You are on page 1of 9


Terrell, DG - Short Notes on the Reformation II

Short Notes on the Reformation II

David G Terrell
June 2010

Conflict among English Protestants during the reign of Elizabeth I

I appreciated Zophy‟s observation about Elizabeth‟s desire to find a “centrist Protestant” middle
way that was, at the same time, free of Roman control and politically non-threatening to
England‟s traditional--and very Roman Catholic--enemies: France and Spain. Her trimming of
the most extreme numbers of Cranmer‟s Articles, dropping the forty-two to thirty-nine, was an
evident effort to reduce the scope of Reform that had to be sworn to by its adherents. But as in all
attempts to satisfy a range of human beliefs, those at the tail-ends of the distributions were
alienated (Zophy 2009, 244-245).

So, I believe that the most … fanatic … of the various flavors of English Protestantism felt
disappointment at what they saw as a secularization of their attempts to return to a pure, correct
worship of the Christian Trinity. Those of a moderate frame of mind were in the unfortunate
position of not being inclined to support extreme theological positions that clearly existed in their
scriptures. They could not but acknowledge that the extremist views were scriptural, though
unpalatable. This prevented moderate Christians from suppressing the more extreme--allowing
the conflict to continue.

As I consider the above, I am brought to mind of the situation of “moderate Muslims,” who are
faced with scriptural directives to engage in religiously-inspired violence. They seem to face a
similar situation—and are equally unable to theologically support their moderate views.


Religious Totalitarianism

It is a fascination for me... to see how humanity longs for leaders attuned either to the "will of
God" or to the "will of the people" who are willing to compel individuals' through physical
coercion, regulation and social pressure to conform to the acknowledged paradigm in thought,
word and deed.

Terrell, DG - Short Notes on the Reformation II

It constantly amazes me that that the players in these totalitarian Christian regimes--and I label
them as totalitarian because of their insistence on politicizing their objectives and, when
possible, using the full force of the state in support of their goals (Goldberg 2007, 23)--view all
rival identities as a great evil, to be rooted out and destroyed by fire and sword.

Protestant Internecine Rivalry - Lutheran and Zwinglian hostility towards the Anabaptists
and Spiritualists

The Anabaptists. From my reading, I realize that Luther and Zwingli, in their hearts, considered
themselves true Catholic Christians. They believed that the Pope and his clergy were the deviants
and heretics who had cause to recant. They opposed indulgences and clerical prerogatives
because there were reasonably clear opposing views in the Scriptures. Humanist-inspired
rationality was satisfied.

However, there were theological aspects not clearly resolved one way or the other in the
Scriptures. There were little of no Scriptural precedents to guide logical reasoning and the day of
direct revelation was deemed passed. The most prominent concerned the salvation of persons
who die without having received the necessary ordinance of baptism. The “we are not heretics”
mindset I described above tended to bring Luther and Zwingli down on the side of the Catholic
tradition where there was no clear cut solution to a seeming theological dilemma.

Such was the position of infants who die unbaptized.

The Anabaptists interpreted the scriptures differently. Where John the Baptist preached the
“baptism of repentance” (Luke 3); St. Mark asserted that “He that believeth and in baptized shall
be saved” (Mark 16); and, St. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, directed all to “Repent, and be
Baptized” (Acts 2) the Anabaptists inferred that a person must have the mental capacity to repent
before submitting to baptism.

So, while all acknowledged baptism was necessary, what happened to children who died before
receiving the ordinance?

Reading Bainton, Luther sided with the Roman tradition. Children must be baptized to prevent
the chance of their going to Hell (Bainton 1950, 108-110). Luther, Zwingli and the Roman
Church clung to an idea of implicit proxy responsibility. They believed that, as Christ died for
man, a parent could stand proxy for another‟s initiation into the Christian Covenant. There was a
slender thread of precedent in the Scriptures. St. Paul, in a discussion of salvation, speaks of the
practice of proxy baptism in behalf of the dead as if it were an accepted practice (1 Corinthians

Terrell, DG - Short Notes on the Reformation II

15). If one could be baptized for the dead, though the practice had fallen out of use, what
prevented one from being baptized for the newly living?

By focusing on baptism after repentance, and not having an accommodation for handling
unbaptized minors, the Anabaptists, in the minds of Luther, Zwingli and the Church were
condemning an entire class of innocents to eternal damnation—this was the root cause of the

For me, discussion about the Spiritualists should center around two points. First is the
mainstream consideration, shared by Luther and Zwingli, that the New Testament was a single
divinely-inspired document, instead of an anthology. Second, I would point out the prohibition in
Revelation 22 against adding to, or redacting from, “this book.” But which book? When one
considers that the books of the New Testament were not assembled in chronological sequence;
and seeing that there was a similar injunction levied in Deuteronomy 4 and 12, it is ironic that
they considered the cannon closed.

Calvinism as a source of Social Stability.

I am intrigued by Marty's assertion that “Calvinist doctrine presented to those who were tired of
political instability or who had been disenchanted by impious clericalism a new option, separate
from the still papal leanings of Lutheranism.”

I am pondering if some of the city governments “infected” with Calvinism consciously used its
willingness to compel performance and behaviors in pursuit of domestic tranquility. One gets
that impression in MacCulloch (MacCulloch 2004, 238-242). I also wonder at the influence that
Calvin had upon the city government of Geneva. Perhaps his willingness to equip the laity with
the skills to reason out their own theology energized their participation (MacCulloch, 246-247).
But, heaven help the person who thought outside Calvin‟s theological box.

MacCulloch also speaks about Calvin‟s “Reformed Catholicism” (248) which causes me to
wonder if he cast himself (quietly, in his heart) in the role of Vicar of Christ. He certainly acted
the part.

Calvinism as a decentralized force for stability


Terrell, DG - Short Notes on the Reformation II

I am pondering again, trying to regain my focus after an upset. I am mentally comparing the
practical, man-on-the-street, difference between a Catholic city and the same city, a short while
later, becoming reformed.

The priests had become pastors. While they now had wives and children to give them a bit more
experience about the human condition, they were still supported by tithes. So, while they were
not quite the exalted beings they were before, they still had the power of denunciation and the
corollary deprivation of liberty and, possibly, life. Where, before, they reported up a separate
chain of command to Rome, now they were an integral part of local government. They had
become part of the local establishment. At least the donated funds were being spent locally. That
was probably some comfort.

There was still a strong compulsion to politico-religious correctness. However, I suspect the “not
invented here” factor was gone. This was a German (Belgian, Dutch, English, Swiss, etc) church
that promulgated German (etc. as before) Christian values.

The Jesuits

It seem universally accepted that Ignatius was a soldier, though he only served in that capacity
for about five years, at most. He seemed to have been of a chivalrous set of mind, as he made a
knight‟s vigil when he made his personal commitment to become a lay preacher. One Jesuit
leader of the early 20th century, Archbishop Goodier, speaks of Ignatius‟ intent to make a
spiritual army for Christ and his adapting the military mindset to the Spiritual Exercises bearing
his name. “One may go to St. Ignatius to be „drilled‟ in sanctity; one would not go to him to be
trained in prayer. St. Ignatius is a saint of action, full of sacrifice and zeal; he is not a saint from
whom the contemplative has much to learn.” (Goodier 1940, 56)

From the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius was all about prayer, self-conquest and
fulfillment of God‟s will. He saw that prayer without self-conquest could lead to the unrestrained
mystic anarchy that lurked behind undisciplined religious reflection; and that the opposite led to
an agnostic (if not atheistic) stoicism (Goodier 1940, 78-90).

He seems to have taken very little on faith. His Exercises seem to be a personal test in self-
control which leads one to learn all that one can, in an effort to find God in the world about

This produced an organization of committed, intelligent, dedicated religious persons that focused
more on doing the will of God, as they found it, than on being obedient to the traditions of the

Terrell, DG - Short Notes on the Reformation II

past, for traditions‟ sake. Such people would seem more willing to abandon traditional practices
not having a basis in scripture.


When asked how the Roman Catholic Church was able to meet the Protestant challenge, the
engineer in me immediately thought of “momentum” which equals Mass multiplied by Velocity.


The Catholic Church had an overwhelming "mass", in terms of acculturation presence and
tradition. The Church and the southern European culture grew up together and they grew into a
symbiosis with each other. They were used to each other in a way the north, with its Germanic
roots, was not.

The Reformation groups did not have the mass of the Church; but they did have the new media
technology, which gave them a velocity, in terms of the propagation of new ideas necessary to
produce a cohesive ideological movement.

In engineering there is a “Conservation of Momentum” that applies when two moving objects
collide. The momentum of the two objects must be equal to reach equilibrium.

P(object1) = P(object2)

Since the mass of the Church and the Reformation groups were different, the only way the
Reformation groups could hope to stand against them was through their higher “velocity”.

I know it sounds funny, and analogy is always suspect, but it made some sense to me.

Jesuits, again

I'm reading The Tyrannicide Brief by Geoffrey Robertson, as I am looking into the trial and
execution of King Charles I of England, for my paper. The book is the story of John Cooke, the
Puritan lawyer that prosecuted the king. After his education, Cooke toured Rome and Geneva, to
familiarize himself with the law and religion, as practices there. Roberson refers, at one point, to
the “… English College in Rome, run by Jesuits as a "fly-trap" for visiting Protestant gentlemen:

Terrell, DG - Short Notes on the Reformation II

all were invited to partake of its hospitality (the wine was fabled) in the hope that conversation
with a cardinal might lead to conversion.” (Robertson 2005, 44)

Upon hearing that the Historiography classes are going to drop Fischer

A farewell to Fischer... that is too bad. The only think I had against him is his very erudite
vocabulary. His language is very nuanced and precise, and he expects you to remember
everything he has already said. In that respect, it is a information-dense book that continues to
teach me and, which informs the methods I teach to the intelligence analysts and "operators" (i.e.
the special forces types with great experience with weapons technology) whom I instruct.

He often reads, to me, like those humor web-sites intended to amuse Physicists and
Mathematicians. I read something he had said and experience a few moments of cognitive
dissonance as my brain decodes and expands his words into a fully-realized paradigm... and then
I say, "Oh! A'ha! Got'cha!"

At one point—where I still have a bookmark placed—he says, "What positive principles of
narrative explanation can be extracted from these fallacies? A few random thoughts come to
mind." (Fischer 1970, 160) He follows this with several pages of thoughts I cannot conceive of
as being random—but, which changed the way, or gave me a new way, in which I could think
about history.

I hope the works we call upon to replace him are up to the task—but, I expect that they are a
simplification and less nuanced. Perhaps, in two- or three-hundred years, we will emerge from
the medievalism I see sprawling about me and a new Renaissance will rediscover him.

Perhaps this is why I purchase so many books... Have I been unconsciously building my own
scriptorium against the coming years?

The Reformation as a harbinger of church-state separation

I am pondering an assertion that the Reformation spawned separation of church and state.

From my reading, I would be inclined to say that the Reformation religions were more intent on
integrating religion into the political structures. I look at it this way.

 The clergy believed they had the best understanding of their respective path to salvation.

Terrell, DG - Short Notes on the Reformation II

 They could not countenance error without God holding them accountable for those
actions; which also lead to the severe intolerance of the time.
 They had every expectation of the support of those involved in governance.

Even the Puritans coming to America wanted the freedom to worship in their own chosen way;
and as soon as they were able, they immediately established their religion as the official religion.

I cannot help but believe that a classical education did inform the early leaders of the American
experiment. They learned individual rights from Sparta, republican principles from the Greco-
Persian Wars, fear of pure democracy from Athens, the need for strong central government from
Greece‟s fall to Philip and Alexander of Macedon, republican virtue from Rome‟s republic, the
need for vigilance from that republic‟s fall, and the value of liberty from the actions of the
Roman emperors.

I believe they learned about religious intolerance from more the recent experiences of their
Protestant immigrant ancestors.

I strongly suspect the concept of Freedom of Religion derived from the more humanist-inclined
deists such as Jefferson and the only reason it became part of the constitution is that the various
states, with their various religions, were more afraid of the British than of each other.

The influence of Reformation on western civilization

I have come to appreciate and prefer Braudel‟s explanation of “Civilization” as having “a double
meaning” that denotes the moral/spiritual concerns and material values/affairs of a people. He
points out that many authors separate the two meanings in using “culture” for the former and
“civilization” for the latter. As he proceeds, Braudel describes Civilizations in terms of
geographical spheres, societies, economies, and ways of thought; and, asserts that understanding
a civilization requires some knowledge of its history and its traditional values (Braudel 1963,
1993, 3-24).

In my opinion, the Protestant Reformation affected Western Civilization in each of Braudel‟s

Aspects: geographical spheres, societies, economies, and ways of thought.

 Protestants fleeing persecution were fundamental to the North American expansion.

 Protestantism was a great leveling influence that demolished the underpinnings of clerical
and secular aristocracy.

Terrell, DG - Short Notes on the Reformation II

 The leveling mentioned above led to the great commercial economies of England and the
Low Countries, whose respective East and West India Companies brought the wealth to
northern Europe that eventually financed the Industrial Revolution.
 The protestant assertion that man could reason out the appropriate way to live, using the
intellect God gave man, was fundamental to the eventual expansion of knowledge
exemplified by members of the English Royal Society.

So, why did the Reformation have such an influence? It changed the values that shaped every
aspect of Civilization. In a real sense to me, one civilization ended and another began.

David G Terrell
Herndon, Virginia

Bainton, Roland H. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon
Press, 1950.

Braudel, Fernand. A History of Civilizations. London: Penguin Books, 1963, 1993.

Fischer, David Hackett. Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought. New
York: Harper & Row, 1970.

Goldberg, Jonah. Liberal Facisism. New York: Random House, 2007.

Goodier, Alban. St. Ignatius Loyola and Prayer: As seen in the Book of the Spiritual Exercises.
New York: Benziger Brothers, 1940.

MacCulloch, Diarmaid. The Reformation. New York: Penguin Books, 2004.

Patrick, John J, and Gerald P Long. Constitutional Debates on Freedom of Religion:

Documentary History. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999.

Richard, Carl J. Greeks and Romans Bearing Gifts: How the Ancients Inspired the Founding
Fathers. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008.

Robertson, Geoffrey. The Tyrannicide Brief: The Story of the Man Who Sent Charles I to the
Scaffold. London: Random House, 2005.

Terrell, DG - Short Notes on the Reformation II

Zophy, Jonathan W. A Short History of the Renaissance and Reformation Europe. 4th Edition.
Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009.

© David G. Terrell, 2009-2011, except where otherwise noted, content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. For permission to reprint under terms outside the license, contact