Christian Relaunch  

Fragments of a History of Beliefs

The Protestant Reformation

Protestantism opposed several heresies, but no branch of it opposed them all, so in that sense "the Reformation" (big "R") was not entirely "reformational" (small "r").

The first heresy it dealt with was Meritorial Bonhominalism, and Protestants were united in rejecting this. But at that time Christianoidity was also pervaded by Synergist Bonhominalism, Magicalism and Authoritarianism, and here the Radical reformers divided from the Magisterials led by Luther and Calvin. (The Radical Reformation is less well-known than its Magisterial counterpart for the very good reason that the Radical leaders were murdered by Magisterials.)

The Magisterials rejected all Bonhominalism, but retained an attenuated Magicalism and a thorough Authoritarianism.

The Radicals excluded all Magicalism and Authoritarianism but retained (Synergist) Bonhominalism (and maybe introduced some Feminism, if their Panlibertarianism was overzealous).

Calvin, more thorough than Luther in following up the consequences of Malhominalism, rightly envisioned a city or nation, in all its activities, carrying out man's Task in the harmony that only shared godliness can yield. But wrongly he sought to enforce participation in this vision. Superficially this was a simple failure to understand that the examples from the Tanakh to which he appealed were not applicable to Christian circumstances, but the deeper cause was the continuing influence of the Authoritarian Hellenistic idea of politics, in which the state governs the life of the nation. Even Calvin had failed to understand how pervasive was the influence of alien attitudes.

Pietism. (I now fear that some of the thoughts in this paragraph may be misleading, but I think most of it is right so I include it.) Every idolatry begets a counter-idolatry. The idolising of Causality led to the idolising of Personality. Among Humanists, Rationalism begot Romanticism, and among Protestants, Scholasticism begot Pietism. Pietism was a social movement that began in (Lutheran) Germany in 1675 CE. Pietists suppose that a good relationship with God is manifested in, maintained by, or even consists of, intense feelings of the presence of God. Pietism was the reaction of Humanism's Personhood idol against its Causality idol, but among Christianoids this took the form of reaction against the Protestant synthesis. The Pietists ceased to defend the Reformed belief. While retaining most of the wording of Reformed belief, Humanism in its early-romantic form was now able to move right in and "liberate" Christian experience from "dead orthodoxy". Pietism saw feeling as the key to truth. Wesley wrote of his conversion, "I did feel my heart strangely warmed. I felt that I did trust Christ, Christ alone, for salvation". Note the repetition of felt. So arose the modern idea of "religious experience". The idea that reverence is primarily a matter of feeling seems commonplace to us, but at the time it was eccentric. Arminianism, stemming from the same root (the Humanist Personality-idol), was a natural ally of Pietism, retaining the words of Calvin's creed while rejecting Calvin's alleged "gloomy fatalism" in favour of free will. Pietism emphasises certain pious feelings, which they think of as experiences of God's presence.

English Protestantism

Scholastic Calvinism. In the 1640's Calvinists ("Puritans") seemed to dominate English Christianoidity, but then they became and remained peripheral. They have persisted, both in the C of E and in the "free churches", but while maintaining Calvin's Malhominalism they lapsed from his Culturalism into Otherworldalism.

Low Churchmanship. By 1700 the C of E was controlled by people who, if not professing Bonhominalism (in its Synergist form), at least upheld the principle of Moderation, which in this context amounted to the same thing.

Latitudinarianism (i.e. Christianoid Humanism). This, developing along with the Humanism on which it depends, manifested itself as Broad Churchmanship, Theological Modernism and the Social Gospel.

Pentecostalism, arising around 1910, with its distinctive spirit-baptism doctrine, is a form of Pietism. From the 1970's the Pietism within the traditional denominations was increasingly influenced by Pentecostalism. This influence is known as Neo-Pentecostalism, or more popularly as the Charismatic Movement. The House Church Movement, arising in the 1980's, was part of this.

Anglo-Catholicism, a resurgence of Magicalism (in its Sacramentalist form) in the Church of England starting with the Oxford Movement around 1840, was a deliberate return to pre-Reformation beliefs.