Chapter Two: Relativizing Doctrines
Before the Reformation the Catholic Church was a rival, at least in terms of power and legitimacy, to every Kingdom. Here was another power that could and at times did challenge the power and authority of Kings. Princes and Emperors. Sometimes this lead to war, it certainly lead to a believe that the church was more worldly then it should have been. But the church also kept the governments in check. It reminded them of their obligations and encouraged learning. When the relationship between church and state worked well it was good for all. When it did not it lead to chaos.
When the Reformation arrived, Martin Luther was protected by Princes. They financed and used these religious difficulties to increase their own power. It is easy to see this cynically, but many felt as they did otherwise they could not have had any chance of success. As others came about to challenge the Catholic church, the ones who had any chance of success were also supported and financed by Princes. The State began to take over the responsibilities that were once the realm of the church, not all at once but over time.
But religion continued and the new churches were now beholden to the state. They became official religions. One people, one state, one religion. The church still had influence, but it was now unmistakably subordinate to the state. This also meant that religious division was supressed by the state. To be of a different faith wasn't a religious problem it was a criminal and civil problem. Could someone of a different faith be loyal to the state if he couldn't be loyal to the official state approved religion?
The Reformation also changed the relationship between church and state in Catholic countries. The church now needed the protection of the state in a way it had never needed before, officially it was equal but in reality it was also subordinate to the state. The church lost much prestige, power and authority in the centuries after the Reformation. The church of 1750 was a much weakened creature then it had been in 1500, that decline continued.
Today even official religions have lost out to the state. They continue to exist because to destroy them would reveal the real power of the state in all it's raw ugliness.
Another point that Professor Gregory makes is that the loss that has been suffered has had real repercussions upon our society. Most people, even those who attend church, are not religious as people in the past were. Today believers believe that God is good, basically that he's a good guy, and that is how they think of their religion. God is nice and he doesn't judge people. That is not what the bible teaches but increasingly it is what churches teach.
No one in the Reformation wanted these outcomes, but here we are!
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