The Ones with the Bucket
The Reformation: Catacombs, Triumphalist Architecture, Martyrs, Homoeroticism, and More

The Reformation: Diaries, Executions, and 'The Fraction'

Part II of Diarmaid MacCulloch's The Reformation deals with the period from 1570-1619 as the divisions in Europe hardened and led to war.  I've already written about the first chapter of this section -- the aftermath of the Council of Trent, the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, and more.

In the rest of Part II he covers separately the Protestant north, the Catholic south, and the contested center before moving on to the Thirty Year's War.  I'm five chapters behind in my bloggins, but I'm not sure I'll take each one individually.  So, let's just start and see where this heads.  I'll try to point out the parts that interested me most, and not simply survey the historical details.

As the first generation of reformers had passed some time ago the divisions among the Protestants began to hardened.  Different groups vied for control of the legacy of Martin Luther -- there must always be conservatives and liberals.  One of those folk, Matthias Flacius Illyricus believed that in the Fall humanity's actual substance had changed and we became kinsfolk of the Devil!

Here is a theological dispute I was not aware of:

The Reformed laid great stress on a small moment of liturgical action that had safe biblical precedent in the narratives of Christ's institution of his Supper: the 'Fraction', when the minister solemnly broke the bread.  They regarded this as a symbol of Christ's benefits shared throughout the community.  Lutherans found this offensive, because of their conviction that Christ was corporeally present in the bread by the doctrine of ubiquity: they regarded a minister making the Fraction as carrying out a renewed human assault on Christ's body.

Wow!  I make the Fraction (though I've never realized the name) and do interpret its symbolism according to the above.  To think that in my practice of communion I may have been alienating those from a Lutheran tradition (though none have ever mentioned it) is surprising to me.

MacCulloch concludes that after all the internal Lutheran wrangling that the result of the 1580 Book of Concord was a church that looked roughly like the late medieval church in the north had always looked.  Well.

Various rulers and locales that had tried to maintain a more pluralistic or middle road through all the reforms were now finding it more difficult not to stake a position in one of the various camps that had developed.

Another result of this period was that whenever a ruler now tried to change the religion in his/her territory, force was required.  Which is a sign that the various religious devotions had become significant to the populace.  One can sense the emergence of individual liberty in all this.

One state that remained pluralistic through all this period was Poland-Lithuania, which at one point had thirty-four different religous sects, a startling number.  Given how much Poland is now viewed as a Catholic heartland, this surprised me.  But MacCulloch states that the organization and "resorvoir of traditional religious practice" benefited the Roman Catholics in the face of such pluralism among the reformed sects.  A single organized reformed church might have fared better.

Found a theological forefather in the Utrecht pastor Hubert Duifhuis who "gave full Church membership to anyone who applied without enquiring into their doctrines, and communion was open to all who chose to come to his church."  Yay!  But the conservative Calvinism of the Dutch would eventually overwhelm most of the more open and liberal groups (as is seen in the Arminian controversy, a fascinating section on it, the best I've ever read).

One historian has decribed the Netherlands in this period as "a multiplication of intolerances and fanaticisms."

Scottish reformers originally banned Christmas.

Unlike other reformations, Scotland didn't get a vernacular Bible (in Gaelic) until 1801.

Queen Elizabeth would interrupt sermons that annoyed her.

MacCulloch presents the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, as parliamentary pressure on Elizabeth.  He does not agonize over it but clearly defends it because Mary was guilty.  The result was important because it was an "ideological assertion of Reformation against dynastic legitimacy" and "monarchy was too important a matter to be left to monarchs."

Interesting note:

The funeral of the great Protestant warrior-poet, the Earl of Leicester's nephew Sir Philip Sidney, who died heroically on 5 November 1586 in the Netherlands fighting the Spaniards, may have been deliberately delayed until February 1587 in order to provide a ceremonial counterpoint to Mary's death and show what a true and godly martyr was like -- the Sidney funeral was held eight days after the execution, and made a great popular impression.

Part of what is interesting in his treatment of the execution is how little time he spends on it.

 Modern diary writing emerged as a Puritan practice around 1600: "these were journals intended to examine oneself for proofs of genuine election by God."  Well, we've come a long way since then to the contemporary blog and twitter.


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