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UPDATE: Chapter 17: A House Divided (1517 – 1660) Part III – Confessionalization, the Trinity, the Habsburg Empire and Bohemia
We have concluded Chapter 17 and here are our submissions.
We had an interesting discussion on the validity of the doctrine of the Trinity, mostly around the question whether or not the Holy Spirit was a person or just a description of the power of God. Even defining the word “person” is quite difficult when you come to think of it.
Again, we discussed how religious conflicts, especially the ones triggered by the Reformation and Calvinism in particular, across Europe could be indicative of the “true” or “invisible” church; in other words, how can we reconcile all the religious wars throughout history, purportedly fought for in the name of Christ, with the Christian message? Can it be reconciled given the fact all the Christian vs. Christian violence that has happened throughout history?
There’s a tendency by some to attribute “spiritual” or Satan into the mix as a cause of all this violence amongst Christians, but I doubt serious historians would ever accept such a reason- not just because most would find that silly, but also most would find it to be a rather naive and easy-way of thinking about such things without analyzing and critically thinking about all the factors involved.
There’s a trend you see throughout history, even beginning with the early church, where the greatest enemy of Christianity were Christians themselves.
Next Sunday, June 1 we will finish Chapter 17 by discussing the final two sections: Reformed Protestants, Confessionalization and Toleration (1560 – 1660) and Reformation Crises: The Thirty Years War and Britain.
Please write on one of the following topics:
- Discuss how Reformed Christianity/Reformed Protestantism triggered revolutions throughout Europe, especially the Netherlands, Scotland, and France during the 1560s. Why was this so?
- What was “confessionalization“? How did this affect Catholicism in Europe?
- Discuss the open toleration of other forms of Christianity, like the Anti-Trinitarians (i.e. ‘Socians’), in places like Transylvania and Poland-Lithuania.
- Discuss the background of the events leading up to the conquest of the kingdom of Bohemia by the Habsburg dynasty. How did Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand’s dismantling of Protestantism affect European politics and religion – especially between Protestants and Catholics?
- Discuss the theology of Dutch Reformed academic and theologian Jacob Arminius during the 1600’s.
- Discuss the importance and development of the King James Bible in 1611.
- Discuss how the policies of King Charles I and Archbishop of Canterbury Laud affected the Scottish and Irish churches. What were the effects of the English Civil War in 1642? How did the term “Anglican” arise from this time in English history?
Please submit your essays by Saturday, May 31.
A Critical Assessment of the Reformed Doctrines of Original Sin and Solus Christus (Salvation in Christ Alone)
I just want to make this clear that these critical assessments of these core Reformed doctrines are in no way to undermine or question the validity of the Christian faith. We raise these issues and challenges to strengthen the faith and understand what Christians actually believe in.
However, I understand how emotionally involved persons who have adopted these traditions and doctrines to heart are and who take this personally. And I’m fully aware how nasty debates can become, even between faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. We do it because we take the truth seriously. We don’t want to engage in polemics attacking or pushing someone to adopt or reject another point of view. Its purpose is to raise thoughtful questions and engage and spur others to think things through.
We live in a complex and interconnected world today and many worldviews will come into contact with one another. It is important to take other viewpoints into consideration and call out those that do not make sense, are flatly wrong, or seem antiquated.
We raise questions, not to cause people to doubt their faith, but more so to realize that an unexamined faith is not worth believing in (to modify Socrates’ famous quote that “An unexamined life is not worth living”).
We welcome thoughtful discussion and disagreements with the ideas and viewpoints we present here, so please do comment if you wish.
This is theology in action – faith seeking understanding.
Update: Chapter 17 – Part II: A House Divided (1517 – 1660) – Book of Common Prayer, Thomas Cranmer, Anabaptists, Tyndale Bible
So here are our submissions for today on the middle two sections of chapter 17: Reformations Radical and Magisterial: Anabaptists and Henry VIII and Strassburg, England and Geneva (1540 – 60)
Interestingly, there were no submissions about the gigantic elephant in the room, John Calvin. However, he was a big topic in our discussions today of course; most of the topic focusing heavily on the doctrines of predestination and limited atonement. In the course of our discussion, it seemed evident for the most part that we either flatly rejected those two doctrines or had serious questions about them. In the upcoming weeks, look for more extra thoughts on Reformed theology and Calvinism by others in the group.
Though I do like our approach in tackling topics that we weren’t that familiar with before like Anabaptists and the Book of Common Prayers. For the most part, we’ve been part of the Presbyterian Church and or surrounded by the Calvinism that is so prevalent in our church lives for so many years that we wanted to tackle other lesser known material. When you recycle stuff you already know well, things get somewhat stale or boring after a while.
We also explored the question on whether or not the Reformation was necessary. Most in the group agreed that it was necessary because of all the corruption by the Catholic Church. Although, it was at the expense of where there was no more centralized authority and bringing the Bible to the masses by translating it into the common vernacular, as Luther and Tyndale did, led to personal/private interpretations of the Bible, which of course led to gross misinterpretations of the Bible as well- then that produces misleading and overly complex and unnecessary doctrines as well. And of course, one of the major aftermaths of the Reformation was that it would spawn over 42,000 different Christian denominations worldwide. There are some who believe the Reformation should never have happened and others who say that it was inevitable and necessary happening for the benefit of Christendom overall.
For next week we will cover the first two sections of Chapter 17: A Door in Wittenberg and The Farmers’ War and Zwingli.
We will be going into the heart of the Protestant Reformation by focusing on Martin Luther in Germany (or the Holy Roman Empire I should say specifically because the state of Germany didn’t exist during this time) and Huldrych Zwingli of the Swiss Confederacy.
Update: Chapter 16 – Perspectives of the True Church: Part II (1492 – 1517) – The Expulsion of the Jews in Spain, the Spanish Inquisition, and Erasmus
Here are our responses from last night as we finished up Chapter 16.
We focused on the Spanish Inquisition and the legacy that Erasmus left in influencing the Protestant Reformation.
We had a lively discussion last night, mainly spurned on by Erasmus’ preference of Origen’s theology over and against Augustine. We discussed the nature of original sin, and I was surprised to find out that basically half the group still held on to (or were at least somewhat reluctant about abandoning) the doctrine of original sin. Though we all agreed with the basic understanding of human evolution, most of the group still believed that God somehow interfered in the process and specially endowed human beings with the capacity to know and understand God. (I personally am in the very small minority of believers who believe that was not the case – in terms of divine interference in human evolution – but I’ll leave that for a future post perhaps.)
For next Thursday, April 10 we will cover the last three sections of Chapter 16: Old Worlds Bring New: Humanism (1300 – 1500), Reforming the Church in the Last Days (1500), Erasmus: New Beginnings?