of the New Testament—until toward the end of the 18th century—the Rationalists were critical of miracles outside the New Testament, since they suspected everything that did not fit their mechanistic view of the universe.


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » Evangelicalism in England and the Colonies » Methodism
The evangelical, or Methodist (named from the use of methodical study and devotion), movement in England led by John Wesley was similar to the Pietist movement in Germany. While a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, Wesley organized a group of earnest Bible students, made a missionary expedition to Georgia, and became a friend of the Moravians. Like the Pietists he emphasized the necessity of conversion and devoted much of his life to evangelistic preaching in England. He did not intend any separation, but the parish system of the Church of England was incapable of adjustment to his plan of free evangelism and lay preachers. In 1744 Wesley held the first conference of his preachers; soon this became an annual conference, the governing body of the Methodist societies, and was given a legal constitution in 1784. The Methodist movement had remarkable success, especially where the Church of England was failing—in the industrial parishes, in the deep countryside, in little hamlets, and in hilly country, such as Wales, Cumberland, Yorkshire, and Cornwall. In 1768 Methodist emigrants in the American colonies opened a chapel in New York, and thereafter the movement spread rapidly in the United States. It also succeeded in French-speaking cantons of Switzerland.

The Methodist movement seized upon the emotional and spiritual conscience that Protestant orthodoxy neglected. It revived the doctrines of grace and justification and renewed the tradition of moral earnestness, which had once appeared in Puritanism but which had temporarily faded during the reaction against Puritanism in the middle and late 17th century. In England it slowly began to strengthen the tradition of free churchmanship, though for a century or more many English Methodists believed themselves to be much nearer the Anglican Church from which they had issued than any other body of English Protestants. Hymns—hitherto confined (except for metrical Psalms) to the Lutheran churches—were accepted in other Protestants bodies, such as the Church of England, the Congregationalists, and the Baptists as a result of the Methodist movement, which produced some of the most eminent hymn writers, such as Philip Doddridge (1702–51) and Charles Wesley (1707–88).


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » Evangelicalism in England and the Colonies » The Great Awakening
Churches in the 13 American colonies practiced the Congregational or Baptist church polity on a scale not known in Europe. Anabaptist groups required evidence of faith, which sometimes meant public testimony of the conversion experience. Larger American congregations required a similar testimony that was more solemn and at times more emotional. Calvinistic pastors in New England, seeking the religion of the heart, gave unusual stress to the necessity of an immediate experience of salvation. Pastors found that a wave of emotion could sweep through an entire congregation and believed that they could here observe conversion that resulted in a better life for the converted. These traditions and growing dissatisfaction with rationalism and formalism in religious belief and practice led to the Great Awakening, a revivalist movement of the first half of the 18th century. The movement owed something to the German Pietist T.J. Frelinghuysen (1691–c. 1748) and something to John Wesley’s colleague George Whitefield (1714–70). The chief mind at the beginning of the Great Awakening, however, was that of an intellectual mystic rather than of a conventional Calvinist preacher. Jonathan Edwards (1703–58) was the Congregational pastor at Northampton in Massachusetts, where the conversions began in 1734–35. In the mid-18th century, waves of revivals and conversions spread throughout the colonies. These revivals, although led by Congregationalists and Presbyterians, resulted in the formation of many small, independent, Bible-centred, Baptist groups. American revival leaders, like Wesley in England and Zinzendorf in Germany, were forced to practice their ministry outside the established churches.

The movement was not native to North America. But the conditions of the American frontier gave this kind of evangelicalism a new vigour, and from America it permanently influenced the future development of Protestantism. In the towns and new cities with moving populations, Protestantism found methods that became a feature of evangelical endeavours to reach the unregenerate or the unchurched crowds of the coming industrial cities.


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » Legacies of the American and French Revolutions
The American Revolution and the French Revolution changed the history of Western society as well as the history of the Protestant movement. The American Constitution, with its implied separation of church and state, was influenced by the spirit of free churchmanship from colonial days, the religious mixture of immigrants continually arriving from Europe, the reaction against the “Church and King” alliance that prevailed in Britain, and the secular spirit of the Enlightenment. The French Revolution and Napoleon made the idea of the secular state an ideal for many European liberals, especially among the anticlericals in Roman Catholic countries. The American pattern was probably more influential than the Napoleonic in Protestant Europe. The Protestant states of Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, England, and Scotland, which were all accustomed to established Protestant churches, for a time met no strong demand anywhere for disestablishment. In all those places the members of the free, or dissenting, churches were able to secure complete toleration and civil rights during the 19th century, but in no Protestant country was the formal link between state and an established church totally broken during the 19th century. At least as an outward and historical form, established churches remained in England, Scotland, and all the Scandinavian countries.


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » The revival of Pietism » Germany
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a reaction against the Enlightenment occurred in Germany. In philosophy, literature, and music it found expression in German Idealism and Romanticism. Indeed, a number of religious thinkers sought to point out the banality of the Enlightenment and to preserve and awaken genuine Christianity. Among these was Johann Georg Hamann (1730–88), a theologian given to brilliant paradoxical thought, who understood Luther’s theologia crucis (theology of the cross) better than any other 18th-century person. Matthias Claudius (1740–1815) was another representative of the antirationalist mood of the dawn of the 19th century. Johann Friedrich Oberlin (1740–1826) mixed his biblicistic piety with a concern for social missions. J.A. Urlsperger (1728–1806) sought to promote piety by organizing the Christentumsgesellschaft (“A Society for Christianity”), the German counterpart of the British Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Out of it grew the Basel Mission Society. G.C. Storr (1746–1804) and J.F. Flatt (1759–1821) represented the “Old Tübingen school” of biblical Supernaturalism.

It was in such a climate that the revival of Pietism occurred in many German congregations. The people involved in it were not interested, at least in the beginning, in reviving former confessional differences. They were satisfied with being known as “Christians” or “evangelicals.” But gradually these new Pietists, influenced by Romanticism’s admiration for the past, began to assert the need to link their interests with the traditional confessional heritage of the church. True religion (Pietism), they argued, is really Lutheranism properly understood. Thus beginning with a renewal of heart religion (Pietism), they came to a neoconfessionalism.

There were three discernible “schools” in this revival of Lutheranism. “The Repristination Theology” (i.e., restoration of earlier norms), led by Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg (1802–69), made 17th-century orthodoxy normative for the interpretation of Luther’s teachings and fought the rising historical-critical approach to the Bible by affirming the verbal inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. A second group, the Neo-Lutherans, felt that the Repristinationists or “Old Lutherans,” though not wrong, needed correction and improvement especially in their view of the church, the ministry, and the sacraments. These Neo-Lutherans, influenced by Romanticism, were the German counterpart of the Oxford Movement in England. The chief exponents of this group were Wilhelm Löhe (1808–72), who had great influence on American Lutheranism, and August Vilmar (1800–68). The third group, the so-called Erlangen school, rejected Rationalism, Repristination, and Romanticism and asserted a theology that recognized the relationship of faith to history, thus providing a new setting for understanding both the Bible and the Lutheran confessions. Chief representatives were Gottfried Thomasius (1802–75) and J.C.K. von Hofmann (1810–77).


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » The revival of Pietism » North America
The great 19th-century German and Scandinavian immigration that began in 1839–40 included many “Old Lutherans” from Prussia whose original pietistic impulses had given way to a high-church confessionalism. Colonies of about 1,000 “Old Lutherans” under J.A.A. Grabau settled in the vicinity of Buffalo, New York, and others in and around Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They were the forerunners of the Buffalo Synod (1845). Saxon immigrants under Martin Stephan and Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther also arrived in 1839 and settled near St. Louis, Missouri, to become by 1847 the Missouri Synod. Stephan had practiced conventicle Pietism in Germany and had influenced Walther and others in this direction. Walther and other Missouri Synod leaders later moved to a staunch confessionalism that left little room for conventional Pietism. The Norwegians, who also arrived in 1839, were almost entirely of the Haugean persuasion, and one of their first leaders, Elling Eielsen (1804–83), was an extremely legalistic lay follower of Hans Nielsen Hauge (1771–1824), a Norwegian Pietist who criticized the established church and stressed daily work as a divine calling. The Danish immigrants, fewer in number, eventually split over the question of Pietism. The anti-Pietists were known as “the Happy Danes,” while the Pietists were called “the Sad Danes.” Swedish Americans adhered to various forms of Pietism.


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » The era of Protestant expansion » Toleration
The great Protestant advance depended in part on the existence of the secular state and on toleration. As late as 1715 the Austrian government had denied all protection of the law to Hungarian Protestants. After the French Revolution, however, the few survivals of this old church–state unity were rapidly whittled away. Even in countries in which one church was established, all churches were given some protection; Protestant groups could spread, though slowly and with difficulty, in Spain or Italy. Even in tsarist Russia, which did not recognize toleration, Baptists obtained a foothold from which they were to build the second largest Christian denomination of Soviet Russia. Wherever western European and American ideas were influential, Protestant evangelists could work fairly freely, especially in the colonial territories of Africa and India.

Although the secular state contributed to Protestant (and Roman Catholic) expansion and variety, it also confronted all churches with the challenge of redefining their role in secular society and their relationship with the state. The American pattern, in which the state must have no constitutional connection with religion, was influential among the older churches of Europe. In Protestant countries where state and church had been in alliance since the Reformation, the effect was twofold: the state adopted a neutral attitude toward the leading denominations of its territory; and the state church pressed harder toward independence from all forms of state control. Lutheran Germany produced a strong movement toward independence in the mid-19th century. In Scotland the evangelical movement demanded the right to appoint parish ministers without state interference. The refusal of this demand by the courts and government led to a schism when Thomas Chalmers (1780–1847) formed the Free Church of Scotland in 1843 with nearly half the members of the Church of Scotland. The two churches continued side by side until their reunion in 1929. In Switzerland a Reformed theologian, Alexandre-Rodolphe Vinet (1797–1847), pressed for the separation of church and state and in 1845 founded the Free Church.

In England the drive for the independence of the state church was a feature of the Oxford Movement, led by John Henry Newman (1801–90) in 1833. That movement, unique in Protestant history, asserted its independence by emphasizing all the Catholic elements in the Protestant heritage and came close to repudiating the Protestant tradition. Newman himself became a Roman Catholic in 1845 and was made a cardinal in 1879. Under the leadership of the survivors, the Oxford Movement transformed the worship, organization, and teaching of the Church of England within the traditional polity of an established and Protestant church. The remarkable sign of this change was the revival from 1840 on of nunneries and from 1860 on of monasteries.

On the whole the trend was toward a free church in a free state. A few conservative theorists, especially the German Lutheran Friedrich Julius Stahl (1802–61), strenuously defended the old link between throne and altar and the necessity for a single privileged church to prevent revolution and rationalism. Other theorists saw the church as the religious side of the nation. In England Frederick Denison Maurice defended the established church along these lines; and in Denmark, more easily because the population was so largely Lutheran, N.F.S. Grundtvig shrank from every form of denomination or confessionalism and wanted to make Christianity the spiritual expression of Danish national life. Grundtvig’s movement had extraordinary success; but Denmark, and to a lesser extent Sweden and Norway, were exceptions to the trend. The older Protestant churches steadily moved farther away from the state and unsteadily but gradually secured more autonomy in their organization.


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » The era of Protestant expansion » The rise of American Protestant influence
Since the 16th century the two great Protestant powers had been Germany and England, but by 1860 a third force emerged in the United States. After 1820 American frontier conditions contributed to the growth of Protestant denominations such as the Disciples of Christ, which formed in 1832 from revivalist groups. Many immigrants to America were Catholic, and in time Catholicism would be the largest single denomination in the United States, but the tone of American leadership and culture remained Anglo-Saxon, liberal, and Protestant. Moreover many German and Scandinavian Lutherans emigrated to America, and American Lutheranism expanded until it rivalled Germany and Scandinavia as centres of Lutheran life and thought. Because Lutheran leadership came largely from European pietistic groups, American Lutheran churches tended to be more conservative in theology and discipline than the churches in Germany.


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » The era of Protestant expansion » The spread of missions
As European and to a lesser extent American power grew in the 19th century, the Protestant churches entered their greatest period of expansion. Confronted at home by new industrial cities, they developed social services on a scale hitherto unknown, including hospitals, orphanages, temperance work, care of the old, extension of education to the young and to working adults, Sunday schools, boys’ and men’s clubs in city slums, and the countless organizations demanded by the new city life of the 19th century. Abroad they carried Protestantism effectively into all parts of Africa that were not under French or Portuguese influence, so that in southern Africa the Bantu became largely a federation of Protestant peoples. In India British and American missionaries steadily increased the strength of the newer Indian Christian churches. In China Christianity, hitherto confined to the seaports and to the remnants of Roman Catholic missions in the 17th century, expanded deep into the interior because of the work of the China Inland Mission (founded 1865) and other evangelical groups that were financed from England or the United States. Japan had been closed to Christianity since 1630, and after its reopening in 1859 American and British missionaries created Japanese Christian churches. American missionaries developed Protestant congregations in the countries of South and Central America. All of the main Protestant denominations—Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists—developed into worldwide bodies, and all suffered strain in adjusting their organizations to meet these extraordinary new needs.


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » Revivalism in the 19th century
One of the most prominent features of Protestantism in the 19th century was the development of the camp revival to meet the needs of an industrial and urban society. Although the urban poor seldom went to church, they listened to evangelical preachers in halls and theatres, or on street corners. Methodists and Baptists, familiar with revivalistic methods, made great strides, especially in the United States. Their efforts were not confined to reaching the working class. The English Baptist Charles H. Spurgeon (1834–92) accepted a ministry to the educated and secured a large audience in London. William Booth (1829–1912), a former Methodist preacher, and his wife, Catherine, established an evangelical mission for the poor in east London that was known from 1878 as the Salvation Army. They directed their mission to the people on the street corners, using brass bands and even dancing to attract attention. They differed from the Methodist revivalist tradition in their belief in the necessity of a strong central government under a “general” appointed for life. They also abandoned the use of sacraments. At first the Salvation Army faced much hostility and even persecution, but by the end of the 19th century it had securely established its place in Britain and had become a worldwide organization.

Karl Olof Rosenius (1816–68), influenced by Methodist preaching, introduced revivalism into Swedish Lutheranism. Although Rosenius was also influenced by Zinzendorf and Pietism, his new movement was quite unlike the little groups of Pietism. The Pietists wanted to bring men to salvation from the world, whereas the Bornholmers (as they later came to be called in Denmark because of a famous episode in evangelism on the island of Bornholm) wanted to declare salvation for the world. The movement had influence in Norway and Denmark and even in the United States.

In the United States the development of revivalism was particularly marked in the expansion of the moving frontier. The memory of the Great Awakening (c. 1725–50) remained powerful in the 19th century, and revival meetings took place in cities as well as in the western camps. Famous evangelists emerged, including Charles Grandison Finney (1792–1875) and Dwight Lyman Moody (1837–99), to lead revivals in American cities.

The evangelical movement in Protestantism of the 19th century moved away from the traditional churches of the Reformation—Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican—to create new forms of church life and new organizations. These new institutions used lay preachers and were more concerned with individual conversions than with church order or church affiliation. Consequently, they developed a tendency, not common before the Pietist movement, to identify Protestantism with individualism in religion. These evangelical activities produced separate Christian organizations that still called themselves Protestant.

The secular state allowed and in some cases stimulated further growth among the Protestant churches. Apocalyptic expectation of the Second Coming of Christ contributed to the emergence of a number of important radical Protestant groups and churches. In Britain in 1827 John Nelson Darby (1800–82) founded the Plymouth Brethren, who separated themselves from the world in preparation for the imminent coming of the Lord. The Catholic Apostolic Church, formed in 1832 largely by the Scotsman Edward Irving, likewise prepared for the second coming. Apocalyptic groups also formed in the United States. The apocalyptic prophecies of William Miller (1782–1849) in the 1840s led to the formation of the church of the Seventh-day Adventists. The Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), founded by Joseph Smith (1805–44), emerged from similar expectations of the imminent end. Another set of groups arose from the revival of faith healing, the most important being the Christian Scientists, founded in 1879 by Mary Baker Eddy (1821–1910), who set up her first church in Boston.


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » New issues facing Protestantism in the 19th century » Churches and social change
Attacks on the churches during the 19th century (and after) were both social and intellectual. Rapidly growing cities and industry created a proletariat estranged from religious life. Many political leaders, especially in Europe, claimed that the churches were bulwarks of a society that must be overthrown if justice was to be secured for the working class. Social and economic thinkers such as Karl Marx (1818–83) argued that religion was the opium of the people, that it bade human beings to be content with their lot when they ought to be discontented.

In response to such views, in nearly every European country, Catholic or Protestant, there came into existence groups of “Christian Socialists,” who believed that workers had a right to social and economic justice and that a Christian ought to work toward achieving social justice for them. Except for these basic tenets, however, the political and theological views of Christian Socialists varied greatly. Adolf Stöcker (1835–1909), a court preacher in Berlin, was an anti-Semitic radical politician; Charles Kingsley (1819–75), a clergyman novelist in England, was a warmhearted conservative who deeply sympathized with and understood the working class. The most profound of all the Christian Socialists was Frederick Denison Maurice (1805–72), a theologian of King’s College in London until he was dismissed in 1853. He then became a London pastor, and finally a professor of moral philosophy at Cambridge.

But in England and the United States the radical Protestant denominations—especially Baptists and primitive Methodists—did as much for the workers’ religion as the intellectual leadership of a few Anglican theologians. In some cases the endeavours made Socialist parties possible for the Christian voter; in others they persuaded Christian voters or politicians—without actually voting for a Socialist party—to adopt policies that led toward a welfare state. Nevertheless, they made Christians more conscious of their social responsibility. In the United States the Social Gospel had great appeal for the churches at the end of the 19th century, and its most influential leader was a Baptist, Walter Rauschenbusch (1861–1918).


Protestant renewal and the rise of the denominations » New issues facing Protestantism in the 19th century » Biblical criticism
Protestantism, and Christianity in general, also encountered an intellectual onslaught from thinkers who declared that the advance of science and of history proved the Bible, and therefore Christianity, untrue. The great issue for Protestants and all Christians in the 19th century was the question of biblical criticism; i.e., whether a person could be a Christian and even a good Christian though he held some parts of the Bible to be untrue. On the one hand, Protestantism stood by the Bible and declared that the truth of God came from it. On the other, Protestantism rested in part on a fundamental belief in the liberty of the human spirit as it encountered the Bible. Protestantism was thus seldom friendly to the tactic of meeting argument merely by excommunication or by the blunt exercise of church authority. The theological faculties of German universities, where the question of biblical criticism was first raised, suffered much internal stress, but they arrived at last at the conviction that reasoned criticism—even when it produced conclusions opposed to traditional Christian thinking—should be met by refutation rather than by authority. Thus German Protestantism showed an open-mindedness in the face of new knowledge that was influential in the 19th century. Owing in part to this German example, the Protestant churches of the main tradition—Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, Congregational, Methodist, and many Baptist communities—adjusted themselves relatively easily (from the intellectual point of view) to the advances of science, to the idea of evolution, and to progress in anthropology and comparative religion.

In such a flux of ideas, with the Protestant tradition seemingly under internal attack from liberal Protestants, there was naturally a wide variety of approaches, both in philosophy and history. The German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel (1770–1831) proposed that Christianity should be restated as a form of Idealistic philosophy. This view was influential both among German thinkers and Oxford philosophers of later Victorian England. This approach, however, was subjected to critique, the most powerful of which was published by the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who argued that philosophy failed to account for the depths and tragedies of human existence. An earlier opinion sought to justify Christianity on the basis of the religious feelings commonly found in humanity. The influential German theologian F.D.E. Schleiermacher (1768–1834) attempted to infer the Christian and biblical system of thought from an examination of human religious experience. Throughout the 19th century the appeal to religious experience was fundamental to liberal Protestant thinking, especially in the attempt to meet the views of modern science. Probably the most important of the successors to Schleiermacher was Albrecht Ritschl (1822–89), who wholly rejected the ideas of Hegel and the philosophers. He distinguished himself sharply from Schleiermacher by repudiating general religious experience and by resting all his thought upon the special moral impact made by the New Testament on the Christian community. Between 1870 and 1918 the Ritschlian school was one of the leading theological schools of Protestant thought.

Meanwhile, scholars made great strides in the study and exposition of the Bible. Freed from the necessity of defending every one of its details as historical truth, university professors put the books of the Bible into a historical setting. German biblical scholars, many of whom were influenced by Hegel, were the first to use the new approach freely. Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792–1860) of the University of Tübingen applied the methods of Hegelian philosophy to the books of the New Testament, which he conceived to be products of the clash between the Jewish Christians led by Peter and the Gentile Christians led by Paul. This theory, known as the Tübingen theory, soon receded in influence; but Baur’s commentary on New Testament texts remained a landmark in the study of the Bible. A number of excellent biblical scholars appeared after Baur, including Joseph Barber Lightfoot (1828–89) of Cambridge who demolished the Tübingen theory by showing the later 1st-century origin of most of the New Testament texts. Adolf von Harnack (1851–1930) of Berlin vastly enlarged the understanding of early Christianity. Insisting that the simple message of Jesus had been obscured by church dogma, he defined the essence of Christianity as love of God and neighbour. Harnack’s work also summarized the results of a century that was revolutionary in the area of biblical study.


Protestantism in the 20th century » Mainstream Protestantism
World War I broke Europe’s waning self-confidence in the merits of its own civilization and, because it was fought between Christian nations, weakened worldwide Christianity. The seizure of power by a formally atheist government in Russia in 1917 brought negative pressure on Christendom and sharpened the social and working class conflicts of western Europe and the United States. During the following 40 years the Protestant churches in Europe suffered inestimable losses in adherents and formal influence.

In Germany Protestantism faced the challenges of Nazi totalitarianism after Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 and the tragedy of World War II. For the churches, which had historically been able to count on a neutral, if not benevolent state, this was a new situation. At first Nazi rule was welcomed by many Protestant church leaders and laity, since the Nazis seemed to share the conservative values which the churches also cherished. Quickly points of tension emerged, especially when the government prevented converted (and baptized) Jews from serving as clergy and when a liberal fringe group within German Protestantism, the so-called German Christians (Deutsche Christen) which advocated an Aryan, non-Semitic Christianity, began to enjoy subtle government support. The Confessing Church, a loose association of churchmen led by Martin Niemöller and others, emerged to stand for (or “confess”) the traditional teaching of the church. This opposition prompted the Nazis to withdraw their support from the German Christians by the mid-1930s. During the war Theophil Wurm of Württemberg protested against the government’s inhumane activities, and Pastor Heinrich Grüber, until his arrest, ran the Büro Grüber, which sought to evacuate and protect Jews. Some church leaders, notably the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, paid with their lives for their associations with resistance to the Nazi government. Despite the increasingly obvious character of the Nazi regime, the public protest of the churches against Nazism remained largely confined to issues affecting them directly.

At the end of the war Germany was divided, and Russian armies controlled eastern Europe. Although the situation for Protestant groups in some parts of eastern Europe, including Transylvania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia was less severe, all the churches in the area came under pressure. Most Germans were evacuated or deported from the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. Although Lutheran communities remained there, they were subjected to persecution, especially under the rule of Joseph Stalin. The greatest losses suffered by the Protestant churches were the result of the division of Germany. The settlement between the victorious powers gave large areas of former German-speaking (and largely Lutheran) portions to Poland, and many (approximately 8 million) Germans were expelled; most went to western Germany. East Germany (the German Democratic Republic), occupied by the Soviet Union in 1945, included Wittenberg and most of the original Lutheran homeland and was the sole Marxist country with a largely (70 percent) Protestant population. The Protestant churches were the chief link between East and West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany), and the annual meeting, or Kirchentag, was the single expression of a lost German unity. But construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 stopped this communication and isolated the East German churches. East German Protestants persevered despite governmental financial pressures, restrictions on church-building, and the establishment of the Free German Youth (Freie Deutsche Jugend), a secular organization that competed for the attention of young people by offering members access to recreational facilities, organized holidays, and higher education. The vigorous way the Protestant churches in East Germany celebrated the 450th anniversary of the Reformation on October 31, 1967, demonstrated their strength in the communist state. The emergence of the peace movement in the German Democratic Republic in the late 1970s and 1980s, which could be seen as an opposition group to the communist regime, took place under the protection of the Protestant churches, and the churches were the rallying points for the demonstrations of 1989 that eventually led to the collapse of the communist regime and the unification of the two Germanies.

In Russia, a deeply Orthodox state before 1917, the Baptist community grew significantly in the generation after the revolution. The flexibility and simplicity of Baptist organization made it more suitable to activity under difficult legal conditions. After Stalin’s death in 1953, there was evidence of rapid advance; but after 1960 the Baptist communities, like Orthodox communities, again came under often severe pressure. The dissolution of the Soviet Union meant greater freedom and a greater public role for the Orthodox church. All the same, the Orthodox church stood behind legislation making missionary work by non-Orthodox churches in Russia virtually impossible.

The material losses that Great Britain suffered in World War II and the end of the British Empire in the years after 1947 had serious effects on the Protestant churches in former British territories. Britain could no longer fund overseas churches as it once had done, and, although Australia, Canada, and the United States provided financial support, change in the government of the local churches occurred with mixed results. In some areas the new leadership was ill-prepared for its role, but in others leaders had been gradually prepared to take control of church government (a process hastened by Britain’s changed circumstances). Thus the so-called younger churches came to be a new fact of world Christianity, led by people who no longer saw the history of Christianity solely through European eyes. This was to be of primary importance in the ecumenical movement. Meanwhile, the secularizing trend of a technological age assailed the old European churches and had an even greater effect upon the areas where the younger churches ministered.

The growth of Protestantism outside its traditional home—Lutheranism in Namibia, Anglicanism in South Africa, Pentecostal and Evangelical churches and sects in South America and Asia—helped compensate for losses in Europe and North America. Because of conversions and population growth, the Protestant church actually increased in size as it changed its scope and ethos in the postwar period.

There were also surprising survivals and reappearances of Protestantism in areas of the world where its demise had been predicted. In 1948–49 the communist seizure of power in China effectively ended Protestant missions there. By 1951 there were few European missionaries left in the country, and the Chinese churches were forced to exist without foreign aid. They came under severe pressure, especially during the so-called Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and ’70s, and could no longer evangelize. The partial reopening of China to the West and the cautious measures granting more freedom of religion and speech beginning in the late 1970s and the 1980s led to new contacts between Chinese Protestants and Westerners. Several million Protestants and other Christians are believed to have endured the persecution of the two previous decades, and, however uncertain their futures remained, they represented a vital group of believers.


Protestantism in the 20th century » Conservative and Evangelical forms of Protestantism
The most important movements in 20th-century Protestantism are usually called Pentecostalism, Fundamentalism, and Evangelicalism. Often characterized as conservative or reactionary, these traditions offer exuberant expressions of faith that are in some ways progressive. Moreover, these are important for their contribution to the expansion of Protestantism beyond its traditional geographic boundaries.


Protestantism in the 20th century » Conservative and Evangelical forms of Protestantism » Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism grew out of Wesleyan Holiness movements at the turn of the 20th century in the United States. The movement first appeared in 1901 in Topeka, Kansas, and in 1906 in Los Angeles when the first Pentecostals began to “speak in tongues.” A form of unrepressed speech, this glossolalia involves speaking or singing in unintelligible syllables. Adherents claim that they “yield” themselves to the Lord. Normally the syllables they speak or sing are unintelligible, though some claim that they speak in recognizable foreign tongues as the disciples of Jesus did at the first Pentecost (Acts 2:14), from which the movement derives its name. Pentecostals believe that they must experience a “second baptism,” beyond water baptism, in which the Holy Spirit comes to them. They not only speak in tongues but interpret them; they prophesy; and many engage in healing, claiming that miraculous healing did not cease after the apostolic period, as many other Christians believe.

The Pentecostal movement in the United States developed among rural poor whites and urban blacks in the South. After the mid-20th century, fast-growing denominations like the Assemblies of God made Pentecostalism one of the most visible forms of Protestantism and became increasingly acceptable to the middle classes. After 1960 the movement spread into mainstream faiths like the Episcopal, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches, where participants often called it a “charismatic” movement.

Pentecostalism had its greatest success in the Caribbean, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa. Many prophetic movements erupted there in which Christians adopted emotional forms of worship and healing. Pentecostalism in these parts of the world was often the religion of the poor, bringing hope to people in nations that were emerging from colonialism. Pentecostals built on the work of the missionaries of a century earlier and were often neither anti-American nor anti-European, as some liberation movements were. They often accented “otherworldliness” and avoided politics or identified with conservative and even repressive regimes.


Protestantism in the 20th century » Conservative and Evangelical forms of Protestantism » Fundamentalism
The second major movement, Fundamentalism, combined late 19th-century premillennialism (the belief that Jesus will return before the millennium to usher in the messianic kingdom) with defenses of biblical inerrancy. It took its name from The Fundamentals, a series of tracts that were issued between 1910 and 1915 in the United States. In 1919 and 1920, Fundamentalism became a formal and militant party in denominational conflict in the United States.

The growth of Fundamentalism was due to the spread of both Darwinian evolutionary theory and higher criticism of the Bible, both of which found acceptance in liberal Protestant churches. Fundamentalists in the United States felt that these two movements subverted seminaries, bureaus, mission boards, and pulpits in the northern branches of various Protestant denominations. The Scopes trial in 1925, in which the Fundamentalist champion William Jennings Bryan fought against the teaching of evolution in schools and defended the Genesis record as being scientific, coincided with the climactic battles between liberals and fundamentalists in the mainstream Protestant churches.

Despite the setback at the Scopes trial, Fundamentalism exercised great influence on American life in the 20th century. It prospered most when it moved from political passivity to open participation, particularly in support of Ronald Reagan’s successful presidential bids in 1980 and 1984. Although the televangelist Pat Robertson was unsuccessful in his presidential run in 1988, Fundamentalists remained politically active in the 1990s, focusing on opposition to abortion, support for a constitutional amendment to permit prayer in public schools, a large military defense budget, and support for Israel. Fundamentalists also created a network of Bible colleges, radio and television programs, and publishing ventures. In the early 1940s they formed several rival organizations that steadily grew in numbers and assertiveness. In the later 20th century groups like Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and Robertson’s 700 Club demonstrated the continued strength of the movement and the effectiveness of the television ministry.


Protestantism in the 20th century » Conservative and Evangelical forms of Protestantism » Evangelicalism
The third movement, Evangelicalism, has been best represented by the ministry of Billy Graham and journals like Christianity Today. This group agrees with Fundamentalism on core doctrines such as the virgin birth, substitutionary atonement (that Christ’s suffering and death atoned for man’s sins), the physical resurrection of Jesus, and biblical inerrancy.

Although Evangelicals and Fundamentalists share a number of beliefs, they differ on an equal number of core teachings. Evangelical scholars, for example, doubt that accepting the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is the best way to assert their belief in biblical authority. Many Evangelicals also reject the premillennialism that is popular with Fundamentalists. Evangelicals differ in style, too, and often find Fundamentalists too negative in their attitudes about culture, too withdrawn into sects, too blustery and judgmental. When the National Association of Evangelicals formed in 1942, the Fundamentalist right mounted the same sort of attack on it that had been used against the mainstream moderates and liberals. Most Evangelicals preferred to see themselves not as Fundamentalists but as perpetuators of the 19th-century Protestant mainstream.

To that end the Evangelicals gradually entered the world around them. They became involved in liberal arts colleges rather than building Bible schools, engaged in social programs, and criticized conservative Protestantism’s overidentification with militarism and unfettered capitalism. They also acquired considerable if unpredictable political power in the United States and elsewhere.

Evangelicals were also ecumenical; Graham welcomed Catholic and mainstream Protestant leaders on his platforms, and he prayed with many kinds of Christians whom Fundamentalists would shun. Whereas Fundamentalists and Pentecostalists had counterparts in the Third World, Evangelicals tended to form international movements and hold conferences designed to bring Christians of many nations together. While Fundamentalists usually split off into churches of their own, Evangelicals remained connected to mainstream denominations and increasingly moved fully into the mainstream. Nevertheless they always endeavoured to keep alive their doctrinal distinctiveness and their passion for witnessing for Christ.


Protestantism in the 20th century » Theological movements within Protestantism
In the 20th century dramatic changes in Protestant theology took shape. This was due partly to general doubts about European liberalism after World War I and particularly to a reaction against the Nazis’ evoking of liberal theology to support some of their views of society.

In both the 19th and 20th centuries, liberal theology was criticized for narrowing Christianity to the limits of what individuals believed themselves to be experiencing or for turning objective truth into subjective feeling. Though no conservative, Kierkegaard was the most extreme of these critics. All conservative theologians opposed the liberals on these grounds, but in the 20th century there was a reaction even within the liberal camp. Beginning in 1918 Karl Barth and Emil Brunner led a reaction against all theologies emphasizing religious experience. This theological movement, called Neoorthodoxy, widely influenced Protestant thinking in Europe and the United States. Barth and his disciples regarded their work as a reassertion of the true sovereignty of Scripture and as a return to the authentic principles of the Reformation. In the United States Reinhold Niebuhr criticized liberal Christian philosophies as they applied to society and to the nature of humanity.

The limitations of the Neoorthodox approach were revealed by the German theologian Rudolf Bultmann of Marburg, who sought to “demythologize” the New Testament by discovering its core truths and thus allowing its significance for faith to be more fully disclosed. Although refugees from Nazi Germany, such as Paul Tillich, interpreted European developments for Americans, the Neoorthodox synthesis did not outlast those who gave voice to it. Consequently, Protestant theology after the mid-1960s was in disarray. Europe lost its hegemony, though certain theologians, among them Wolfhart Pannenberg and Jürgen Moltmann, began to take elements of Neoorthodoxy and combine them into variously described movements, such as “theology of hope,” “political theology,” “theology of revolution,” or Protestant versions of “liberation theology.” Espoused in the Third World by theologians who stressed that God sides with the oppressed and the poor and in the United States by feminist or black theologians who developed new interpretations of biblical and traditional texts, these theologies called into question the alleged patriarchalism, elitism, and racism of earlier academic theology.


Protestantism in the 20th century » The ecumenical movement
The ecumenical movement was at first exclusively Protestant (though Eastern Orthodox leaders soon took part). Its origins lay principally in the new speed of transport across the world and the movement of populations that mixed denominations as never before; the world reach of traditional denominations; the variety of religion within the United States and the problems that such a variety created; and the younger churches of Africa and Asia and their contempt for barriers raised by events of European history for which they felt no special concern. There was always a strong link with the missions, and an American Methodist missionary leader, John R. Mott, whose travels did much to transform the various ecumenical endeavours into a single organization, personified the harmony of missionary zeal with desire for Christian unity. The World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh in 1910 marks the beginning of the movement proper, and from it sprang conferences on life and work (led by the Swedish Lutheran archbishop Nathan Söderblom), as well as conferences on faith and order. In the beginning Roman Catholics refused to participate; the Eastern Orthodox participated only through exiles in the Western dispersion; and the Nazi government refused to allow Germans to go far in participating. By the end of World War II in 1945 it was evident that there was a new atmosphere, and the World Council of Churches was formally constituted at the Amsterdam conference in 1948. The entire movement depended for most of its money and for part of its drive on the Americans; but its headquarters was in Geneva, and, under the guidance of its first general secretary, Netherlands Reformed administrator W.A. Visser ’t Hooft, it never lost sight of the fact that the traditional problems of divided Christian Europe had to be met if it was to succeed.

In the years after 1948 the ecumenical movement brought Protestants into an ever-growing dialogue with the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholics. After John XXIII became pope in 1958, Roman Catholics began to participate in the ecumenical movement. Although the definitions of the second Vatican Council (1962–65) were unacceptable to most Protestants, they had a breadth quite unlike the definitions of the first Vatican Council in 1870 and encouraged those (usually liberal) Protestants who hoped in time to lower this greatest of barriers raised by the 16th century. Since then several Protestant denominations have engaged in ecumenical discussions with Roman Catholicism. In 1999 Lutherans and Catholics signed a “common declaration” on justification, the topic that had been the major theological issue in the Reformation of the 16th century.

E. Clifford Nelson
Martin E. Marty
W. Owen Chadwick

 


The Protestant Heritage

Overview
One of the three major branches of Christianity, originating in the 16th-century Reformation.

The term applies to the beliefs of Christians who do not adhere to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. A variety of Protestant denominations grew out of the Reformation. The followers of Martin Luther established the evangelical churches of Germany and Scandinavia; John Calvin and more radical reformers such as Huldrych Zwingli founded Reformed churches in Switzerland, and Calvin’s disciple John Knox established a church in Scotland (Presbyterianism). Another important branch of Protestantism, represented by the Church of England and Episcopal Church, had its origins in 16th-century England and is now the Protestant denomination closest to Roman Catholicism in theology and worship. The doctrines of the various Protestant denominations vary considerably, but all emphasize the supremacy of the Bible in matters of faith and order, justification by grace through faith and not through works, and the priesthood of all believers. In the early 21st century there were nearly 350 million Protestants in the world. See also Adventist, Baptist, Society of Friends, Mennonite, Methodism.

Main
Protestantism originated in the 16th-century Reformation, and its basic doctrines, in addition to those of the ancient Christian creeds, are justification by grace alone through faith, the priesthood of all believers, and the supremacy of Holy Scripture in matters of faith and order. Variation in sacramental doctrine exists among Protestants, but most limit the number to the two “sacraments of the Gospel,” baptism and Holy Communion.A great variety of doctrinal views and polities exist among so-called Protestants, and not all Western non-Roman Catholic Christians accept the label Protestant. Some Anglicans, for instance, stressing their continuity with the historic Roman Catholic church and their distance from Protestantism, have asked for a separate designation. Courtesy suggests that such appeals be taken seriously; however, habits of speech and sociological usage tend to predominate, and despite their objections these groups are usually included in the Protestant cluster.

Teaching, worship, and organization » Common principles and practices of the reformers and their successors » Justification by grace through faith
The belief that humans are justified before God by grace through faith separated the first Protestant reformers from the Roman Catholicism of their day. And despite the subtle differences that arose in the various Protestant church bodies, devotion to this teaching has been central to Protestantism throughout its history.

In the 16th century concern for “justification” (the act through which God grants a sinner grace or makes a sinner righteous) was related to the desire, often expressed in language drawn from the courts of law, of finding oneself on good terms with God. Aware of its shortcomings, its ignorance, its sin, and its guilt, humankind saw itself standing before a bar of justice presided over by God. Without help, individuals could expect nothing but God’s wrath and condemnation. This meant that they would perish everlastingly, and their present life would be full of torment. Yet the Bible also presented humankind with a picture of a loving and gracious God, who desires happiness for all. The question then was how could individuals be sure that God would reveal his gracious, and not his wrathful, side? How could they have the confidence that they were included in the positive loving action of God?

The teaching of the Reformers becomes most intelligible when contrasted with Roman Catholic doctrine (e.g., sin, grace, atonement) as the Reformers understood it. In the Protestant view, late medieval Catholic teaching held that individuals were returned to God only when so much grace had been infused into their souls that they merited God’s favour. God could not accept someone who was unacceptable, but he could impart something that would make humans acceptable. This something was grace, and its flow depended upon the merits of God’s perfect Son, the man Jesus Christ. The church, according to medieval Catholicism, in a sense controlled the flow through its sacramental system and its hierarchy.

To the Reformers the Roman Catholic sacramental system seemed to be part of an ongoing transaction between humankind and God. Catholics would attend the mass, bring offerings, show sorrow, do penance—which might involve self-punishment or compensatory good works—until God became gracious; the church and its clergy mediated the transaction. The Reformers believed that such an arrangement could easily be misused and was without scriptural foundation. It was this vision of Catholicism that helped inspire the Protestant leadership to rebel and to define justification in other terms.

The terms for this Protestant teaching came from the Bible, especially from the New Testament and even more so from the writings of St. Paul. In St. Paul the Reformers saw a religious hero and thinker who had experienced a spiritual quest similar to their own. His conversion signified a radical turning and a free acceptance of God’s favour “in Christ.” This meant that in faith a person could be so identified with Jesus Christ that when God looked at him, he saw instead the merit that Christ had won through his self-sacrifice on the cross. God looked at the sinner and saw his perfect Son, not the sinner. He could, therefore, declare the person righteous, or “justify” him, even though the person was still a sinner.

According to this interpretation of Paul’s teaching, grace was not infused in the sinner to the point that he or she became acceptable and pleasing to God; instead, while the individual remained a sinner, God accepted him favourably and justified him. Christ’s death on the cross was then the only “transaction” that mattered between God and humanity. The sacraments reinforced this relationship and brought new grace, but no pretense was made that the human subject had achieved satisfaction before God or had earned enough merit to inspire God to act.

In the Reformers’ view the new situation provided freedom. Whereas Catholics were bound to strive to achieve enough good works to please God, the Reformers taught that believers stood before God completely freed of this duty and from the enslaving pride that went with the notion that the believers had achieved or at least had substantially cooperated in their own salvation. This left the Reformers with a serious question, one to which their Roman Catholic opponents regularly referred. What had happened in this teaching of justification and freedom to the biblical emphasis on good works? Jesus himself, in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), was constantly preoccupied with the effort of making people better, of having them bring forth “good fruit.” Even Paul shared such concerns. Had the Protestant movement slighted these concerns in its desire to free human beings from the necessity of merits and good works?

The literature of Protestantism is rich in its answers to such questions. The Reformers were virtually unanimous: good works could not bring one salvation, yet they inevitably flowed from the forgiven heart and were always the consequence of the justified person’s life. The law of God was not a path human beings walked as a sort of obstacle course or road map to God but rather a means to measure human shortcomings and judge them. A gracious God acting through his Gospel brought human beings back to him.

The Reformers believed that God viewed human beings in two ways. The justified person, in God’s eyes, was so identified with Jesus Christ that he or she shared Christ’s perfection. The same person, when seen by God apart from Christ’s sacrificial work, remained a sinner. The difference came through God’s gracious initiative; nothing that a person did started the process of his or her justification. To many in subsequent generations, this was a pessimistic and gloomy view of human potential. The will was bound; apart from God’s loving activity, no good works would satisfy God. Indeed, the phrase total depravity was sometimes used to demonstrate the extent of sin and to describe the debased condition of humanity. Even good works, piety, and religiousness were without value apart from justification by grace through faith. On the other hand, the justified sinner could be described in the most lavish terms as one who could be “as Christ” or even sometimes “a Christ.”

Those who have heard this Protestant teaching outlined through the centuries have regularly seen the difficulties it raises insofar as the portrait of God’s character is concerned. Protestants never came up with logically satisfying answers to the resultant questions, though in general they were convinced that their teaching was supported by the Bible. A central question was begged: If everything depended upon God’s initiative and yet the majority of people are not saved, does this not mean that God is responsible for creating humans only to have them suffer and is he not guilty of the worst kind of cruelty by being the sole agent of human damnation?

Protestant leaders answered this question in several different ways. Some said that whenever people were saved, it was to God’s credit; whenever they were lost, it was their own fault because they refused to hear the Word and accept the gift of grace. Others, especially Calvinists, emphasizing God’s sovereignty and initiative, taught “double predestination,” which asserted that God predestined some people to be saved and others to be damned. Some theologians argued that God predestined humans before the fall of Adam, and others saw it as a new act of God consequent upon man’s fall. Non-Calvinist churches were usually less systematic and less logical in their soteriology (the theology of salvation), teaching “single predestination.” They shared the Calvinists’ affirmation of God’s total responsibility for human salvation, but they tended to be silent or to relegate to the area of mystery the issue of how God could be responsible for salvation but not damnation. In general, Protestants believed they were more successful at preserving the teaching of God’s sovereignty and human helplessness than they were at making his character attractive to all. To overcome this problem they stressed God’s love of humanity in sending his own Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer on its behalf.


Teaching, worship, and organization » Common principles and practices of the reformers and their successors » The “priesthood of all believers”
If the teaching of justification had important consequences for the doctrines of God and of humanity in Protestantism, it had equally important consequences for the Protestant understanding of the church and the relationship between clergy and laity. The medieval system (both sacramental and sacerdotal) in effect made priests the mediators between God and humankind. The Protestant teaching of justification broke this down, and Protestant leaders taught that all believers have a share in spreading the word of grace and the acts of forgiveness. The result was an emphasis on the “priesthood of all believers.”

The Reformers based their teaching on the free-flowing sense of authority that existed between Christ and his Apostles, who were pictured in the Gospels as unencumbered by an elaborate clerical church order. The Reformers also called on all people to take responsibility for one another’s salvation and believed that any Christian could represent the needs of all others before God. Originally the priesthood of all believers was an enlargement of the view that all Christians could intercede for one another through prayer. It came to refer, however, to the Protestant view of the equality of status between clergy and laity and to the calling of all Christians to be agents of God’s Word and grace.

The affirmation of the priesthood of all believers had widespread societal implications because it limited the privileges of the clergy and enlarged the scope of lay activity. All believers were called to their “vocations,” and those of the clergy were not considered more meritorious than those of the laity. Monastic vocations were almost entirely swept away, rarely to return in Protestant history. Although they reduced the status of ministers, most Protestants kept a rite of ordination (though some Anabaptists dispensed with all acts that seemed to imply separation between a ministry of ordained persons and laymen) but did not regularly view it as a vehicle of grace or sacrament. In part the ministry was kept for pragmatic reasons; the clergy were to study and preach the Word, administer the sacraments, and care for the health of the church. A set-aside ministry was also derived from biblical precedent in the Acts of the Apostles and early Christian letters.

Protestants, while acknowledging their belief in the equality of the laity and clergy in the priesthood of all believers, have not always been successful in defining the laity’s role. In most cases laypersons were not to preach in public and were not to administer the sacraments. Protestants have made educational requirements, especially study of the Bible, a basis for ordained ministry, often at the expense of a full lay involvement. Yet their views did greatly enhance the role of the laity in religious life, especially when contrasted to the situation in medieval Catholicism.

The new doctrine of the priesthood of all believers inspired the Reformers to reconsider the definition of the church and its members. In some ways borrowing from but also breaking with the medieval view, Reformers examined the issue of the visible and invisible church. For German Reformer Martin Luther, the church was always visible because it was made up of people. On the other hand, he recognized that the true church was invisible since one could not examine the heart of others to determine exactly who were the true believers and who were the faithless. Similarly, other Reformers, among them French theologian John Calvin, employed the distinction between a visible church and an invisible one, the latter referring to the people who were saved, even if they were in churches where full doctrinal purity had not been achieved. People see the visible, humanly organized church of Christ, but they cannot simply identify this with the Bible’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, which is properly discerned only by God and hence invisible to humans. The Reformers, perhaps borrowing from St. Augustine, believed that the visible church contained a mixture of members of the invisible church, on the one hand, and hypocrites, or false believers, on the other.


Teaching, worship, and organization » Common principles and practices of the reformers and their successors » Authority of the Word
The new doctrines on faith and the priesthood of all believers rejected Roman Catholic teaching on salvation and the priesthood and undermined the traditional system of authority. Consequently, Protestants were forced to fill a vacuum of their own making. A pluralistic movement from the first, Protestantism was rarely characterized by a love of anarchy or indiscipline, and the Reformers sought to establish the locale and extent of authority in the church and the believer’s life. Almost unanimously they saw final authority to reside in the Word of God, which they simply equated with the Bible. The need of the Protestant movement to redefine authority enhanced its view of Scripture just as, one might argue, the rediscovery of scriptural teaching was seen to be the primary impetus behind the Protestant movement.

Later generations of Protestant thinkers sometimes resorted to scholastic philosophical definitions similar to those of medieval theologians; in such definitions justification became the material (or substantive) principle of the Reformation, while the matter of scriptural authority became the equally important formal (or structural) principle. Debate about the nature of the Word of God or the Bible was also a topic of much debate among Protestant thinkers. Protestants often have wrongly portrayed medieval Catholicism as being a nonbiblical or even an antibiblical faith. The expense of reproducing manuscripts led many libraries to chain books to the wall, and the Bible chained to the wall entered Protestant mythology as a symbol of the denial of lay access to the Bible in Roman Catholicism. In many circles Protestantism has been celebrated as a religion of the “open Bible,” in opposition to the closed book of Catholicism.

Mythology aside, Protestants without exception concentrated on biblical teaching, actively translated the Bible into the vernacular, and disseminated it as widely as possible—aided by the invention of movable type in the mid-15th century and the resultant progress in printing technology. While the Bible was ordinarily read in the churches and interpretation was shaped by the old and new traditions of these churches (Anglicans read the Bible’s teachings on apostolic succession differently from the way Anabaptists did, for example), Protestants exalted “the right of private judgment.”

Protestants agreed that the Word of God was authoritative in matters of faith and that the Bible had unique status, but they did not agree on all interpretations of the Scripture, nor did they unite in a single doctrine of scriptural authority. Protestant mystics and the Quakers stressed an immediate experience of God and thus qualified the importance of the Bible in shaping Christian life. But even among Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, and Anglicans there were differences of opinion about the Bible.

During the period of Protestant orthodoxy, especially in the 16th and 17th centuries, theologians developed the notion of the verbal inspiration (or inerrancy) of the Bible. This notion held that in fact every word of the Bible was divinely inspired and was thus the authority for one’s faith. Protestant orthodoxy countered the Catholic notion of an infallible church with that of an infallible Bible. During the European Enlightenment, the notion of a verbally inspired Bible was widely abandoned in the face of historical and philological criticism. In the 19th century, the fundamentalist movement, especially in North America, reiterated the view of Protestant orthodoxy.

The elevation of the Bible as the authority in matters of faith led to the downgrading of other church authorities. The hierarchy, and especially the pope, were hardest hit, and papal authority was denied in almost every sector of Protestantism. The conservative reformers replaced papal authority with increased devotion to the Fathers (doctrinal teachers and interpreters) of the early church, who were sometimes cited in the confessional writings of the various Protestant bodies. The Church Fathers, particularly St. Augustine, were revered as guides rather than as final authorities. Similarly, a critical attitude toward councils of the church came to prevail. Many Reformers noted that previous councils had erred or contradicted other councils. At the same time, however, many Protestant churches adopted the formulas and creedal statements of the ecumenical councils and incorporated them into their own official body of teaching. Those concerned with the Trinity or the person and work of Jesus Christ were particularly highly regarded.

Canon law, the inherited body of legal materials that regulated faith and morals, also suffered because of the high regard for the Bible. In most Protestant circles it was difficult to make legislation binding upon conscience unless it was based on clearly affirmed biblical legal teaching; more important, the accent on the Gospel of grace led most Protestants to undervalue the whole role of law in the life of the church. At the same time, new church orders soon developed, and Protestants often acted as legalistically as did the Roman Catholics, whom they were repudiating. Most Protestant bodies, notably the Anglicans, developed their own versions of canon law or rules of church order and discipline.


Teaching, worship, and organization » Common principles and practices of the reformers and their successors » Emphasis on the sacraments
Although they were united in their rejection of Roman Catholic teaching, the 16th-century Reformers were divided in their interpretation of the sacraments. In place of the sacramental system of the Roman Catholic church, the Reformers proposed a system that limited sacramental teaching to those acts clearly commanded by Christ in the Scriptures. Most Protestants also agreed on the fundamental definition of a sacrament as an act, established by God and instituted by Christ, that imparted grace and the new life and that combined the Word of God and some visible means (like bread, wine, and water). Therefore, five of the seven Roman Catholic sacraments failed to meet this definition: marriage, ordination, confirmation, penance (now called repentance), and extreme unction (now called anointing of the sick). Although Protestants did not abolish all these rites, their churches did deny that all were sacraments. Thus the Protestant teaching on marriage was normally as “high” as Catholic doctrine and may be considered quasi-sacramental. But it was seen chiefly as a civil act blessed by the church, and it did not convey grace to the participants.

Though Protestants—with a few exceptions—had little difficulty limiting the number of sacraments and perpetuating a high regard for them, they were far apart in their understanding of what went on in sacramental acts. Basically three views were debated. To the “right” was the Lutheran view, which critics considered quite close to Roman Catholicism. Luther had something of a medieval worldview in which symbols of the material world signified another invisible, divine order. This attitude allowed him to make much of the material objects in the sacraments. When he connected them with biblical language, he was able to say of bread and wine that these are the body and blood of Christ, and of baptism that it effected a change in the believer’s status before God.

At the “left” was the view of the Anabaptists, who viewed the acts, which they called “ordinaries,” as purely memorial remembrances of Jesus’ death and resurrection, public symbols of commitment to Jesus. The mediating view was that of Huldrych Zwingli and other Swiss Reformers, who accented the spiritual side and downgraded the material. They shared a view of matter and spirit in which the symbols were opaque, disengaged from an invisible “other order.” Such teaching meant that what mattered most in the sacraments was the following of Christ’s commands, the reminiscence of his participation in the world of his disciples, and the spiritual reality brought to the acts of believers. For Zwingli the bread and the wine were symbols that merely represented the body and blood of Christ, and baptism was more a sign of a Covenant with God than a vehicle of grace. The views of other Protestants, including Calvinists and Anglicans, were somewhere between the extremes of right and left. All Reformers, however, rejected the Roman Catholic teaching called “transubstantiation,” which held that the actual “substance” of the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper was turned into the body and blood of Christ while the “accidents” (appearance) of bread and wine remained. But they did not agree on the alternatives to that teaching, and debate over the sacrament of the bread and the wine contributed as much as any other theological factor to internal Protestant division.


Teaching, worship, and organization » Common principles and practices of the reformers and their successors » The community of the baptized and the political community
Reformers were equally varied in their attitudes toward civil authority. Luther expressed, at least in theory, a most radical view of the separation of civil and religious realms through his doctrine of “the two kingdoms.” He could reduce his teaching virtually to an aphorism: God’s Gospel ruled in the churchly realm and his law ruled in the civil society. To rule the church by the law or the civil realm by the Gospel would bring legalism to the sphere of grace and sentimentalism into the orbit of justice, thus dethroning God and enthroning Satan. In practice, however, the Lutheran Reformation worked to keep its ties to the civil order and was the established religion wherever it predominated in Germany and Scandinavia. In many territories princes actually took on the superintending roles that bishops had exercised in Roman Catholicism. In practice, therefore, there was little disengagement of the two realms.

Calvin made less of a theoretical effort to separate civil and religious realms. Under his plan Geneva was to be a community in which the saints would rule. God’s covenanted community was to be based on his law, as revealed in the Scripture. Consequently, no detail of civil or community life was too remote, too secular, or too petty to be excluded from ecclesiastical supervision or regulation. Anglicans did not separate the civil and religious realms; in England the church was given the mandate to press matters of conscience upon the sovereign and other civil authorities. These Protestant views were countered by Anabaptist Reformers, who advocated a radical separation of the church from civil spheres.

Forced to find ways to propagate and sustain their churches through time, Reformers created new structures to parallel most of those that had been repudiated along with Roman Catholicism. Lacking papal authority, canon law, an “international” connection with civil authority (as there had been in the old Holy Roman Empire), the binding power of church councils, or a single philosophy, the Reformers came up with alternatives for most of these, though their new systems were more varied than the at least nominally homogeneous Catholic skein.

Most notable among the structural necessities was the formulation of “confessions,” or creeds, by which the Reformers could define their positions for the benefit of both their adherents and their opponents. Beginning with the Lutheran Augsburg Confession (1530), Protestant leaders met frequently to write creedal statements. Reformed documents such as the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) and the Westminster Confession (1646), Anglican affirmations such as the Thirty-nine Articles (1563), and Anabaptist confessions such as that of Dordrecht (1632) gave further evidence of the Protestant impulse to define their positions.

Such confessions appealed to theologians and those who would impose them as doctrinal standards, but they did not warm believers’ hearts. Thus, Protestant leaders also addressed the affective side of church life in order to hold the attention of the people and to give them the opportunity to express their faith in God. The chief instruments in achieving these aims were liturgies and hymns. The inherited liturgies included much of the Roman Catholic sacramental teaching and thus had to be purged. Conservative Reformers retained the shell of these formulas for worship, though they took great pains to bring these formulas into the tradition of evangelical teaching. Since worship is perhaps the chief public expression of gathered Christians, all Reformers had to give attention to its detail.

Luther initiated the process in 1523 with his Formula Missae (“Formula of the Mass”), a service that retained the Latin language; but he soon devised (in 1526) a Deutsche Messe (“German Mass”), a vernacular worship service. At about the same time, Zwingli produced a worship service with liturgies for the Word and the Lord’s Supper in 1525 that was followed by Martin Bucer’s work on Psalms and church practice in 1539 and Calvin’s Form of Church Prayers in 1542 and 1545. The Anglicans were preserving stately forms of worship that would be used in subsequent centuries, chiefly The Book of Common Prayer of 1549 and 1552. In Scotland John Knox helped formulate Presbyterian worship in The Forms of Prayers in 1556.

While Protestant rites were less ceremonial than the Roman Catholic liturgies they replaced, almost everywhere they retained a more or less formal character. They differed from Catholicism chiefly in their emphasis on the act of preaching the Word of God. Preaching was viewed as the means of grace whereby individuals were encouraged to repent and accept the grace of God through faith in Christ, just as the sermon was used to shape the community and give guidance. For some this accent on preaching meant a downgrading of the Lord’s Supper; for others there was to be a parity, with the sacrament providing another means of conveying grace. Communion “in both kinds” (reception of both bread and wine) prevailed (whereas in the Catholicism of the era of the Reformers the cup was withheld from the laity), and, except in Anabaptist circles, the Catholic practice of infant baptism was retained. The Protestants first held worship services in existing Roman Catholic churches, academic or civil halls, or homes; but as time passed, they began to build new churches.

Hymnody played a major role in giving voice to Reformation sentiment, never more successfully than in Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” which came to be called “the battle hymn of the Reformation.” The Genevan Reformation and the Presbyterian churches preferred simple hymnody in the form of rephrased and parsed psalms, such as those found in the Genevan Psalter of 1562. Attention to sung versions of Scripture also prevailed in early Anglicanism, primarily because of the failure of Anglican Reformers to devote themselves to the propagation of their movement through song. The great tradition of English Protestant hymn writing developed later, in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Liturgies and hymns appealed to the heart and soul, but Protestant theologians also addressed the mind through an impressive outpouring of works in systematic theology and dogmatics. Calvin was the supreme systematizer of first- and second-generation Protestantism, and his Institutes of the Christian Religion (first published in 1536) is a classic of Christian doctrinal literature. Although a good theologian, Luther was considerably less systematic, and his theological work usually grew out of comments on issues that agitated him or inspired or disturbed his movement at any moment. His colleague Philipp Melanchthon, in the Loci Communes of 1521, was much more concerned with systematic discipline.

In the 17th century, Protestant theologians interpreted the confessional statements of the earlier century with an almost fanatic attention to detail. Huge theological works appeared in great number, often characterized by the type of scholastic philosophy that had prevailed in the late medieval period. Leaders of Lutheran orthodoxy were Martin Chemnitz (1522–86) and Johann Gerhard (1582–1637); Reformed orthodoxy was marked by the scholarship of Theodore Beza (1519–1605) and William Perkins (1558–1602). The ponderous and lifeless writings of lesser orthodox theologians were often expressions of internecine Protestant warfare. Debates raged over the sacraments, over the two natures of Christ, over the relationship of ecclesiastical and civil realms, and over the part humans played in salvation. These debates seldom led to concord, and despite occasional irenic figures, such as Georg Calixtus (1586–1656) or Hugo Grotius (1583–1645), Protestantism remained divided until the ecumenical movement in the 20th century produced new amity and common purpose.


Teaching, worship, and organization » The minor Reformers
The interpretation of Protestantism up to this point has been, with only a few noted exceptions, based on the majority view among the 16th-century Protestant movements. No single term adequately covers the Lutheran-Calvinist-Anglican complex, though magisterial, establishment, mainline, conservative, and classical have frequently been applied to these movements. Of considerable parallel significance was another, even more complicated cluster of movements, for which no single term can be agreed upon. Some historians speak of “the radical” Reformation or “the left wing of the Reformation.”

A more descriptive term is alternative reform movements. All Reformation movements shared the conviction that they had returned to the authentic message of the Bible. This view, however, was based on an assumption that was never satisfactorily validated: that these movements shared an essential theological and ecclesial homogeneity. One may argue instead that these minority movements were lumped together not because of their homogeneity but because none of them enjoyed governmental approval.

Rich and bewildering expressions of radical Protestantism emerged throughout Reformation Europe, sometimes as an extension of the logic of the conservative Reformation but more often as original movements bearing a logic all their own. Andreas Karlstadt and Thomas Müntzer, early disciples of Luther, came to reject his teachings, especially the more conservative ones, and carried reform in new directions. Debates over the Lord’s Supper and baptism led to new movements in Switzerland, southern Germany, and Bohemia-Moravia. In Strasbourg a significant group of radicals, including Kaspar Schwenckfeld, Melchior Hofmann, and Sebastian Franck, gathered about 1529. Northern Germany and the Netherlands were havens of early Anabaptism, and in the southern Netherlands Menno Simons spread the Mennonite movement. Radical reform also occurred in the Puritan and separatist movements in England and even in the spiritualist and Unitarian (anti-Trinitarian) movements in some Catholic countries, notably Italy and Poland, where the mainline movement had little success. Because they were by nature competitive, free-formed, and varied, it is difficult to generalize about the radical Reformation movements, but it is possible to identify some common elements, and the study of these movements is important because of the role they played in shaping modern Protestantism, especially as it developed in North America.


Teaching, worship, and organization » The minor Reformers » The gathered church
The radical Reformers were opposed to mainline Protestantism’s contention that there had been ecclesiastical continuity with the church of Christ in every age. Although mainstream Protestants vehemently rejected what they regarded to be false teaching in the medieval church, they believed that God had maintained a succession of believers during the period after the “fall” of the church in the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine (d. 337), a view that was integral to their doctrine of the church. Just as emphatic was the rejection of this view in radical circles. Some radicals accepted a kind of continuity from the 1st century to the 16th, but the only evidence of true faith that they identified was among the medieval movements that had separated themselves from official Roman Catholicism or that were condemned and persecuted by Catholics. Among these were the Waldensians (a religious movement espousing voluntary poverty and lay preaching that accepted mainline Protestantism in the 16th century), the Albigensians, also called Cathars (a sect espousing dualism and asceticism), and some forms of Spiritual Franciscanism (a branch of the Franciscan order that claimed to be the true followers of St. Francis’s rule of poverty). Just as often, however, radicals taught that the true church had died not long after Christ and had to be restored from the ground up.

This repudiation of continuity was paralleled by rejection of the tie between the civil and ecclesiastical realms. The bond between these two, forged in the era of Constantine, was viewed by the radical Reformers as the cause of the church’s fall. From that experience, it was argued, the church should have learned to avoid domination by the political authority and to exclude those who had not made an explicit personal affirmation of faith. The church, they held, was to be “the believer’s church,” made up of assenting and consenting people who chose to accept God’s Covenant. This teaching rejected the belief that baptism of infants, who of course could not make personal decisions, conferred church membership.

The keystone of the concept of the believer’s church is that people voluntarily choose to be members. No one can be coerced into membership nor can one become a member automatically, as it were, through a sacramental act. It was on this ground that almost all radical Reformers condemned infant baptism. Moreover, the importance of voluntarism further stressed the will of the believer in matters of faith. It also emphasized the necessity of the active participation of all believers in determining the church’s destiny and in the establishment of local church governance.

The radical Reformation almost always restored the sense of an apostolate (missionary outreach), whereas some earlier Reformers neglected the importance of missionary activity, and some had even excluded it from the contemporary church’s mandate. Anabaptists, spiritualists, and “free” church (nonstate) advocates tended to be missionary, even if this meant a kind of subversion of established Protestant churches, filled as these were—in the radicals’ eyes—with unbelievers or inadequate believers.


Teaching, worship, and organization » The minor Reformers » Relationships between church and state
Churches of the radical Reformation broke from established structures and called for sharp distinctions between Christian and non-Christian, sacred and secular, religious and worldly life. Radicals, however, were not uninterested in society, but they regarded it from their own eschatological perspective. They were inspired by the belief in the imminent return of Christ or the announcement of the Kingdom or Day of the Lord. Although they recognized that earthly instruments were necessary, the radical Reformers regarded worldly institutions as ephemeral and corrupting. Because such a large number of radicals believed that Christ’s new order was imminent, they generally took a negative view of most human means of facing problems. Many of them advocated a rejection of warfare in favour of pacifist positions that they found expressed in the gospels. The modern “peace church” witnessing by Mennonites, Brethren, and Quakers was born of this impulse. Paradoxically, other radicals (such as Müntzer) approved of violence and warfare as legitimate means for them to help hasten Christ’s new order.


Teaching, worship, and organization » The minor Reformers » Church discipline
Separation between the church and the world and the tradition of voluntary membership enabled radicals to demand higher standards of church membership and stricter means of church discipline than could their magisterial counterparts. Social control was more feasible in these smaller and well-defined groups than in the established churches, and “the ban,” a form of excommunication, was used to enforce discipline by expelling members from the congregation of believers and the broader community. The ban was not merely punitive; brotherly admonition and discipline were to continue, with the hope that the wayward could be rescued.


Teaching, worship, and organization » The minor Reformers » Believers’ baptism
One of the most dramatic differences between the reformers was the radicals’ practice of believers’ baptism. The radical Reformers, especially the Anabaptists (whose name means “rebaptizers”), preferred adult baptism because adults could exercise free will and accept baptism. Infant baptism, from their viewpoint, cheapened the standard of church membership and was not designated or foreseen in the New Testament documents that chartered the church. Michael Sattler (c. 1500–27), Menno Simons (1496–1561), and Balthasar Hubmaier (1485–1528) led the opposition to infant baptism. They were determined to follow the example of Jesus, who underwent baptism as an adult. They also aspired to be “buried” (in water) with him, as St. Paul had said baptized people would be. “New birth” would come from this act, and the reborn believers would restore the church.


Teaching, worship, and organization » The minor Reformers » Doctrine of the ministry
The concept of ministry also changed more drastically in some Protestant groups than in the more established Protestant circles. The mainstream Reformers wanted university-trained theologians as ministers. The fringe Reformation movements held ordination in low esteem and permitted laymen to be ministers: leaders such as Caspar Schwenckfeld (1489–1561) and Konrad Grebel (c. 1498–1526) were probably never ordained. Anabaptists and spiritual reformers, moreover, viewed the minister chiefly as a prophet, not a priest. The minister was an agent of a new order, anticipating Christ’s fulfilled kingdom with no cares about earthly prerogatives or routines.


Teaching, worship, and organization » The minor Reformers » The suffering of persecution
The alternative Reformation movements were made up of men and women who were prepared to suffer for their faith at the hands of both civil authorities and Catholic and other Protestant ecclesiastical leaders. The story of the rise of Anabaptism is one of persecution, of exiles and fugitives, and of a pilgrim church. Adherents to these alternative forms of Reformation, such as Michael Servetus (an anti-Trinitarian; c. 1511–53), often endured a sort of Protestant Inquisition, in which men and women died for their ideas. Servetus himself is an illustration, being burned at the stake in Geneva in 1553. The accounts of the martyrdom of men and women were recounted in the Martyrs’ Mirror. Characteristic were those who upheld the idea of patterning one’s life after Jesus, the great example who had known neither status nor security and was eventually condemned to death. How could his true followers avoid a similar fate?


Teaching, worship, and organization » The minor Reformers » Doctrinal variations
Although these Reformers differed on doctrinal matters, they shared a number of views. The radical Reformers, like the mainstream Protestants, held the Bible in high regard. Unlike the mainstream Reformers, however, who understood the Bible in the context of tradition, the radical Reformers stressed personal experiences and new revelation. The radicals also criticized scholastic philosophy and the theology built upon it; therefore they repudiated much of classical theology and Christology. Faustus Socinus (1539–1604) and Servetus, for example, rejected the traditional doctrine of the Trinity. They believed that Trinitarian teaching was unscriptural and that monotheism could best be protected if Christ were not defined as an equal member of the Godhead. Unitarianism affected only a minority of the radical Reformers, but a subtle shift in the definition of the role of Christ was more broadly based. The emphasis on Christ’s priestly work, including his sacrifice for humankind before the altar of God, was displaced by a new regard for his role as a prophet. He had thundered against the powers of religion and civil society and against the rich; so would his followers. He was seen less as a sacrificial agent in a divine-human transaction in death on the cross and more as the supreme exemplar and leader.


Protestantism’s influence in the modern world » Influence on nationalism
Protestantism eventually became the majority faith throughout northwestern Europe and in England and English-speaking America. In the 19th century, missionaries from those areas spread Protestantism throughout the world, establishing, with Roman Catholicism, a presence in Asia and Africa and in largely Catholic Latin America. It is impossible to separate Protestantism from the general history of the North Atlantic nations, especially those in North America, where it was firmly established for centuries and where its churches still play important roles.

Protestantism’s influence on modern nationalism began with its contribution to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, which finally collapsed in 1806. The old corpus Christianum (“Christian body”; i.e., Christian society) did not survive; the presence of Protestantism, which was organized along national lines, spelled doom for the idea of an international, transterritorial unified Christianity under one head. Protestantism’s desire to cultivate literacy and to spread regard for the vernacular served to remove the Latin linguistic bond of older Christendom and to encourage the rise of national boundaries based on languages. All but the radicals valued loyalty to the state, and Protestants often provided an ideological base for each new state as it rose to self-consciousness—as was the case in Prussia and in the United States.


Protestantism’s influence in the modern world » Influence on the arts
Protestant attitudes toward the arts have been ambivalent. For the most part, Reformed Protestants have been uneasy about the arts, fearing that the symbol would be confused with the reality and that the symbol would be idolized and the reality forgotten. Thus Calvin and Zwingli found little room for the visual arts, though Luther showed interest and was a friend of some artists of his time, including Lucas Cranach. Luther also approved of music more than did the Swiss Reformers, though most Protestants encouraged its use. Protestants cite artists such as poet John Milton, painter Rembrandt, and composer Johann Sebastian Bach to demonstrate Protestant aesthetic achievement. What can be called the Protestant “mind” or “spirit” was especially prevalent in music and literature.


Protestantism’s influence in the modern world » Ecumenical concerns
While Protestantism allowed for great variety, not all Protestants were content with division and separation. They were caught between two biblical mandates. One commanded them to seek the truth and reject fellowship with those in error. The other stressed Christian unity as part of the mission of the church (specifically through being witness to one’s faith) and as a foretaste of the eschatological, or fulfilled, life of Christians. The ferment of the 16th century and the doctrinal formulations of the 17th century led to ever-increasing divisions. The 18th-century Enlightenment—which in its British and German forms criticized Protestantism just as its French forms denounced Roman Catholicism—promoted a spirit of consensus. The Enlightenment claimed to value toleration of differences, and its advocates worked for agreement on doctrines based on reason and natural law. Such a tendency inevitably served to minimize doctrinal differences among Protestants.

In the 20th century, however, there was more effort toward producing consensus than in the previous three and a half centuries. The modern ecumenical movement—today thoroughly Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox in its outlook—was initiated and institutionalized on Protestant soil by those who had seen the mission of the church frustrated by competition and division. Beleaguered, huddled together like sheep in a storm, to use a familiar picture, they sought each other’s company.

At the same time, modern transportation and communication techniques effectively reduced the world and made unification of symbols accessible. A new vision of common tasks produced a Protestantism eager for a common statement of belief and often for common action. The ecumenical movement has led to denominational mergers and to conciliar organizations, on both confessional and transconfessional lines.

In the meantime, the growing openness of Roman Catholicism, particularly exemplified in the career of Pope John XXIII (1958–63) and Pope John Paul II (1978– ), led to new amity and concord between Protestants and Roman Catholics. In the last third of the 20th century both of the old warring parties, without formally repudiating their positions of the 16th century, moved beyond polemic to find common ground. Catholic biblical commentators now speak in what sounds much like Protestant terms of grace and faith. Protestants have a new appreciation for the Roman Catholic view of the interconnectedness of the components of the church. Increasingly, Protestants view the Scriptures as rooted in a tradition and tradition as rooted in the Scriptures. Thus they have a new sympathy for Catholic views of tradition—even as some Catholics criticize unreflective responses to ecclesiastical authority in their own communion. Protestants and Eastern Orthodox Christians, generally spatially quite separated, have begun to understand each other through agencies and organizations such as the World Council of Churches.


Protestantism’s influence in the modern world » Conclusion
In the latter half of the 20th century many heirs of Protestantism, among them the philosophical theologian Paul Tillich, spoke of “the end of the Protestant era” or of the times as being “post-Protestant.” This does not mean that Protestants wavered in their faith. Tillich, for one, argued that “the Protestant principle” of prophetic criticism had to be included in any authentic expression of church life and that it was a genuine value in the secular world. But these thinkers also believed that the cultural dominance of Protestantism on its own historical soil was waning.

From its origins to the present day, Protestantism has faced numerous challenges. Following the sectarian disputes of the 17th century and the challenge of reason in the 18th, the rise of industrialism and urbanization in the 19th century presented new problems to societies and cultures shaped by traditional Protestantism. Totalitarian forces, particularly in Nazi Germany, absorbed some Protestant emphases and changed them beyond recognition, or they persecuted those Protestants who radically opposed suppression. In the latter part of the 20th century some representatives of mainstream Protestantism became uncertain about its “foreign mission” of expansion in a postcolonialist, anti-imperialist world. The modern appreciation for values in non-Christian religions has led many Protestants to adopt positive attitudes toward these at the expense of the desire to displace them with an expanding Protestantism.

The attractions of modern life, secularization, and a crisis of faith have contributed to a general Christian decline, beginning with a measurable decrease in church membership, first on the European continent in the 19th century and then in England about the turn of the 20th century. Protestantism was not exempt from this phenomenon and was, perhaps, even more severely affected by it. Therefore, while huge majorities of the population are baptized members of established Protestant churches, only a small percentage attend worship services or accept the mandates of the church. The decline in church attendance, the failure of Protestant dogma to continue to define belief, and the lack of excitement among Westerners over divisions among Protestant churches are why some observers have posited the end of the Protestant era.

On the other hand, Protestantism is so deeply integrated into so many elements of Western culture that it can be expected to continue to assert subtle influence. It has experienced revival and decline periodically and now may be going through an extended period of decline. Yet even to speak in these terms betrays a Western provincialism that does not do justice to major trends. Countering all phenomena that provoke discussion of decline are at least two forces. One is the strength of conservative and evangelistic forms of Protestantism: Pentecostalism, Evangelicalism, and Fundamentalism. While historical antecedents of these movements were often world-denying, sectarian, and withdrawn, late 20th-century versions included men and women eager to shape their surrounding culture.

The other compensatory force is the growth of Protestantism in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and many parts of Asia. Some of these new Protestant churches have incorporated traditional indigenous beliefs and practices that have transformed the Protestantism of the missionaries and the European and American churches.

Martin E. Marty

 

 

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