Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Rethinking Protestantism



I think that it is a fairly standard trope in neoreactionary circles to lay the blame of modern Liberalism at the feet of Protestantism and I must admit that I'm in broad agreement with this position. Once you ditch the idea of an objective truth (as Catholicism understands it) you're left with subjective truth which results in every man being his own Pope.  Soon enough, in such society, serious differences of opinion will appear and in order to practically stop that society from tearing itself apart you have to allow some tolerance of opinion. 

Now a common sense, or prima facie reading of the Bible does put some limits on what is tolerated, and a cursory reading of history will show that, by and large, until recently mainline Protestantism did not permit the degeneracy that is about us. i.e.  a simple "textual" reading of the Bible provided protections against excessive tolerance. However with the delegitimisation  of "traditional" interpretations of the Bible through modern biblical scholarship, democratic idealism and the progression of atheism , these "brakes" on tolerance evaporated.  Dechristianised Protestant society, while having the habit of tolerance, has lost its limiting mechanism----and we see the ruins about us.

I think that this brief sketch outlines the one of the main arguments against Protestantism as put forward by Catholic and reactionary authors, and an objective student of this subject will have to admit that they have a point.  However, I think that while this analysis is correct, it misses a proper understanding of the role that Protestantism has played in the development of Christianity. And I'm increasingly of the opinion that Christianity's survival in modernity may in large part due to its existence.

One of the things that strikes the observer of Catholicism is its strong sense of tradition and its resistance to change. Now, of course, a lot of this is due to the nature of Catholic theology but I think the institutional nature of the church plays a large role here as well. The lay observer, when reflecting on the current sexual abuse crisis, is struck by the fact of how the Church was unable to spontaneously institute the appropriate changes in governance and acknowledge fault, but rather had to be dragged "kicking and screaming" into recognising that it had a problem. The institution simply does not move.

It is said that God permits lesser evils so that greater ones will be avoided. When Luther nailed his thesis on the Church door he wasn't intending to break from the Church, but that's the way it turned out, and a large part of it was due to the institutional inertia of the Church in dealing with the problems of the time. Trent, when it finally came along, corrected many Protestant errors but it also honored may of its criticisms.  But its important to note that without Protestantism there would have been no Trent, and all of the reforms it instituted.   What I'm trying to say is that the institutional nature of the Church is reactive rather than proactive and without the Protestant push, it's unlikely that the Church would have spontaneously self corrected. God may have not wanted the Church to split but the clergy was incapable of self-generating reform, it needed Protestantism's dynamism to do that.

Scholars, looking at the relationship between modernity and Catholicism, have noted that Church's position was oppositional and other worldly, and until recently, it encouraged a culture apart from modernity. Catholicism's approach to modernity was literally defensive hoping for modernity to collapse and for medievalism to return.  Given that modernity did not fail and the fact that the Churhc did not have the "in house" skills to attack it meaningfully and it's no surprise that the Catholicism in the West collapsed suddenly with Vatican II, the Church pulled down the ramparts without going on the attack--it didn't know how to--and was simply overwhelmed.

Protestantism, unlike Catholicism,  did have a history of engaging with modernity.  England never went as feral as France and the Victorian Age was one of religious  piety with great social reform. Christianity in the Victorian Anglosphere was respectable and modern and it was able to achieve a successful transformative arrangement with modernity. Still, it ultimately suffered from the weakness of Protestantism and self-destructed because it could not filter the good ideas from the bad, it lacked a governing authority.

In my opinion, Christian Liberalism was the high point of the Protestant engagement with Modernity  and which gave us the marvelous Belle Epoque. However, Protestantism's inability to draw the line saw that liberalism degrade into the modern liberalism about us.

Staring at history from an Olympian perspective, one can think of Protestantism as an incubator of Christian ideas which served as an antidote to the institutional inertia of the Catholic Church which seemed to be happy to sit on the sidelines and complain. Some of these ideas;  like the abolition of slavery, religious tolerance, work ethic,  less reliance on the confessional, etc. were very good. The Catholic Church may have thundered anathemas at the Protestants but it was they who managed to achieve some kind of temporary workable synthesis with modernity, something the Catholics still can't do. The Church may have held the deposit of the faith but it was the "sound" Protestants who took it out to the field.

And there is no doubt that the success of Protestant culture had profound influence on Catholic culture which was able to absorb some of the ideas through cultural diffusion rather than explicit agreement. Newman's ideas on the freedom of conscience come straight from the Protestant playbook and have now become part of the "deposit of faith". When he converted he bought some of his Protestantism with him and the Church incorporated it. As I see it, the only way that Catholicism will be able to engage with modernism meaningfully is if it incorporates the "best bits" of Protestantism within it's body of faith.


What I'm trying to say is that from a big picture perspective, the "freedom" of Protestantism balanced the institutional inertia of Catholicism and gave Christianity--as a whole--the ability to adapt to the modern world in a way which would have been incapable had the Church remained in control: its institutional inertia--by the clergy and traditionalists-- being way too strong to overcome "in house." Protestantism provided the Christian space for innovation which produced both good and bad developments with the Catholic Church "filtering" and incorporating  the ideas when they were proven.

As G. K. Chesterton said:

"In all probability, all that is best in Protestantism will only survive in Catholicism; and in that sense all Catholics will still be Puritans when all Puritans are Pagans."




30 comments:

Chent said...

Excellent article. Thanks for sharing. I have always been intrigued by the question: "Why did God allow Protestantism?"

But, when reading your text, one has the impression that modernity is a phenomenon that appeared in the history of mankind independently from Christianity. Protestantism learned how to deal with it while Catholicism dragged its feet.

But modernity is not independent from Christianity. Modernity is simply secular Protestantism or, even better, pure Protestantism when you take as many Catholic elements as you can.

When you take the tenets of Protestantism until their logical conclusion, you get modernity. The rejection of hierarchy (every believer is a priest and has the authority to interpret the Bible) was in Luther and leads to equality, non-discrimination, liberty, relativism, democracy and the rejection of God as a supreme authority. It took some centuries to derive all the implications but the seed was in Luther (although Luther didn't realize).

So I don't think God created Protestantism to deal with modernity, because there would have not been modernity without Protestantism.

Am I wrong? What are your ideas about that? I take this opportunity to thank you for your writings, which are always enlightening.

TheDividualist said...

>I think that it is a fairly standard trope in neoreactionary circles to lay the blame of modern Liberalism at the feet of Protestantism

Yes, but this convinced me that the Catholic Church also committed some gigantic screwups: https://rationalityofaith.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/how-the-17th-c-french-catholic-use-of-pyrrhonian-scepticism-against-calvinism-created-the-french-enlightenment-skeptics/

And the Kings, too. Sham Kings, as Carlyle put it. Democrat Kings.

The Ancient Regime wasn't defeated: it committed suicide.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Chent

When you take the tenets of Protestantism until their logical conclusion, you get modernity.

Thanks. Although I disagree. Modernity is a far more encompassing thing than a simple "theology" and you're up against more than just a belief system. Modernity is as much a consequence of population size and technology as it is belief. I'll write more on this in the future but if you get the chance read this book, I can't recommend it enough.

Peasants to Frenchmen by Eugen Weber.

I think that one of the reasons why the Church has been so hopeless in dealing with Modernism is that it has not understood the nature of the problem clearly enough. Furthermore, I think Protestantism is more likely to lead to Romanticism than to the cold logic of Atheism. Lapsed Catholicism is the real font of that Modernistic disease: Atheism. The real modernists started in France, a formerly Catholic country. If you take Catholic theology and strip it of its spiritual dimension you are left with the a residue of Positivism. What I will admit though, is that Protestant economic and technical proficiency birthed the modern by being able to "manage" the transition from a an agrarian to Industrial existence. I'm not sure that a Catholic society could have effected the same transition as efficiently or at all. It's not that Catholicism would have provided a positive bulwark against such a transition it's just that Catholic economic inefficiency would have made a mess of it.

@ The Dividualist

Agree, the Church mad some huge screw ups. I don't think that kings committed suicide as much as they messed things up. They also failed to take into account the transformational changes of modernity and continued to act as if it were not there. Being miscalibrated to reality is always a recipe for failure.

John Rockwell said...
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John Rockwell said...

@The Social Pathologist

Perhaps the wars of religion a few centuries prior in France with the resulting substantial weakening of Protestantism as a result may have allowed the French Revolution to come into being.

Protestantism as you said may have acted as a protective agent. Which is why the outbreaks of modernity in Britain, Scandinavia and America was less severe.

Elspeth said...

This is an excellent expression of thought, but it ignores the fact that in Scripture, as far back as the Old Testament, the spirit of modernity (i.e. the world, the flesh, and the devil) reared its ugly head each time the theocratic nation of Israel experienced high levels of prosperity. And they had limits that were more strict and boundaries that were far tighter than anything I've ever read about in Catholicism.

Pardon this Protestant for her inability to leave the Bible out of such a discussion, but it is instructive because when you look to it you find that Luther was not the father of "modernity" as we call it. Sin is.

The Social Pathologist said...

@ John Rockwell

That's an interesting line of thought which I hadn't considered but it's possibly true. A more tolerant Catholicism may not have resulted in the Anti-Catholic Sharia of the Jacobins. It's interesting to see that even though Protestantism was opposed to Catholicism politically at the time, many Protestants in England were appalled by the actions of the Jacobins in France. I suppose that what I'm trying to say is that when Catholicism goes "bad" it goes far worse than when Protestantism does.

@Elsepth

but it is instructive because when you look to it you find that Luther was not the father of "modernity" as we call it. Sin is.

Are you trying to tell me that Modernity is sinful? Or that the production of Penicillin, a product of Modernity, is sinful? Penicillin would have been unable to be produced and distributed under the socioeconomic circumstances of the Middle Ages. CT scanners, Anesthesia, cheap nutrition and affordable clothing are all products of Modernity.

I think you've mistaken my take on this. I did not say that Luther was the father of Modernity. Modernity is not a moral system, it's more a state of being contingent upon technological, demographic and cultural prerequisites. Sin corrupts, but it also corrupts Modernity.

Elspeth said...

No. Modernity is not sinful. I understand that it is not a moral system but it is often referred to as if it is due to some of the natural results of the prerequisites you listed.

I misunderstood the thrust of your post. More accurately, I conflated sentiments from the comments as well as the customary arguments traditional Catholics raise as an objection to Protestantism as they connect it to the downsides of modernity: "Yay indoor plumbing and modern medicine!" "Boo to all the freedom and choices that Protestantism contributed to this depraved culture."

Pardon my misinterpretation.

The Lonely Professor said...

The reasons why the Church lost to modernity are manifold. But in my view, in the final analysis it lost because it deserved to lose, and traditionalism has absolutely no chance unless those reasons are rectified, whether Protestantism is responsible for modernity or not. The Church could get away with all this in the Middle Ages, but it can't now, due to how society has changed. And society isn't changing back, whether traditionalists like it or not. I know from experience that traditionalists would rather shoot the messenger than admit the message, which they will not do under any circumstance whatsoever, so theirs is a hopeless lost cause.

Here are just a few:

1) Arrogance and incapacity for constructive self-reflection. When you are doing the will of God, any adversity or criticism can simply be dismissed as the doings of the devil or of other "enemies of God". Thus, you keep shooting yourself in the foot and complaining you can't walk. Things like intellectual honesty, accurate citing of sources and so on, are optional, to be dispensed with when there is an enemy of God to defeat.

2) Heavy-handed authoritarianism which never admits its mistakes and has the effect of puffing up the leaders and infantilizing the subjects. "The Pope is judged by no one" taken as not merely a statement that the Pope is judicially the superior, but that his decisions are never to be questioned or criticized. And this filters down to Bishops and priests. But now, with modern communications, they find themselves subject to the judgment of human opinion which is able to exert soft power.

3) An intellectual ghetto which pretends that the only really worthwhile intellectual pursuits are Thomistic philosophy and theology, everything else to be looked upon with utter disdain and ipso facto wrong if it contradicts anything written in a Thomistic text. In fact, what is of primary importance is not whether something is true, or can be demonstrated as true, but whether it is in accordance with the thought of St. Thomas. (Even though St. Thomas himself knew that arguments to authority are of no avail in philosophy.) The Church was therefore completely unprepared for the scientific revolution, and also for much of modern analytic philosophy, and therefore much apologetics has become either quite dishonest or quite stupid and ignorant. The Galileo affair takes center stage but there are also other things like Thomists refusing to budge on the claim that miracles are evidence for the truth of Christianity when, of course, what is actually epistemically available to the inquirer are claims or reports of miracles.

4) A lack of concern for the temporal well-being of laypeople, under the pretext that that is their "cross" and only spiritual well-being really counts. Yes, the Church set up its hospitals and schools, but one searches in vain, for instance, for a clear condemnation of slavery as it was practiced in the South prior to the Civil War (you'll get hemming and hawing from Thomism about how slavery isn't "intrinsically evil"). In fact, the general zeitgeist is in fact in opposition to political and civil rights, with traditionalists longing for the return to monarchy.

Chent said...

@The Social Pathologist

I think this discussion has a significant problem: "modernity" is not defined. In fact, I use this term with a different meaning that the meaning you give it. Let me unify the terminology so we can discuss instead of talking past each other.

A simplified definition of modernity:

Modernity = Technology + the religion of individualism

With "the religion of individualism" (RI, from now on), I mean the religion that derives from the Enlightenment. Its main god is the individual, the will, the self. Freedom and equality are second-level gods and it has many third-level gods: democracy, tolerance, relativism, etc. It has had different sects: classic liberalism, marxism or political correctness (which is its present version).

On the other hand, technology derives from the scientific revolution started by Galileo (which introduced the experimental method in the natural philosophy). This technology produced the industrial revolution and the most prosperous age in the history of mankind.

When I said that "modernity is only secular Protestantism", I meant "the religion of individualism (RI) is only secular Protestantism". Now, you assume that these two elements are impossible to separate. You say that Penicillin would have been unable to be produced and distributed under the socioeconomic circumstances of the Middle Ages. I am not that sure. I don't see why corporations (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporation_(feudal_Europe)) or guild could have not produced medicines if they had had the technology. Could you elaborate more?

In my view, each age has as much sin as can be economically supported. The human instincts are programmed to the environment of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA) https://www.alleydog.com/glossary/definition.php?term=Evolutionary+Adaptedness+%28EEA%29+

So if you let humans follow their wishes (their instincts), they end up reverting to a hunter-gatherer society, which is a disaster in our civilized society (I don't explain here why this is a disaster because it would be long). IMHO, this is the "original sin" taught by the Church.

What prevents that is that humans cannot follow their wishes because of economic constraints. So when an age is prosperous, humans can follow their wishes more, that is, there is more sin. Of course, history proves once and again that sin is proportional to wealth. Compare the early Rome with the late Rome, our grandfathers' time with our time and so on. This fact was already known by Roman intellectuals.

Imagine the modern family system practiced in the Middle Ages. Lots of boys without father and women without husband, for example. It would have been impossible. These boys and women would have starved and only the more puritan people would have survived. This is possible today because we have a lot of economic surplus (due to the productivity created by technology). Through taxes, this surplus is devoted to support this modern family system: lots of public services, welfare, help to single-mom families, etc.

As I said, each age has as much sin as can be economically supported. So the cycle of history is:

A poor and puritan age produces wealth.
The wealth allows more sin to be committed.
A wealthy and sinful age produces debt and bankruptcy.
The poverty produces puritanism and the cycle starts again.

As technology produces more and more economic surplus, more and more sin (debauchery) is possible but it needs an ideology to justify it. The Enlightenment (derived from Luther as I said) found a clever way to rationalize this debauchery. The human instincts, which were previously considered as bad ("original sin") were considered as good (Rousseau) and were called them "liberty" or "freedom". This rationalized our modern debauchery and is the "religion of individualism".

In short, it would be useful in our discussion to specify what we are referring to: the religion of individualism or the technology. "Modernity" is an ambiguous term.


The Social Pathologist said...

@ Elspeth.

It's cool.

@ Lonely Professor.

I know from experience that traditionalists would rather shoot the messenger than admit the message, which they will not do under any circumstance whatsoever, so theirs is a hopeless lost cause.

It's a real problem and I also think that their "ownership" of the Church has been one of the causes of why the Church is wilting and unable to confront Modernity effectively.


Arrogance and incapacity for constructive self-reflection.

Absolutely. One of the recurring features of bad management is to blame the workers for the problems of a business. Sometimes this is valid, but when mistakes keep being made over a long period of time, it's the management that is to blame. When confronted with the collapse of Christianity, the operating heuristic of the Clergy seems to be that they are pure and it is all the fault of a "disobedient laity" It never occurs to them that they may be the ones responsible. I want to write a bit more about this in the next post.

Perhaps the best modern exponent of this approach is Germaine Grisez, who in trying to explain away the lay rejection of Humanae Vitae simply declared these people non faithful Catholics: Faithful Catholics, being those who only agree with the Pope. Yet "traditional" Catholic ecclesiology saw the validity of a Papal teaching being evidenced, in part, by the positive reception of it by the laity.

Heavy-handed authoritarianism which never admits its mistakes and has the effect of puffing up the leaders and infantilizing the subjects.

This is a complex topic but I think you're largely right here. An infantalized laity is not only a spiritually dead one but one also prone to capture by other ideologies.

In fact, what is of primary importance is not whether something is true, or can be demonstrated as true, but whether it is in accordance with the thought of St. Thomas.

Yep. Agree again. I think the big problem with Thomism is that many Thomists mistake the map for the territory, and when an instance arises of new territory being discovered they refuse to admit it because it is not on the map. It's actually quite funny because a lot of the "scientific method" is actually presupposed by Thomas so you would reckon that that would be supportive of science. However, in reality, there is a tension between Tradition and Thomism. Thomas is quite prepared to update his conclusions on the basis on new data yet tradition is continually try to quash them as novelties are contra tradition. What the Traditionalists want to do is preserve Thomas's arguments yet I suspect what they should be preserving is his method.

A lack of concern for the temporal well-being of laypeople, under the pretext that that is their "cross" and only spiritual well-being really counts.

>>Stands up and cheers!<<

In Weber's book he identifies one of the reasons people flocked to the Protestant Churches is because the minister would provide seats and heater for them during services. It's a small thing but it means a lot to people who have been worked to the bone during the rest of the week. One of the reasons many are turning Protestant in Latin America is because they don't want to be poor anymore and they equate poverty with Catholicism.

It's funny isn't it, that although Catholic theology sees man as a composite of body and spirit, it really pays little attention to the former. I think that we are still stuggling with a latent Manicheanism in the Church which is not fully acknowledged.

The Social Pathologist said...
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The Social Pathologist said...

@ Chent

Modernity = Technology + the religion of individualism

I think you're wrong.

Fascism and Socialism were both modern and were highly communitarian, individualism didn't play much of a role in their modernity.

I don't see why corporations (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporation_(feudal_Europe)) or guild could have not produced medicines if they had had the technology. Could you elaborate more?

Because the production of penicillin is contingent on factors that just didn't exist in the Medieval period. Transportation, refrigeration, filtration, microscopy, quality control procedures, packaging technologies, etc. just didn't exist at the time. I mean the technology that provided for the machine tooling and optics for the appropriate machinery would have spilled over into areas such as arms production and food production which would have changed the whole balance of power. The thing is that if you were able to introduce these technologies to medieval society, they would be transformative of medieval society. Ergo, you wouldn't have medieval society.

Take the internet for example. It has changed the distribution of information in society. It has effected everything from dating, book sales, information exchange etc. It has changed society. The Alt/Dissident Right would have been impossible without it. Technologies frequently have consequences well beyond what they were initially envisaged doing. The railways literally changed everything.

Any society is an equilibrium between culture, population and technology. That's why medieval and modern need to be understood as "gestalts".

Bit late now and have to head off.

Hoyos said...

My two bits on Protestantism, although I could write a book about bad arguments Catholics and protestants use on each other. This is more food for thought.

Vatican II, describes protestants as seoarated brethren and this is significant. By the numbers the majority of protestants have been at least creedally Orthodox, there’s been much confusion because of liberal protestants, but they have always been a vocal minority, Strong personal faith in Jesus Christ as the incarnate God who died for our sins and rose for our justification has been the cornerstone of practicing Protestantism and it produced a tremendous vitality in the English speaking world. By the numbers, more effort was put into spreading the word of God by Anglo-Saxon peoples than is commonly recognized.

Catholics don’t understand Protestantism as a general rule, they look at it like academics, focusing on two thinkers Luther and Calvin and viewing the English Reformation as some sort of footnote by a greedy king who wanted a new wife and monastic lands. It was so much more complex than that and viewed historically, the English Reformation had the greatest impact on history, It was also the most complex because it embodies English National characteristics. There were fights and spasms, but what it created was unique from what happened on the continent.

I don’t have the space to go into all of it, but I think there’s excellent reason to believe that God blessed the English speaking peoples because they honored His Word. Even if you think they got serious doctrine wrong, the works of translating the AV and then aggressive translating work and dissemination of scripture seems to have been an overwhelmingly English endeavor. Our language is colored through with phrases from the AV, it’s practically in our blood. I theorize that it is possible that God blessed the English speaking nations because they honored Him and His word. These blessings were material through empire and technology (don’t shy away like a “modern”, victory over enemies and gaining territory are blessings in the OT), social and political (sparedthe cataclysmic revolutions of Russia, France, the 1848 revolutions, if not the American and English civil wars as a counterpoint), and even spiritual (English spiritual writers from Bunyan forward are influential worldwide). It is also possible, in my mind, that God used the English speaking peoples to functionally end slavery. Why them?

Regarding technology, the industrial and scientific revolution was by no means led by irreligious or unbelieving men, Darwin didn’t start the scientific revolution, it was underway well before Origin of the Species, a lot happened before atheism became fashionable. Again, telling that all this was happening in England.

We’re dealing with history so much more complex than “Luther therefore Marx”. There are so many players in this game.



The Lonely Professor said...

Also, I might add, lack of intellectual rigor and an expectation to win arguments via sloppy logic and cartoon-like caricatures of the opposition.

We see that here, where if the Pope is not the unquestionable oracle of religious truth, truth itself must therefore be subjective. That is of course quite the non sequitur.

Chent said...

@The Social Pathologist

Modernity = Technology + the religion of individualism

I think you're wrong.

Fascism and Socialism were both modern and were highly communitarian, individualism didn't play much of a role in their modernity.


I think I haven't expressed myself wrongly. I should have been said:

"Modernity = Technology + the ideology derived from the Enlightenment"

Fascism and Socialism are children of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment oscillates between individualism and collectivism because it removes the middle societies (extended family, religious community, nuclear family, town, etc) and the only things remaining are the individual and the State.

Anyway, forget about individualism. I didn't choose well the word. It is about the enlightenment ideology.

I don't see why corporations (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporation_(feudal_Europe)) or guild could have not produced medicines if they had had the technology. Could you elaborate more?

Because the production of penicillin is contingent on factors that just didn't exist in the Medieval period. Transportation, refrigeration, filtration, microscopy, quality control procedures, packaging technologies, etc. just didn't exist at the time.

Well, this is technology. It has nothing to do with the ideology.

I mean the technology that provided for the machine tooling and optics for the appropriate machinery would have spilled over into areas such as arms production and food production which would have changed the whole balance of power. The thing is that if you were able to introduce these technologies to medieval society, they would be transformative of medieval society. Ergo, you wouldn't have medieval society.

Yes, but this does not mean that we would have had the Enlightenment ideology and modernity, such as we know it. I see that technology is compatible with different social systems and a social system is compatible with different ideologies. We wouldn't have had medieval society (because it was not compatible with technology) but the Enlightenment ideology was not inevitable. History is not inevitable.

The Enlightenment ideology is the logical conclusion of Luther's work. If the industrial revolution had happened in China, it would had not been based on freedom, equality, etc. (concepts that are byproducts of Christianity and absurd to a Confucian society). It would have had a flavor derived from Confucianism (although it wouldn't have had to be Confucian)

The rest of your comment is in the same line so I don't think I have to repeat my arguments.

As always, I defend the ideas I believe in but I am not married to them. The goal of this debate is to learn.

Chent said...
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The Social Pathologist said...

@ Hoyos

I think one of the great strengths of Proetestantism is the recognition of a legitimate lay-led expression of the faith. Protestantism is to a certain degree able to listen and learn from the laity in a way that Catholicism seems unable to do.

Catholics don’t understand Protestantism as a general rule, they look at it like academics, focusing on two thinkers Luther and Calvin and viewing the English Reformation as some sort of footnote by a greedy king who wanted a new wife and monastic lands.

Agree, The Reformation was a complex event fueled by a widespread pre-existing dissatisfaction which the Church had failed to act on. Even Luther, at the outset wasn't planning a split. I think that many Catholic Medievalists in concentrating on Luther's theology ignore the other elements which fueled the split and portray the Church in a bad light.

I theorize that it is possible that God blessed the English speaking nations because they honored Him and His word.

I'm also increasingly of this opinion--with qualifications--the more I look into this. I live in an area that was settled by the English in the 1860's and within a 1 mile walking distance there are about seven Churches. The Victorians, in particular, were a faithful people and I note that the decline of England correlates with a loss of the faith.

One of the stories that always plays in my mind is that of the Good Samaritan on whom God looks approvingly. The Samaritan's "theology" may have been poor but he acted in a way that God wanted him to. At least from the perspective of this parable, it would appears that when it comes to the crunch, acting like a Christian is more important than having a purer theoretical knowledge of the faith. Hence, God's blessings on the English.

Regarding technology, the industrial and scientific revolution was by no means led by irreligious or unbelieving men,

Yep.

@Lonely Prof

We see that here, where if the Pope is not the unquestionable oracle of religious truth, truth itself must therefore be subjective. That is of course quite the non sequitur.

I'm not going to agree with that 100%. It's my opinion that there is an objective truth however it has to be accepted that there is an element of subjectivity in the apprehension of it. A man can only act on the truth given his subjective understanding, but it's imperative in man to continue to try and calibrate his understanding with the perception of reality. And if new facts come to light he modify his belief in accordance with the facts. I think a lot of people who regard Truth as subjective ignore this latter bit.

As for the Pope, I do think that he is a conditional oracle. i.e. He is only 100% right when he explicitly pronounces an infallible doctrine, otherwise he is a man I should take seriously, given his professional competence. I think a lot of the traditional Ultramontanists, miss that distinction, while the modern ones ignore it when the Pope says something they don't like.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Chent

The goal of this debate is to learn.

Agree, I don't mind being proven wrong.

"Modernity = Technology + the ideology derived from the Enlightenment"

I understand that Modernity is a product of the Enlightenment but you've also got to recognize that technology is a product of it as well. The intellectual changes that were bought about by the Enlightenment--intellectual changes which attacked some of the traditional notions of religion--enabled the scientific discoveries which in turn fed the technological development of the West. You can't get one without the other.

Where I think many people go wrong is: The Enlightenment= Atheism. Stanley Jaki has written a lot about this and refutes this. The foundations of the Enlightenment were Christian--though to be fair, many Christians worked against it.

The Enlightenment does not by necessity lead to individualistic particularism. Rather, The Enlightenment needs to be thought of as having different factions with there being a particularly nasty atheist faction which gained power at the time of the French Revolution. Once again, English Enlightenment thinkers were horrified at what was going on in France.

The real damage has be de-Christianisation not science.

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Chent

You might find this book interesting.

https://www.amazon.com/Road-Science-Ways-God/dp/0226391442#customerReviews

Asher said...

You have your cause and effect backwards. Protestantism arose because of the waning temporal power of the Pope - every man is a pope because the pope doesnt command a strong military. Further, modernity isnt the product of protestantism but a poison pill created *by* the catholic church as a "fuck you" to the reformation.

The jesuits created modernity.

Asher said...

The problem isnt hierarchy, but apostasy within the hierarchy.

Anonymous said...

Could the Reformation been avoided if Rome and Luther cut a deal involving (1) a truce on the question of justification similar to the joint Lutheran-Catholic statement from the 1990s, (2) Luther forming his own super-Augustinan religious order, possibly with married priests, (3) Luther recognizing all 7 sacraments and papal authority?

John Rockwell said...

@Social Pathologist


"Heavy-handed authoritarianism which never admits its mistakes and has the effect of puffing up the leaders and infantilizing the subjects.

This is a complex topic but I think you're largely right here. An infantilized laity is not only a spiritually dead one but one also prone to capture by other ideologies."



This sort of thing is characteristic of Communist and other forms of super-centralized socialist regimes.

Seeking to turn adult subjects back into children who do not have the agency to act in a responsible and competent manner as well as into programmable automations.

Akin to NPCs in video games which act only according to script and unable to change their routines.

John Rockwell said...

@Asher

I think that line of thinking is precisely the why there is an infantilizing of laity.

As if the holy spirit and to know God's word for himself is rebellion.

To somehow be an adult agency laity is to be his own pope.

As if to be infantilized is the ideal in proper submission to the pope.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Ascher

Further, modernity isnt the product of protestantism but a poison pill created *by* the catholic church as a "fuck you" to the reformation.

It's true the Catholic Church helped birth Modernity, but everyone else played their bit.

@Anon

Could the Reformation been avoided if........

I think that seeing the Reformation is a purely theological conflict probably oversimplifies things a bit. I think that by the time Luther arrived the fault lines had already been formed and his little push shook the whole edifice. I'm not an expert here but I think I can confidently say that if the Catholic church had been better governed before the time of Luther, I don't think the Reformation would have happened.

@John Rockwell

Akin to NPCs in video games which act only according to script and unable to change their routines.

One of the local bishops used to call it "GPS Catholicism", the idea being that the Pope commands like a GPS unit and the laity are meant to obey the instructions no matter where it leads them.

I think it does produce a spiritually dead laity.

Asher said...

@TSP

"I think I can confidently say that if the Catholic church had been better governed before the time of Luther, I don't think the Reformation would have happened."

Assuming such a thing was possible. Given that full catholicism is the complete synchronization of church and state I doubt its possibility. Such an amalgam is inevitably prone to have the power side of things corrupt the spiritual aide of things.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Asher

Given that full catholicism is the complete synchronization of church and state I doubt its possibility.

That's not what Catholicism is.

Catholicism is about the nature of reality. Political power is a secondary consequence of that understanding. A Catholic society will express a Catholic government and its political dimension is a secondary function of it's understanding of the faith, not an integral one. Catholicism is true no matter who is in power and full expressions of Catholicism are true no matter who is in power.

But you're right. Once you start seeing Catholicism as a political project instead of a Spiritual one you've already destroyed it.

Asher said...

@TSP

The Vatican started seeing Catholicism as a political project long before Luther showed up.

Asher said...

"Catholicism is about the nature of reality"

The reformation is about the nature of reality, too.

No man has authority over the nature of reality. Only god has that authority.