Luther and Calvin
This is a continuation of my previous entry The Spirit of the Reformation was Profoundly Medieval. I doubt if anyone read it – but no matter, as Luther would have said: this is a matter between me and God – via the Internet.
I wish you could see me now: I went for a long ride on my bicycle in some lovely scenery, with my old body barely able to navigate the steeper parts, came back to Orosi and headed for the Swiss panaderia (bakery), where I am one of her favorite customers, because I spent so much there. I bought a bottle of raspberry wine (vino de mora), a slice of quiche, and some chocolate brownies (very sinful). Brought them home, got smashed – but had to do something even more sinful (write on my blog). Therefore this posting.
My source is the same: The Making of the Modern Mind, page 115, where he speaks of the Spirit of Reform in the Middle Ages. I quote:
From the thirteenth century and earlier there had existed these same tendencies within the church towards simplification, individualism, and salvation without external sacraments. The three main groups who in their several ways were this undermining the authority of the church were the mystics, the Augustinian Catholic reformers, and the humanists. The break come with Luther because non-religious and social conditions were ready for his revolt…
The great German mystics, Master Eckhart, Tauler, Suso, and the author of the Theologia Germanica that so powerfully influenced Luther, emphasized personal salvation to the exclusion of everything else.They sought to effect a direct union with the Divine Being, which was brought about by meditating and prayer without the intermediary of any priest or sacrament…In this wise they must renounce and forsake all things..Therefore we must suffer these things to be what there are, and enter into union with God.
My thoughts exactly.
We have forgotten what the Reformation was all about – my own background in particular (Mormonism) but everyone else too. Martin Luther King, for example, knew next to nothing about his namesake; he just knew a good name when he saw it, and latched onto it. But let me go on.
The Reformation soon split into two branches: Lutheranism and Calvinism. The first was confined to Germany and Scandinavia. But the second spread from Geneva to South Germany, Holland, France, Scotland, and England. This is what we ordinarily refer to as Protestantism. He describes the differences, which were fundamental, but have since been forgotten:
Luther was not a humanist, and was not touched by the intellectual and rationalizing influences of his day. he was a man of intense personal religious experience, and around the practical religious life his interests centered. Calvin was a humanist reformer and a lawyer; he sought to build a rationally consistent system upon the authority of the Scriptures.
Where Lutheranism was personal and mystical, Calvin was systematic and rational; where Lutheranism flowered in individual piety and a spontaneous moral life, Calvinism was corporate and sought by theocratic control of the State to regulate human life to regulate to the last detail. Lutheranism was aristocratic, conservative socially, and tended to keep all of the old to which it did not object. [Luther did not intervene in the revolt of the peasants, where hundred of thousands of them were slaughtered, for example.] Calvinism was democratic – though indirectly – radical, in that it opposed kings and princes in the name of God, and rejected all for which it could not find scriptural authorization.
I hope you are reading this, because it shows how ridiculous the various Bible Churches are. They don’t understand the historical background for their faith – and don’t want to.
He goes on to explain something that has baffled me: salvation by faith alone. Basically, this is simple: God can save us – if he chooses. Any good works that we can perform are immaterial, compared with God’s works. This is Lutheranism – which has been largely forgotten – as was his attitude toward the Bible, which he did not regard as infallible. He thought highly of the Gospel of John and the Epistles of Paul, but little of James, and thought the Book of Revelations useless.
Calvinism, by contrast, produced the Protestant Ethic, which eventually approved of the accumulation of wealth as a mark of God’s approval – and therefore: Capitalism.