Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Beginning of the Reformation

Here is part III of chapter 26 in the text by Earle Cairns.

He first refreshes the reader about interpretations from historians.
I feel like this is repetitive, but then again, people learn by repitition.

Protestant historians: a religious movement that sought to recover the purity of the primitive Christianity that is depicted in the NT.  It ignores the economic, political, and intellectual factors that also influenced the people.

Roman Catholic historians at the time Cairns wrote this: a heresy inspired by Martin Luther from baase motives, such as his desire to marry.  A heretical schism that destroyed the theological and ecclesiastical unity of the medieval Roman Church.  It does not see how far the medieval church had departed from NT theology.

Secular historians such as Voltaire: the consequences of a monastic squabble in Saxony and an outcome in England of the love affairs of Henry VIII.  This view ignores the fact that religious reformers in England such as Thomas Cranmer and William Tyndale influenced many of the people in Henry's court, including his son Edward VI.

Marxist historians: the result of the attempt of the Roman papacy to exploit Germany economically for the material benefit of the papacy.

Political historians: a result of the nation-states opposing an international church.

Cairns sees elements of truth in all these interpretations, but he considers them mostly secondary.  The causes of the Reformation were not simple and single but were complex and multiple.  His interpretation is a synthesis of all the mentioned views.  Religion was the primary reason, with politics, economics, morals, and intellect as secondary factors.

1. Political factor: the new centralized nation-states of northwestern Europe were opposed to the concept of a universal church that claimed jurisdiction over the nation state and its powerful ruler.  The nations that started it all were outside of the old Roman Empire and had middle classes with different cultural outlooks.

To an extent, the political factors err because Christ did establish a universal church that will never be broken, even if it has different viewpoints.  He is the church's husband that unifies all believers.  However, church and state got intermingled between the fall of the Roman empire and the rise of Luther that it became less focused on Jesus and more focused on owning land and enforcing morals.

2. Economics: Christians do not accept the materialistic interpretations of Marxists.  However, Rome did own much of the land in western Europe.  Budding nation-states looked upon this land greedily and desired personal ownership.  They also did not want to keep sending money to the pope and letting clergy remain tax-exempt.  The system of selling indulgences was what sparked Luther.

3. Intellectual factor: men with awakened minds and a secular outlook became critical of the religious life of their day as represented by the organized religion of the RC church.  The middle class grew and revolted against the corporate concept of medieval society.  On one hand, all the church on earth should be united.  On the other hand, it should not legislate national affairs because the church is a political entity separate from this world.

4. Moral factor: Scholars such as Erasmus had access to the Greek New Testament and saw flagrant discrepancies between the church in the NT and the RC church of that era.  Clergy purchased their offices.  Some received salary without doing the work associated with the office.  Since the clergy could not marry, and since they are humans that God made with working organs, the fell into temptation.  Some had concubines and others lived openly in promiscuity.  Zwingli himself knew of his many children that resulted from his relationships and concluded that celibacy is a great gift, but not many people have it.  Indeed, God did not intend people to have widespread aversion to marital sex.  this was a result of gnostic streams that hate all physical matter.  People also invented indulgences to reduce their time in purgatory that earned money for the central powers, compensated for the crusades, and helped support art projects.

5. Social structure change: Town rose, and did I mention a middle class?  This created a new spirit of individualism that clashed with the corporate mentality from the previous feudalism.

6. Theological or philosophical factors: some see this as a struggle between Augustine's theology and that of Thomas Aquinas.  The Church did agree with Aquinas that man was not totally corrupted as Augustine preached, and they liked that they could use the sacraments distributed from the hierarchy to regain standing with God.  Amazingly, RC Sproul loves both Augustine and Aquinas.  I consider Augustine a hero for getting Pelagianism condemned by the church.  The Reformers mostly got their theology by reading Augustine, who is also to blame for some of the ascetic and gnostic influences that caused people to deny the flesh to their destruction.  Ultimately, however, the Scriptures showed them the truth that they believed was not taught in the church.  The Bible taught a totally depraved man who was only saved by God's grace and could do nothing to earn or keep it.  It's a gift.

7. Dissatisfaction will usually express itself in some great leader who expresses their ideas for them.  The failed attempts of Wycliffe, Hus, Savanarola, and other proto-reformers caused people to despair of ever correcting abuses that grew through the years of unchecked authority.  A leader responded who embodied the desire to reform abuses and bring revolutionary changes.  Martin Luther  functioned in that capacity when he insisted that an individual can go directly to God through Christ with no need for a priest or an intercessor.

Luther would go in and out of confession thinking that he could never do enough to regain his standing with God.  If asked if he loved God, he replied, "sometimes I hate him."  Finally, someone told him to read Romans which preaches salvation as a gift that cannot be revoked.  He not only opposed the sale of indulgences, but he came to oppose indulgences altogether as they ignore the fact that Christ paid the complete price of God's wrath for his believers.  The chief reason for the Reformation is the belief that "man needed no human mediator between himself and God to obtain the salvation that had been purchased for him by Christ on the cross."  Christ is that mediator and the only one who could do it perfectly.

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