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The Christian Reformation: Some Pros and Cons

06/13/12

Permalink 11:41:00 pm, by Norgaard Norgaard Email , 836 words   English (US)
Categories: Traditional Religion is Flawed

The Christian Reformation: Some Pros and Cons

I suppose you are all at least somewhat familiar with some of the most significant events in the history of Christianity. This religion became quite popular from the 2nd through the 4th centuries AD, and over the course of these centuries Christians were persecuted by the Roman authorities. In the late 4th century, Christianity became the official religion and from then on, over the course of the next 1000 years, the political authorities in Europe and parts of the Middle East fervently enforced the doctrine of Christianity upon their subjects. In Western Europe, especially in the period from around 800 AD to 1500 AD, the Catholic Church based in Rome had enormous religious, cultural, and political power.

Unfortunately, along with this power came countless examples of abuse and corruption. The Pope had always claimed to have a special connection to God that nobody else could have. Successive popes used this privilege to enrich themselves and also used the respect that they had among the faithful as a threat to anyone who dared challenge their authority. In the early 1500's a priest named Martin Luther had the courage to openly challenge the church's selling of indulgences to people. This practice involved people paying money to the Pope in exchange for him absolving them of their sins and thereby allowing them to go to heaven. The Pope claimed this power through his supposedly special connection to God and many people believed this.

Luther had many enemies in his fight against the injustice of the powerful church, but he also had many allies. In the years and decades that followed his original challenge, several other religious reformers gained influence and new versions of Christianity were founded. Some of the most influential reformers included John Calvin, John Knox, and William Tyndale. While there were different views among the reformers, the main point that all seemed to agree on was that the Biblical scriptures are the sole authority, rather than any church authorities, least of all the Pope.

Looking back on all of this, there is much to admire in the the courage and conviction that the reformers showed in challenging the very corrupt and powerful Catholic Church and the Pope. This is a church that wanted absolute power over all religious matters and wanted things to stay the same year after year, century after century. The popes all seemed to want to use their power to enrich themselves and were intolerant to any challenges to their authority. When the reformers did make these challenges, slowly the church was less and less able to wield its injustice upon Christendom.

That being said, there is also much foolishness among the church reformers and we are still living under the tyranny of their ideas. They should be commended for coming to realize, at a time when few were, that the Catholic Church is evil and not deserving of respect. Now, certainly the Catholic Church then and now performs good works to the poor, but these can all be done just as well if not better outside of the strict hierarchy that the Pope leads. Overall, the Catholic Church is unnecessary and the reformers were wise to realize this.

What they completely failed to realize, however, is that the Bible itself is also full of injustice and falsehood (alongside of much wisdom and wonder of course, but we mustn't ignore the injustice and falsehood that is contained therein). They believed fervently that the Bible is the word of God, and in the centuries since then, the Christian denominations that they founded or that were based on their work still preach this dogma. Millions and millions of people throughout the world profess Christianity of a sort that preaches 1) that the Catholic Church is not an authority on religious matters, but nonetheless 2) also foolishly preaches that the bible is 100% the true word of God. The first one makes sense, but the second is just ridiculous to believe this day and age, in light of the overwhelming scientific and historical evidence that has come to light.

So while the Christian reformation had the benefit of lessening the power of the very corrupt unjust Catholic Church, it seems to also have contributed to an unfortunate trend that is still very much alive today whereby people think that the Bible is infallible. I cannot even begin to list the terrible things that the belief in the Bible has led to. Certainly there is some truth in the Bible. Certainly there is wisdom as well and some parts are helpful to people. But the belief that the Bible is 100% true has led to countless acts of injustice carried out by the faithful, and this continues to happen every day. So while the Christian Reformation had some benefits, there are also downsides.

It is only when we go with the principles of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment that we can begin to find ways of overcoming the injustice that we would otherwise be capable of if we were to believe the wrong things.

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