Christianity Through the Ages by Kenneth Scott Latourette
Richard Heard, M.A., M.B.E., M.C., was a Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge and University lecturer in Divinity at Cambridge (1950). Published by Harper & Row, New York, 1965. This material was prepared for Religion-Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
Chapter 8: Revival, Reform, and Expansion, A.D. 1500-1750
Not far from the year 1500 a new stage began in the course of Christianity. It was concurrent with the beginning of a new era in the history of Western European peoples. Because of the developments among these peoples, the sixteenth century also ushered in a new stage in the history of mankind as a whole. For the first time one segment of mankind began to impinge on all the rest of mankind, and the foreshadowings were seen of the global revolution which resulted from that impact. The revolution was to mount until in the twentieth century every people, tribe, and nation was profoundly altered and the whole human race was ushered into a world which in time dimensions was rapidly shrinking and which was displaying common cultural features. The source of the revolution was Western Europe and those large portions of the globe peopled by migrations from that area. Since Western Europe was the segment of the globe in which Christianity longest had the nearest approach to an opportunity to mold culture, the question inevitably arises as to what share Christianity had in the impact and the revolution.
In general, the four and a half centuries which followed the dawn of this new age fall into four periods of unequal length. One lasted roughly from about the closing decades of the fifteenth century to the middle of the eighteenth century. The second, much briefer, was from the mid-eighteenth century into the second decade of the nineteenth century. The third was from 1815 to 1914. The fourth was introduced by dramatic events in 1914 and had not ended when these lines were written. The present chapter is an attempt to cover the first period -- from the closing decades of the fifteenth century to the mid-eighteenth century. As in the previous stages of our story, the boundary dates are only approximate. Some phases of the movements characterizing the period began before and some continued after the years which head this chapter. But those years are sufficiently near to marked transitions to be an aid in understanding what lies between them.
General Developments Between A.D. 1500 and A.D. 1750
In many ways, as was to be expected, movements which marked the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries continued into the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. The Renaissance did not end immediately: much of its legacy persisted and in the twentieth century is still potent. Such, for example, is the emphasis upon man, upon the this-worldly stage of human life, and upon man’s confidence in his ability to explore the universe and to solve the problems which confront the human race. The use of the vernaculars in literature, begun before the sixteenth century, increased. Latin was still the vehicle of much of scholarship and thus helped to further unity in Western culture, but it was beginning to be supplanted by the several national languages. Printing by movable type made the written word available to thousands who had previously been illiterate. Cities multiplied and grew in population. With them the urban middle class, the bourgeoisie, became more important politically and culturally. The emergence of nation-states continued.
The Ottoman Turks were a chronic menace. For many decades their empire continued to expand and eventually embraced not only the Balkans, Greece, much of Hungary, the shores of the Black Sea, Asia Minor, and Mesopotamia but also all the north coast of Africa from the Red Sea to the Straits of Gibraltar. For a time their ships made the Mediterranean a Turkish lake. The Ottoman Empire roughly approximated the Eastern Roman Empire at its height, but in contrast with the latter it was Moslem rather than Christian. The Ottoman menace to Western Europe reached its peak in the first seven decades of the sixteenth century. It was checked by the decisive Turkish defeat in the Battle of Lepanto (1571) by the fleet inspired by Pope Pius V. Never after that event were the Turks to dominate the Mediterranean.
In connexion with some of these movements were other developments which made the centuries introduced by the closing years of the 1400’s distinct from what went before. The cities of Western Europe, including Antwerp, Bruges, Brussels, Seville, and Lisbon, outstripped the Italian cities -- Venice, Genoa, Florence, and Pisa -- as the chief centers of commerce and banking. That was because the Turks had taken some of the Eastern Mediterranean strongholds of the Italian cities and because of the expanding empires of Spain and Portugal in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. From human daring came a new astronomy of which Copernicus (1473-1543), Galileo (1564-1642, and Kepler (1571-1630) were pioneers. The telescope was invented. The earth was demoted from its central place in the heavens, and the sun was recognized as the center of a system of planets. Symbols were devised or appropriated for the developing mathematics -- for arithmetic, algebra, and geometry -- and calculus was devised. By stressing the observation of facts Francis Bacon (1561-1626) did much for the development of natural science. Early in the seventeenth century Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood, thus opening a new door in the practice of medicine. Isaac Newton, born in 1642, the year of Galileo’s death, observed "laws" which ever since have been basic in physics and astronomy. Descartes (1596-1650) contributed to mathematics and especially to philosophy -- to the latter with his basic questioning and his principle of cogito, ergo sum ("I think, therefore I am"). Robert Boyle (1627-1691) is credited with being the father of modern chemistry. The microscope was improved, the air pump was invented, and the system of reckoning temperature was formulated which is still in use in English-speaking countries. Developments in botany and zoology laid the foundations for later achievements in biology. John Locke (1632-1704) made contributions to philosophy which profoundly influenced theoretical study in that field and as well had lasting repercussions on political thought and institutions. Pascal (1623-1662) and Leibnitz (1646-1716) elaborated calculus.
In the area of government, the development of nation-states which had begun earlier was accelerated. From the age of the "barbarian" invasions Western Europe had been a congeries of hundreds of units, large and small, some of tribal origin, bearing the pattern of feudalism, loosely held together in regional kingdoms, and for the most part recognizing a theoretical association through the Holy Roman Empire. Now these feudal units were coagulating in kingdoms under dynastic royal houses which claimed to rule by divine right and possessed absolute power. The Holy Roman Empire persisted in name, but for the most part its Emperors were chosen from the Hapsburg family by seven electors, all except one German. The Hapsburgs based their power on hereditary possessions, chief of which was Austria with its capital in Vienna. An imperial Diet, composed of the electors, lesser princes, higher clergy, and representatives of the free cities, acted for that incongruous combination whose cohesion was mainly geography, the Holy Roman imperial tradition, and language. In the seventeenth century the leading nation-states were France, ruled by descendants of Hugh Capet, who in 987 had been elected King; England, under the House of Tudor, whose first King was Henry VII and whose diplomatic marriage of a daughter paved the way for the union of Scotland and England which was realized late in the seventeenth century; Spain, its kingdom unified late in the fifteenth and the fore part of the sixteenth century; Portugal; Sweden; and Denmark-Norway. The rival royal families fought with one another for the aggrandizement of their power and the enlargement of their domains. They waged their wars with professional armies equipped with the firearms made possible by gunpowder. The professional armies supplanted the former feudal levies and rendered the kings independent of these levies. The feudal nobility were either decimated by domestic struggles, markedly by the prolonged Wars of the Roses in England, or made subordinate to the kings. In their efforts to curb the feudal magnates the kings were often aided by the bourgeoisie.
Associated with the growth of the absolute monarchies were geographic discoveries and empire-building by the peoples of Western Europe. Spain and Portugal led the way, followed tardily by the English, the French, and the Dutch. Blocked by the Turks from enlarging the incipient expansion in the Eastern Mediterranean accomplished through the Crusades and the Italian cities, Western Europeans outflanked these formidable rivals by rounding Africa and, more than outflanking them, moved westward across the Atlantic. The initial explorations were directed by Prince Henry (1394-1460) the Navigator, of the royal house of Portugal. Henry was Grand Master of the Order of Christ, a military monastic body which in Portugal succeeded to the property of the Templars. Using that property to finance his enterprises, he founded an institution to study geography and navigation, to devise better ships, and to train men to sail them. How far his motives were of Christian origin even he might have found it difficult to say. One of his purposes was certainly to spread the Christian faith, presumably by circumnavigating Africa and so reaching South and East Asia without having to venture on the impossible feat of forcing a way through the Ottoman Empire. Africa proved to be much larger than Prince Henry had anticipated. By the time of his death his captains had made their way only along part of the west coast. But less than a generation later (1488) the Cape of Good Hope was reached, and in 1497 Vasco da Gama sailed round it to India. In the first half of the sixteenth century the Portuguese established trading posts along the coast of Africa and in India, Ceylon, Malacca, Japan, and the East Indies. Before the close of the century they were in possession of Macao, not far from Canton. In several places these posts were enlarged to embrace adjoining territory, but except in Ceylon and some of the East Indies that territory was of very limited extent.
From almost the beginning of the Portuguese voyages Africans were enslaved and sent to Europe. Here was the inception of the largest exploitation in all history of one race by another -- with the heartless barbarity of the tribal wars whose victims were sold to the European slavers, the incredible suffering of the trans-Atlantic passage, and the cruelties inflicted in the plantations of the New World. If a Christian motive entered into the initial voyages, results followed which were a tragic contradiction of that motive.
Similar exploitation followed the discovery and settlement of the Americas by the Spaniards and the Portuguese. One of Christopher Columbus’ objectives was the conversion of the Indians, but unspeakable cruelties and enslavement attended the initial impact of the Europeans upon the native races.
The English, French, and Dutch were later than the Spaniards and Portuguese in trade, conquest, and colonization. In the mid-eighteenth century their overseas domains, while extensive, were not as large or as populous as those of the two pioneering powers.
Similarly the Russians, with their political capital at Moscow, moved eastward across the vast northern plains of Eurasia and before the end of the seventeenth century had reached the Pacific, but their new territories had few inhabitants.
By the mid-eighteenth century European peoples had mastered a larger proportion of the earth’s surface than had any earlier group of mankind. Even the Roman, Chinese, Arab, and Mongol empires had not approached the geographic magnitude of the European-dominated realms. In population totals the latter had not yet equaled these earlier domains. The Europeans had moved into relatively sparsely settled portions of the globe. Except in the Americas the cultural revolution produced by the impact of Western civilization had scarcely begun. Not until the twentieth century was it to attain global traumatic dimensions.
The Status of Christianity in the New Age: General Features
In the new age which dawned at the close of the fifteenth century Christianity faced a major challenge. Could it mold the changing civilization of Europe and transform wholesomely or at least ameliorate the impact of Europeans upon the peoples coming under European influence? Would non-Europeans accept Christianity? Never had any religion been confronted by so nearly global a challenge.
The prospect was far from promising. As we saw in the last chapter, Christianity was not only seriously threatened, it was as well losing ground geographically and apparently was waning in inner vitality. It had either lost most of its outposts in Asia and North Africa or seen them greatly constricted. In Asia Minor and South-eastern Europe the churches were subject to the Ottoman Turks, Moslems. The Ottoman rulers were both the spiritual and the political head of the rapidly expanding Islam -- for Islam was steadily winning peoples in Central Asia, China, and South-eastern Asia and the adjacent islands. In Europe the Papacy and much of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church were largely staffed by men who regarded their posts as an opportunity for luxury or power or both. The attempts of the great reformers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to make the Papacy an instrument for lifting the entire body of professed Christians to a nearer approximation to the standards of the New Testament had brought that office functions which required an enlarged staff with increased powers and incomes commensurate with their importance. From quite other than Christian motives men sought positions on the Papal curia for themselves or members of their families, and the emoluments of the posts were augmented. On the eve of the movements which ushered in the new day the Papacy and the Papal court had become a stench in the nostrils of honest men. Such corruption at the administrative center could not but prove contagious in the structure which radiated from it. The evils were further aggravated by the secularization attending the heightened control of the Church by the absolute monarchs. The struggle of earlier centuries to free the Church from domination by lay princes was increasingly resolved by the power of each King to appoint the bishops in his realm and to forbid any Papal decree from being published within his borders without his consent. As the decades passed the powers of the monarchs over the Church mounted.
Yet, by what seemed a strange anomaly, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries witnessed a fresh surge of life in the Christianity of Western Europe. Through it Christianity permeated the life of that region more effectively and brought it nearer to the ideals set forth in the New Testament than in any earlier time. From that surge issued a missionary movement of unprecedented dimensions. The faith was planted among more peoples than had ever known it. By the middle of the eighteenth century no other religion had had as wide a geographic expansion as Christianity. Moreover, earnest Christians fought the evils attendant upon the chronic wars between the rival dynasties and sought to check the exploitation of peoples by European conquerors, explorers, merchants, and settlers and make the contacts with Europeans accrue to the benefit of non-Europeans.
To what extent, if at all, did a causal connexion exist between the fresh surge of life in Christianity in Europe and the vigor displayed in other phases of the life of that region? Was Christianity at least one of the causes and perhaps the major cause of the abounding creativity -- political, intellectual, and economic -- among Western Europeans of these centuries? Or was that creativity a cause of the new vigour in Christianity? That each influenced the other is clear. But whether the relation was causal and, if so, in which direction or in both directions seems impossible to ascertain.
The surge of life in Christianity was seen chiefly in Western Europe. There it had two main expressions -- in the emergence of Protestantism and in a renewed animation in the Roman Catholic Church which purged it of much of the glaring corruption of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, gave birth to new monastic movements, and inspired the most extensive missionary activity that Christianity or any other religion had thus far produced.
A striking feature of the awakenings in Christianity was their regional division. In general Protestantism had its origin and flourished in areas which had not been within the Roman Empire, and the Catholic Reformation had its mainsprings and its most cogent expressions in what might be called Latin Europe -- the countries in Western Europe which had been most extensively incorporated in the Roman Empire. To be more precise, Protestantism became the prevailing religion among the Germanic peoples who, with one exception, had not settled within the former confines of the Roman Empire. The exception -- Great Britain -- was more apparent than real, for here the Anglo-Saxon and then the Scandinavian invaders had never been under Roman rule and they had wiped out all cultural traces of the Roman occupation. The generalization has been made that Protestantism is the reaction of the Teutonic mind to Christianity. To put it another way, the Roman Catholic Church retained its hold on the descendants of those "barbarian" invaders who had settled within the former provinces of the Roman Empire and had conformed in part to the Roman culture when it was becoming officially Christian. That conformation -- or acculturation -- had proceeded further in Italy and the Iberian Peninsula than it had north of the Pyrenees and the Alps. There, significantly, or through individuals born in those regions, most of the great monastic movements had arisen and a large proportion of the outstanding theological systems had been formulated. Although a few individuals espoused it, Protestantism never won a substantial continuing foothold in Italy, Spain, or Portugal. In France, where, presumably, the acculturation had not proceeded as far as in Italy and the Iberian Peninsula, Protestants constituted a substantial minority. A leading Protestant, Calvin, was from a northern border of Latin Europe and was educated in France. Switzerland, also on the northern border of what had been the Roman Empire, divided about evenly between Protestantism and the Roman Catholic Church. In the Low Countries Protestantism prevailed in the portion which had not been within the Roman lines, and Roman Catholicism was dominant in the southern sections where Roman rule had been established. In Germany the Roman Catholic Church retained the allegiance of most of the Rhine Valley and Austria, formerly parts of the Roman domains, and Protestantism was strongest in the sections the Romans had never fully subdued.
Seeming exceptions can be cited. Although Ireland had never been conquered by the Romans, the majority of the population retained its Roman Catholic allegiance, but partly, at least, because the English, who eventually separated from Rome, ruled the island and the Roman Catholic form of the faith became associated with Irish nationalism and resistance to English rule. Except in Bohemia, Protestantism never gained a large continuing following among Slavic peoples. For a time Protestantism seemed to have some prospect of winning the Poles, but it was soon eliminated.
In the main the pioneers and creators of Protestantism were from the lower or middle social strata and most of the leaders of the Catholic Reformation were from the aristocracy.
In our survey of the course of Christianity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and in the fore part of the eighteenth century we will address ourselves first to Protestantism and then to the Roman Catholic Church. Although the Catholic Reformation began a generation prior to Martin Luther, its later course was so consciously in opposition to Protestantism that it has often been called the Counter-Reformation. For that reason it should follow our account of Protestantism. Later we must say something of developments in the Russian Orthodox Church.
Protestantism took four main forms -- Lutheran, Reformed, Radical, and Anglican. In addition anti-Trinitarian humanism won minorities.
The Rise and Development of Lutheranism
October 31, 1517, is usually regarded as marking the beginning of Protestantism. It was then that Martin Luther affixed to the chapel door of the University of Wittenberg ninety-five theses which he offered to defend in debate. The procedure was normal in university circles. What made it notable was the author, the occasion, the subject, and the sequel.
Martin Luther (1483-l546) was the eldest child in a prosperous peasant family. Sturdy physically, loving music, intelligent, and hard-working, he was reared in the Catholic faith as understood and practiced by members of the peasant class. He was subject to periods of depression (Anfectungen) -- a psychological characteristic with important fruitage. He acquired as good an education as Germany afforded. During part of his student days he had as a teacher one of the Brethren of the Common Life. He had embarked on the study of law with the purpose of going into the legal profession when, moved by the threat of death from a stroke of lightning, he suddenly vowed to become a monk. He entered a house of the Observant Augustinians, a reform movement which had begun in the preceding century, and studied theology, applying himself chiefly to masters of the Occamist tradition. He was assigned to teach theology in the University of Wittenberg, newly founded by the Elector Frederick III, "the Wise," of Saxony. The monastic life brought mental and spiritual agony, not peace. By the means enjoined by the Church of his day Luther sought to earn the assurance of the favor of God. But fasting, self-inflicted scourging of the body, and repeated confession and eventual ordination to the priesthood only intensified his distress. To distract his attention from his torturing introspection his superiors loaded him with administrative duties as well as teaching. Gradually the light dawned. A phrase in Paul’s Letter to the Romans -- "the just shall live by faith" -- contained for him the answer. The Christian, he came to believe, is justified not by his deeds -- by "work righteousness" including religious observances -- but by trusting in the mercy and love of God, which can never be earned but is offered freely in Christ. Luther enlarged the word fide ("faith") by sola ("alone"), so that the verse read "the just shall live by faith alone."
Luther was moved to propose his theses by the hawking of indulgences through parts of Germany by Tetzel, a Dominican. The proceeds were to be used, so the public was informed, towards the erection of the new St. Peter’s in Rome. The public was not told, nor did Luther know, that half was to go to pay a debt which Albert of Brandenburg, of the aristocratic Hohenzollern family, had acquired in purchasing the Archbishopric of Mainz, the top ecclesiastical post in Germany. In promoting his sales Tetzel had declared that as soon as the money fell into the coffer a soul was released from purgatory. Luther’s sense of justice was outraged. Luther declared that the Pope had no jurisdiction over purgatory and could remit only those penalties which he himself had imposed; that the indulgences bred a false sense of security and were positively harmful; that few Germans could worship in St. Peter’s; that the Pope had enough money to build St. Peter’s without impoverishing the Germans; and that the Pope would do better to appoint one good pastor to a church than to grant a multitude of indulgences.
To Luther’s surprise the theses created an immense sensation. The relatively new device of the printing press was used to scatter them widely across Germany. The controversy so raged that the Pope, the pleasure-loving scion of the Florentine Medicis, Leo X, whom we have already met, was forced to take cognizance of it. He ordered the head of the Augustinians to silence Luther, but in a chapter of the Augustinians the offending monk won followers. Leo X then ordered Luther to Rome to stand trial for heresy and contumacy. The Elector Frederick obtained the transfer of the hearing to Germany. Public debates followed in which Luther was maneuvered into saying that not only Popes but Ecumenical Councils might err, and that Hus’s views were "Christian and evangelical."
The issue between Luther and the Pope was now squarely joined. In 1520 Luther published five widely-circulated German tracts stating that good works were not limited to praying in church, fasting, and giving alms but also included "laboring at one’s trade, coming and going, eating, drinking, and sleeping, and all other acts that help nourish the body and are generally useful." He declared that the "noblest of all good works is to believe in Christ" and that a Christian should seek "to please God and serve Him without hope of reward." He insisted that every true believer is a priest, without the aid of Pope or clergy, and is competent to interpret the Scriptures and to discern what is right, and that many Popes had been unbelievers and so were incapable of understanding the Scriptures. He attacked the pomp and luxury of the Popes and cardinals and said that the Papacy was the Babylon which had carried the Church into captivity. He would permit priests to marry. He denied transubstantiation and would give the cup to the laity. Of the seven sacraments he held that only baptism and the Lord’s Supper are supported by Scripture. But he maintained that through baptism supported by the prayers of the Church the infant is cleansed and renewed and that in the Lord’s Supper the bread and the wine contain the real flesh and the real blood of Christ. He advised youths not to take monastic vows, for he was convinced that the works of members of religious orders are not more praiseworthy in the sight of God than are those of the farmer in his field and of the woman in her household duties. Luther affirmed that "A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone."
In these tracts Luther enunciated the distinctive convictions of Protestantism -- justification by faith alone, the priesthood of all believers, the authority of the word of God as contained in the Scriptures, and the right and the duty of each Christian to interpret the Scriptures. If for no other reason, because of the right and the duty of each Christian to interpret the Scriptures Protestantism was multiform. Nor were all Protestants -- not even Luther himself -- willing to carry to their logical conclusion the basic principles peculiar to Protestantism, notably that of the right and the duty of the interpretation of the Scriptures by the individual. But with all its variety and its frequent hesitation fully to implement the convictions which set it apart from other forms of Christianity, in its numerous expressions Protestantism bore the stamp of what Luther forthrightly formulated.
The inevitable followed. Early in 1521, less than four years after the appearance of the ninety-five theses, a Papal bull excommunicated the daring monk and the Papal nuncio pressed the authorities of the Holy Roman Empire to liquidate what Leo X called a "wild boar" in the Lord’s vineyard. Luther was haled before the Diet of that realm. There, at Worms, in the presence of the newly elected Emperor, Charles V, the mightiest monarch in Europe, and of the dignitaries of Church and State, Luther, the son of peasant parents, declared that he could not accept the authority of Popes and councils, since they had often contradicted one another, and that unless he was convinced by Scripture and plain reason he could not in good conscience recant anything he had written. In May, 1521, the Emperor adjudged Luther to be "cut off from the Church of God" and commanded his subjects to refuse the "obstinate schismatic and manifest heretic" hospitality, food, or drink, to take him prisoner and turn him over to the Emperor, and to deal similarly with all Luther’s friends and adherents. To protect Luther, the Elector Frederick had him taken to the nearly untenanted Wartburg castle. There, with the exception of a brief visit to Wittenberg in December, 1521, Luther remained until March, 1522, disguised as a knight and under an assumed name. In his nine months in the Wartburg, in spite of ill health and Anfectungen, Luther wrote nearly a dozen books and translated the New Testament from Greek into German. His translation of the entire Bible, completed later and polished by him again and again, continued to be standard and through its dignity and felicity of expression was epoch-making in the literary history of Germany.
In March, 1522, defying the imperial ban and contrary to the advice of the Elector Frederick, Luther resumed his residence in Wittenberg. There he took active leadership in the Reformation, a position which he held throughout his life. He taught in the university, preached, and continued his writing. Students came from other parts of Germany and from several countries to drink of the new spring at its source. Returning home, they profoundly influenced the Reformation in state after state and country after country.
Revolt against the Roman Catholic Church spread rapidly. As it proliferated it took many forms. The more radical rejected infant baptism, repudiated clerical and monastic vows, destroyed images and altars, and regarded the Lord’s Supper simply as a memorial. The general unrest of which the religious element was a phase contributed to a peasants’ revolt against both lay and ecclesiastical authorities. The revolt broke out in 1524-1525. It demanded emancipation from oppressive measures and customs. But it was suppressed in a blood bath. Luther took vigorous action. His was a middle course. While at first he urged the authorities to be moderate, he later came out against the more radical features of the extreme reformers and urged the use of force against what he called the "murderous and thieving hordes of peasants."
In other ways Luther shaped the form of Protestantism which has been known by his name. In a colloquy in Marburg in October, 1529, he took a position on the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper which made intercommunion impossible between those who held to him and those who did not agree with him on the nature of the presence of Christ in the bread and the wine. He permitted priests, monks, and nuns to marry. He himself married a former nun. He wrote a German mass utilizing much from the traditional liturgies, and said that, unless they were expressly forbidden by the Bible, what customs had come through the Roman Catholic Church were not necessarily to be repudiated. He stressed music, congregational singing, the family, and education. He encouraged the civil authorities to regulate worship and ecclesiastical structures and procedures within their respective domains and thus contributed to the emergence of Landeskirchen (territorial churches) in Germany and to state churches elsewhere. By his emphasis upon sin and man’s inability without God’s grace to attain forgiveness, he alienated some of the humanists, notably Erasmus. Erasmus openly differed from Luther and never broke with the Roman Catholic Church.
In Germany, politically divided into many states and cities, large and small, religious controversy contributed to wars, at times as the major factor. Fortunately for Luther and his fellow Protestants, Charles V was too much engrossed in wars with France and in Italy and with the Turkish menace promptly to follow up with vigor the ban directed against Luther and his friends decreed at the Diet of Worms. But in 1530, in an attempt to restore religious unity, returning from his coronation at Rome as Emperor, Charles called a meeting of the Diet at Augsburg and asked the Protestants to state where they differed from the Roman Catholic Church. Their statement, known as the Augsburg Confession, has continued to be regarded by Lutherans as the authoritative formulation of their convictions. The chief author of the Augsburg Confession was Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560). Melanchthon sought to make the documents as irenic as possible, endeavoring to show that the Protestant convictions were in accord with those of the Universal Church, but did not hesitate to point out what abuses had crept into the Roman Church. Roman Catholic theologians replied. The Emperor sought through conferences to bring agreement but failed. The Diet had a Roman Catholic majority and held that the Protestants had been refuted. Charles gave the latter until April, 1531, to submit. After some delay war followed between the imperial forces and the Protestant princes, now divided by Charles’s skillful diplomacy. It was waged intermittently. In 1552 the Emperor was defeated and almost captured. The Peace of Augsburg followed (1555). A compromise, it followed the principle of cujus regio, ejus religio, permitting each lay prince, Lutheran or Roman Catholic, to determine which of the two forms was to prevail in his territory, but required Roman Catholic prelates who turned Lutheran to surrender their properties and incomes belonging to their offices.
The principle of cujus regio, ejus religio continued to govern the religious map of Germany. From 1618 to 1648 what was known as the Thirty Years’ War was waged. Rivalries between Protestants and Catholics were a major and continuing factor. Eventually most of Western Europe was embroiled and in the later stages France entered in an attempt to enlarge its territories. Much of Germany was laid waste. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) ended the long agony and, among other features, checked the Roman Catholic anti-Protestant counter advance, gave recognition to the Reformed as well as the Lutheran form of the faith, and fixed the boundaries between Protestants and Roman Catholics roughly where they remained into the twentieth century. Each wing of Christianity had made gains. Some former Roman Catholic bishoprics, monasteries, and churches were left in Protestant hands, but Bohemia, formerly Protestant, became prevailingly Roman Catholic. In general North Germany emerged Protestant and much of the Rhine Valley remained Roman Catholic. Toleration was granted for private worship in a branch of the faith which differed from that of the prince.
The adherents of Lutheranism did not fully agree among themselves. Some wished accommodation to Roman Catholic practices. Others held good works to be an obstacle to the Christian life. Still others declared that man is completely without freedom of will. The Formula of Concord, framed in 1580, was an attempt to devise a statement to which all could agree. It represented the convictions of the large majority of German Lutherans, but a minority dissented. Then as later, Lutheranism did not present a solid front to the world. In time increasing emphasis was placed on dogma -- a kind of Lutheran scholasticism.
Lutheranism spread beyond Germany. Before the Thirty Years’ War began Scandinavia, Iceland, and Finland (ruled by Sweden) were solidly Lutheran. The transition from Roman Catholic allegiance to Protestantism was achieved partly by earnest individuals who had had contact with Wittenberg but chiefly on the initiative of the monarchs. The latter were moved partly by religious conviction and partly by the desire to control the Church in their domains and to profit from the ecclesiastical property confiscated in the transition. The transition began in the second decade of the sixteenth century and was completed soon after the middle of the century. The King of Denmark used Protestantism to consummate his control of Norway. Lutheranism also prevailed in the Baltic countries south of Finland and won substantial minorities in Hungary and Transylvania, at the outset largely among German settlers. Luther’s writings were widely read outside Lutheran circles and contributed markedly to other forms of Protestantism.
The "Reformed" Phase of Protestantism
The "Reformed" phase of Protestantism, with an ecclesiastical structure which, although having many variations, was Presbyterian, arose almost simultaneously with Lutheranism. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it was the major form of Protestantism in a geographic belt between the solidly Lutheran and the Roman Catholic portions of Europe. That belt stretched from Transylvania and Hungary through Switzerland, down the Rhine Valley into Holland, and across the North Sea into Scotland and North Ireland. Most of the French Protestants were Reformed and Reformed influence was potent in England. In general, the Reformed belt ran between the Latin South, once fully incorporated in the Roman Empire, and the portion of Europe which had never been in the Empire. In later centuries, largely by migrations, the Reformed became as widely spread and about as numerous as the Lutherans.
Why Reformed Protestantism arose and was originally strongest in the border between the areas thoroughly Latinized and those never in the Roman Empire must be conjectural. Reformed Protestantism was not a compromise between Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism. The Reformed much more nearly repudiated the Roman Catholic heritage than did the Lutherans. Luther, as we have seen, rejected only those aspects of the Roman Catholic Church which he felt contradicted the Bible. The Reformed retained from Roman Catholicism only what they believed was expressly warranted in the Bible. The contrast may have arisen from two quite different factors. Unlike Luther, whose education had been apart from humanism, the two outstanding creators of Reformed Protestantism, Zwingli and Calvin, had been under strong humanist influence. The humanistic tradition stressed the study of the sources, and Zwingli and Calvin insisted on submitting the Roman Catholic faith to the test of its conformity with the Scriptures. Luther was pessimistic about the possibility of bringing human society to conformity with the will of God. The Reformed Churches, while recognizing as keenly as Lutherans the depravity of man and the wonder of God’s grace, were more hopeful that through those who accepted the salvation Offered by His grace God would effect an approximation to His Kingdom.
Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531), the earliest outstanding leader in the Reformed wing of Protestantism, was born in Switzerland only a few weeks before Luther, and, like the latter, in a prosperous peasant home. He was a bright lad and his family determined to give him an education and prepare him for the priesthood. During his student years he was much impressed by the writings of the Christian humanists. Unlike Luther, he seems to have had no soul-shaking religious experience. He was ordained, eventually was on the staff of the Great Minster in Zürich, and in his preaching advocated reform. He stressed the authority of the Scriptures and rejected whatever in the Roman Catholic Church did not, in his judgement, agree with them. He preached salvation by faith and denounced monastic vows, clerical celibacy, the invocation of the saints, belief in purgatory, the sacrificial character of the mass, and the teaching that salvation can be won by good works. He was supported by the civil authorities. By Easter, 1525, images, relics, and organs had been removed from Zürich churches, the properties of monasteries had been confiscated and the proceeds devoted to schools, the mass had been discontinued, and a simple church service had been developed in German with the sermon central. Zwingli broke with Luther largely over the Lord’s Supper, holding that the Communion Service was simply a memorial of Christ’s self- sacrificial death. He perished in an inter-cantonal war which arose from the attempt of the Zürich authorities to force Protestant preaching on neighboring Roman Catholic cantons.
Even before Zwingli’s death the kind of reform which he advocated was spreading in Switzerland and Strassburg. In 1536 what was called the First Helvetic Confession was drawn up, followed by the Second Helvetic Confession (1562-1564), which long remained standard for many of the Reformed. The Reformed Churches and the Lutherans were parting company.
The Reformed wing of Protestantism was so deeply indebted to Calvin that some of its branches have borne his name. Calvin was not as dominant an influence in the Reformed Churches as was Luther in Lutheranism, but he was the most prominent figure in shaping them and, as was true of Luther, his writings had a profound and continuing effect both within and outside the ecclesiastical circles which looked to him as their leader. John Calvin (1509-1564) was of humble ancestry but was reared in aristocratic society and had the manners of that class. He was born at Noyon in Picardy, about sixty miles north-east of Paris. Intended by his father for the priesthood, in his early teens he went to the University of Paris, still a major center of theological study. He was there when those great figures in the Catholic Reformation, Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier, matriculated, but we have no evidence that he met them. At nineteen he left Paris to study law. His interests were those of the current humanism. He had developed a lucid Latin style and had acquired a knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. In Paris he was under the influence of a group out of which came several Protestants. Somewhere in his youth Calvin had a profound religious experience, but he was so reticent about it that we do not know the details. In his mid-twenties he was imprisoned for his Protestant convictions, was freed, and (1534) sought refuge in Basel, by that time a Protestant city.
In Basel, at the age of twenty-six, Calvin published his Institutio Christianae Religionis (usually translated into English as The Institutes of the Christian Religion). Repeatedly revised and enlarged by the author, the Institutio went into its fourth and final edition in 1559. Because of its clarity, orderliness of thought, and comprehensiveness, it became the single most influential book of the Protestant Reformation. In it Calvin attempted to set forth what he believed to have been the Christian faith before it had been obscured and corrupted by the Roman Catholic Church. Conforming to the outline of the Apostles’ Creed, he explicated his idea of that early and generally accepted summary of Christian teaching. He stressed especially the Scriptures and Augustine. He set forth God as the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of the universe. With Luther and Zwingli, he stressed the sovereignty of God, declaring that God is omnipotent and that, "governing heaven and earth by His providence, He so overrules all things that nothing happens in it without His counsel." God, so Calvin held, is concerned for every individual. Calvin did not attempt to resolve the seeming paradox between God’s sovereign justice and love and the evil in the universe, but enjoined a meek acceptance of what he found in the Bible. Calvin maintained that God created man in His own image, that the image is in the soul, and that the soul is immortal and has the power to distinguish between good and evil and between justice and injustice. He said that the first man, Adam, sinned, and that the essence of his sin was revolt against God, in which pride, ambition, and ingratitude were prominent. Through the sin of Adam, so Calvin held, all men at birth are tainted with sin. Because of "original sin," every man is totally depraved and can do no good work unless he is assisted by God’s grace. Although God hated sin in man, He loved man and, following a plan which dated from the beginning of creation, gave man the law to keep alive the hope of salvation until Christ should come. God sent His Son, Who was fully God and fully man, to give Himself in sacrifice. Thus Christ satisfied the righteous judgement of God, removed the curse on man for his sin, and by His resurrection conquered death. At the last day, Calvin declared, Christ will appear as judge of all and redeemer of the elect.
According to Calvin, the faith by which the sinner accepts God’s work in Christ comes through the Holy Spirit. Faith and repentance of sin are correlative. They issue in love towards God and man and in sanctity and purity. We are never perfect in this life but are to press on towards that goal. Because of the taint of "original sin," without the initiative of the Holy Spirit a man cannot have saving faith. With Augustine, Calvin held that God had chosen -- "elected" -- some to have that faith and had determined -- "elected" -- others not to have it. Why He chose one individual to receive it and another not to receive it man cannot know. God’s justice is not thereby compromised, for no one deserves anything from Him. Also with Augustine, Calvin held that no one can be sure in this life whether he is among the elect. However, Calvin said, if a man meets the tests of a profession of faith, an upright life, and participation in the sacraments, the probabilities are that he is among the elect and he should not worry. Because of his belief in God’s concern for every individual, Calvin maintained that each individual has a distinct calling of God to a particular work.
Calvin taught that the Catholic Church, embracing all the elect, has Christ as its head but is invisible and its membership is known only to God. But, although it contains many hypocrites, a visible church exists and is found "wherever we find the word of God purely preached and heard and the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ." Calvin’s outline for a structure for that church as he believed it to be found in the New Testament is followed in the main by Reformed and Presbyterian bodies.
As did the medieval Roman Catholic thinkers, Calvin said that the holy community contained both Church and State, each with its functions assigned by God. But his description of Church and State differed from that set forth in the Middle Ages.
Much of Calvin’s work was accomplished in Geneva. That city traced its history back to Roman times. It was a commercial center with a population of varied composition which had been pleasure-loving and had had low moral standards. Several of its bishops had been the offspring of the ruling Counts of Savoy and were of unworthy character. The clergy and monks and nuns were little better. Early in the 1530’s the Reformation had been brought to Geneva by a fiery Swiss preacher, Guillaume Farel (1489-1565). The bishop, a weak man, had been driven out of the city (1527). In 1536 Protestantism could be said to be fully adopted, with Farel as the dominant religious force. That year Farel persuaded Calvin to help him. The two sought to make Geneva a model community with Church and State working in harmony. But in 1538 a hostile element obtained control of the city government and Farel and Calvin were banished. Calvin took refuge in Strassburg, by that time a Protestant city, with a former Augustinian, the irenic Martin Bucer (1491-1551), an influential figure. There he was pastor of a French congregation, married, wrote, and taught. A shift in Genevan politics brought the element friendly to Calvin back to power. On its urgent invitation, in 1541 Calvin returned to Geneva and remained until his death. Although sometimes his authority was threatened, he succeeded to a marked degree in bringing the little city towards his ideal. He preached, taught, wrote, and advised in legislation, administration, and law enforcement. He did much to foster commerce and industry. Attracted by him, oppressed Protestants from many lands found refuge in Geneva, and returning to their native countries, they furthered the Reformation.
Calvin’s mantle fell on Theodore Beza (1519-1605). Born about 150 miles south-east of Paris, Beza was of aristocratic stock and was given a humanist education. In his twenties, sobered by an illness, he cast in his lot with the Reformers. Elected as Calvin’s successor, he continued to make Geneva a refugee center for Protestants. He wrote prodigiously, took a leading part in shaping the constitution for the Reformed Church in France, and encouraged the development of church music, with metrical versions of the Psalms and tunes composed for them. In 1562 the definitive edition of the widely used Geneva Psalter was issued.
As we have suggested, the Reformed phase of Protestantism spread widely. It was not uniform. But the extensive use of the Heidelberg Catechism, issued in 1563, the writings of Calvin and Beza, and the many individuals who had spent longer or shorter periods in Geneva contributed to a family likeness. The persecuted remnants of the Waldenses conformed and experienced a revival. In Hungary and Transylvania large groups of Magyars developed Reformed Churches. Reformed Churches flourished among Germans, notably in the Rhine Valley. Through many vicissitudes the majority in Scotland adhered to the Reformed faith, and the Church of Scotland became Presbyterian.
The Reformed Churches were persecuted, notably in the Netherlands and France. The Netherlands were peopled chiefly by the Dutch in the north, Flemings in the center, and French-speaking Walloons in the south. Luther’s writings early won a wide following, but in the latter half of the sixteenth century Calvinism largely supplanted Lutheranism. In the north Protestants were in the majority whereas the South was predominantly Roman Catholic. In 1571 the Dutch Reformed Church held its first synod. Charles V, who had been reared in the Netherlands, endeavored to stamp out Protestantism and to construct a more centralized, autocratic administration. His son and heir, Philip II of Spain, sought to carry on what his father had begun. Revolt broke out, soon led by William of Orange, also known as William the Silent. After prolonged warfare the Protestant North formed itself into the United Provinces and in 1581 declared itself independent of Philip. By 1609 the Spaniards acquiesced to the inevitable, hostilities ceased, and the United Netherlands (as the United Provinces were called) had won their freedom. Not until the Peace of Westphalia (1648) did Spain formally recognize that status.
Political independence was followed by bitter doctrinal struggles in the Dutch Reformed Church. A minority, largely among the wealthy intelligentsia who favored states’ rights, protested against the doctrines of election held by the church. They were known as Remonstrants. Their leading theologian was Jacob Arminius, a former student of Beza who had become convinced that predestination as taught by Calvin was untenable. To meet the challenge a synod was held in Dort (or Dordrecht) in 1618-1619 to which delegates came not only from Reformed Churches in the Netherlands but also from Switzerland, Germany, and England. It condemned Arminianism and reaffirmed the Heidelberg Confession and the Belgic Confession, strong Calvinistic documents.
In France Protestantism sprang from several sources but never enrolled more than a minority. Partly because of Calvin’s writings circulated in French and by zealous missionaries trained in Geneva, Lausanne, and Strassburg, that minority held to the Reformed wing. In 1559 a national synod convened in Paris. It adopted a confession of faith based on one drawn up by Calvin and a form of organization which was to have a marked effect upon churches of the Reformed family in the Netherlands, Scotland, and America. The Protestants, from about 1560 also known as Huguenots, were strongest in the cities and had their following chiefly among artisans, tradesmen, and farmers. But some converts were among the nobility. Persecution soon broke out and civil strife followed. Although at their height constituting about a tenth of the population, the Protestants had determined and much of the time able leadership. The religious issue was complicated by personal rivalries and by the efforts of some of the kings and their counselors fully to unify the country under an absolute monarch. The wars of religion are usually dated from the massacre of Huguenots assembled for worship (1562). They continued at intervals until, in 1628, La Rochelle, the last of the Protestant strongholds, surrendered to the royal forces. The wars were punctuated by such events as the Massacre of St. Bartholomew (August 24, 1572), which, beginning in Paris, spread to much of the rest of the country; by the accession to the throne of France as Henry IV of the Protestant Henry (Bourbon) of Navarre (1594), who to unify the country became a Roman Catholic; and by the promulgation through Henry IV of the Edict of Nantes (April 15, 1598), which guaranteed the Protestants religious freedom, but under certain restrictions.
The end of the wars and the confirmation (1643) of the Edict of Nantes did not mean the end of persecution. When in 1661 Louis XIV assumed the reins of government, it was renewed and was pressed with rigor and cruelty. In 1685 Louis XIV, intent on being absolute monarch and determined to be rid of a religious minority who constituted an enclave not yet fully integrated under his rule, revoked the Edict of Nantes. Within a few years several thousand Huguenots left France and found homes in Prussia, Holland, Ireland, the British colonies in America, and South Africa. By the end of the eighteenth century persecution gradually ceased, but the Protestants had been reduced to a small minority.
Protestantism: The Radical Movements
We now come to phases of Protestantism which differed strikingly from the Lutheran and Reformed Churches. They may be called radical Protestantism. Radical Protestants departed more sharply than these others from what had been inherited from the Catholic Church. For the most part the Lutheran and Reformed Churches retained the post-Constantinian tradition of being territorial or folk churches. They were allied with the State and embodied the conviction that all within a political unit should conform to them. Where, in some countries, as in Hungary and France, they were minorities, they tended to be political entities, imperia in imperio. In contrast with the Lutheran and Reformed, few of the many movements embraced in radical Protestantism aspired to include in their membership all the inhabitants of a political unit. Several were missionary, seeking to win others, and some dreamed of carrying the Gospel to the entire world. Most of them insisted on going back to the New Testament for their patterns and said that entrance into the membership of the Church must be by a new birth wrought by the Holy Spirit, registered by the acceptance of God’s grace by the individual, and attested by baptism.
Anabaptists constituted a majority of the radical Protestants. They were called Anabaptists because they insisted that the baptism of infants was not true baptism, that only believers should be baptized, and that if an individual had been baptized in infancy, after he had the experience of being justified by faith he should be re-baptized. Numbers of Anabaptists rejected war. All stood for strict ethical standards and, in general, excluded from their fellowship any who departed from these standards. Some of their leaders were men of education and included several former Roman Catholic priests. For the most part they attracted men and women from the lower economic and social strata. They were multiform, divided into many groups and movements, had no one geographical center, and agreed on no one formulation of the faith. A few endeavored to construct idealistic communities with the common ownership of property. They were most numerous in Germany, Switzerland, and the Low Countries, mainly within and immediately outside the former borders of the Roman Empire. The majority emerged in the sixteenth century and the fore part of the seventeenth, but some arose in the eighteenth century. Severe persecution by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, or Reformed eliminated most of them. They were regarded as destructive of orderly society. That fear was accentuated by an episode in Munster, a prominent city in Westphalia not far from the Dutch border. There in 1533 the Anabaptists gained control and attempted to set up a Christian commonwealth framed on their principles. Lutherans and Roman Catholics joined in a siege of the city, took it, and wiped out the defenders. Anabaptists suffered severely in the Thirty Years’ War. Similar movements arose in England and eventually constituted fully half the Protestants in the United States.
The Mennonites constituted the majority of the Anabaptists who survived on the Continent of Europe. They took their name from Menno Simons (1496-1561), a native of the Low Countries who was a Roman Catholic priest and only slowly came to Anabaptist convictions. In his fortieth year he publicly renounced his Roman Catholic connexion and became an Anabaptist minister and itinerant missionary. A fugitive and an outlaw, eventually he was given haven by a nobleman in Holstein, in Denmark. His followers were strongest in North Germany and the Netherlands. They were tolerated in the United Netherlands, but on condition that they be inconspicuous in their assemblies.
Mystics were another wing of the Protestantism. The majority were individualistic and at the most gathered about themselves only small groups. The writings of some, such as the two Germans Sebastian Franck (1499-C. 1542) and Jacob Boehme (1575-1624), had a wide circulation far outside these groups.
Radical Protestantism included many humanists, whose approach was largely but by no means purely intellectual. The outstanding figures were from Latin Europe, chiefly from Spain and Italy. They either continued outwardly to conform to the Roman Catholic Church there or, when that was no longer possible, found refuge in countries on the northern borders of or completely outside Latin Europe. Much but not all of the humanistic radical Protestantism was anti-Trinitarian. It honored Jesus. Some of its representatives made Him unique, but they would not subscribe to the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed or to the Chalcedonian formula. A continuing movement was Socinianism, taking its name from two highly placed Italians from a humanist background, Laelius Socinus (1525-1562) and his nephew, Faustus Socinus (1539-1604). The latter became a leader of an anti-Trinitarian minority in Poland. For a time in the sixteenth century Protestantism seemed to be sweeping Poland. But its internal divisions, a Roman Catholic monarch, and Jesuit missionary activity nearly eliminated it. Socinians found refuge in Transylvania, and there the anti-Trinitarians, soon called "Unitarians," obtained state recognition and, with the Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Reformed, were granted official status. In Holland Socinianism influenced the Remonstrants and the Mennonites.
The Rise of Pietism
Akin to radical Protestantism but seldom issuing in distinct ecclesiastical bodies was Pietism. It arose late in the seventeenth century and was potent in the Lutheran and Reformed churches. It sprang chiefly from a revival after the deadening effects of the Thirty Years’ War and the arid dogmation of that century, but had rootage in earlier Roman Catholic and Protestant mysticism. It made much of conscious conversion, high ethical standards, and the deepening of the spiritual life. It issued in missions, among both nominal Christians and non-Christians. For the most part those committed to it did not leave the state churches but gathered in small groups for the cultivation and propagation of the Christian life. Early leaders were two German Lutherans, Philip Jakob Spener (1635-1705) and August Hermann Francke (1663-1727). Late in the seventeenth and early in the eighteenth century for more than a generation Pietism had a major center in Halle and in the theological faculty of the newly founded university in that city. Largely under Francke’s leadership an orphanage, schools for boys and girls, a printing house, and a center for missions to Jews were inaugurated and maintained at Halle. From Germany, and especially from Halle, Pietism took root in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. It was also potent in Holland.
Nikolaus Ludwig, Graf (Count) von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), a godchild of Spener, was the major figure in the emergence of the Moravians as a missionary force. Refugees of the Unitas Fratrum, Bohemian and Moravian Protestants who traced their origin to John Hus and who had fled from the Roman Catholic persecution in their native land which accompanied and followed the Thirty Years’ War, found haven on the estates of Zinzendorf. There, at Herrnhut, Zinzendorf gathered them in a village, became a bishop of their church, and through them inaugurated missions among non-Christians in several parts of the world.
Protestantism in England
In England the Reformation combined indigenous elements with a number of influences from the Continent. The indigenous elements were the waning aftermath of Lollardy, earnestly religious humanists, resentment against interference in Church life by the Popes, the decisive action of monarchs, and native leadership. Foreign contributions were the writings of Continental reformers, notably Luther and Calvin, and contacts with Reformed Protestantism and Anabaptist movements.
The English Reformation is of peculiar importance because of its eventual global impact. In the vast area embraced in the British Empire at one time or another it had effects which were world-wide, partly through emigration, as in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, partly through missions to non-Christian peoples in Asia, Africa, and the islands of the Pacific, and partly through repercussions in ostensibly Christian lands, including some of the Eastern Churches. Of the global impact we are to hear more in later chapters.
The Reformation began slightly later in England than on the Continent. The ground was made fallow by the remnants of Lollardy, chiefly among the poor and with outward conformity to the Roman Catholic Church, and partly by other movements of the late Middle Ages. Visitors from the Continent remarked that the rank and file of the populace were devout. The writings of Luther attracted attention in Oxford and Cambridge, but only among limited circles. A few leading humanists wished a deeper religious life but had no thought of breaking with the Roman Catholic Church. William Tyndale (c. 1494-1536), a priest who had been in both Oxford and Cambridge, using Greek, Hebrew, the Vulgate, the Septuagint, the Latin translation by Erasmus, and Luther’s German Bible, made an English translation of the New Testament and of much of the Old Testament which were of substantial assistance to later translators. He moved in the direction of Protestantism and in the Low Countries was tried for heresy, condemned, and killed (1536).
The separation from Rome was primarily at the instance of Henry VIII, who reigned from 1509 to 1547. Henry was a younger son of Henry VII and, like many younger sons of the aristocracy, had been slated for a high ecclesiastical post. The death of his elder brother Arthur in 1502, when Henry was about eleven, made the latter the heir to the throne. At the age of fourteen Arthur had been married to Catherine, daughter of the powerful Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. The match was purely for purposes of state. On Arthur’s death Henry VII, still for political reasons, had the future Henry VIII betrothed to Catherine. Since canon law forbade a man to marry his deceased brother’s wife, an accommodating Pope granted the requisite dispensation and in due time marriage followed. Catherine bore Henry several children but all except one, Mary, died in infancy. Henry desired a male heir. He fell in love with Anne Boleyn and she would have none of his favors unless she was made Queen. Henry wished to have his marriage with Catherine annulled, but to this the Pope would not consent. Catherine was the niece of the Emperor Charles V. The Pope would scarcely have dared risk the enmity of the most powerful monarch in Europe for what was from the standpoint of canon law a dubious act. Long negotiations failed to obtain Papal approval. By successive steps Henry reduced the clergy of his realm to submission, and in 1534 a subservient Parliament declared that the King "is and ought to be the supreme head of the Church." In 1535 Henry announced himself the "supreme head on earth of the English Church." In the meantime the Pope had excommunicated him. The breach with Rome was complete. A few of Henry’s subjects refused to acknowledge the royal supremacy over the Church and paid for their temerity with their lives. Among them were several Carthusians, the upright John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and cardinal, and Thomas Moore, a former chancellor of the realm and friend of Henry. Henry was now master of both Church and State. He was one of the autocratic monarchs who were emerging in Europe.
In his ecclesiastical policies Henry had the support of Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556). Cranmer was a younger son of a farmer, a graduate of Cambridge, and a deeply religious priest. Without seeking it, Cranmer had come to the favorable attention of Henry by a suggestion for effecting the King’s desired separation from Catherine. He seems to have been sincerely convinced of a monarch’s divine right to absolute authority over the Church as well as the State. In 1532 Henry appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury. Papal approval was obtained and Cranmer was duly consecrated. One of his early acts was to nullify Henry’s marriage to Catherine, but with the stipulation that Mary was legitimate.
Under Henry VIII the separation of the Church of England from Rome did not entail significant doctrinal changes. Henry was proud of his orthodoxy and earlier had affixed his name to a book which professed to refute Luther and had won for him from the Pope the designation of Defender of the Faith. In 1539 under authority of Henry Parliament passed a statement endorsing transubstantiation, the celibacy of the clergy, private masses, the observance of the vows of chastity taken by men and women, and auricular concession, and declaring that Communion in both kinds was not necessary. Although far from exemplary in his private and public life, Henry was regular in private confession and in hearing mass.
However, highly important innovations were made. All the monasteries were dissolved and their properties were confiscated. The chief shrines of the saints were dismantled and despoiled of their treasures. Some of the proceeds of the expropriations were assigned to national defense, to the creation of new dioceses, to the universities, and to various philanthropic purposes, but the larger proportion went to Henry and his favorites. Priests were commanded to set up a large English Bible in such manner that it might be read by all who wished.
At Henry’s death his only surviving son came to the throne as Edward VI. He was then in his eleventh year and died in 1553, before he was sixteen, but not before he had given indications of having a mind of his own. Both he and his advisers moved in the direction of Protestantism. Images were removed from the churches, chantries were abolished, the marriage of priests was legalized, and several outstanding Continental reformers were welcomed and given important posts. In 1549 and 155~ Acts of Uniformity were passed which required the clergy to use the Book of Common Prayer. That book was the work of a commission headed by Cranmer. It utilized much of the liturgy and many of the prayers which had come down from the past. A second edition moved further in the direction of Protestantism.
Edward VI was followed by Mary, the daughter of Catherine. Deeply religious and loyal to the old church, she undertook to bring England back into communion with the Church of Rome. In the five years of her reign (1553-1558) she succeeded in restoring the connexion with the See of Peter and in renewing some of the practices which had been abolished in the preceding two reigns. About three hundred whom she and her advisers regarded as obnoxious heretics were sent to the stake, including three bishops, Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer, burned at Oxford.
Mary in turn was succeeded by Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. During Elizabeth’s long and eventful reign (1558-1603) the Church of England was given the form which, in its main features, it was to preserve into the twentieth century. How much personal religious conviction Elizabeth possessed is uncertain. Like her father, she was masterful. She was intent on holding her realm together and in order to succeed needed the loyalty of the majority of her subjects. In 1559 an obedient Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy. The Act again severed the tie with Rome. It made the Queen "the supreme governor" of her realm in ecclesiastical as well as secular matters, but it did not renew the title of the "supreme head" of the Church of England. In what is usually called the Elizabethan settlement, the effort was made to steer a middle course between the Catholic heritage and Protestantism. The apostolic succession was perpetuated through bishops who had served under Henry VIII and Edward VI and so directly or indirectly had received it from the undivided Catholic Church. An Act of Uniformity was passed which, among other features, restored with modifications the second edition of the Book of Common Prayer of Edward VI. Thirty-nine Articles of Religion were issued defining the faith as held by the Church of England. They modified the Forty-two Articles framed under Edward VI. Scholars defended the Church of England as thus constituted. Especially notable was Richard Hooker’s massive Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, left uncompleted by the death of the author (1600). It became a bulwark of the Church of England against Roman Catholics and the more extreme Protestants.
Dissatisfaction with the Elizabethan settlement was marked. On the one hand, the Roman Catholics, from headquarters on the Continent and representing the revival of the Catholic Reformation, sought the restoration of the tie with Rome. More numerous were the Puritans, who wished to "purify" the Church of England of what they regarded as the corrupting survivals of the Roman connexion. The Puritans did not fully agree among themselves. The more extreme wished the Church of England to be reorganized on the pattern of the Reformed Churches, with a Presbyterian government. Even more radical were the Separatists or Independents. They were akin to the Anabaptists and believed in "gathered" churches, not made up of all the inhabitants of a given area, but only of those who were consciously Christian.
Elizabeth’s death brought to the throne James Stuart -- James VI of Scotland and James I of England. He was a great-grandson of Margaret, daughter of Henry VII, whom that farseeing monarch had married to a king of Scotland. He had been reared a Presbyterian, but favored episcopacy on the principle of "no bishop, no king." He continued the Elizabethan settlement, including the banishment of Roman Catholic priests. Puritans increased. Radical Protestants of varied views grew, although still small minorities. Chief among them were still the Independents. The Baptists appeared, distinguished from the Independents by their rejection of infant baptism and their insistence that baptism was only for conscious believers. The major religious achievement of the reign was what has been known as the Authorized Version of the Bible. It was prepared by a company of scholars appointed by James who went to the original languages and the best texts then available and took advantage of previous translations. The result was a translation which long remained standard and which had much influence on the English language and English literature.
James I was followed by his son, Charles I (reigned 1625-1649). Handsome, pure in his private life, and deeply religious, Charles was convinced that he ruled by divine right and that, although seeking the welfare of his subjects, he must not be controlled by them and need not keep his word, even when solemnly plighted, if it conflicted with his prerogatives. He staunchly supported the Church of England, but was firmly against the Puritans. In his ecclesiastical policies he was ably supported by William Laud (1573-1645), Bishop of London (1628-1633) and then Archbishop of Canterbury (1633-1645). Laud endeavored to root out corruption in the Church. He also took vigorous measures against both Roman Catholics and Puritans and reintroduced some features in public worship which the Puritans abhorred as savoring of Rome.
In 1640 conflict arose between Charles and Parliament which came to a climax in civil war. On the one side were the King, most of the nobility, and those who held to the established order and the Catholic tradition in the Church of England. On the other side were Parliament, the growing urban middle classes, many of the lesser gentry, the Puritans, and the extreme Protestants. The religious factor was important, but the basic issue was political -- whether there was a body of law which the King must obey. During the struggle Laud was imprisoned and after a long delay executed. To advise it on religious questions Parliament called the Westminster Assembly of clergy and laity, the majority of them Puritans; the most enduring accomplishments were what are usually called the Westminster Confession of Faith and the shorter and longer catechisms. Setting forth the Reformed system of theology and church government, they were widely adopted by Presbyterian churches in Great Britain and America and into the twentieth century continued to be standard in these bodies. The civil war ended in victory for Parliament and the trial and execution of Charles.
Now followed the Commonwealth, headed by Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), who had emerged as the leading general of the Parliamentary forces. As Lord Protector he governed England from 1649 to his death. Cromwell sought to make England a truly Christian country. He was confronted with many movements on the extreme wing of Protestantism -- among them Levellers, Diggers, Fifth Monarchy Men, and Quakers. Quakers, or as they preferred to be called, the Society of Friends, were founded by George Fox (1624-1691), a younger contemporary of Cromwell. Fox believed that men should be guided by the Inner Light, protested against formalism in religion, advocated an extreme democracy which would put men and women on a basis of equality, stressed simplicity in dress, food, and speech, opposed all participation in war, and insisted on truth-speaking. Even more than the other radical groups, the Quakers were popularly deemed enemies of society and were persecuted. Cromwell wished a national Church, supported by the State and tithes, but without bishops or the Book of Common Prayer. Yet he desired toleration of all Protestants except Quakers and permitted Episcopalians to worship, but only quietly. Even Roman Catholics were not molested if they did not disturb the public peace.
The Commonwealth had the support of only a minority. Within two years after the death of Oliver Cromwell a son of Charles I returned (1660) from exile as Charles II. In the reaction from the Commonwealth, episcopacy was restored, the Book of Common Prayer was ordered read in all the churches, and discriminatory legislation was passed against dissenters. Charles died in 1685 and was followed by his brother, James II. In his last hours Charles had been received into the Roman Catholic Church. James was an avowed adherent of that form of the faith.
During the Stuart restoration and in spite of adverse legislation, extreme Protestantism survived. One of its most famous representatives was a Baptist, John Bunyan (1628-1688), whose The Pilgrim’s Progress, begun while he was imprisoned for preaching in violation of the law, became one of the classics of the Christian life as held by thousands of Protestants. John Milton (1608-1674) had been a secretary to Cromwell but escaped the scaffold at the Restoration and completed Paradise Lost, presenting the human drama as conceived by Christians.
Widespread fear that James II would return England to the Roman Catholic fold led to his expulsion from the country (1688). He was followed on the throne by his Protestant daughter, Anne, and her consort, William of Orange. England was now clearly committed to Protestantism. The Church of England had both Catholic and Protestant elements, each represented in its clergy and constituency. Legislation against Protestant dissenters was lightened but not fully removed.
After the religious dissensions of the fore part of the seventeenth century, a period followed of partial lassitude and of impatience with theological and ecclesiastical controversy. Christianity was far from dead. John Locke (1653-1704), reared in a staunchly Protestant home and continuing to believe in God and revelation and having a deep reverence for the Bible, espoused religious toleration but not to atheists or Roman Catholics. His writings, rooted largely in his Puritan background, were major contributions to democracy as it developed in Britain and America. In spite of their minority status and restrictions placed on them, Protestant dissenters continued vigorous, as is seen, among other ways, in hymns which have since been cherished by the English-speaking world. Isaac Watts (1674-1748), for example, could write "Jesus shall reign where’re the sun doth his successive journeys run" in a day when it seemed improbable that the Gospel as he understood it would prevail even in England.
The Catholic Reformation
As we have suggested, the Catholic Reformation first arose in Spain. Unified at the close of the fifteenth century, at the outset by the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella, in the sixteenth century Spain was the most powerful of the absolute monarchies of Western Europe. It reached the apex of its might under Philip II (reigned 1556 -1598), great-grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella and son of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The period during and after that reign saw the religious movement of which the Catholic Reformation was an expression reach its height. The same era witnessed the peak of Spanish creative genius in literature, art, and colonial expansion. Whether any causal connexion can be proved or whether all proceeded from other factors than appear on the surface is highly doubtful.
The most prominent figure in the Catholic Reformation and with prolonged and continuing influence was Ignatius Loyola (c. 1491-1556). A contemporary of Martin Luther, like Luther Loyola came to spiritual insight and devotion through deep agony which left its mark on the movement he founded. To both, Christ was the center of their faith and devotion. Unlike Luther, sprung from peasant stock, a priest and monk who eventually denounced monasticism, Loyola was a scion of the nobility, at the outset a layman and a soldier, and was creator of the most widely influential monastic movement which emerged in the Roman Catholic Church after the Middle Ages. During a prolonged and painful convalescence from a wound received in war, Loyola began his momentous spiritual pilgrimage. That pilgrimage led him to dedication as a soldier of Christ. Out of the searing inner struggle which followed came the beginnings of the Spiritual Exercises through which he disciplined and nourished his life. Intent on helping those about him to full commitment to Christ, Loyola began giving the Exercises to others. Fearful of heresy from a theologically uneducated layman, the ecclesiastical authorities forbade him to continue teaching until he had gone through a course of study. As an obedient son of the Church, Loyola went to the University of Salamanca and then to the University of Paris, the most renowned center of theological learning of his day. He was in Paris for seven years and received an M.A. There he gathered about him in intimate friendship a circle of students and younger teachers, won them to complete dedication to Christ, and put them through the Spiritual Exercises. In 1534 a little band of seven took the three-fold vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Eventually they made their way to Rome. Before reaching the Eternal City Ignatius and several of the others were ordained priests. In Rome, after some delay, they obtained Papal permission (1539) to constitute themselves an order, the Society (originally the Company) of Jesus. Ignatius was elected the first General. The Society of Jesus attracted many who were moved by the religious awakening of the day. Before his death Loyola saw it grow to a membership of about a thousand. The Jesuits were in several countries in Western Europe, established themselves in universities, and sought to convert Protestants and to deepen the spiritual and moral life of nominal Catholics. Typical of the revival of which they were the spear-head, the third General of the Society was Francis Borgia, a great-grandson of the notorious Pope Alexander VI. Under the direction of Loyola he had been an itinerant preacher in Spain. Possessed of marked administrative gifts, he has often been regarded as the second founder of the Society. The Jesuits improved education, brought many Protestants to the Catholic faith, and initiated extensive missions among non-Christians.
Contemporary with the origin and growth of the Society of Jesus were Spanish mystics whose example and writings did much to deepen the life of Roman Catholics. Outstanding were Teresa (or Theresa) of Avila (1515-1582) and her younger contemporary, John of the Cross (1542-1605).
Out of the Spanish Reformation issued, as we shall see, a vast missionary movement which carried the faith to the Americas, Asia, and many of the islands of the sea. We must also note that it strengthened the Inquisition and sought to eradicate dissent in Spain, as embodied in Protestants, Jews, and Moslems. Through a conviction which was compounded of religious zeal and economic, cultural, and political motives, incipient Protestantism was stamped out, the Marranos, nominally Christian converts from Judaism, either were driven into exile or secretly preserved their ancestral rites, and the Moriscos, proselytes from the widely prevalent Islam, were expelled from the country (1609).
The other chief radiating center of the Catholic Reformation was in Italy, where the corruption against which the reform was directed was as marked as in any other country. As we have noted, the corruption had not been complete. In Italy were Christian humanists; Savonarola had borne his witness; the titanic Michelangelo, who had been deeply impressed by Savonarola, maintained a committed life and dedicated his talent to the faith. As in earlier centuries, the tide of reform gave birth to new monastic movements and to the elevation of the character of some of the older orders. Also as in previous centuries when fresh vigor was emerging in the Roman Catholic Church, some of these new movements made original approaches. The Oratory of Divine Love, a confraternity rather than an order, had its beginnings about the year 1497, when Alexander VI was on the Papal throne. Its members were highly placed, worked for the moral reform of the Church, and visited hospitals and prisons. The Theatines, consecrated to the cross of Christ and taking their name from the episcopal see in which their first head was bishop, had one of its sources in the Oratory of Divine Love. The Theatines sought the reform of the priests who ministered to the rank and file of the laity. Papal approval was given in 1524, and the Theatines rapidly grew in numbers and spread to other countries. The Regular Clerics of St. Paul, better known as the Barnabites, were founded in 1530 by three Italians of noble birth. They sought a revival of the care of souls by the clergy and set the example through catechizing, hearing confessions, and conducting missions. The Congregation of the Oratory, begun by Philip Neri (1515-1595), a Florentine who received his early instruction in the Dominican house with which Savonarola had been connected, had its inception in Rome in 1556 but did not obtain official sanction until 1575. It worked to raise the level of the moral and religious life of the people of Rome, widely know for their laxity. To this end it devised novel methods. Among them were evening meetings for prayer, reading the Bible and the Fathers, and lectures and sermons of an informal kind. Hymns and music were prominent. Palestrina (1526-1594) contributed to them and in this and other ways set a new standard for the music of the Church. The Congregation of the Oratory contributed to the development of the oratorio, a drama, usually on a Scriptural theme, set to music, and spread in Italy, Spain, and France. The Ursulines, a new type of congregation of women, began in the last decade of the fifteenth century and had teaching as their primary function.
The chief reform of Italian origin in the older orders issued in the Capuchins. The Capuchins desired to conform strictly to the rule which Francis of Assisi gave to the Order of Brothers Minor and in time were made a distinct family within the Franciscans. They attracted many who were eager to live the full Christian life in unselfish service and by the end of the sixteenth century had spread through much of the Roman Catholic portions of Europe. By their poverty and austerity, convincing evidence of their sincerity and devotion to Christ, they made a wide appeal. They devoted themselves to the poor, preaching, catechizing, hearing confessions, serving the sick, and giving themselves to the sufferers from the many epidemics which swept across Europe. Among other achievements they made many converts from Protestantism.
The reform movement was given leadership by several Italian bishops. Prominent among them were. men who renounced the prevalent custom of drawing revenues from ecclesiastical posts whose duties they did not perform. One was Giberti who, drawn into the circle of the Oratory of Divine Love, took up residence in the see of Verona of which he had been absentee bishop. There he began a strictly ascetic life; he went from village to village examining the priests, reconciling enemies, and caring for the poor. He improved the services in the parish churches, reformed both the secular and the regular clergy, and encouraged confraternities for the care of the poor. Even more notable was Charles Borromeo (1538-1584). Nephew of Pope Pius IV, at the age of twenty-two he had been made a cardinal, was entrusted with important administrative duties, and became the leading official in the Papal court. He was appointed Archbishop of Milan but employed the revenues of the see and of other benefices to maintain a life of splendor in Rome. Yet he won admiration for his humility and temperate life. After aiding the election of the great reforming Pope Pius V, he went to Milan and gave himself to promoting reform. He traveled through his diocese, improving decorum and dignity in public worship and cleansing the monasteries and religious confraternities. He administered relief of the poor, worked for conciliation in labor disputes, emphasized frequent Communion, established homes for beggars, and did much for the education of the clergy. During an epidemic of the plague, in complete disregard of his own safety, he gave directions for the care of the sick and the burial of the dead, sold his plate to aid the sufferers, and had his tapestries made into clothing for the destitute. Never sparing himself, he died in his mid-forties.
In the fore part of the eighteenth century new congregations of religious continued to emerge. In 1732 the Redemptorists (officially the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer) were founded for the purpose of preaching "the word of God to the poor." In 1741 Papal approval was given to the Passionists, begun in 1720 and combining the contemplative life of the Carthusians with the active missionary life of the Jesuits.
The Catholic Reformation was not confined to the deep Latin Europe -- Spain, Portugal, and Italy. It was felt in Switzerland, Germany, Poland, and Hungary. France was late in experiencing its full impact, but in time what was sometimes called "the eldest daughter of the Church" was swept into the current. The Jesuits, the Capuchins, and the Oratory were influential. New movements were born. Especially notable was the Congregation of the Priests of the Mission, also called the Lazarists or the Vincentians. Its founder was Vincent de Paul (1576 or 1580 to 1660). An association of seculars, not regulars, it sought the nurture of the Catholic masses and the conversion of Protestants, conducted seminaries to train priests, and sent missionaries to other countries. In 1643 John Eudes (1601-1680) inaugurated what were known as the Eudists, more formally the Society of Jesus and Mary. They maintained seminaries for the training of priests and conducted missions. Out of the Catholic Reformation in France came great mystics, among them Pierre de Berulle (1575-1629), who sought to subject himself fully to the Word made flesh and to the Virgin Mary, and his disciple Charles de Condren (1588-1641). Both contributed to a growing popular devotion to the Child Jesus and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A great master of the life of the spirit, Francis de Sales (1567-1622) had marked influence on Vincent de Paul.
As had been true in the tenth-century nadir, the reform movement was late in placing its representatives on the Papal throne. For a brief time, in 1522-1523, the downward trend in the Papacy seemed about to be arrested. To break a deadlock in the college of cardinals over the election, a native of Utrecht, a former tutor of Charles V, was chosen and took the title of Adrian VI. Scholarly, ascetic, an experienced administrator, by his vigorous attempts at reform he might in time have overcome the stubborn opposition, but he died after less than two years in office. Incidentally, he was the latest non-Italian Pope.
In the four reigns which followed, halting progress was made. By the election of Paul IV, who held the chair of Peter from 1555 to 1559, the reform party appeared to have triumphed. Paul IV had been a member of the Oratory of Divine Love and the first head of the Theatines. He dreamed of restoring the Papacy to the commanding position attained under Hildebrand and Innocent III, but that was impossible in the Europe of his day. He achieved some needed reforms, but he appointed unworthy relatives to high posts and his high-handed rigor and lack of prudence aroused much needless antagonism. In his initial years in office the next Pope, Pius IV (reigned 1559-1565) maintained high standards, but later he scandalized some of the reformers by succumbing to the ease and the pleasures which had brought obloquy to his office. Pius V, whose pontificate was approximately the same length (1566-1572), a Dominican who continued in the Vatican his ascetic way of life and made the Papal court a model in morals, marked the apex of reform in the Papacy. He firmly avoided all nepotism, gave no special favors to his order, and discouraged animal-baiting, profanity, and prostitution. In his efforts to curb heresy he stiffened the Inquisition. He was responsible for a new catechism and a revised breviary and collaborated with Borromeo. He had a major share in assembling the naval forces which inflicted the decisive check on the Turks in the Battle of Lepanto. His stature in the Roman Catholic Church is seen in the fact that he was eventually canonized (1712). The last earlier Pope to be so recognized was Gregory X, of the thirteenth century, and the only one of his successors to be granted the title of saint was Pius X, of the fore part of the twentieth century.
Of the men who later wore the tiara in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries none reached the stature of Pius V, but none disgraced the Church as had the Pontiffs of the tenth, fifteenth, and fore part of the sixteenth centuries. Several aided their relatives in acquiring wealth, but the majority were virtuous in their private lives, several labored to improve the moral quality of the clergy, and some encouraged the extensive missionary activity of which we are to speak in a moment. Nevertheless all were caught in the toils of European dynastic rivalries and the tangled skein of Italian politics. In country after country, their administrative power was curtailed by the control of the Church by the ruling dynasties. In France, Spain, Portugal, and the Hapsburg lands appointments to the episcopate and other ecclesiastical dignities were made by the monarchs, and no Papal decree could be recognized except with the consent of the State.
An outstanding feature of the Catholic Reformation was the Council of Trent. Meeting intermittently from 1545 to 1563 and not always at Trent, it has been regarded by Roman Catholics as the nineteenth of the series which began at Nicaea in 325. Some Protestant reformers had wished such a council. Several of the German princes, troubled by conflicts between Protestants and Roman Catholics, hoped that an Ecumenical Council would heal the breach. From time to time the Emperor Charles V urged the Pope to call one, but at other times his friction with a Pope made him less eager. The ambitious rival of the Emperor, Francis I of France, blew hot and cold as what he deemed his political interests dictated. The degree to which the Pope should control the Council was important. The Spanish, French, and northern bishops resented Papal claims and advocated restricting the authority of the Pontiffs.
The Catholic reformers and the Pope had their way. Definitions on dogma ruled out specific Protestant positions, such as justification by faith alone and the priesthood of all believers. The Council slammed the door on those Protestants who had hoped that by stating a position which would be as irenic as was consistent with their convictions accommodation could be achieved with the old Church. Extensive legislation was enacted to remove the evils that had compromised the Church’s mission. Earlier decrees were renewed requiring bishops to reside in their sees. Pluralism and absenteeism were either forbidden or closely restricted. Much attention was given to education in preparation for the priesthood. Ordination to the diaconate was forbidden until the candidate had reached his twenty-third year and to the priesthood before the age of twenty-five. The effective power of the bishops in their respective dioceses was augmented. Better supervision of the monasteries was prescribed, either by placing them under a bishop or by organizing them into provinces or general chapters and requiring the heads of the orders to visit their houses. Bishops were ordered to visit all the charges in their dioceses at least once in two years, either in person or through representatives delegated by them. Parish priests were commanded to preach and explain the sacraments in the vernacular. The authority of the Roman Pontiff was confirmed by the provision that the decrees of the Council were not to be binding until the Pope had officially approved them. The Pope was expressly declared to be the vicar of God and Jesus Christ, and all patriarchs, primates, archbishops, and bishops were to promise obedience to him. Thus the Roman Catholic Church put its house in order, excluded the dissidents, and sought to be more effective in the care of souls. The Council of Trent ushered in a new age in the Roman Catholic Church. Not until the mid-twentieth century did voices within the church speak hopefully of a post-Trentine era.
The Catholic Reformation was also the Counter-Reformation, for much of its energy was directed to curbing the advance of Protestantism and to winning back individuals and regions which had been lost to that wing of the faith. Much was accomplished by zealous missionaries, notably the Jesuits and the Capuchins. The Counter-Reformation was important in several bitter armed conflicts, notably the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). By the end of that exhausting struggle the Counter-Reformation had spent its force. The Peace of Westphalia not only fixed the geographic border in Germany between Protestantism and the Roman Catholic Church where, with relatively slight modifications, it remained beyond the middle of the twentieth century. It was also an unintentional recognition that in Europe in their efforts to supplant each other the two wings of Western Christianity had reached a stalemate.
Retreat and Advance of the Eastern Churches
While the great surge of life was re-invigorating Christianity in Western Europe, in Eastern Europe and Western Asia the record was a contrast of stagnation and advance.
In the widely flung Ottoman Empire, committed as it was to Islam, nothing but defensive action could be expected of the Churches. That empire did not reach its height until the second half of the sixteenth century. As we have noted, the Turks administered the Christian minorities as separate entities. The Churches had a kind of ghetto existence, attempting to preserve themselves by resisting change in liturgy, theology, or customs. For a few years in the early part of the sixteenth century Cyril Lucar (1572-1637), who became Patriarch of Constantinople in 1621, worked for the moral and spiritual improvement of the Orthodox Church. He entered into correspondence with church leaders in non-Roman Catholic Western Europe and sent young men to study in Protestant schools. A confession of faith which he either wrote or endorsed contained Protestant elements. The Jesuits, intent upon bringing the Orthodox Church into communion with the Roman Catholic Church, offered implacable resistance. Eventually the Sultan had Lucar strangled, and his views were condemned by a synod of his church. The Uniate Churches, gathered from the Eastern Churches into communion with Rome, continued, and some grew. Roman Catholic missionaries ranged through the East, seeking to augment the Uniate bodies. But for the most part the latter remained minorities, also with a kind of ghetto life.
The Gregorian (Armenian) Church displayed marked vitality. In the seventeenth century a striking awakening was seen. It began in the monasteries, and from them monks went to the rank and file, preaching, founding schools, seeking to reconcile enemies, to improve morals, and to eradicate superstition. One of the reformers eventually (1629) became Catholicos or Patriarch of the entire church. Armenian merchants ranged far in Western and Central Asia. In at least one city in Persia they constituted a center noted for its religious devotion and its learning.
The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries witnessed important developments in the Russian Orthodox Church. As we have seen, in 1547 Ivan IV (1530-1584), known not unfittingly as "the Terrible," had himself crowned Tsar (Caesar) and thus professed to be the successor of the Christian Emperors who had ruled in Constantinople but had now been displaced by the Ottoman Turks. Ivan greatly extended the territory over which he ruled. Since some of the Russian Orthodox were claiming that Moscow, Ivan’s capital, was the third Rome, they insisted that, to parallel Ivan’s assumption of the imperial title, the head of the Russian Church should have the designation of Patriarch. After long negotiations, in 1589 the Patriarch of Constantinople gave his consent, and the next year a council of the other Orthodox Patriarchs held in Constantinople confirmed the approval. After the see of Moscow was raised to the Patriarchate, the ecclesiastical structure of the Russian Orthodox Church was enlarged. Four sees became metropolitanates, several bishoprics became archbishoprics, and a number of new dioceses were created.
Soon after its recognition by the occupants of the other Orthodox Patriarchates, the Moscow Patriarchate became a rallying center against foreign invasion. In what was known as "the Time of Trouble" which followed the extinction of the ruling dynasty for lack of a male heir (1598), the realm was torn by civil strife, and Poles and Swedes threatened Russian independence. The Russian Orthodox Church, led by the Patriarch, headed the nationalist resistance. The Patriarch was incarcerated by the Poles and died in prison. When, in 1613, the first Tsar of a new dynasty (the Romanov) was brought to the throne, his father, as Patriarch, closely cooperated with him; together they restored order and gave stability to the new ruling line.
A generation after the Time of Trouble Nikon, who became Patriarch of Moscow in 1652, sought to cleanse the Russian Orthodox Church of what he regarded as corruptions and weaknesses. In the effort to free the Church from local control which he believed made it subservient to secular influences he augmented the power of the bishops over the parish priests. He endeavored to restore clerical discipline, which had suffered in the Time of Trouble. He encouraged preaching. He stood against the Tsar’s control of synods, ordinations, and ecclesiastical courts. For some time a revision had been in progress of the books employed in the services to bring them into conformity with the Greek originals. Nikon insisted on the use of the revised versions. For about six years Nikon appeared to be attaining his goal, but as was to be expected, he met vigorous opposition from many of the nobility, clergy, and monks. About 1658 he lost the support of the Tsar. In protest he retired to a monastery, but without resigning. In 1666, after many complications and delays, a synod formally deposed him and sent him into exile. He died fifteen years later (1681).
As a sequel to the controversy a substantial minority withdrew from the Russian Orthodox Church. The ostensible reason was protest against the use of the revised service books. The synod that deposed Nikon avoided what to him had been the central issue, the control of the Church by the State, but it endorsed some of the innovations he had made, including the revised books. The opponents held to the old ways. They maintained that to depart from the familiar texts was to adopt the "errors" of the later Greeks who, wandering from the true faith, had become apostate. They were known as the Old Believers, Old Ritualists, or Raskolniks. Raskolnik, derived from a word meaning division or schism, could be applied to all who withdrew from the Russian Orthodox Church. The Old Believers were mainly from among the underprivileged, rebels against the upper ranks of society. They were largely monks, parish priests, and common people. No bishops joined them. They were visited with severe persecution but persisted into the twentieth century. Eventually they split into various groups. As the priests who had sided with them died, they could fill the gaps only with priests who joined them from the official church. Some refused to accept such priests and were known as the Bezpopovsty, or Priestless. They, too, divided into many sects. The Popovsty, or Priested, accepted clergy from the Orthodox on condition that only service books would be used which did not contain the changes endorsed by Nikon.
In addition to the Old Believers other dissenting religious movements arose. Some outwardly conformed to the Orthodox Church but had secret meetings. Persecuted, they were driven underground.
A few decades after the final deposition of Nikon, the Russian Orthodox Church was reduced to the status which that Patriarch had persistently opposed, subordination to the State. The change was the work of Peter the Great. Masterful, after the manner of contemporary absolute monarchs of the Western Europe which he had opportunity to observe in his sojourn in that region, Peter was determined to bring the Church under his control. When, in 1700, the Patriarch died, the Tsar saw to it that no successor was appointed. In 1721 he created as a substitute a Spiritual College, later called the Holy Synod, completely subordinate to him. Although he commanded the laity to attend church every Sunday and feast day and to make at least an annual confession, he restricted the number of the clergy, tended to make the parish priests an hereditary class, regulated the interior life of the monasteries, and insisted that the Church keep out of civil affairs. He thus paralleled developments in Roman Catholic and Protestant countries in Western Europe.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the beginning of the eighteenth century the Russian Orthodox Church both gained and lost territory. Partly at the instance of the Tsars and partly through the labors of zealous monks the borders of that church were pushed northward to the White Sea and the coasts of the Arctic, southward to the Caspian Sea, and eastward across the Urals. The losses were in the west. In the sixteenth century the Catholic Reformation gave support to attempts to win Orthodox to the Roman Catholic Church. Jesuits maintained efforts at penetration and conversion and were backed by Polish monarchs. The Poles were moving away from early Protestant tendencies and, in part because of Jesuit missions, were becoming loyal Roman Catholics. Their Kings used the Roman Catholic Church to extend their rule on their eastern borders. The Lithuanians, also Roman Catholics, aided. In 1570 the Jesuits opened a college in Vilna, on the Lithuanian and Polish border, which attracted sons of the Orthodox nobility. Near the end of the sixteenth century, under pressure from the Poles and Lithuanians, large numbers of Orthodox affiliated with Rome as Uniates, keeping their distinctive rites and customs.
World-Wide Extension of Christianity
Accompanying the amazing voyages, commerce, and conquests of Europeans which began at the close of the sixteenth century and continued until the beginning of the twentieth was a territorial expansion of Christianity not only unequaled in its earlier history but more extensive than any other religion had achieved. Until the nineteenth century that expansion was chiefly made by the Roman Catholic Church and in connexion with the empire-building of the Spaniards and the Portuguese and the extended commerce of the Portuguese. The French shared, but to a smaller degree. Protestant expansion began more tardily and by the mid-eighteenth century had barely begun.
Acting on the conviction that the Popes as vicars of Christ had authority over all mankind and could assign the civil rule over all peoples to whom they would, in 1480 the Pope granted to Portugal a monopoly of trade, colonization, and political dominion in non-Christian lands from West Africa to the East Indies. In 1493 Alexander VI drew a line one hundred leagues west of the Azores from the north pole to the south pole, and handed over to Spain North America and most of South America and to Portugal Africa, Asia, and the eastern coast of South America.
The expansion of the Roman Catholic wing of the faith was augmented and its character was largely determined by the Catholic Reformation. As we have seen, the Catholic Reformation had its inception in Spain a few years before the voyages of Columbus inaugurated the vast Spanish empire in the Americas. That empire eventually included much of the West Indies, the more thickly peopled regions of South America, almost all Central America, all of Florida, Mexico, California, and Texas, and what are now Arizona, New Mexico, and a part of Colorado. It also spanned the Pacific and embraced the Philippines. The initial impact of the Spaniards in the West Indies and parts of the mainland was marked by incredible cruelty and ruthless exploitation. Most of the original settlers had come in search of wealth. To obtain it, either from mines or plantations, labor was essential. The conquistadores scorned soiling their hands or compromising their dignity with the use of tools. They therefore enslaved the Indians or relied upon Negro slaves.
However, from the outset an avowed purpose of Spanish exploration and conquests was the salvation of souls and the temporal and eternal welfare of the Indians. Isabella, Charles V, and Philip II, influenced by the Catholic Reformation, endeavored to safeguard the Indians and to provide them with religious instruction and clerical care. The Laws of the Indies were extraordinarily humane and sought to protect the interests of the aborigines. But America was far away, and in spite of their theoretical absolutism the Spanish monarchs had difficulty in making their will effective. The prior of the first contingent of Dominicans to reach the New World led in denouncing the cruelties inflicted on the Indians, was imprisoned by the irate settlers, repeatedly wrote to Rome, and eventually went in person to Europe to protest the exploitation of the aborigines. He was at least partly responsible for the bulls of the worldlyminded and luxurious Paul III on behalf of the Indians.
The most famous champion of the Indians was Bartolomé de Las Casas (1474-1566). Symbolic of the role of the Christian conscience in the impact of one race upon another is the fact that Las Casas seems to have been the first Christian clergyman ordained in the Americas. Slow in protesting the evils which he saw about him, when his conscience awoke he became the outstanding leader in the struggle. Again and again he journeyed to Spain to prod the monarchs to action. He found fellowship with the Dominicans and joined them. When the laws demanded by the situation were enacted, he was fearless in having them promulgated in America. To demonstrate that the unarmed way of love was practicable, he headed a mission to an Indian tribe famous for killing Europeans and, without supporting troops, won them to the Christian faith. He refused appointment to an archbishopric which carried as much prestige as any other in the Americas and at the age of seventy accepted instead a see which was said to be the poorest in the New World. There in the attempt to make the protective laws effective he met determined opposition from laity and clergy, for with other Europeans they believed the laws would obstruct their livelihood. Returning to Spain, until an advanced age, supported by the Dominicans, he continued to espouse the cause of the Indians and resisted theologians who declared that the Pope and the Kings of Spain had the right to subdue by war the peoples of the New World.
Similarly the Christian conscience sought to ameliorate the lot of the Negroes. For example, a Jesuit, Pedro Claver (1581-1654), for four decades ministered physically and spiritually to the Negro slaves when they arrived in Cartagena, and made long journeys into the interior to visit the blacks in the mines and on the plantations. He braved the enmity of slave-dealers and slave-owners and is said to have baptized more than three hundred thousand.
In the meantime the conversion of the majority of the Indians was accomplished. In centers of pre-Columbian civilizations with large populations, notably Mexico and Peru, thousands moved into the faith en masse. Many of the early missionaries were from orders, among them the Observant Franciscans and the Jesuits, which embodied the devotion of the Catholic Reformation. Missionaries were used to push forward the borders of Spanish rule and civilization. The characteristic frontier institution of the Spaniards was the mission, seen especially in the Jesuit enterprises in Paraguay and on the tributaries of the Orinoco, in the work of the Capuchins and Observant Franciscans in Venezuela, and in the Franciscan undertakings in Texas and California.
The Spanish occupation of the Philippines had as its primary objective the conversion of the peoples of those islands. Except for the Moros (Moslems) in the southern portions of the Philippines and animistic tribes in mountain fastnesses, the Filipinos were won to the Christian faith.
Five generalizations will serve to give some indication of the spread of Christianity under Spanish auspices. (1) The majority in Spanish America and the Philippines remained or became professedly Christian. This majority included all of European descent and the larger proportion of the indigenous stock. In Spanish America only in tropical jungles and thinly peopled plains did non-Christians remain. Here were the largest gains in territory and in numbers that Christianity had made since the winning of the Roman Empire. (2) These gains had been made by a combination of State initiative and support and the heroic devotion of hundreds of missionaries. State support also meant State control from Spain. All top and many minor officials of the civil government were appointed by the Crown. Most of them were Spanish-born and Spanish-educated and not of the American-born European stock. All bishops were appointed by the Crown and until the eighteenth century for the most part were from Europe. Theoretically they were subject to confirmation by the Pope, but often Rome was not even notified of their appointment. The Crown created new dioceses and altered the boundaries of existing dioceses. No Papal bull could be published without the permission of the Crown, no missionary could come to the New World without the approval of the Crown, and almost all the financial support of the missions was from the Crown. (3) Much of the Christianity was superficial. Especially in the mass conversions of hundreds of thousands no careful instruction could be given. Many of the pagan customs and beliefs survived, often under Christian guise. (4) Efforts were put forth to give the faith better rootage. Universities on European models were founded, notably in Lima and Mexico City. Indigenous clergy were trained. At the outset the conviction was held that Indians, mestizos (the results of unions of whites and Indians, in the beginning and to some degree later the fruit of irregular unions), and even American-born whites would not make worthy priests. Increasingly clergy were recruited from these classes, especially from the American-born whites. By the end of the eighteenth century the majority of the bishops were American-born. Yet far fewer clergy were obtained, either from Europe or in the New World, than were necessary to give adequate care to those who bore the Christian name. (5) By the end of the sixteenth century the impulse given by the Catholic Reformation was waning. With the decline went a lowering of the quality of the clergy. Indeed, from the early years some priests of unworthy life were permitted -- even encouraged -- to go to America to free their superiors of the embarrassment of their presence. With notable exceptions the quality and numbers of the indigenous clergy left much to be desired. At the middle of the eighteenth century the Roman Catholic Church in Spanish America and in the Philippines was in poor condition to face the revolutionary changes of the nineteenth century.
The share of Portugal in the geographic expansion of Christianity differed substantially from that of Spain. The Portuguese colonial empire was distributed over a much larger part of the globe but in square miles and population did not equal the Spanish possessions. It included Brazil, but the Portuguese settlements were only on or near the coast and no such centers of pre-Columbian civilization and population existed as in Mexico and Peru. The Portuguese had trading posts in several places on the west and east coasts of Africa, but they were predominantly a source of slaves and did not embrace many square miles. On the coasts of India were other small enclaves, the chief of which was Goa. The Portuguese subdued much of Ceylon but in the sixteenth century were expelled by the Dutch. They had a trading post at Malacca, won a tenuous foothold at Macao, in China, and in the East Indies had a few trading centers. In these widely flung domains, under grants from Rome Portugal claimed the right to control the Roman Catholic missionary activity, including the appointment of bishops, and attempted to embrace in that claim much of Africa and extensive portions of South and East Asia. In part of East Asia the Portuguese came in conflict with the Spaniards. In none of their empire were the Portuguese able to take advantage of the right of patronage as effectively as did the Spaniards in the vast portion of the earth’s surface over which their flag flew. One reason was the scattered extent of the Portuguese footholds; another was the fact that Portugal was much smaller than Spain; and, further, the Catholic Reformation did not stir Portugal as profoundly as it did Spain.
Although the Portuguese Crown attempted to prevent any missionaries from going to areas over which it claimed ecclesiastical control unless they went with its permission and through Lisbon, the majority of the more notable missionaries to South and East Asia were not Portuguese. The most famous was Francis Xavier (1506-1552). Of Basque stock, as was Loyola, while a student in the University of Paris Xavier was drawn into the original band from which came the Society of Jesus. Loyola received a request from the King of Portugal for four missionaries for the latter’s possessions in the Indies. Having a far-ranging vision which was broader geographically than even that vast area, Loyola felt he could not spare so many from his then small company. He sent two, one of whom was retained in Portugal to quicken the life in the Church in that country. The other, Xavier, sailed for the East in 1541. He was first in Goa, but he traversed the vast area from India to Malacca, the East Indies, Japan, and China. A devoted friend, intensely interested in individuals, seeking by love, gaiety, and a timely word to win them to a Christian faith or to a deeper Christian life, Xavier also had an imagination which covered whole nations and peoples. He sought to raise the level of Christian living of the nominally Christian Portuguese adventurers and their mixedblood children. He recruited members for his Society and made provision for training for the service of the Church converts from among the peoples of the East. He gave two years to the Paravas, a low-caste fishing folk in South-east India who in the hope of obtaining Portuguese help against the Moslem Arabs had recently accepted baptism. He learned enough of their language to put into their vernacular the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and some prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer, and appointed and trained catechists. To such effect did he labor that he prepared the way for the long process of Christian nurture which enabled the Paravas in the twentieth century to remain bulwarks of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1549 he went to Japan and there inaugurated what was to be one of the most successful and tragic missions of the period. He died on an island near the coast of China in an effort to gain access to that most populous nation of the world.
Following Xavier other missionaries, many of them Jesuits, went to South Asia and the fringing islands. Through their efforts small minorities of Christians arose in all the major and some of the smaller countries in the region. In Japan determined persecution drove them underground but did not exterminate them. After a few years of growth, the Christian communities in China remained stationary or declined, partly because of proscription by the State and partly because of a division in the missionary body over the degree of accommodation to the culture of the country. In Ceylon, under Portuguese rule of part of the island a substantial proportion of the population accepted the faith. When in the mid-seventeenth century the Dutch drove the Portuguese out of Ceylon, the new masters attempted to impose the Reformed faith on the inhabitants.
In their small African enclaves Portuguese missionaries won a few to their faith, but with only small continuing communities.
In the Portuguese possessions in Brazil, chiefly scattered as they were along the coast, Christianity was confronted by many of the challenges which it faced in Spanish America. The problem was difficult and acute of making the faith more than nominal among the professedly Catholic Europeans and of winning the non-Europeans. The callous exploitation of Indian and African labor was a challenge. As in Spanish America, missions were undertaken, mostly by religious orders which reflected the Catholic Reformation -- Jesuits, Observant Franciscans, and Capuchins. Voices, both lay and clerical, were raised in behalf of Indians and Negroes and met with resistance from Europeans who profited by the enslavement of non-Europeans. In the main, Christianity was weaker in Brazil than in the major centers of Spanish America and found even more formidable the recruiting and training of an indigenous clergy.
Until the nineteenth century the colonial empire of France did not approach the extent of the colonial possessions of Spain and Portugal. Before that century the largest area under the French flag was in North America in what was later embraced in Canada and in small holdings in the Mississippi Valley. At the outset the religious motive was prominent: Montreal was begun as an idealistic Christian community from which seculars could go to the French settlers and the Indians. As in the Spanish and Portuguese colonial empires missionaries were largely from bodies inspired by the Catholic Reformation -- Jesuits, Recollects (Franciscans), Capuchins, Suplicians, and Ursulines. In North America all but a few small off-shore islands were lost to England in wars of the eighteenth century. However, an important French element remained and multiplied by a high birth rate. It held loyally to the Roman Catholic Church, in part because that church was a symbol and expression of French particularism.
In the vast region of Northern Asia the Russian Orthodox Church gained footholds from the Urals to the Pacific and, in the latter half of the eighteenth century, was represented across the Bering Straits in Alaska. The expansion came partly by settlement and partly by conversions of non-Christians. But population was sparse and widely scattered and only a minority called themselves Christian.
By the mid-eighteenth century the territorial expansion of Protestantism had only begun. Not until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries did it attain global dimensions. But before 1750 Pietists and Moravians had inaugurated missions among non-Christians in a few scattered places -- Greenland, the West Indies, Surinam, North America, and India. To some extent through missions but mostly by white merchants and settlers, Dutch Protestantism was introduced to South Africa, Ceylon, and the East Indies. The tardiness of Protestant expansion was due partly to a lack of missionary purpose, partly to the prolonged and often painful efforts to create constituencies in Europe, and chiefly to the fact that Protestant peoples were late in establishing contacts with non-European peoples and until the nineteenth century did not acquire as wide territories outside Europe as did Roman Catholics.
The main foothold outside Europe established by Protestants before the mid-eighteenth century was along the Atlantic seaboard of North America in the Thirteen Colonies which in the 1780’s became the United States of America. Until after 1750 the frontier of white settlement had not extended beyond the Appalachian Mountains. The settlers were chiefly from England, Scotland, and North Ireland but contained as well substantial elements from Germany and Holland and a smattering of Swedes. In some of the settlements, notably in New England and Pennsylvania, a major motive was escape from persecution on the other side of the Atlantic. Those dominated by that motive were from the radical wing of Protestantism -- chiefly Puritans, Independents, Quakers, and Baptists -- and from Reformed and Lutherans who were persecuted by Roman Catholic rulers, such as Huguenots from France and Germans from the Archdiocese of Salzburg. They helped to shape the ideals of the future United States. However, even in New England and Pennsylvania only a minority had come from predominantly religious motives. The overwhelming majority crossed the ocean with the hope of improving their economic lot. With the exception of a very small minority of Roman Catholics, they were Protestant by background, but at the mid-eighteenth century probably only about five out of a hundred were church members. Although the Church of England was established in a few of the colonies, notably Virginia, it had no resident bishop. Some help came to the Anglican cause by literature from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (organized 1699) and missionaries of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (founded in 1701); to the Lutherans from the Continent of Europe, notably Henry M. Muhlenberg (1711-1787, came to America in 1746), sent by the Halle Pietists; and to the German Reformed from Continental Europe, Michael Schlatter (1714-1790, came to America in 1746) making the deepest impression. But in the main such vitality as the churches displayed was prompted by indigenous leadership. In the second quarter of the eighteenth century what was called the Great Awakening broke out among the Reformed and Presbyterians in New Jersey and among the Congregationalists in the Connecticut Valley. In New England the chief figure was Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). George Whitefield (1714-1770), of the Methodists, added impetus, but only one of his visits took place before 1750. Some missions to the Indians were conducted, but, partly because of the scattered population and the many tribes and languages, only minorities were won.
Retrospect, Summary, and Prospect
The two and a half centuries surveyed in the preceding pages witnessed fully as striking contrasts in the record of Christianity as had any of the preceding periods. Here was vigor in the peoples who called themselves Christian which broke out in many directions and through many channels. We have mentioned a few -- in advancing the frontiers of human knowledge, in devising new instruments for that advance, in speculations about the nature of the universe and the validity and nature of human knowledge, and in creating nation-states ruled by absolute monarchs of rival dynastic families. Although they were no less notable, we have said little of the achievements in literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, and music. We have noted the fresh surges of life in Christianity, with the emergence and proliferation of Protestantism; in the Roman Catholic Church the much-needed moral reforms and the expression of Christian devotion through revitalization of old monastic orders and the creation of new kinds of monasticism; and lesser although important developments in the Orthodox Church in Russia. We have seen how professedly Christian European peoples began a geographic expansion unprecedented in extent. Although at the beginning of the period these peoples occupied only the western peninsula of Eurasia and even there were on the defensive against advancing Islam spear-headed by the Ottoman Turks, by the mid-eighteenth century they had mastered a large portion of the Western Hemisphere and had ensconced themselves on the fringes of Africa south of the Sahara and of South and East Asia and had gained footholds in islands bordering on Asia. Wherever they went, by political pressure, migration, and zealous missionaries they planted the Christian faith. In the mid-eighteenth century Christianity was more potent in the life of mankind as a whole than it had ever been. Among the peoples bearing the Christian name, although they were still far from fully embodying the Gospel as set forth in the New Testament, Christianity more nearly approximated that goal than at any time since by the "conversion" of the Roman Empire it had ceased to be the faith of a persecuted minority and become a folk religion.
Yet much of the vigor in European civilization and the religion associated with it had expressions which were in striking contradiction of the New Testament. As they had done long before they were "converted," Europeans were chronically fighting. In several of the most devastating and exhausting of the wars the combatants were nerved by fanatical loyalty to one or another of the forms taken by Christianity. By drastic and sanguinary persecutions Roman Catholics sought to eliminate Protestantism, and Protestants endeavored to hold back Roman Catholicism and to erase rival branches of Protestantism. In African slavery and in the exploitation or extermination of the indigenous peoples of the Americas the inhumanity of man to man assumed greater dimensions than at any previous period in history.
On the other hand, men whose consciences were stirred and whose resolution was sustained by the Christian faith sought to counter and if possible to eliminate these evils. The Dutch Protestant Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) and the Basque Dominican Francisco de Vitoria were only two of the many who endeavored to put the relations between nations on the basis of law rather than force. Here and there, as among the Quakers and Anabaptists, were Christians who refused to participate in any war. Bartolome de Las Casas and Pedro Claver were outstanding among thousands who were moved by their Christian faith to protest against the exploitation of non-Europeans and to labor heroically on behalf of these victims of their fellow Europeans. Many Christians, Protestants and Roman Catholics tried to heal the divisions in the Church and to place the relations among Christians on the basis of love. The Christian faith inspired great literature, art, and music and contributed to the daring of many in pushing forward the bounds of human knowledge. As always since the very beginnings of Christianity, thousands, the vast majority humble and obscure, were transformed morally and spiritually, were radiant in the love of God, and gave themselves unreservedly to the care of the underprivileged, the sick, and the poor. Only a few of these lives are remembered, yet they may well be among the most significant and important fruits of Christianity.
If we are to understand the record of Christianity, to the contrast seen in these centuries two facts must be added. The first will be evident as our narrative progresses: the contrast becomes more striking in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The second is that the contrast is more marked than in the history of any other religion. The exploitation of the weak by the strong and destructive wars have been chronic in history. Some wars have wrought even more havoc, although not with as wide a geographic extent or affecting as many millions, than those in which professing Christians have been engaged. Into many wars and in much of the exploitation non-Christian religions and ideologies have entered. Among them, to give only a few examples, have been the devastation wrought by the fanatical Moslem, Tamerlane, the African slave trade by Moslem Arabs for Moslem Arabs, domestic rebellions in China in which Taoism and Confucianism have entered, and the enormous loss of life and the forced labor imposed in the name of Communism in Europe and China. Yet not from any other religion or any ideology have as many movements emerged for the curbing and elimination of these evils. We saw a few in the European Middle Ages. More have emerged in the two and a half centuries covered by this chapter. We will see still more in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Viewed 241803 times.