Early Conflicts Within The Protestant Ranks
Religion Part 6
For the sake of simplicity we will define any Christian as being a Protestant if they are not affiliated with any form of Catholic or Eastern Orthodox religion.
Protestant (or reformist) thinking started in the 1300’s with Oxford Scholar John Wycliffe, a Catholic who views and actions surrounding the translation of the bible left him on the “outs” with Catholic authorities. Martin Luther, in the 1400’s, also was a Catholic whose actions on "buying out of sin" left him on the “outs” with authorities. The followers of Luther became the first formally organized Protestant religious movement, known as Lutherans and their published works would have a great impact of the theological community for the next few hundred years.
Within a few years of the Lutheran era other factions began to appear within the anti-Catholic Reformist (or Protestant) movement that was making steady advances but not yet spreading like wildfire. Among the first of the new groups were the Anabaptists, starting around 1525, who believed in a total separation of church and state. They also believed that only an adult “believer” was to be baptized and as such opposed the practice of baptizing infants (which was done by Catholics and Lutherans as a routine matter). They were also pacifists and believed that no man should take an oath or pledge allegiance to anyone other than God. Their church was based on the belief that everyone must live a pious, sin-free and literally saintly life according to the scriptures of the Bible. Anabaptists felt Luther only went part of the way in his reforms and they were going the distance!
The reformist movement eventually touched on a French Catholic named John Calvin who was in studies around 1525 to become a religious professional but soon became at odds with the Roman Catholic views. For a while he studied law, but then switched back to religious studies and quickly found himself swept up in the Reformation movement of the Protestants, moving away from the Catholic beliefs. His theological views eventually became public with the publication in 1538 of Institutes of the Christian Religion.
Since non-Catholic religious practitioners were still widely persecuted in this largely “Roman Empire” arena of Briton, France, Germany and Italy, Calvin moved about a lot and if required lived in a sort of underground manner, eventually ending up in the Geneva Reformist movement where he began to set up things according to his own personal views of theology.
First, the Bible was the sole source of God’s law (which is much like the Lutheran view). Both man and government has to submit to this, thus government edict and justice was based on the teachings of the Bible, with the magistrates enforcing God’s laws.
Next came Calvin’s views on Baptism (which put him at odds with the Anabaptists), which was to be done after birth, plus the Lord’s Supper (which put him at odds with the Lutherans), which he viewed as a rememberance instead of being a real manifestation.
Finally he took on the anti-Trinitarians to such a degree that by Calvin’s rules of Governmental law the Spanish theologian Miguel Serveto was captured, detained, tried and burned in 1553 for his Unitarian views in the Geneva region.
We should take a moment to discuss this concept, which will be strange to a lot of people. There are two primary views held by Protestants: The majority view is that of the Trinitarian or the belief that God takes three forms -- The Father (God the creator), the Son (Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ) and the Holy Ghost (the spirit of God). This view comes from the Catholic origins of the Christian religion and was retained by many, but not all, Protestant Reformists religions that were to eventually form in the world.
The Unitarian view is that there is God and only God. Jesus is the Son of God, but not God, the creator of all things. God is not divisible into three entities but has been and always remains as a single deity. God, the creator. God, the writer of the 10 Commandments (which states that God is a jealous God and one should only worship God and no other). Unitarianism developed initially out of Spain, spreading to Poland, Romania, England and finally to the United States (under the leadership of classic poetry writer Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th century).
So, by the turn of 1600 we saw the Catholics go after Wycliffe and Luther for their views which were contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Then came those who opposed the concept of infant Baptism (Anabaptists), those who opposed the Trinitarian views (Unitarians), those who opposed the Unitarian views to the point where they would arrest, convict and burn them at the stake (Calvinists), those who viewed the Lord’s Supper as an invisible miracle that actually occurs (Catholic and Orthodox) changing bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, those (Lutherans) who viewed it as spiritual and metaphysical (i.e. consubstantiation) and those who viewed it as simply ritualistic spiritual remembrance of the last meal between Jesus and his followers (Calvinists).
While it may seem that few people agreed much on anything, one thing that permeates the whole process and gives the concept of Reformation some meaning is that little by little the core of Catholic theology was being challenged by this new branch of Christianity becoming known under one banner called: The Protestants...
Should the church or the Holy Bible dictate behavior?
Should the church dictate the laws of man or be separate from government?
Is there one deity or three?
Should one be Baptized after birth or after accepting Jesus and God as an adult?
Is the Last Supper (or Communion) ritual truly real or just a spritual rememberance?
These five hot topics still pose problems for Christians in the world and have become the basis for the major mainstays in the Protestant belief system that began to spawn like wildfire after the turn of 1600, especially in America which would be the land of opportunity and place where it wasn’t as easy to be prejudiced, bigoted or vengeful against those viewpoints contrary to your own, as we shall see next time...
Islam, the religion |
The Origin of Religion |
Pesach (Passover) |
40 Days of Lent |