This church history class I'm now taking is "From the Reformation," and I have a mid-term in it tomorrow, so there's a lot about the Reformers going through my head. It's a Protestant seminary through which I am taking this class, so little has been said about the Counter-Reformation and the Catholic Reformation, but even though I knew at least a little something about the four initial branches of the Protestant Reformation, I'm finding it interesting to poke around in their history in a little more depth. I'm finding out (or remembering) things like:
- Apart from the reputed anti-Semitism, and that unfortunate link to the Peasant's Revolt, I think Martin Luther was the man. No--not the Man. But just . . . really cool. By and large, I like his theology and his tenacity and his kind of earthiness.
- As I thought when we went to visit Grossmunster in Zurich when I was 14, I still think Zwingli was a bit of a twit. I daresay he had a true conversion experience (even though he claimed an earlier date for it than it probably really happened, so he could make it look like it happened for him before it did for Luther), but some of us take a little more "converting" than others, and . . . well, he's just a little harder to like.
- As he may have done to others who actually met him face to face, Calvin makes me uncomfortable. Too smart for me, I think. But I don't dislike him.
- I rather like the Anglican church . . . but how it got there is kind of obnoxious.
- I've got some Swiss Anabaptist in my background, and although I'm not one, I agree with their view on (ta da!) baptism. And, as we all know, although I can't seem to completely identify myself as a pacifist, I kind of lean that way. Here's something that interested me (although I guess if I think about it, it doesn't surprise me): The Anabaptists' emphasis on the radical separation of church and state was "new." This approach was the first time Christianity had been separated from the government since Constantine.
I've already mused a tiny bit about the effects of Constantine on the Church. I guess I think that the Anabaptists were right to keep it separate. I mean, I don't know that it's possible anymore to truly separate religion from government. It seems like either Christians (or religious people--there can be a difference!) try to infiltrate the government, for example, or the government tries to legislate against them. I liked it when I volunteered at a primary school in London and could tell the Easter story freely because religious education (about all religions) was included in standard school curricula. I don't, on the other hand, like the idea, real or threatened, that symbols of my faith should be removed from public places or that I can't say Merry Christmas if I want to.
God calls people to different vocations and maybe He calls some to be politicians. I mean, I guess He does: I don't think there can be any question, for example, that He put Wilberforce in place for a specific time and purpose. I do believe that God can work through political leaders and that if a Christian is in power, I would hope that their relationship with Christ would have an effect on their policies. However, I don't believe we will ever have a theocracy this side of Heaven, and I think most of even our Christian politicians end up with too much of themselves mixed in. (I think most of us--me, for example--have that problem, but when someone's in the public eye, it affects more people.)
I am starting to think the Anabaptist idea that the Church would always be a persecuted minority in the world, and that it and government could never mesh without unhealthy compromise, is probably true. I struggle with words of separatism at all, as highlighted in my last post, but at the same time, I know the Bible talks about it, sometimes in ways I can't understand, and I know there still is sometimes, somehow, a place for it. I guess I'm still just trying to figure out how and where and when it works.
How do you become and remain incarnational, yet without compromise?