From Renaissance (Humanism) To the Reformation a - RR160D8a
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Let us begin with prayer. Almighty God our Heavenly Father who hast called us and confirmed us in Jesus Christ. We thank Thee that Thy hand has been upon us for good all the days of our lives. We thank Thee that Thou hast beset us before and behind with Thy mercies and Thy care. We thank Thee our Father that not only our individual lives but our lives as a people has been blessed by Thee. And so we come into Thy presence to study Thy workings in history. To rejoice in Thy providence and to look for even greater works in the days to come. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Our subject this evening is the Reformation. The Reformation is not given quite the space in the history books nor definitely the favorable attention that the Renaissance is given. Renaissance of course means rebirth. It was a self-conscious rebirth of paganism and humanism. Again man was the measure of all things so that society, human conduct, moral and religious questions were all to be judged in terms of man. As I point out in the text of our lesson the expression for a fool in those days was a good Christian. So to call someone a good Christian was to say he was a fool. The Renaissance was a period of aestheticism as against ethics. Aesthetics instead of ethics, that is, the form, the manner, the beauty of something as against the moral question. As a result the Renaissance saw a number of very interesting developments. On the one hand there was a tremendous emphasis on taste, good taste in every realm. Thus the gourmet was associated with the gentleman. A gentleman was a man who had particularly refined tastes in food and in drink. This was cultivated to the enth degree in those days to the point where sitting at a table was not so much eating but tasting endlessly from an incredible variety of foods that was paraded before someone so that the aesthetic could be dabble and taste and sit endlessly and prove himself by his commentary on that which was set before him. The same was true with respect to art. There was a heavy emphasis on the form, on manner. Earlier art had been concerned with religious themes and was in some respects a more developed a more refined art we could say. [00:03:58]
But the emphasis now became of course humanistic in...
But the emphasis now became of course humanistic in content but even more the refinement and the subtly of the form. The dandy again came into his own, now the expression the dandy belongs to the enlightenment period or more properly to the 18th century. But there was a comparable standard at that time and men began to dress like peacocks, a splash of color as much ornate dress as possible and as expensive as possible. So that a man’s wardrobe cost a fortune and this was true also of women. An incredible amount of money was spent on wardrobe to the point of virtually bankrupting oneself in order to put up the appearance. In other words appearance was everything. Life was a performance, self-consciously so. The world a stage but not before God but before men. I point out that Castiglione in His Courtier or perhaps it wasn’t here it was in the One and the Many, Castiglione in His Courtier says that a good soldier, a gentleman’s soldier does not do brave and foolhardy things if there is no one to watch, so that he does the foolhardy, the brave, the daring thing when he is sure that the prince orthe general is observing him. That’s the time for brave and daring actions. It’s wasted on any other occasion. Men in other words were continually putting on an act self-consciously, deliberately, before other men and this was the goal, the purpose of life. Not morals but appearances. Similarly there was a refinement of torture. It was crude just to kill a man. [00:06:20]
You developed a highly reformed torture in order to...
You developed a highly reformed torture in order to dispose of them. The Renaissance thus saw this emphasis on appearance, taste, manner, the gourmet, as against the moral and the godly man. At the same time because the moral issue had been subverted, the religious and the moral issue, you had a period, in fact, one of the periods of the most unbridled totalitarianism in all of history. When it was considered nothing at all to eliminate thousands upon thousands of people. When it was nothing unusual to admire Pope Alexander who was the father of the Lucrezia Borgia and Cesare Borgia as well as others and maintained a harem in the Vatican because he was so shrewd and astute, that was the thing men admired. There was nothing wrong with his character; after all if you have power you use it. But he did everything with such finesse, with such taste, that it was all really excusable. As a result with this emphasis on appearance rather than religious faith and character tyranny developed to unimagined bounds. It would be tiresome to go into the depiction of it but the Renaissance tyrant was indeed a fearless, a ruthless, a viscous person and society thought nothing of it. Because whenever the emphasis is on appearance, on taste, as it is again in our time the truly godly values, religious and moral, disappear. And human life becomes cheap as long as appearances are maintained. As a result the reformation came none too late. One medical historian has estimated that because of the deterioration of faith and morals one third to one half of Europe was venereally diseased when Luther began his work. So that there were some of a physical degeneration which could have led to the total decline and corruption of European life, the disappearance into anarchy and deterioration of the western world. [00:09:16]
The Reformation was first of all as I point out in...
The Reformation was first of all as I point out in the text an anti-humanist movement. It was thoroughly against everything that the Renaissance represented. The Renaissance was to it the epitome of corruption, the Reformation thus very definitely climaxed a century later in puritanism because the Puritans despised with all their heart this kind of affected prancing. Some have tried to say that the Puritans were anti-art, anti-good taste and so on which is false. As a matter of fact some of the puritans were among the outstanding men in art, in the appreciation of music and the producing of music and so on. They were not a prude people but they gave moral priority its proper place. And the result was a truly great art that developed and music, Johann Sebastian, Bach, and poetry, men like John Milton and so on. Certainly not people who were anti-art and had a tremendous audience that appreciated and loved what they had to say. So that anti-humanism did not led to a de-appreciation of art and taste but giving it its proper place. Then second, the reformation was a scholarly movement and it’s important to recognize this fact. It was headed by scholars, Luther a professor, Calvin a scholar, the reformation leaders were very largely not only the upper echelons but the secondary ones, scholars, thinkers. People who were concerned with the basic issues of their day, were concerned with making the faith relevant to all of life so that it is important to recognize that it was a scholarly movement but third it was also a popular movement. [00:11:47]
Because by the providence of God there were people...
Because by the providence of God there were people who ready to respond to what these scholar like Luther and Calvin and others had to say. And then fourth it succeeded most where there had been a resistance to the papacy during the investiture struggle by the princes and monarchs. Investiture struggle was a struggle between church and state as to who should control the church and the bishops. The Vatican wanted to control all the churches down to the least detail, the kings and emperors wanted to control the church themselves, they didn’t want an outsider in the Vatican running them. In a sense neither side was right, the church should have been free from centralized control, it should have been locally controlled and it should have been free from imperial or royal control. However the areas where there was resistance to papal control were the areas where enough independents had survived so that the reformation could there succeed. The Reformation of course began in Germany with Luther and his ninety five theses in 1515. It might repay to remind you of the significance of those theses by quoting from the indulgences. The indulgences were the sale of forgiveness of sins by papal preachers. They were a good source of funds. By selling indulgences to people they had as it were a permit to sin because they not only had through purchasing a piece of paper forgiveness for past sins they had committed but by they could also get them for sins they were planning to commit and they were supposedly forgiven from any pangs in purgatory and could jump into heaven. Now in order to do some more construction of churches Leo the Tenth, Pope, in a papal [unknown] of office third, 1476 had prepared the way for Luther by trying to on an all-out basis to raise more money. To rebuild or to construct rather Saint Peter’s Church. And as a result the preaching began throughout Europe to sell indulgences and as time passed this became more and more brazen and finally in Luther’s day a Dominican Friar, John Tetzel, was sent out to raise more funds which he did very successfully. Now some rulers were able to keep them out of their realm in Germany but since Germany was an area then of some duchies and small kingdoms and small princedoms and so on very often if the ruler banned the sale of indulgences in his realm it was just crossing over a mile or two to buy them elsewhere and after all, all the devout little people who wanted to have their relatives who were dead get out of purgatory and get into heaven and all those sinners that wanted indulgences for sin would walk a mile and cross the river to buy indulgences. [00:15:48]
As I point out in the text the preaching was plain...
As I point out in the text the preaching was plain and blunt, for example:
“Lo the heavens are open. If you enter not now when will you enter. For twelve pence you may redeem the soul of your father out of purgatory and are you so ungrateful that you will not rescue the soul of your parent from torment? If you had but one coat you ought to strip yourself instantly and sell it in order to purchase such benefit.”
Or this, quoting from the bottom of 176 by Tetzel:
“Listen now, God and Saint Peter call you. Listen to the voices of your dear dead relatives and friends, beseeching you and saying, pity us, pity us, we are in dire torment from which you can redeem us for a pittance. Do you not wish to? Open your ears, hear the father saying to his son, the mother to her daughter, we bore you, nourished you, brought you up, let you up fortunes, and you are so cruel and hard that now you are not so willing for so little to set us free? Will you let us lie here with plains while you delay our promised glory, remember that are you are able to release them for as soon as the coin in the copper rings the soul from purgatory springs.” Unquote.
And then in the next paragraph I point out, it’s well worth repeating, that it’s been reported that Tetzel even said that papal indulgences could absolve even a man who had violated the mother of God. Now the answer of Professor Martin Luther was to post ninety five theses on the castle church in Wittenberg for debate. These were written in Latin, they didn’t attract much attention from the people at large but students went there and they read them, it was a challenge to debate anybody on these propositions and this was often done in those days on theological issues. But here was a revolutionary one. And students copied them down and sent them all over Europe and what did not on the day it was done, October the thirty first, 1517, it did not then create a stir but in a matter of weeks it was all over Europe, copies of it floating around creating quite a sensation. Now let’s read just a few of these theses which I copied down to see how thoroughly Luther was challenging Rome, on page 177. [00:18:47]
“Those who assert that a soul straight way flies out...
“Those who assert that a soul straight way flies out of purgatory as a coin tinkles in the collection box are preaching an invention of man. It is sure that when a coin tinkles greed and aberrance are increased but the intercession of the church is in the will of God alone. This wanton preaching of pardons makes it hard even for learned men to defend the honor of the pope against calumny. Or at least against the shrewd questions of the laity. They ask why does not the pope empty purgatory on account of most holy charity and the great need of souls, the most righteous of causes, seeing that he redeems an infinite number of souls on account of sordid money given for the erection of a facility which is a most trivial cause.”
In other words, if the pope can free them out of purgatory why doesn’t he do it without having money paid, if he is a Christian man he should feel sorry for those people there, so let him do it freely.
“What is the piety of God and the pope in allowing the impiace and hostile to secure on payment of money of pious soul in friendship with God while they do not redeem a free charity of soul that is of itself pious and beloved on account of its needs. The pope’s riches at this day far exceed the wealth of the richest millionaires. Cannot he therefore build one single basilica of Saint Peter out of his money rather than out of the money of the faithful poor?”
Well you can see how radical these were and as a result the Reformation was underway because these propositions, these theses of Luther began to hurt the income. If they had not hurt the income from the sale of indulgences they wouldn’t have bothered with him. But the sale began to fall off. Luther’s common sense and his appeal to scripture made people stop and think and it began to turn in many areas the sale of indulgences into a joke. Now Luther could not have gotten anywhere if many of the German princes had not rallied to his support. Some did it for nationalistic reasons but we must recognize that many did it for Godly reasons. Luther is charged by catholic scholars with having divided Christendom but it was already divided. [00:21:44]
Disintegrating in the abyss of the Renaissance, what...
Disintegrating in the abyss of the Renaissance, what Luther did instead was to bring about some reunification in terms of the faith. Moreover he did this not in subservience to the princes but in union with them. Then we must say further that Luther rather than Calvin was the great teacher of predestination. You know it’s a myth that Calvin was the one who taught predestination so drastically and heavily. He did teach it but he didn’t state a new thing about it or develop any new arguments for it, it was Luther who in his debates with Erasmus, not a formal debate but a written debate set forth the greatest statement of the doctrine of predestination. Now Lutherans because they by and large have forsaken the doctrine will not mention the fact that it was Luther who taught it and they have created the propaganda that it was Calvin who brought up this horrible doctrine. And the Catholics of course say the same thing, well it was always the faith of the church and the great statement of it was by Luther on the bondage of the will, as the title of his study. It is one of the greatest classics of Christian history and probably one of the three great documents of the Reformation. Moreover, Luther emphasized heavily another doctrine, justification by faith. Justification by faith. Now Luther was not the systematic thinker that Calvin was and it appears at this point, because the doctrine of justification by faith of course is thoroughly scriptural, but when it is detached from other doctrines it can lead to a kind of humanism. The exclusive emphasis on the salvation of souls rather than on the whole council of God, and of course fundamentalism with its emphasis on the saving of souls almost alone has come about from Lutheranism a little more so than Luther. Because Luther emphasized predestination as well, but Lutheranism by dropping predestination and emphasizing justification by faith exclusively has given it a false emphasis as though the saving of souls was the only function of the church and of the people of God. [00:24:57]
Now very quickly in Germany other religious groups...
Now very quickly in Germany other religious groups sprang up as a result of the Lutheran reformation. These groups are called Anabaptists. Anabaptists, they are not related to the Baptists of today. The Anabaptists went supposedly like the reformers for their model. But not for doctrine, their basic purpose was political. They wanted to establish, supposedly, a new Christian order but what it amounted to in so many cases was that they went to Acts for the statement about how the disciples lived together and shared things in common, or supposedly did this, which is a misstatement. I’ve gone on to describe this on other occasions, I won’t repeat unless some of you, well perhaps I will, I see some of you do want it. What the early church did was this: only in in Jerusalem and nowhere else, because our Lord had told them in Matthew 24 that Jerusalem was going to be destroyed and not a stone left standing upon another they knew there was no future there. They sold their property because they believed our Lord when He said Jerusalem was going to be totally destroyed. They used some of it to live on and many of them, not all, were told it was voluntary, gave it to the church to be used for the evangelization of their fellow Jews and Israelites. In order to save them before the destruction by the Romans came. It was not communism. However, the Anabaptists tended to see it as their model, so when they went to the New Testament it was things like this they zeroed in on. And they tried to establish a communist order. As a matter of fact at Munster, several such groups were started but Munster is the classic case, they did seize the area for a while and they expected like all communists that once they had gained power everything was going to be perfect. [00:27:28]
It doesn’t work that way...
It doesn’t work that way. And of course they went into all kinds of sins including polygamy because they were beyond the law, the law was dead as far as they were concerned. They were in the reign of grace, in other words, of communism. And so some flagrant immoralities became common place. And it went from bad to worse and finally these communistic groups were put down in blood. The other groups tended to abandon politics and emphasis inwardness and some of those who had been very political at first, like the Quakers, tended to abandon that for a kind of pietism, emphasis not on faith but on the inner light. But these, for example Quakerism, is that every man whether he’s a Christian or non-Christian has a spark of the divine in him, that’s heresy, and all he should do is to develop that inner light. The Anabaptists thus were a very revolutionary group which subsequently became a pietistic group emphasizing the inward aspect of life. The Quakers are one such group still surviving. There are several others. The Mennonites are also an Anabaptist group but they were more religious in their emphasis so that while they did believe in forming communities it was not a revolutionary community but their community separated from the world so that they were the Christian element in the Anabaptist movement. In Switzerland [unknown], a Catholic priest, who had been an immoral man, became a convert and the leader of the Reformation in time in Switzerland until he was killed in battle. The great work in Switzerland was that of Calvin whose dates are 1509 to 1564. [00:29:53]
In other words, when Luther posted his ninety five...
In other words, when Luther posted his ninety five theses on the church in Wittenberg Calvin was a boy of six. He went to school, began his training as a very devote Catholic and it was only little by little as a young man that he became a convert to the faith of the Reformers. Calvin’s emphasis unlike Luther’s which was on justification by faith primarily was on the sovereignty of God. You began with the sovereignty of God and the infallibility of scripture. Then the sovereignty of God meant the salvation by the grace of God through faith. So that Calvin firmly rooted the doctrine of justification in the fact of God’s sovereignty. Moreover he emphasized that the kingdom of God means the universal reign of God. Catholicism had equated the kingdom of God with the church so that state, school, family, were not a part of the kingdom of God, the church and the clergy were the kingdom of God. This was a very important thing and without these you cannot have a true concept of the Reformation. And this emphatically Calvin emphasized. It was one of the great advances in Christian history. Then he stressed also the priesthood of all believers which was a doctrine right of justification by faith. The priesthood of all believers means the doctrine moreover of calling or vocation. Every man whether he be a minister, a banker, a carpenter, whatever he is, is in a godly vocation and must serve where he does under God and as a service to God. Then Calvin also emphasized the doctrine of the covenant and the independence of the various areas of life. The church could not be under the state nor the state under the church. The school was independent, the family, every area, but interdependent as well, alike aspect of the kingdom of God and together serving God. And in Geneva he attempted to set these things forth. [00:32:51]
Now Calvin is often portrayed as the dictator of Geneva...
Now Calvin is often portrayed as the dictator of Geneva. The fact is, he couldn’t get permission to hold communion from the city council, he had to defy them, he was not even given citizenship until they knew he was dying. The supposed dictator of Geneva would often have dogs siced on him when he walked the streets, everything done to discourage him. It was a Reformation against tremendous opposition and very often he had his bags as it were packed, ready to leave at a moment’s notice because it seemed so impossible that he could continue much longer. Now the Reformation in England is another aspect of the Reformation which it is important to understand. The English church existed long before Rome had any control over it. It was a part of the great Celtic or Irish church, an independent church. It was put under the control of Rome by the British crown. Thus it was for centuries thereafter a captive church as Rome and the English kings struggled for control over it. And sometimes the various monarchs would run the church in England, what Henry the 8th did was nothing new. And at other times the Vatican would run it absolutely and ruthlessly, so that the church was alternately a captive to Rome or to the crown. What Henry did thus was to reestablish the royal power over the church which the church had had off and on over the centuries. Nothing new was done. Contrary to the Catholic position the Church of England was not created by the act of Henry the 8th. It existed before the Church of England ever had any contact with Rome. Moreover, the church of England before Rome appeared on the scene was a highly developed church with deep roots, even apart from the Irish in the Roman period. [00:35:54]
The Irish gave it definitive shape but because England...
The Irish gave it definitive shape but because England had in the earliest days of the Christian era been a part of the Roman Empire the Christian missionaries very early had begun their work there. Now what happened of course was that the earliest convents were Roman officials. When Rome fell and the Roman legions earlier were withdrawn from England of course it was just too bad for most of those Christians but they didn’t entirely disappear. As the Danes and the Anglo-Saxons invaded the area they were pagans and Christianity did come close to disappearing but the Irish then converted these barbarians from the North. Now the term barbarian long lingered to describe the kind of Christianity that you had in Britain and in Northern Europe, barbarian Christianity is the term used by some English historians. Barbarian Christianity we shouldn’t misunderstand that word because we think of barbarians as savages, it’s used by these historians to describe the northern tribes even after they were Christian. Barbarian Christianity tended to be a kind of Christianity in which the state or the crown governed the church. And this was the pattern that Henry the 8th tried to reinstitute in England. Now Cramer, a very superior man and a wonderful Christian tended most of his life to be given to this barbarian Christianity, to believe in the royal preeminence. And this is why very often people fail to understand Cramer’s position. They feel he was a hypocrite he was a time serving man. He was a man of very great sincerity, integrity and very real faith. His position was more Lutheran than anything else, in fact, he had begun as a secret Lutheran. He was very genuinely convinced that the crown rather than the Vatican should govern the church. The issue finally came to a head in his thinking with Queen Mary. She was both Catholic and both the crown, the monarch. [00:39:02]
Should the church be ruled from Rome or should it be...
Should the church be ruled from Rome or should it be ruled by the crown, but the two were one now, as it were. And the acts of Mary were a bloody repression of many of his friends. First he signed in obedience to the crown a statement affirming royal supremacy and their acts which were uniting the church with Rome and then he came to the realization, it cannot be Rome or the crown, it has to be the freedom of the church. And he renounced the statement he had signed and went to the state for it. And when the flames began to leap up, he put up the hand with which he had signed the first statement that it might burn first. Cramer is not sufficiently appreciated in our day, he was a very great man. But the Church of England took its definitive shape under Edward the 6th. The young son of Henry the 8th who succeeded him and died when I think he was around seventeen or eighteen. Edward the 6th was a very devout and a very wise young man. And under him the Book of Common Prayer took its definitive form. The church gained its name which unless it’s been changed was for a long the legal name The Reformed Church of England. You never hear of that nowadays. So that properly the reformation had two kinds of churches, the Lutheran and the Reformed. Many people say Lutheran, Reformed and Episcopal, this is not true. Basically the best classification is Reformed and Lutheran. The two great documents of the Reformed churches were Calvin’s Institutes and the Book of Common Prayer. This is why there is so great a hostility to the Book of Common Prayer in the Church of England. The attempt at its radical division in 1928 in England and of course now it’s virtually a dead letter. So the thought of identifying the established Episcopal church of England and the Episcopal Church of the U.S., the major group, with the Book of Common Prayer is going to be over very soon. [00:42:02]
It is by and large being supplanted, the new liturgy...
It is by and large being supplanted, the new liturgy is definitely anti-prayer book, it deliberately sets out to violate it and a great deal of substitutes are common place in the church today with episcopal permission. And of course the reason is obvious. The Book of Common Prayer as well as the thirty nine articles give a theology which is so alien that it is unendurable even to repeat it without faith. Now Henry the 8th unfortunately is remembered by most people in terms of Charles Latten’s depiction. [General Laughter]. Henry the 8th was not a stupid slob. He was perhaps the most brilliant mind on any throne in Europe of the day, this does not mean he was a good monarch, far from it. He was the darling of the Renaissance scholars, they were delighted, here was the dream of Plato to be realized, a philosopher king. A man with a brilliant mind, a man with a great talent in every area, as a musician, a composer. I have somewhere at home a poem that survived of one of those that he wrote and I think it’s as good as anything Shakespeare ever wrote. He was a man of incredible talents, just amazing. It’s rare that there’s been a king who has ascended to the throne with abilities equal to Henry the 8ths. Moreover he was trained for the priesthood, his brother Arthur was to be the king, he was the Prince of Wales and the older brother so Henry the 7th decided that Henry would be Arch-Bishop of Canterbury and the two brothers could this way run the country very neatly. And this was very shrewdly planned, Henry the 7th, incidentally, was a very able intelligent king, his wife, Henry’s mother, was [unknown] a very remarkable, very superior woman. Arthur died and as a result Henry was yanked out of training for the priesthood against his wishes, he was very devout, he wanted to be a priest and he was married to Arthur’s widow, Catherine, some years older than himself. [00:45:15]