I sat in on my friends sociology class at UC Berkeley where his professor made an interesting observation. He claims that there’s an inverse correlation between how long a group had embraced Christianity prior to the Reformation and its likelihood of embracing some form of Protestantism after the Reformation (in this case, the professor used the term “Protestantism” to mean any school of reformation including but not limited to Lutheranism, Zwinglism, and Calvinism).
He pointed to modern nations which were historically under direct control of the former Roman Empire (such as Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Britain, southern Germany, etc) which likewise embraced Christianity early on; either prior to the fall of the empire or shortly after (in the early Middle Ages). Such nations, which have a much longer history with Christianity tended to remain Catholic the professor noted while nations further to the north which were either never part of the empire, or embraced Christianity much much later (almost in the second millennium) were also nations which after their very short introduction to Christianity were quick to embrace Protestantism. He points to nations such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, northern Germany, northern Poland (i.e. former Prussia), etc where paganism held strong all the way up until only a few centuries prior to the reformers.
Now this professor was very clear in reminding all his students that this correlation should in no way be used to draw any causative conclusions without further discussion and further evidence.
I thought this professor’s lecture was rather interesting and am curious about the CAF opinion. Do you think this correlation has any merit? If so, what can be extrapolated from it? Is there any other historical evidence to show that the shorter a nation’s history with Christianity was (or in other words, the longer its history with paganism was) the more likely that nation were to embrace Protestantism?
Most importantly, which conclusions could be drawn?