Thursday, January 04, 2018


I have been reading The Story of Christianity of Christianity by Justo L Gonzalez. The first twenty chapters cover the Reformation in detail.

When I first read about the Reformation, forty years ago at Theological College, I still trusted political power. I realised that they got things wrong, but thought the situation just needed a little tweaking because the wrong political powers won in some places.

Reading about the Reformation again, having lost faith in politics, I am struck by how much this period was shaped by political power and how much harm it did to the cause of God. When politics gets involved, God always loses.

The reformers relied on emperors, kings and princes for their physical protection, so they all compromised with political power to survive.

Political leaders believed that they could decide what version of Christianity their citizens should follow.

Confessions of faith were adjusted to please political leaders.

New translations of the Bible were tweaked to provide a justification for political power.

People who rejected the state religion were hounded and killed. Many thousands from all sides (Lutheran, Reformed, Catholic, Anabaptists, etc) were killed for their faith.

Economies were wrecked by war. Even the Anabaptists, who rejected political power, often resorted to military force to advance their cause.

The Thirty Years War was fought to decide whether Germany should be Catholic or Protestant. The Kings of Sweden and France joined in because they wanted to constrain the power of Habsburgs emperors.

Many Christians are wanting another reformation. They are wanting to use political power to advance the Kingdom of God. The lesson of the Reformation is that this is the wrong path. We need a restructuring of society that does not depend on political and military power.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of the ironies of American evangelicalism is its demonization of "Big Government," which now carries on numerous functions that were shouldered by the Church prior to the Reformation.