How the Reformation Shaped Your World

Can one man change the world? The life and work of Martin Luther prove the answer to that question is an unqualified, “yes.” Stephen Cornils of the Wartburg Theological Seminary details the rebellion that fractured a centuries-old religion and changed the course of history.

The “Office” of Marriage and Love in the Reformation

The reformers’ early preoccupation with marriage was driven, in part, by their jurisprudence. The starting assumption of the budding Lutheran theories of law, society, and politics was that the earthly king­dom was governed by the three natural estates of household, Church, and state. Hausvater, Gottesvater, and Landesvater; paterfamilias, patertheologicus, and patapofiticus— these were the three natural offices through which God re­vealed Himself and reflected His authority in the world. These three offices and orders stood equal before God and before each other. Each was called to discharge essential tasks in the earthly kingdom without impediment or interference from the other. The reform of marriage, therefore, was as important as the reform of the Church and the state. Indeed, marital reform was even more urgent, for the marital house­hold was, in the reformers’ view, the “oldest,” “most primal,” and “most essential” of the three estates, yet the most deprecated and subordinated of the three. Marriage is the “mother of all earthly laws,” Luther wrote, and the source from which the Church, the state, and other earthly insti­tutions flowed. “God has most richly blessed this estate above all others, and in addition, has bestowed on it and wrapped up in it everything in the world, to the end that this estate might be well and richly provided for. Married life therefore is no jest or presumption; it is an excellent thing and a matter of divine seriousness.”

The reformers’ early preoccupation with marriage was driven, in part, by their politics. A number of early leaders of the Reformation faced aggressive prosecution by the Catholic Church and its political allies for violation of the canon law of marriage and celibacy. Among the earliest Protestant leaders were ex-priests and ex-monastics who had forsaken their orders and vows, and often married shortly thereafter. Indeed, one of the acts of solidarity with the new Protestant cause was to marry or divorce in open violation of the canon law and in defiance of a bishop’s instructions. This was not just an instance of crime and disobedience. It was an outright scandal, particularly when an ex-monk such as Brother Martin Luther married an ex-nun such as Sister Katherine von Bora —a prima facie case of spiritual incest As Catholic Church courts began to prosecute these canon law offenses, Protestant theologians and jurists rose to the defense of their co-religionists, producing a welter of briefs, letters, sermons, and pamphlets that denounced traditional norms and pronounced a new theology of marriage.

Evangelical theologians treated marriage not as a sacramental insti­tution of the heavenly kingdom, but as a social estate of the earthly kingdom. Marriage was a natural institution that served the goods and goals of mutual love and support of husband and wife, procreation and nurture of children, and mutual protection of spouses from sexual sin. All adults, preachers and others alike, should pursue the calling of marriage, for all were in need of the comforts of marital love and of protection from sexual sin. When properly structured and governed, the marital house­hold served as a model of authority charity, and pedagogy in the earthly kingdom and as a vital instrument for the reform of Church, state, and society. Parents served as “bishops” to their children. Siblings served as priests to each other. The household altogether — particularly the Chris­tian household of the married minister — was a source of “evangelical impulses” in society.

Though divinely created and spiritually edifying, however, marriage and the family remained a social estate of the earthly kingdom. All parties could partake of this institution, regardless of their faith. Though subject to divine law and clerical counseling, marriage and family life came within the ,jurisdiction of the magistrate, not the cleric; of the civil law, not the canon law. The magistrate, as God’s vice-regent of the earthly kingdom, was to set the laws for marriage formation, maintenance, and dissolution; child custody, care, and control; family property, inheritance, and commerce.

Political leaders rapidly translated this new Protestant gospel into civil law. Just as the civil act of marriage often came to signal a person’s conversion to Protestantism, so the Civil Marriage Act came to symbol­ize a political community’s acceptance of the new Evangelical theology. Political leaders were quick to establish comprehensive new marriage laws for their polities, sometimes building on late medieval civil laws that had already controlled some aspects of this institution. The first reformation ordinances on marriage and family life were promulgated in 1522. More than sixty such laws were on the books by the time of Luther’s death in 1546. The number of new marriage laws more than doubled again in the second half of the sixteenth century in Evangelical portions of Germany. Collectively, these new Evangelical marriage laws: (1) shifted primary marital jurisdiction from the Church to the state; (2) strongly encouraged the marriage of clergy; (3) denied that celibacy, virginity, and monasticism were superior callings to marriage; (4) denied the sacramentality of marriage and the religious tests and impediments traditionally imposed on its participants; (5) modified the doctrine of consent to betrothal and marriage, and required the participation of parents, peers, priests, and political officials in the process of marriage formation; (6) sharply curtailed the number of impediments to betrothal and putative marriages; and (7) introduced divorce, in the modern sense, on proof of adultery, malicious desertion, and other faults, with a subse­quent right to remarriage at least for the innocent party. These changes eventually brought profound and permanent change to the life, lore, and law of marriage in Evangelical Germany.

John Witte, Jr., Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 200-202.

God’s Ideal Should Be Mine

Persons should accept marriage not only as a duty that served society, but also as a remedy against sexual sin. Since the fall into sin, lust has pervaded the conscience of every person, the Lutheran reformers insisted. Marriage has become an absolute necessity of sinful humanity, for without it, the person’s distorted sexuality becomes a force capable of overthrowing the most devout conscience. A person is enticed by his or her own nature to prostitution, masturbation, voyeurism, homosexuality, and sundry other sinful acts. The gift of marriage, Luther wrote, should be declined only by those who have received God’s gift of continence. “Such persons are rare, not one in a thousand, for they are a special miracle of God.” The Apostle Paul has identified this group as the permanently impotent and the eunuchs; few others can claim such a unique gift.

This understanding of the created origin and purpose of marriage un-dergirded the reformers’ bitter attack on celibacy and monasticism. To require celibacy of clerics, monks, and nuns was beyond the authority of the church and ultimately a source of great sin. Celibacy was for God to give, not for the church to require. It was for each individual, not for the church, to decide whether he or she had received this gift. By demanding monastic vows of chastity and clerical vows of celibacy, the church was seen to be intruding on Christian freedom and violating scripture, nature, and common sense. By institutionalizing and encouraging celibacy the church was seen to prey on the immature and the uncertain. By holding out food, shelter, security, and opportunity, the monasteries enticed poor and needy parents to condemn their children to celibate monasticism. Mandatory celibacy, Luther taught, was hardly a prerequisite to true service of God. Instead, it led to “great whoredom and all manner of fleshly impurity and… hearts filled with thoughts of women day and night.” For the consciences of Christians and non-Christians alike are infused with lust, and a life of celibacy and monasticism only heightens the temptation.

John Witte, Jr., From Sacrament to Contract: Marriage, Religion, and Law in the Western Tradition (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 50.

Zacharias Ursinus | Caspar Olevianus (Heidelberg Catechism)

Zacharias Ursinus (1534-1583), a sixteenth century German theologian, born Zacharias Baer in Breslau (now Wroc?aw, Poland). Like all young scholars of that era he gave himself a Latin name from ursus, meaning bear. He is best known as a professor of theology at the University of Heidelberg and co-author with Caspar Olevianus (1536-1587) of the Heidelberg Catechism…. (THEOPEDIA)

The Heidelberg Catechism is a document used in Reformed churches to help teach church doctrine. It takes the form of a series of questions and answers to help the reader better understand the material. It has been translated into many languages and is regarded as the most influential Reformed catechism.

Elector Frederick III, sovereign of the Palatinate from 1559 to 1576, appointed Zacharias Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus, to write a Reformed catechism based on input from the leading Reformed scholars of the time. One of its aims was to counteract the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church regarding theology, basing each statement on the text of the Bible…… (THEOPEDIA)

Luther’s Dialectics (Two Kingdoms) |Updated|

“[T]he paradox is that God must destroy in us, all illusions of

righteousness before he can make us righteous…”

~ Martin Luther

(Click To Enlarge – More About This Painting Below)

Luther LOVED Paul’s letter to the Romans. In this letter we find a battle of this “two-kingdom” idea (7:14-25[a]), which surely made him meditate on these things listed below.


In 1957, the great Reformation historian Johannes Heckel called Luther’s two-kingdoms theory a veritable Irrgarten, literally “garden of errors,” where the wheats and tares of interpretation had grown indiscriminately together. Some half a century of scholarship later, Heckel’s little garden of errors has become a whole wilderness of confusion, with many thorny thickets of casuistry to ensnare the unsuspecting. It is tempting to find another way into Lutheran contributions to legal theory. But Luther’s two-kingdoms theory was the framework on which both he and many of his followers built their enduring views of law and authority, justice and equity, society and politics. We must wander in this wilderness at least long enough to get our legal bearings.

Luther was a master of the dialectic — of holding two doctrinal opposites in tension and of exploring ingeniously the intellectual power of this tension. Many of his favorite dialectics were set out in the Bible and well rehearsed in the Christian tradition: spirit and flesh, soul and body, faith and works, heaven and hell, grace and nature, the kingdom of God versus the kingdom of Satan, the things that are God’s and the things that are Caesar’s, and more. Some of the dialectics were more uniquely Lutheran in accent: Law and Gospel, sinner and saint, servant and lord, inner man and outer man, passive justice and active justice, alien righteousness and proper righteousness, civil uses and theological uses of the law, among others.

Luther developed a good number of these dialectical doctrines separately in his writings from 1515 to 1545 — at different paces, in varying levels of detail, and with uneven attention to how one doctrine fit with others. He and his followers eventually jostled together several doctrines under the broad umbrella of the two-kingdoms theory. This theory came to describe at once: (1) the distinctions between the fallen realm and the redeemed realm, the City of Man and the City of God, the Reign of the Devil and the Reign of Christ; (2) the distinctions between the sinner and the saint, the flesh and the spirit, the inner man and the outer man; (3) the distinctions between the visible Church and the invisible Church, the Church as governed by civil law and the Church as governed by the Holy Spirit; (4) the distinctions between reason and faith, natural knowledge and spiritual knowledge; and (5) the distinctions between two kinds of righteousness, two kinds of justice, two uses of law.

When Luther, and especially his followers, used the two-kingdoms terminology, they often had one or two of these distinctions primarily in mind, sometimes without clearly specifying which. Rarely did all of these distinctions come in for a fully differentiated and systematic discussion and application, especially when the jurists later invoked the two-kingdoms theory as part of their jurisprudential reflections. The matter was complicated even further because both Anabaptists and Calvinists of the day eventually adopted and adapted the language of the two kingdoms as well — each with their own confessional accents and legal applications that were sometimes in sharp tension with Luther’s and other Evangelical views. It is thus worth spelling out Luther’s understanding of the two kingdoms in some detail, and then drawing out its implications for law, society, and politics.

John Witte, Jr., Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2002) ,94-95.

More about the painting. Be aware that the text below may be imperfect as it was “Google Translated” ~ via WIKI

According to the letters of the Apostle Paul, man’s way out of condemnation, sin and law is presented to eternal life, faith and grace. Since for Martin Luther sin is inextricably linked to the human being, the believer of the Mosaic law needs to be aware of his sinfulness. He must realize that he will fail and despair of the commandments of the punishing Old Testament God. This despair is the prerequisite for salvation through Christ and the Gospel. According to the differentiation made by Luther, the tree in the center of the image separates the contrasted events from the Old and New Testaments. In the left half of the law, the tree of life is dried, on the right side of the gospel it bears greening branches. On the left, death and the devil chase the sinful man into hellish fire while looking to the right to Moses, who points to the tablets of the Ten Commandments in a group of prophets of the Old Testament. Representations of the sin and the Last Judgment in the wide landscape show the origin and punishment of human misconduct. The scene of the bronze serpent from the Old Testament, which is important to Luther, typologically points to the crucifixion and shows the salvation of the Israelites before the poison by following the direction of God.

Right on the right of the tree, John the Baptist can be seen along with the naked man on the left. John, as the last prophet before Christ, stands for Luther between the law and the gospel, which is why he has the role of mediator. He directs the attention of the naked, who stands completely calmly and with folded hands, to the Crucified at the right edge of the picture. From the side-wound of Christ is a stream of blood, which extends over nearly the whole width of the right half, and goes down on the breast of the naked. The dove of the Holy Spirit appears in the stream of blood. It is shown here that only Christ, who died vicariously for man and whose good news is transmitted by the Holy Spirit, can abolish the sentence by the law. Only by his faith, sola fide, does the man of divine forgiveness participate in the form of the delivering blood-stream. By the risen Christ, who rises above the grave-cave behind the cross, the dead and the devil who pursued the sinner on the left side are banned: both lie conquered before the cross, under the Lamb of God, like the Risen One The victory flag. The sinner of the law is, however, a righteous one, with which the Gotha image illustrates the aspect of simul iustus et peccator. At the gates of Bethlehem, in the background of the right, the Annunciation appears to the shepherds. Like the raising of the brazen serpent, which the eye of the beholder finds right on the other side of the tree, this scene shows the recognition of God’s Word by man. For the viewer, it is made clear that the law and the gospel proclaim the same joyous message which always leads to Christ. Quotations from the Old and New Testaments in the lower part of the table underline the statement and also provide the biblical legitimation of the representation.

You Do Not Know God Without Suffering

This extended quote picks up a few points into Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation, enjoy the suffering…

In case one is wondering, I highly recommend this book as well as Reeves other book, The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation. It is the 500th year anniversary of the Reformation… for God’s sake learn about it.

21. The theologian of glory says bad is good and good is bad. The theologian of the cross calls them by their proper name.

This is really quite clear, for as long as a man does not know Christ he does not know God as hidden in sufferings. Such a man, therefore, prefers works to sufferings, and glory to a cross: he prefers powers to weakness, wisdom to foolishness…. These are they the Apostle calls enemies of the cross of Christ. Quite clearly, because they hate the cross and sufferings and certainly love works and the glory that goes with them. And thus they say that the good of the cross is evil, and call the evil of works good. But God is not to be found except in sufferings and in the cross as has been stated already…. It is impossible for a man not to be inflated by his own good works unless the experience of suffering and evil, having previously taken all the spirit out of him and broken him, has taught him that he is nothing and his works are not his own but God’s.

22. The sort of wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in known good works simply inflates a man, and ren­ders him both blind and hard.

This has been said already. For since it is clear that they know nothing about the cross and even hate it, then of ne­cessity they love the opposite, that is wisdom, glory, power and the like….

He who wishes to become wise should not go forward and seek wisdom but should become a fool, go back and seek foolishness. Thus, he who wants to become powerful and famous, to have a good time and enjoy all the good things of life, let him flee from power, fame, enjoyment and a sufficiency of everything and not seek after them. This is the wisdom we are talking about, the wisdom which is foolishness to the world.

The question Luther is addressing is this: How can we know God? There are some visible things humanity could look at: cre­ation, spiritual experiences, miracles. But Luther says that they do not reveal God. Or, rather, they reveal something of God, but it is the kind of knowledge that puffs people up. As a result, people never get beyond their pride to know the real God. This knowledge could “never be enough for a man, nor could it benefit him” (20). People like this think they have knowledge, but they do not—they are fools.

Is God then unknowable? If we cannot know him through what is visible, then can we know him at all? Are we left trying to know God through what is invisible? That is not very prom­ising, because we cannot see it! Luther’s answer is this: God is known through what is contrary. He is known in a hidden way. God’s invisible attributes are revealed in suffering and the cross: glory in shame, wisdom in folly, power in weakness, victory in defeat. God is known through the message of the cross.

So what Luther calls theologia crucis, “the theology of the cross,” is not so much an understanding of how the cross saves us (though, of course, that mattered to Luther). Even more, it is an approach to knowing God. It claims that knowing him starts with the cross. And this starting point turns all our notions of God and how he can be known upside down.

The theology of the cross stems from Luther’s understanding of righteousness and justification. Luther’s great realization was that God justified sinners. God declares to be just those who are unjust. Luther realized that if that is so, human notions of justice can never lead us to understand God’s justice. God’s justice is revealed in the opposite of justice: in the justification of the unjust. Alister McGrath says:

Luther’s discovery of the “wonderful new definition of righteousness” is essentially programmatic, and capable of being applied to other divine attributes… leading ultimately to the theologia crucis, the “theology of the cross”….

…For Luther, the “righteousness of God” is revealed exclusively in the cross, contradicting human preconcep­tions and expectations of the form that revelation should take.

If knowledge of God could be obtained from what is vis­ible (creation, spiritual experiences, miracles), it would lead to pride. Imagine if we knew God through creation. The people who knew him best would be those with the brains to under­stand the science of the universe. Or imagine we knew God through spiritual experience. The people who knew God would be those wealthy enough to spend time in contemplation. Peo­ple would be able to say, “I know God through my intelligence or my spirituality or my morality or my power.” It would lead to pride, and this pride would then obscure the glory and grace of God.

But God determined that he would be known through suf­fering so that he would be hidden from all those who exalt themselves. Here Luther is echoing the words of Jesus in Mat­thew 11:25-26: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

The opposite of the theology of the cross are theologies of glory. The theologians of glory pursue wisdom, experience, and miracles and say that suffering is bad. But the theologian of the cross values suffering as that through which God is re­vealed. Knowledge of God is not found through human wis­dom, human powers, or human achievements. It is found in the foolishness of the cross.

The religious leaders at the cross are like theologians of glory. They think God will reveal himself in a powerful act in which Jesus comes down from the cross (Mark 15:29-32). But by faith the centurion sees God revealed in the suffering and abandonment of Jesus (Mark 15:39).

Luther talks about God’s “alien work,” opus alienum, his actions which are alien to his nature, but by which he achieves his “proper work,” opus proprium. Sometimes God assaults us in order to break us. In this light, suffering can be seen as a gracious divine gift.

Only someone who has had “all the spirit [taken] out of him and [been] broken” can know God. Often Luther is translated as saying that “humility” is the precondition for knowing God. But the word is really “humiliation.” Only someone who is humiliated before God can truly know him. In other words, Luther is not commending a certain type of piety that paves the way to a better understanding of God. He is saying that we have to come to the end of ourselves before we accept God’s gracious revelation. In another context Luther gave this advice to those who aspired to study theology:

I want you to know how to study theology in the right way. I have practiced this method myself. . . . The method of which I am speaking is the one which the holy king David teaches in Psalm 119. . . . Here you will find three rules. They are frequently proposed throughout the psalm and run thus: oratio, meditatio, tentatio [prayer, meditation, trials].

Trials are a key way in which we learn the truth about God. Luther had in mind verses like these:

Before I was afflicted I went astray,

but now I keep your word. (Ps. 119:67)

It is good for me that I was afflicted,

that I might learn your statutes. (Ps. 119:71)

I know, 0 LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. (Ps. 119:75)

It is often trials that move knowledge from our heads and embed it in our hearts.

Luther was skeptical about the value of philosophy in the­ology. “Theology is heaven, yes even the kingdom of heaven; man however is earth and his speculations are smoke.” Luther, never knowingly understated, described “reason” as the Devil’s whore, a beast and the enemy of God. In fact Luther valued reason in matters of human society. He also valued reason as a tool to order biblical material. But we cannot discover the truth about God through human reason. Quite the opposite—reason leads us astray because the God revealed in the cross is contrary to human expectations.

Instead, to recognize God in the absence of God, to recog­nize victory in defeat, to recognize glory in shame requires faith. God is known only by faith. And because knowing him requires faith, this is an act of grace.

So God can be known only by those to whom he gives faith. Salvation is by grace alone. We are used to that idea. But it is the same for our knowledge of God. It is not just our salvation that is by faith alone and grace alone. We do not contribute to our knowledge of God. It is all God’s doing. Our knowledge of God is by grace alone. You do not know God because you were cleverer than other people or have greater spiritual insight or spend more time in contemplation. You know God because he has graciously revealed himself to you in the message of the cross. It is an act of grace. God reveals himself in a hidden way in order to safeguard the graciousness of revelation.

So the cross subverts all human notions of glory. The mes­sage we proclaim—the message of Christ crucified—is foolish­ness and weakness in the sight of the world. This is Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians. Indeed, in many ways Luther’s theology of the cross often feels like an extended meditation of 1 Corinthians 1. In 1:23-25 we read:

We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

And with this foolish, weak message of the cross goes a foolish, weak community of the cross.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the pres­ence of God. (1:27-29)

So the cross leaves no scope for human boasting. Instead our one boast is in Christ Jesus, “who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Therefore, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1:30-31).

Let us summarize the key features of Luther’s theology of the cross [McGrath again]:


5. God is particularly known through suffering. It is not just that God can be known through suffering, but that he uses suffering to make himself known. And for Luther this encompasses both the sufferings of Christ and the suffer­ings of the individual. God humiliates us so that we may know him.

Religious Wars | Huguenots v. Catholics (1562-1598)

Preparation for the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (During the Fourth War, 1868) ~  Painting by Kārlis Hūns

See more on “war,” here:

Couple things to keep in mind as you read. Firstly, while this is an example of a “religious war, most wars are not:

(CAUSES OF WARS) A recent comprehensive compilation of the history of human warfare, Encyclopedia of Wars by Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod documents 1763 wars, of which 123 have been classified to involve a religious conflict. So, what atheists have considered to be ‘most’ really amounts to less than 7% of all wars. It is interesting to note that 66 of these wars (more than 50%) involved Islam, which did not even exist as a religion for the first 3,000 years of recorded human warfare. Even the Seven Years’ War, widely recognized to be “religious” in motivation, noting that the warring factions were not necessarily split along confessional lines as much as along secular interests. Even the Seven Years’ War, widely recognized to be “religious” in motivation, noting that the warring factions were not necessarily split along confessional lines as much as along secular interests. And the Thirty Years’ War cannot be viewed as “religious” in that you should find certain aspects if this were the case….


(STAND TO REASONNot only were students able to demonstrate the paucity of evidence for this claim, but we helped them discover that the facts of history show the opposite: religion is the cause of a very small minority of wars. Phillips and Axelrod’s three-volumeEncyclopedia of Wars lays out the simple facts. In 5 millennia worth of wars—1,763 total—only 123 (or about 7%) were religious in nature (according to author Vox Day in the book The Irrational Atheist). If you remove the 66 wars waged in the name of Islam, it cuts the number down to a little more than 3%. A second [6-volume] scholarly source, The Encyclopedia of War edited by Gordon Martel, confirms this data, concluding that only 6% of the wars listed in its pages can be labelled religious wars. Thirdly, William Cavanaugh’s book, The Myth of Religious Violence, exposes the “wars of religion” claim. And finally, a recent report (2014) from the Institute for Economics and Peace further debunks this myth.

  • Alan Axelrod & Charles Phillips, Encyclopedia of Wars, 3 volumes (New York, NY: Facts on File, 2005);
  • The General History of the Late War (Volume 3); Containing It’s Rise, Progress, and Event, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America (No Publisher [see here], date of publication was from about 1765-1766), 110;
  • William T. Cavanaugh, The Myth of Religious Violence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009).
  • Gordon Martel, The Encyclopedia of War, 5 Volumes (New Jersey, NJ: Wiley, 2012).

The other thing to keep in mind, “religious wars” is often over-used by atheists… one honest atheist notes the following:

Atheists often claim that religion fuels aggressive wars, both because it exacerbates antagonisms between opponents and also because it gives aggressors confidence by making them feel as if they have God on their side. Lots of wars certainly look as if they are motivated by religion. Just think about conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, the Balkans, the Asian subcontinent, Indonesia, and various parts of Africa. However, none of these wars is exclusively religious. They always involve political, economic, and ethnic disputes as well. That makes it hard to specify how much [of a] role, if any, religion itself had in causing any particular war. Defenders of religion argue that religious language is misused to justify what warmongers wanted to do independently of religion. This hypothesis might seem implausible to some, but it is hard to refute, partly because we do not have enough data points, and there is so much variation among wars.

  • Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Morality Without God? (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2009), 33-34.

And just before getting to the larger excerpt, maybe a small primer about this event is in order via CHRISTIANITY.COM (see more at CHRISTIANITY TODAY):

In France, following the Reformation, Calvinists known as Huguenots sprang up in large numbers. The Roman Catholic establishment persecuted them. Manipulated by French political leaders, the Huguenots rose to defend their rights. Their behavior and methods in turn outraged Catholics. War ravaged France. Although fewer in numbers than their foes, the Huguenots fought so fiercely they managed to extract concessions which allowed them to build churches and manage affairs in cities where they had majorities. But the bloodshed imprinted lasting animosity between Protestants and the Catholic majority.

Out of this smoldering hatred flared up one of the most regrettable events of church history. On August 22, 1572 an attempt was made in Paris to assassinate Huguenot leader and French patriot Coligny. Wounded, he returned home to recover. Accounts disagree as to what happened next and who was responsible. Late on this day, August 23, 1572, armed men, led by the Guises, broke into Coligny’s apartment, overcame the fierce resistance of his guards and killed him. Coligny’s death was the signal for a general butchery of the Huguenots. This atrocity is known to history as the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre because it lasted well into that saint’s day.

Catholics slaughtered Huguenots in cold blood into the morning of the 24th in Paris and for days in outlying regions. As many as 70,000 perished. The rest fled to fortified cities and fought back. Their movement became known as La Cause (The Cause) and pitted them against The Holy League (La Sainte Ligue). Brutal fighting raged across the French kingdom.

Charles IX publicly claimed he had ordered the massacre. Certainly the Paris constabulary were warned in advance to prepare for disturbances. Many historians have seen the plot as the work of Catherine de Medici, who felt her power threatened. Possibly Charles, by taking credit, was trying to reap a political benefit from the gruesome event. If so, he won no plaudits outside Catholic regions. Pope Gregory XIII struck a special medallion to commemorate the “holy” act but most other European reaction was horrified. Charles himself suffered psychological agonies from the affair.

The Massacre of St. Bartholomew was not the end of the matter. When the Protestant Henry of Navarre converted to Catholicism in order to become king, he granted his Huguenot compatriots a number of rights under the Edict of Nantes. These rights were gradually eroded, more Huguenot revolts occurred and, finally, 400,000 fled the country into voluntary exile under Louis XIV.

These people were part of the influence (among others) in early America and Canada:

  • Following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, there occurred the greatest migration of peoples in the history of the world. More than 600,000 went to Holland, Belgique, England, Ireland, Austria, Russia, South and North America. The largest numbers came to Canada and the American Colonies; and of this number, the largest came to New England and New Netherlands. (HISTORY BOX)

Here is an excerpt from the Encyclopedia of War on the “Religious War” #’s 1-9:

  • Alan Axelrod & Charles Phillips, Encyclopedia of Wars, Vol II (New York, NY: Facts On File, 2005), 931-936.

Huguenots Fight To Survive

On March 1, 1562, supporters of the Catholic duke Francois de Guise (1519-63) killed a congregation of Protestants at Vassy. This massacre was instigated by the granting of limited toleration to the Protestants by Cather­ine de’ Medici (1519-85), the queen mother who took control of the throne at the death of King Francis II (1544­60). The Catholics, under Francois de Guise, the Consta­ble de Montmorency (Anne, duc de Montmorency; 1493­1567), and Prince Antoine de Bourbon (1518-62), king of Navarre, and the Protestants, under Louis I de Bourbon, prince of Conde (1530-69), and Comte Gaspard de Col-igny (1519-72), admiral of France, were soon pitted against each other in a battle known as the First War of Religion. Louis de Conde and Gaspard de Coligny ordered the Huguenots to seize Orleans to retaliate for the Vassy massacre and called on all Protestants in France to rebel. In September 1562, the English sent John Dudley (fl. 16th century) of Warwick to help the Huguenots, and his force captured Le Havre. About one month later, the Catholics defeated Rouen, a Protestant stronghold. One of the lead­ers of the Catholic movement, Antoine de Bourbon, was killed during the attack. The Huguenots continued to rise in rebellion, and in December 15,000 Protestants under Conde and Coligny marched north to join the English troops at Le Havre. En route, they encountered about 19,000 Catholics at Dreux. The Catholics under Guise were victorious, but one of their leaders, Montmorency, was captured, as was the Protestant leader Conde. On February 18, 1563, Guise was killed while besieging Orleans. Peace was finally secured in March when Mont­morency and Conde, both prisoners since the Battle of Dreux, negotiated a settlement at the request of Queen. Catherine. The Peace of Amboise stipulated a degree of tol­erance. The opposing sides then combined forces to push the English from Le Havre, which fell on July 28, 1563.

The Peace of Amboise (July 28, 1563), which stipulated a greater degree of tolerance between the Catholics and the Huguenots in France, ended the First WAR OF RELI­GION. However, peace lasted only four years. On September 29, 1567, the Huguenots under Louis de Bourbon, prince de Conde (1530-69), and Comte Gaspard de Coligny (1519-72) tried to capture the royal family at Meaux. Although they were unsuccessful, other Protestant bands threatened Paris and captured Orleans, Assent, Vienne, Valence, Nimes, Montpellier, and Montaubon. At the Battle of St. Denis, a force of 16,000 men under Constable de Montmorency (Anne, duc de Montmorency; 1493-1567), attacked Conde’s small army of 3,500. Despite the long odds, the Huguenots managed to remain on the field for several hours. Montmorency, aged 74, was killed during the fray. This war ended on March 23, 1568, with the Peace of Longjumeau by which the Huguenots gained substantial concessions from Queen Catherine de’ Medici (1519-85).

The Third War of Religion broke out on August 18, 1568, when Catholics attempted to capture Louis de Bourbon, prince de Conde (1530-69), and Comte Gaspard de Coligny (1519-72), the primary Protestant leaders. The Royal­ist Catholics continued to suppress Protestantism. Sporadic fighting occurred throughout the Loire Valley for the remainder of 1568. In March 1569, the Royalists under Marshal Gaspard de Tavannes (1509-73) engaged in battle with Condes forces in the region between Angouleme and Cognac. Later in March, Tavanne crossed the Charente River near Chateauneuf and soundly defeated the Huguenots at the Battle of Jarmac. Although Conde was captured and murdered, Coligny managed to withdraw a portion of the Protestant army in good order. About three months later, help for the Huguenots arrived in the form of 13,000 German Protestant reinforcements. This enlarged force laid siege to Poitiers. Then on August 24, 1569, Col-igny sent Comte Gabriel de Montgomery (c. 1530-74) to Orthez, where he repulsed a Royalist invasion of French-held Navarre and defeated Catholic forces arranged against him. Royalist marshal Tavanne then relieved Poitiers and forced Coligny to raise the siege. The major battle of the Third War of Religion occurred on October 3, 1569, at Moncontour. The Royalists, aided by a force of Swiss sympathizers, forced the Huguenot cavalry off the field and then crushed the Huguenot infantry. The Huguenots lost about 8,000, whereas Royalist losses numbered about 1,000. The following year, how­ever, Coligny marched his Huguenot forces through cen­tral France from April through June and began threatening Paris. These actions forced the Peace of St. Germain, which granted many religious freedoms to the Protestants.

A massacre of 3,000 Protestants and their leader Louis de Bourbon, prince of Conde (1530-69), precipitated the out­break of the Fourth War of Religion between Catholics and Protestants in France. After the massacre of St. Bartholo­mew’s Eve in Paris, August 24, 1572, Prince Henry IV of Navarre (1553-1610) took charge of the Protestant forces. Marked primarily by a long siege of La Rochelle by Royalist forces under another Prince Henry, the younger brother of Charles IX (1550-74), this Fourth War of Religion resulted in the Protestants’ gaining military control over most of southwest France. However, at least 3,000 more Huguenots were massacred in the provinces before the war ended.

The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre outraged even Catholic moderates, who, seeking to counter the extremes of the Catholic Royalists, formed a new political party, the Politiques, to negotiate with the Protestants and establish peace and national unity.

Protestants and Catholics in France had been fighting spo­radically since 1562 in the First War of RELIGION, the Sec­ond War of RELIGION, the Third War of RELIGION, and the Fourth War of RELIGION when violence again erupted in 1575. In the most important action of this war, Henry, duc de Guise (1555-88), led the Catholic Royalists to victory at the Battle of Dorman. Aligned against Guise, however, were not only the Protestants under Henry IV of Navarre (1553-1610) but also the Politiques, moderate Catholics who wanted the king to make peace with the Protestants and restore national unity. Henry III (1551-89) was not wholeheartedly in support of Guise, and he offered pledges of more religious freedom to the Protestants at the Peace of Mousieur, signed on May 5,1576. Guise refused to accept the terms of the peace and began negotiating with Philip II (1527-98) of Spain to organize a Holy League and secure Spain’s help in capturing the French throne.

The Sixth War of Religion between the Catholics and Protestants in France included only one campaign and was settled by the Peace of Bergerac of 1577. During this period, Henry III (1551-89) tried to persuade the Holy League, formed in 1576 by Catholic leader Henry, duke de Guise (1555-88), and Philip II (1527-98) of Spain, to support an attack on the Protestants. Henry succeeded in subduing the Protestants but wavered in his determina­tion to carry out the terms of the Peace of Bergerac.


The Seventh War of Religion in 1580, also known as the “Lovers’ War,” had little to do with hostilities between the Catholics and Protestants. Instead fighting was instigated by the actions of Margaret, the promiscu­ous wife of Henry IV of Navarre (1553-1610). Over the next five years, Catholics, Protestants, and the moderate Politiques (see RELIGION, FOURTH WAR OF; RELIGION, FIFTH WAR OF) all engaged in intrigue in their attempts to name a successor to the childless Henry III. Although Henry of Navarre was next in line by direct heredity, the Holy League maneuvered to ensure that Henry, duc de Guise, would gain the throne after the reign of Charles de Bourbon (1566-1612), proposed as the successor to Henry III.

Battle of Coutas (October 20th, 1587 ~ During the Eight War)

The Eighth War of Religion, also known as the “War of the Three Henrys,” pitted the Royalist Henry III (1551-89), Henry of Navarre (1553-1610), and Henry de Guise (1555-88) against each other in a struggle over succession to the French throne. The war began when Henry III withdrew many of the concessions he had granted to the Protestants during his reign. At the Battle of Coutras on October 20, 1587, the army of Henry of Navarre, 1,500 cavalry and 5,000 infantry, smashed the Royalist cavalry-1,700 lancers—and 7,000 infantry. More than 3,000 Royalists were killed; Protestant deaths totaled 200. Especially effective against the Royalist was the massed fire of the Protestant arquebuses, primitive muskets.

Despite the Protestant victory at Coutras, the Catholics under Henry of Guise prevailed at Vimoy and Auneau and checked the advance of a German army marching into the Loire Valley to aid to Protestants. Henry’s next victory was in Paris, where he forced the king to capitulate in May 1588. In subsequent intrigues, Henry de Guise and his brother Cardinal Louis I de Guise (1527-78) were assassinated. Fleeing the Catholics’ rage over the murders, Henry Ill sought refuge with Protestant leader Henry of Navarre. The king failed to find perma­nent safety and was assassinated, stabbed to death, by a Catholic monk on August 2, 1589. On his deathbed, the king named Henry of Navarre his successor. The Catholics refused to acknowledge him king, insisting instead that Cardinal Charles de Bourbon (1566-1612) was the right­ful ruler of France. This conflict sparked the NINTH WAR OF RELIGION.

The naming of Henry of Navarre (1553-1610) as successor to the French throne sparked the final War of Religion between Protestant Huguenots and Catholics in France. Insisting that Charles, duke de Bourbon (1566-1612), was the rightful successor to Henry III (1551-89), the Catholics enlisted the aid of the Spanish. Charles, duke of Mayenne (1554-1611), the younger brother of Henry of Guise (1555-88), led the Catholic efforts.

At the Battle of Argues on September 21,1589, Henry of Navarre (1553-1660) ambushed Mayenne’s army of 24,000 French Catholic and Spanish soldiers. Having lost 600 men, Mayenne withdrew to Amiens, while the victorious Navarre, whose casualties numbered 200 killed or wounded, rushed toward Paris.

A Catholic garrison near Paris repulsed Navarre’s advance on November 1, 1589. Not to be daunted in his quest for the throne, Henry withdrew but promptly proclaimed himself Henry IV and established a temporary capital at Tours.

Henry of Navarre won another important battle at Ivry on March 14, matching 11,000 troops against Mayenne’s 19,000. Mayenne lost 3,800 killed, whereas Navarre suffered only 500 casualties.

Civil war continued unabated. Between May and August 1590, Paris was reduced to near starvation dur­ing Navarre’s siege of the city. Maneuvers continued, especially in northern France until May 1592; however, in July 1593 Henry of Navarre reunited most of the French populace by declaring his return to the Catholic faith. His army then turned to counter a threat of inva­sion by Spain and the French Catholics allied with Mayenne.

On March 21, 1594, Henry of Navarre entered Paris in triumph and over the next few years battled the invading Spanish: at Fontaine-Francaise on June 9, 1596, at Calais on April 9, 1596, and at Amiens on September 17, 1596. No further major campaigns ensued.

On April 13, 1598, Henry of Navarre ended the decades of violence between the Catholics and the Protes­tants by issuing the Edict of Nantes, whereby he granted religious freedom to the Protestants. Then on May 2, 1598, the war with Spain ended with the Treaty of Vervins, whereby Spain recognized Henry as king of France. The next major conflict between the Catholics and Protestants in France occurred 27 years later when the Protestants rose in revolt in 1625 and the English joined their cause in the ANGLO-FRENCH WAR (1627-1628).

➤ Further reading: R. J. Knecht, The French Civil Wars, 1562-1598 (New York: Pearson Education, 2000); R. J. Knecht and Mabel Segun, French Wars of Religion (New York: Addison-Wesley Longman, 1996).

Should The Islamic Reformation Be Enlightenment, or Protestant, in Nature

I got a response to a Tweet that included the link to this video painting an Islamic Reformation (a future event) as different from a Protestant Reformation. The author of the video wants an Enlightenment  influence and not a Reformational style influence as happened between Catholics and Protestants. Here is the video followed by my initial Tweet in response:

Here is my Tweet[s]:

You have a picture of Luther, but then talk about a Catholic invasion? Me, personally, I would like the moderate Muslims to rise up enough to cause a war where the moderates win, and influence (over a few centuries) … the radicals to reform (like the Catholic Church has, and [has] apologized for [past actions]). (edited a tad for readability)

I am going to deal with this two-fold. On the Reformation, and how Christianities understanding of contract and humanity endowed with the Image of God (Hebrew: צֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים tzelem elohim, lit. “image of God”, often appearing in Latin as Imago Dei). Secular Humanism is the Enlightenment’s fruits:

...Christian Humanism

Early humanists saw no conflict between reason and their Christian faith (see Christian Humanism). They inveighed against the abuses of the Church, but not against the Church itself, much less against religion. For them, the word “secular” carried no connotations of disbelief – that would come later, in the nineteenth century. In the Renaissance to be secular meant simply to be in the world rather than in a monastery. Petrarch frequently admitted that his brother Gherardo’s life as a Carthusian monk was superior to his own (although Petrarch himself was in Minor Orders and was employed by the Church all his life). He hoped that he could do some good by winning earthly glory and praising virtue, inferior though that might be to a life devoted solely to prayer. The methods of the humanists, however, combined with their eloquence, would ultimately have a corrosive effect on established authority.

Yet it was from the Renaissance that modern Secular Humanism grew, with the development of an important split between reason and religion. This occurred as the church’s complacent authority was exposed in two vital areas. In science, Galileo’s support of the Copernican revolution upset the church’s adherence to the theories of Aristotle, exposing them as false. In theology, the Dutch scholar Erasmus with his new Greek text showed that the Roman Catholic adherence to Jerome’s Vulgate was frequently in error. A tiny wedge was thus forced between reason and authority, as both of them were then understood. (Os Guinness, The Dust of Death: A Critique of the Establishment and the Counter Culture and the Proposal for a Third Way [Intervarsity Press, 1973] p. 5.)


The later enlightenment rejected ultimately any reference to the metaphysical, which means the rejection of the Imago Dei ~ which ultimately devalues any change towards liberty.

Would I want a Protestant “type” Reformation to take place in Islam. Yes, but as you will see… I am very skeptical any reformation is possible within Islam (last comments of the post). The video brings up a specific battle. Let me talk a bit about this battle and the resultant influence of it. I will first post an excerpt from The Fabricated Luther: Refuting Nazi Connections and Other Modern Myths, with some more commentary:

A crucial role in the transmission of the theory of resistance was played by Magdeburg, which was the first city in northern Germany to claim the Reformation faith. It became a model of Lutheran resistance. In fact, it was the last pocket of military defiance in the Smalcald War, which followed the failure of a series of attempts to reconcile the differences between the Roman Catholic and the Lutheran side. In this war, two powerful Protestant princes, Hans of Kustrin and Maurice of Saxony, joined the emperor. The causes for that conflict, which are highly relevant to our subject, will be discussed below At a time when the Protestants throughout the country faced almost certain defeat, it was Magdeburg’s fierce opposition that turned the tide of the conflict and thus presumably preserved the Lutheran faith in Germany. This is how Olson describes the situation in the city in 1549 when it was under siege by the superior forces of the Saxon elec­tor, who were fighting for the emperor’s cause:

The tense situation, in which it seemed that Luther’s movement was about to be crushed, helped form an ecclesiastical party that in one guise or other has persisted within Lutheran tradition ever since, a party claiming to preserve Luther’s true intent. Thus Melanchthon’s observation that “these absurd persons consider themselves the only gnesio [true] Lutherans” had a ker­nel of truth.125 Their convictions were expressed by the soldiers of the city’s garrison. Outnumbered six to one, they defended Magdeburg as the Saxon elector, in a mopping-up operation after the Schmalkaldic War, mounted a siege against the city on the emperor’s behalf. Under constant fire, they sang about themselves as the last faithful remnant of Luther’s cause—mod-ern Maccabees).126

Olson adds that “in 1550 Magdeburg theologians allied with Matthias Flacius Illyricus, the staunchest among the Gnesio-Lutherans, signed a 1550 Confession, Instruction and Warning.” It claimed not to be original but simply a rehearsal of Luther’s own thought, now stripped of its cautious, pastoral, prewar ambiguity.

A key paragraph of this Magdeburg Confession127 states clearly that subjects of authority, even children and servants, do not owe obe­dience to those rulers, parents, or employers “who want to lead them away from true fear of God and honorable living.” Those authorities and parents “will become an ordinance of the devil instead of God, an ordinance which everyone can and ought to resist with a good con­science.”128

The center of the lengthy document is a definition of four degrees of injustice and recommendations for appropriate responses to each of them. These are the degrees:

1. Authority, because of human weakness, has its vices and sin and often knowingly or deliberately does injustice in small mean things. At this point of the argument we do not want the lesser magistracy to use force to resist the superior magistracy… .

2. Authority does great and public violence and injustice to its subjects as when a prince, a town, the Emperor, attacks a prince who is innocent in an unjust war against his own oath, duty and law and wanted thus to deprive him of body and life, wife and child, his liberties or of his land and people… . In this case, just as we do not want to order anyone to defend themselves as in accord with God’s command… so too we do not want it to weigh on anyone’s conscience if he does do so… .

3. When the lesser magistracy is forced by superior magistracy to certain sins, and when it can not tolerate such injustice with­out sin so it raises opposition and also bears its sword… . We have to pay careful attention here that… in resistance to pub­lic forces some higher law or command of God is not broken which would make the resistance unjust… .

4. When tyrants become so mad and crazy that they persecute with weapons and war not only the persons of the lesser magistracy and subjects in a legitimate case, but also (attack) in these persons the highest and most necessary rights and also our Lord God himself… if say a prince or emperor were to become so reckless or mad as to suspend the law of marriage and discipline and set up another law… permitting all sorts of shameful mis­behavior… we and other Christians can resist with calm con­fidence.

This document helped provide the theoretical basis for one of the most celebrated events in the history of resistance—the fourth Huguenot war that began after the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572 and ended in 1598 with the Edict of Nantes that guaranteed the French Protestants the freedom to practice their religion.

The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre prompted Theodore Beza, who was then Calvin’s successor as “Moderator of the Venerable Com­pany of Pastors of Geneva,” to formulate arguments in favor of armed uprising. Beza, who had repeatedly served as chaplain to Huguenot forces in France, completed his work in June or July 1573 and first dis­tributed it with a title page that made it appear to be the Magdeburg Confession. The title read: Of the Right of the Magistrates Over Their Subjects. A very necessary treatise in these times to advise the magistrates as well as their subjects of their duties: published by those of Magdeburg in the year 1550 and now revised and augmented by several reasons and examples. The purpose of this cover was to bypass Geneva’s municipal authorities, who feared reprisals from the king of France, according to Robert M. Kingdon.129

Beza had already shown great interest in the Magdeburgers. In his treatise De haereticis a civili magistratu puniendis (1554), he favorably mentioned their defiant attitude.130 To be sure, Du Droit des Magistrats is anything but a copy of the Magdeburg Confession. Kingdon writes: “It is longer and more elaborate; its examples stem from different sources, and finally the reasons on which he bases the treatise, are markedly different.”131

But the key phrase in Beza’s treatise has a distinctly Magdeburg fla­vor. Chapter 10 carries a title that reads like a summary of the fourth degree of injustice.132 as described by the Gnesio-Lutherans: “Si estant persecute pour la religion, on se peat defendre par armes en bonne con­science” (“If one is persecuted because of one’s religion, one may in good conscience defend oneself with arms”).133


125. Melanchthon and the Gnesio-Lutherans opposed each other over the question whether the terms of the Augsburg Interim should be observed, e.g., whether liturgical practices demanded of the Lutherans by the other side should be con­sidered adiaphora (indifferent) and therefore observed. Melanchthon and his fol­lowers, the Philippists, favored this. The Gnesios, led by Matthias Flacius Illyricus, opposed it. Flacius, who had come to Germany from the area formerly called Yugoslavia, coined the famous phrase “In casu confessionis et scandali nihil est adi-aphoron” (“When provocations demand an act of confession there is no such thing as an indifferent practice”).

126. Oliver K. Olson, “Matthias Flacius Illyricus,” in Shapers of Religious Traditions in Germany, Switzerland, and Poland, 1560-1600, ed. Jill Raitt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), 4.

127. I used an unpublished translation by A. M. Stewart of Aberdeen University, which is in my possession.

128. Olson, “Matthias Flacius Illyricus,” 38.

129. Robert M. Kingdon, introduction to Theodore de Beze, Du Droit des Magistrats (Geneva: Droz, 1970), mi.

130. Beze, Du Droit des Magistrats, 69.

131. Kingdon, Du Droit des Magistrats, xiii.

132. Beze, Du Droit des Magistrats, 69.

133. Beze, Du Droit des Magistrats, 63.

Uwe Siemon-Netto, The Fabricated Luther: Refuting Nazi Connections and Other Modern Myths, 2nd edition (St. Louise, MO: Concordia Publishing, 2007), 93-96.

The book goes on to connect the confessions and evolution of Lutherian theology that came from and out of this conflict to having given Bonhoeffer theological animus (as well as other confessing Lutheran’s) to stand against Hitler. Even to the point of Bonhoeffer being involved in the plot to kill Hitler (the Bomb under his desk attempt). So, as much as we would like to package history like the Law of Excluded Middle (an either-or-scenario, no third scenario allowed) in a belief in some Utopian “goodness” within man that can guide him through an “a” or “b” choice… we know this is not the case. And our government was founded on this Reformational view of the nature of man.

Here is an understanding of just how much the Reformation influenced America’s founding, followed up by Thomas Sowell referencing this understanding implicitly. First, and exceprt from a seminary paper I wrote entitled, “Reforming America” (p. 3):

The founding of America is complicated, but one thing that is not is the influence of religion on her founding.  Let us be clear about something beyond the belief that America’s founding was simply “religious,” it would have been impossible without it.  Not only impossible, but the type of government and documents that were produced by the pre-American zeitgeist are unique in history.  Is it possible to believe that a theological system had an effect on the founding of the United States? The answer, according to John Eidsmoe, is “A great deal:”

Calvinism, like any theological system, encompasses both a world view and a view of human nature. The way one views the world and human nature will determine one’s choice for effective government. As James Madison asked in Federalist No. 51, “What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?”[1]

And it is this view of mankind’s nature taken from the ideas of Luther and Calvin that paint the picture of the “total depravity of human nature — that man is by nature sinful and unable to please God.”[2]  Another author makes the point that the political circumstances of Luther and Calvin seem to have become incorporated into fundamental beliefs of their theological systems.[3]  Ergo, when the Puritans came to the New World “they brought with them not merely a religion, but a social vision, whose roots lay in a small town in modern-day Switzerland.”[4]


[1] John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1987), 19.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Alister E. McGrath, Reformation Thought: An Introduction, 3rd ed. (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 1999), 233.

[4] Ibid.

While not explicitly referencing this influence, Thomas Sowell distinguishes between progressive worldviews in their political and economic stances. Contrasting it with a more conservative worldview affecting those same areas. This comes from the first chapter of my book entitled, “Technology Junkies” (see pp. 6-8):

Christianity is closely tied to the success of capitalism,[22] as it is the only possible ethic behind such an enterprise. How can such a thing be said? The famed economist/sociologist/historian of our day, Thomas Sowell, speaks to this in his book A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. He whittles down the many economic views into just two categories, the constrained view and the unconstrained view.

The constrained vision is a tragic vision of the human condition. The unconstrained vision is a moral vision of human intentions, which are viewed as ultimately decisive. The unconstrained vision promotes pursuit of the highest ideals and the best solutions. By contrast, the constrained vision sees the best as the enemy of the good— a vain attempt to reach the unattainable being seen as not only futile but often counterproductive, while the same efforts could have produced a more viable and beneficial trade-off. Adam Smith applied this reasoning not only to economics but also to morality and politics: The prudent reformer, according to Smith, will respect “the confirmed habits and prejudices of the people,” and when he cannot establish what is right, “he will not disdain to ameliorate the wrong.” His goal is not to create the ideal but to “establish the best that the people can bear.”[23]

Dr. Sowell goes on to point out that while not “all social thinkers fit this schematic dichotomy…. the conflict of visions is no less real because everyone has not chosen sides or irrevocably committed themselves.” Continuing he points out:

Despite necessary caveats, it remains an important and remarkable phenomenon that how human nature is conceived at the outset is highly correlated with the whole conception of knowledge, morality, power, time, rationality, war, freedom, and law which defines a social vision…. The dichotomy between constrained and unconstrained visions is based on whether or not inherent limitations of man are among the key elements included in the vision.[24]

The contribution of the nature of man by the Judeo-Christian ethic is key in this respect. One can almost say, then, that the Christian worldview demands a particular position to be taken in the socio-economic realm.* You can almost liken the constrained view of man in economics and conservatism as the Calvinist position. Pulitzer prize winning political commentator, Walter Lippmann (1889-1974), makes the above point well:

At the core of every moral code there is a picture of human nature, a map of the universe, and a version of history. To human nature (of the sort conceived), in a universe (of the kind imagined), after a history (so understood), the rules of the code apply.[25]

A free market, then, is typically viewed through the lenses of the Christian worldview with its concrete view of the reality of man balanced with love for your neighbor…


[22] See for instance: R.H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2000 [originally 1926]); Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2003 [originally 1904]); Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (New York, NY: Random House, 2005); Thomas E. Woods, Jr., How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2005).

[23] Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles (New York, NY: basic Books, 2007), 27.

[24] Ibid., 33, 34.

[25] Walter lippmann, Public Opinion (New York, NY: Free Press, 1965), 80.

Another item worth noting is WHERE the Founders of these Great States got the bulk of their influence or philosophy from, many are surprised about this:

Where, then, did our Founding Fathers acquire the ideas that produced such longevity? Other nations certainly had access to what our Founders utilized, yet evidently chose not to. From what sources did our Founders choose their ideas?

This question was asked by political science professors at the University of Houston. They rightfully felt that they could determine the source of the Founders’ ideas if they could collect writings from the Founding Era and see whom the Founders were quoting.

The researchers assembled 15,000 writings from the Founding Era—no small sample and searched those writings. That project spanned ten years; but at the end of that time, the researchers had isolated 3,154 direct quotes made by the Founders and had identified the source of those quotes.

The researchers discovered that Baron Charles de Montesquieu was the man quoted most often by the Founding Fathers, with 8.3 percent of the Founders’ quotes being taken from his writings. Sir William Blackstone was the second most-quoted individual with 7.9 percent of the Founders’ quotes, and John Locke was third with 2.9 percent. ” Surprisingly, the researchers discovered that the Founders quoted di­rectly out of the Bible 4 times more often than they quoted Montes­quieu, 4 times more often than they quoted Blackstone, and 12 times more often than they quoted John Locke. Thirty-four percent of the Founders’ quotes came directly out of the Bible. “

The study was even more impressive when the source of the ideas used by Montesquieu, Blackstone, and Locke were identified. Con­sider, for example, the source of Blackstone’s ideas. Blackstone’s Com­mentaries on the Laws was first introduced in 1768, and for the next 100 years America’s courts quoted Blackstone to settle disputes, to define words, and to examine procedure; Blackstone’s Commentaries were the final word in the Supreme Court. So what was a significant source of Blackstone’s ideas? Perhaps the best answer to that question can be given through the life of Charles Finney.

Charles Finney is known as a famous revivalist, minister, and preacher from one of America’s greatest revivals: the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800s. Finney, in his autobiography, spoke of how he received his call to the ministry. He explained that—having determined to become a lawyer—he, like all other law students at the time, commenced the study of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws. Finney observed that Blackstone’s Commentaries not only provided the laws, it also provided the Biblical con­cepts on which those laws were based. Finney explained that in the process of studying Blackstone’s, “he read so much of the Bible that he became a Christian and received his call to the ministry.” Finney’s personal life story clearly identifies a major source of Blackstone’s ideas for law.

So while 34 percent of the Founders’ quotes came directly out of the Bible, many of their quotes were taken from men—like Blackstone—who had used the Bible to arrive at their own conclusions.

Numerous components of our current government can be shown—through those early writings—to have their source in Biblical concepts. For example, the concept for three branches of government can be found in Isaiah 33:22; the logic for the separation of powers was based on Jeremiah 17:9;t the basis of tax exemptions for churches was found in Ezra 7:24.

In other words, the Reformation and all it’s streams of influence, weighed heavily on the Founding documents of our nation. Again, from my seminary paper and contractual understandings (pp. 11-12):

Even the idea of social contract and the implementing of such a contract is applied by Calvin [pre-Lockian]:

The theory of social contract is generally traced to seventeenth-century philosophers such as John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. But a century earlier, Calvin had asked the entire people of Geneva to accept the confession of faith and to take an oath to obey the Ten Commandments, as well as to swear loyalty to the city. People were summoned in groups by the police to participate in the covenant.[21]

Again, without the like of Calivin, Wycliff, Luther, and others, the Bible that so stirred the political thought of our founders and whom they read in turn, America would not be here today.  This public understanding of many of the precepts of the Bible caused Luther, and subsequently Calvin, to “maintain that all believers shared in the priesthood, in opposition to the Catholic understanding of the priesthood as a separate class unto itself.”[22]


[21] Harold J. Berman, Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), 564-565.  The author mentions a book as well on page 565: See J. T. McNeill, The History and Character of Calvinism (New York, 1957), p. 142. See also Chapters 2 and 12 of this study, where the theory of social contract is traced to the Papal Revolution and the formation of cities as sworn communes.

[22] W. Andrew Hoffecker, Revolutions in Worldviews: Understanding the Flow of Western Thought (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2007), 233.

Also take note of how the Reformation influenced Locke’s philosophy versus the progressive understanding via Rousseau’s influence: Locke vs Rousseau.

Now, onto the second part of this “enlightened” critique of the opening video of this post. What about the enlightenment? What did it lead to ultimately? Did the Protestant Reformation influence the American experience versus the Enlightenment influencing another “Constitution”?… in France:

Fact: The American Revolution was not like the French Revolution

The Americans defended their traditional rights. The French revolutionaries despised French traditions and sought to make every­thing anew: new governing structures, new provincial boundaries, a new “religion,” a new calendar—and the guillotine awaited those who objected. The British statesman Edmund Burke, the father of modern conser­vatism and a man who did understand the issues at stake in both events, considered himself perfectly consistent in his sympathy for the Americans of the 1770s and his condemnation of the French revolutionaries of 1789.

In a certain sense, there was no American Revolu­tion at all. There was, instead, an American War for Independence in which Americans threw off British authority in order to retain their liberties and self-government. In the 1760s, the colonies had, for the most part, been left alone in their internal affairs. Because the colonists had enjoyed the practice of self-government for so long, they believed it was their right under the British constitution. The British constitution was “unwritten”—it was a flexible collection of documents and traditions—but by an American conservative’s reading, the British government had acted unconstitutionally in its restrictive acts and taxation.

While Americans sought the self-government to which they believed they were constitutionally entitled, the colonists did not seek the total transformation of society that we associate with other revolutions, such as the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, or the Russian Rev­olution. They simply wished to go on enjoying self-rule when it came to their internal matters and living as they always had for so many decades before British encroachments began. The American “revolutionaries” were conservative, in the very best sense of that word

Let us quickly show a humorous take of the French Revolution, as, this is where this discussion is headed:

That quote from Jefferson is expanded on a bit by a wonderful post at What Would The Founders Think?, and deals with the animus behind the French Revolution inspired by the Enlightenment:

...Jefferson's Animus

Marxism-Leninism is also expansionist and internationalist.  One has only to look at the famous slogan “Workers of the world unite!” or  Marx’s contention that the world’s proletariat has “a world to win.” In Marx’s own words:

It is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far — no only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world.

This international focus and quasi-religious belief in the inevitability and superiority of communism  justified almost any action, and hearkens back to the events of the French Revolution. Thomas Jefferson, in a famous letter to William Short was willing to accept, if not condone, the wanton violence that marked the French Revolution:

The liberty of the whole earth was depending on the issue of the contest, and was ever such a prize won with so little innocent blood? My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to this cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated. Were there but an Adam and an Eve left in every country, and left free, it would be better than as it now is.

In 1793-1794 Maximilien Robespierre and the Jacobins beheaded 40,000 French citizens. Lenin himself made the comparison with the violence of the French Revolution. “It will be necessary to repeat the year 1793. After achieving power we’ll be considered monsters, but we couldn’t care less.”  He and his cohorts described themselves as “glorious Jacobins.”

Alexander Solzhenitzen  observed,

Communism has never concealed the fact that it rejects all absolute concepts of morality. It scoffs at any consideration of “good” and “evil” as indisputable categories. Communism considers morality to be relative, to be a class matter. Depending upon circumstances and the political situation, any act, including murder, even the killing of thousands, could be good or could be bad. It all depends upon class ideology.

…read more…

Now, let compare the above to some Kirk’ian understanding of Burke:

That real Jacobinism never has come to Britain or America is in some considerable measure the work of Edmund Burke’s conservative genius. He first succeeded in turning the resolute might of England against French revolutionary energies; and by the time of his death, in 1797, he had established a school of politics founded upon the concepts of veneration and prudence, which ever since has opposed its talents to the appetite for inno­vation. “We venerate what we cannot presently understand,” he taught the rising generation. His reverence for the wisdom of our ancestors, through which works the design of Providence, is the first principle of all consistent conservative thought.

Burke knew that economics and politics are not independent sciences: they are no more than manifestations of a general order, and that order is moral. He applied his great practical intellect to a glowing delineation of this principle of order, and his work is suffused with the imagination of a poet and the keenness of a critic. Greatly though he disliked an easy familiarity with meta­physics, he saw that the struggle between order and innovation in modern times has its cause in a metaphysical and religious problem: as Basil Willey points out to us, Burke perceived that the root of evil in society “lay in the meddling instinct which pre­sumes to interfere with the mysterious march of God in the world. Burke was of the company of those who are continually conscious of the weight of all this unintelligible world; he was more aware of the complex forces which hem us in and condition all we do, than of any power in us to act back and modify the very environ­ment that limits us.” Men never will be gods, Burke was con­vinced; all their will and virtue is required if they are to attain mere genuine humanity; and (as Aristotle said) a being that can exist in isolation must be either a beast or a god. Radical innovations would cut us off from our past, destroying the immemori­al bonds that join generation to generation; they would leave us isolated from memory and from aspiration; and in that condition, we would sink to the level of beasts, “We have not (as I conceive) lost the generosity and dignity of thinking of the fourteenth cen­tury; nor as yet have we subtilized ourselves into savages.” But how are we to be saved from the fierce tide of demoniac energy, the flood of unprincipled aspiring talents and ferocious envy, which is called Jacobinism?

Our hope for safety against the consequences of intellectual fallacies lies in our steadfast adherence to right opinion. Taken as a whole, Burke’s accomplishment is the definition of a principle of order; …. His system is an anticipatory refutation of utilitarianism, positivism, and pragmatism, as well as an attack on Jacobinism. Burke’s almost unparalleled talent for social predic­tion informed him that the Revolution in France was no simple political contest, no culmination of enlightenment, but the incep­tion of a moral convulsion from which society would not recover until the disease, the disorder of revolt against Providence, had run its course. To check it, he adapted the reverential view of so­ciety, the idea of Aristotle, Cicero, the Schoolmen, and Hooker, to the conundrums of the modern world.

An order in society, good or evil, just or tyrannical, must al­ways exist. We have been “marshalled by a divine tactic” to unite in a state which recognizes the true idea of justice. Men are saved from anarchy by veneration of the divine and fidelity to prescrip­tive wisdom. They are saved by prejudice and gradation.

One of the main points I am trying to get across is that a strict Enlightenment understanding of change makes things worse, and it is the influence on Western (esp. American) culture of the Reformation coupled with Enlightenment advances that has made the understanding of a proper “Reformation” or “Revolution.” In other words, the end result of the Enlightenment was massive death by guillotine for rejecting the new “tradition” that was secular:

With the Jacobins in control, the “de-Christianization” campaign kicked into high gear in 1793. Inspired by Rousseau’s idea of the reli­gion civile, the revolution sought to completely destroy Christianity and replace it with a religion of the state. To honor “reason” and fulfill the promise of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen that “no one may be questioned about his opinions, including his religious views,” Catholic priests were forced to stand before revolutionary clubs and take oaths to France’s new humanocentric religion, the Cult of Rea­son (which is French for “People for the American Way”).

Only a bare majority of clergy, called “nonjurors,” refused to take oaths to the republic. About 20,000 priests did so and another 20,000 left the country. Many ex-priests publicly denounced their religion, swearing they had never believed it, and “vied with each other in ribal­dry and blasphemy.” Vicar Patin stood in front of a revolutionary club and said the “earmarks” of a priest were: “To bestialize humans in order to better enslave them, to make them believe that two plus one is one and a thousand other absurdities, to enter into a compact with our for­mer tyrants to share with them spoils taken from the people.”

Revolutionaries smashed church art and statues. One explained that he had broken the noses off church statues because they were “hid­eous apes” that deserved to be crushed and used for pavement. At the Cathedral of Notre Dame, hundreds of medieval sculptures of prophets, priests, and kings were yanked from their pedestals and decapitated or hurled in the Seine. The cathedral’s priceless thirteenth- and fourteenth-century stained-glass windows were smashed.

Notre Dame fared better than the Third Abbey Church at Cluny, once the most magnificent monastery in the world. Revolutionaries torched the archives and sacked the Romanesque building, leaving be­hind nothing but a pile of rubble.

The word “vandalisme” had to be invented to describe the wanton destruction of the abbey church of Saint Denis…

The Founders knew well that the new country they were forging rejected the enlightenment, not as a whole, but in part. There would — never be a comparison like the one found in Robert Morris’s video on comparing the Reformation with the Enlightenment. History laughs at such rudimentary understandings. Like it does at the simplistic understanding in pop-culture of “religion” causing war[s]… see:

  1. “Causes of Wars,” Concepts (ISIS Compared to Christianity)
  2. Religious & Political Extremism Motivated Violence ~ Concepts
  3. The Crusades vs. The Three Caliphates (Moral Equivalence)

All the above being said, do I think Islam CAN BE reformed? Ultimately I do not. This reformation would require a few things, for instance, in an old discussion about Mosques, there was a Muslim man that joined the conversation. I have expanded a bit on what a truly moderate Muslim would look like (like Dr. Qanta Ahmed or Dr. Zuhdi Jasser), they would have to:

1) reject the Sīrat Rasūl Allāh (Life of the Messenger of God; Arabic: سيرة رسول الله), the biographical sketch of Muhammad’s life;

2) as well as the rejection of the Hadith (the Hadith literature was compiled from oral reports that were in circulation in society around the time of their compilation long after the death of Muhammad);

3) change positions on the Qur’an as descriptive (descriptions of historical events and battles that are not prescriptive to attitudes and modern culture ~ like Jews and Christians understand large portions of the Old Testament);

4) reject the reading of the text so that the al-Madīna suras (verses) do not supersede the Meccan suras, which are peaceful;

5) allow for manuscript and literary criticism that is allowed in Jewish and Christian discussions:

▼ For instance, manuscript evidence shows clearly that Mark 16:9-20 is known to be a later insertion into the Biblical text. Biblical critics as well as faithful believers can acces thie historical record to say this is fact. A well-known critic of the text is Bart Ehrman who notes this as well as a well known conservative Christian scholar like Daniel Wallace… as well as most Bibles noting this (for instance one of my study Bibles notes this ~ a: and b: THIS is not allowed in any Muslim nation. I have many books written by modern and classical Greek atheists in my library. THIS is not allowed in Muslim nations. Nor is textual criticism. And when such things are noted, fatwas are put out on the heads of those who say as much about verses added to Qur’an. (Example: Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.)

Etc., Etc.

So, we see from the following examples of how this would be a real tough road to ho:

So do I really think Reformation or Enlightenment is possible in Islam. No. I don’t. The only Reformation that can encroach on the Muslim is one of the truth of Jesus Christ being the Way.

Graham reached out to Muslims and invited them to convert to Christianity (via Gateway Pundit):

“I want to say something to all the Muslims that may be watching this that are confused and are afraid themselves. I want them to know that God loves them and that Jesus Christ died for their sins — and Christ will forgive them and heal their hearts… And they don’t have to die in a jihad, they don’t have to kill somebody else to please God. God loves them and he will accept them through faith and through his son, Jesus Christ.”

Michelangelo a Closet Protestant? (PBS)

(click painting to watch full episode)

More than five centuries ago, Michelangelo Buonarroti was the darling of the Catholic Church. The Papacy commissioned him to create many of its most important pieces, including the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. He spent his life glorifying the Church, etching Catholic ideals into masterpieces that defined religion for the masses. Yet when he died, his body was secretly shepherded off to Florence, and the Church was denied the opportunity to honor him with a grand funeral in Rome. Historians have long wondered about the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, but now, art historian Antonio Forcellino believes he has pieced together evidence of a deep rift between the Church and the esteemed artist. The cause: Michelangelo’s belief in Protestant ideals, and his involvement with a clandestine fellowship trying to put an end to the decadence and corruption of the Clergy and reform the Church from within.