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Old Jun 13, '12, 2:19 pm
Contarini Contarini is offline
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Join Date: June 4, 2004
Posts: 17,828
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: When Christianity Goes Wrong.. Why Christ's Church Needs a Hierarchy

Originally Posted by Sixpence View Post
Well, these are a few countries that are at least 85% Protestant. Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Tuvalu.
I don't know about Tuvalu. The Scandinavian countries have not, as far as I know, been lethal in maintaining their religious monopoly (Lutherans as a whole have been slower to kill for their faith than other Christians), but certainly have a history of religious repression, back when they took their Christian identity seriously as more than a vague expression of cultural heritage. Ask any knowledgeable member of the Evangelical Free Church, the Swedish Covenant Church, the small Laestadian Lutheran groups, or the Baptist General Conference why their ancestors came to North America, and you will learn more about this. No dispute that there's a difference of degree in how religious repression has been carried out. But the Scandinavian Lutheran churches certainly did try to maintain a religious monopoly for centuries.

Then it would behoove us to withhold such temptation from one another rather than invest certain individuals with complete, unrestricted power, would it not?
Indeed. And your point is?


I suppose you're right. I probably do have a tendency to see the narrow, right-wing version as that which is strongly recommended by Catholic authority, and I may sometimes look at some of the better historical scholarship as if it were more marginal.
And I wonder how much of Pope Benedict's theological writing you have read? It seems to me that people have been caricaturing and misrepresenting him personally for years, long before he became Pope.

I worry about the present swing toward the right within Catholicism. But the impulses behind it are a lot more nuanced than many folks think--just as the "Spirit of Vatican II" had/has a lot more to be said for it than its conservative critics allowed on the basis of some of its sillier manifestations.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "complete freedom" or if that's even happening somewhere, but the first line I would want to focus on drawing would be freedom from coercion.
For whom? Coercion to do what, or not to do what?

There's a debate in Georgia right now as to whether the KKK should be allowed to take part in an "Adopt-A-Highway" program, for instance.

My point is this. Predominantly Christian countries prior to the Reformation did not tend to do a very good job with religious freedom.
The Reformation, in the short run at least, made things much, much worse. Voices advocating greater tolerance, such as those of Erasmus, were silenced. (In fact, Erasmus had to backtrack from many of his positions as a result of the Reformation, and bitterly blamed the Protestants for making life harder for him and other Catholic reformers. In one rather funny passage, he reminisced nostalgically about the good old days before the Reformation when it was possible to spit at theologians.)

Sure, the eventual consequences of the religious conflict included religious toleration--largely as a result of the rise of the secular state and early capitalism, so that people killed each other over power and money instead of religion (for reasons I find rather baffling, some people seem to think that this was a substantive change for the better).

So I'm basically trying to look to some of the good in the Reformation rather than call it a deformation of Christianity that only ruined things for everyone.
No dispute that there were good effects from the Reformation.

Overestimated by W. H. Drummond, D.D., and Dr. R. Willis.
It is impossible to find anything at all that was not overestimated by some nineteenth-century polemical historian. Why is this even news?

No dispute from me that Calvin did not want the painful duty of bringing about Servetus' death--he said in one of his letters that he hoped Servetus wouldn't come to Geneva. But when Servetus did, Calvin did not flinch from the said painful duty.

But it's also wrong to characterize Calvin as the sole judge, jury, and executioner. The main reason for him being so intimately involved is that Servetus trusted him, or at least liked him enough to put special effort into getting him on his side.
I'm not sure liking or even trust had much to do with it. What makes you think that Servetus was trying to get Calvin on his side when he came to Geneva? More likely he was curious and foolhardy, I think.

I can easily imagine that Servetus, like a lot of the more radical Reformers, had trouble understanding just how much the more moderate Reformers adhered to the norms of historic, Catholic Christianity. The typical pattern in the Reformation was that the more radical folks would expect the more moderate ones to come along to the radicals' way of thinking in time, assuming that the radical position was simply the logical result of the moderates' tentative steps. You see this in Zwingli's attitude to Luther, and the Anabaptists' attitude to Zwingli. Hubmaier, for instance, went to Zurich much as Servetus went to Geneva, and while Zwingli didn't kill him, he did imprison and torture him.

A lot of people were willing to kill him for what he wrote. Calvin may have had the most direct link to the letters that Servetus wrote, but Servetus easily dies without the specific involvement of Calvin. And while he technically may have made some difference in the time and place of death, he's not unique in this- the same could easily be said of Trie, Arneys, and Tournon. If the Catholics who initially captured him had held Servetus as they intended, Calvin's name would be much less prominent in all of this- which would be a bit more fair in the overall assessment. It might have been unfair to someone else instead, but we don't really know who that would be. Maybe Tournon. As is, we do know that if people are unfair, it will be to Calvin.
I don't see that unfairness enters into it, except for some of the sillier propagandists (Dave Hunt, for instance, to name a contemporary figure). What most folks of my acquaintance derive from the Servetus affair is the conclusion that Calvin shared in the basic attitude to heretics held by the Catholic Church--he just didn't think that he and other mainstream Protestants were heretics. I see nothing unfair in this. If Servetus hadn't been so foolish as to go to Geneva and get himself caught, we would perhaps think more highly of Calvin than he deserves, since Calvin's willingness to kill Servetus would never have had a chance to be demonstrated in practice!

I'm not suggesting that Catholics in America today want to execute people or expel them from the country. I'm suggesting that some of them have demonized every aspect of the Reformation, and this can lead them to believe that superimposing Catholic ideals from the Reformation era and before is a favorable course of action to what is being done now when in reality, the way it's done in America now is better than the way it was done in either Geneva or Lyons in the 16th century.
In many ways, yes. But not across the board in all respects.

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