6. The Reformation and the New State

The reformation and the social folk movements of the middle ages
The church and the princes in the north
Luther's attitude toward the State
Protestantism as a phase of princely Absolutism
Nationalism as inner enslavement, the peasant revolt
Wycliffe and the reformation in England
The hussite movement
Calixtines and Taborites
War as a source of Despotism
Chelcicky, a reformer of Church and State
Protes-tantism in Sweden
The disestablishment of the Church
The doctrine of predestination
The reign of terror in Geneva
Protestantism and Science

Submitted by Toms on September 5, 2011

IN the Reformation of the northern countries, readily distinguishable by its religious concepts from the Renaissance of the Latin people, where the concepts were dominantly pagan, two different tendencies must be carefully distinguished; the mass revolution of the peasants and of the lower sections of society in the cities, and the so-called Protestantism, which in Bohemia as well as in England and in Germany and the Scandi-navian countries worked toward a separation of the church and state and strove to concentrate all power in the hands of the state. The memory of the popular revolution, drowned in blood by the rising Protestantism and its princely and priestly representatives, was later (as usual) defamed and belittled by the victors. And as in the writing of current history the success or failure of a cause are the determining factors, it was inevitable that in later times the Reformation should be regarded as nothing more than the movement of Protestantism.

The revolutionary urge of the masses was directed not only against the Roman Papacy, but was meant to abolish social inequalities and the prerogatives of the rich and powerful. The leaders of the popular move-ment felt that these were a mockery of the pure Christian teaching of the equality of men. Even after the church had achieved its power the spirit of the early Christian congregations, with their communal mode of life and the feeling of brotherhood animating them, had never been quite forgotten among the people. The origin of monasticism was to be traced to this cause; likewise, the spirit of millennialism, the belief in a thousand year reign of peace, freedom and common possessions. This found an echo also in the speeches of Joachim of Floris and Almarich of Bena.

These traditions remained alive among the Bogomili in Bulgaria and Servia, and among the Cathari of the Latin countries. They kindled the courage of their faith among the Waldenses and the heretical sects of Languedoc and among the Humiliati and the Apostolic Brethren in Northern Italy, with their inner light. We find them among the Beguines and Beghardes in Flanders, among the Anabaptists of Holland and of Switzerland and the Lollards in England. They lived in the revolutionary popular movements in Bohemia and in the confederacies of the German peasants, who united in the Bundschuh and the Poor Conrad to break the yoke of serfdom. It was the spirit of these traditions which descended upon the Enthusiasts of Zwickau and gave to the revolutionary action of Thomas Munzer so powerful an impulse.

Against some of these movements the church with the help of the temporal powers organised regular crusades, as against the Bogomili and Albigenses, whereby whole countries were for decades filled with murder and rapine and thousands were slaughtered. But these bloody persecutions only contributed to the spread of those movements. Thousands of fugitives roamed through other lands and carried their doctrines to new groups. That between most of the heretical sects of the Middle Ages international relations existed has been fully proved by historical research. Such rela-tionships can be shown between the Bogomili and certain sects in Russia and Northern Italy, between the Waldenses and similar sects in Germany and Bohemia, between the Baptists in Holland, England, Germany and Switzerland.

All the peasant revolts in Northern Italy, Flanders, France, England, Germany, Bohemia, from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, were inspired by these movements, and give us today a fairly clear picture of the feeling and thinking of large sections of the people of that period. While we cannot speak of a unified movement, we notice a whole series of movements which preceded the great Reformation, and produced it. The well-known derisive song of the English Lollards,

When Adam delved and Eva span
Who was then the gentleman?

could well have served most of these movements as a leitmotif. The real popular movement of the Reformation period sought no alliance with princes and nobles, for with sure instinct its leaders recognised them as implacable enemies of the people, who would march not with them but against them. And since most of the great reformers, like Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, and others had first taken root among the movements of the people, the rising Protestantism was originally very closely connected with these. This situation changed very rapidly, however, as the social antithesis between the two objectives became ever more sharply accentuated and it was shown that large sections of the people would not be content with merely "away from Rome."

Separation from the Roman church could only be desirable to the princes of the northern countries as long as this separation involved no further consequences, and left their political and economic prerogatives untouched. The break with Rome not only increased their own authority, it also prevented the regular export of great sums of money from the land, for which they had such need at home. Furthermore, it gave them the opportunity to seize the church estates and to put the rich returns into their own treasury. It was these considerations which induced the princes and nobles of the northern countries to lead the Reformation. The petty quarrels of theologians hardly interested them, but the separation from Rome showed them definite advantages in prospect which were not to be despised. Hence it was profitable to follow the "voice of conscience" and to patronise the new prophets. Moreover the theological spokesmen of the Reformation did not make too great religious demands upon the Protestant princes. Instead, they endeavoured earnestly to show the rulers the temporal advantages of the matter. Thus Huss spoke to them in the language they best understood: "O ye faithful kings, princes, lords, and knights, awake from the lethargic dreams with which the priests have put a spell on you. Exterminate in your dominions the Simonist heresy-do not permit them in your lands to extort money to your disadvantage." 1

The spiritual leaders of Protestantism turned from the very beginning to the temporal rulers of their lands, whose assistance seemed to them absolutely necessary to secure victory for their cause. But as they also had to be careful not to break with the enraged people, they strove, although vainly, to reconcile the popular movement with the selfish aims of the princes and nobles. This attempt was doomed to failure, as the social cleft had become too wide to be bridged by a few petty concessions. The more compliant the Reformers showed themselves to the masters, the further they became removed from the revolutionary movement of the people and definitely arrayed against them. This was especially the case with Luther, who possessed the least social feeling of all of them, and whose spiritual vision was so narrow that he actually imagined the great movement could be brought to a close by the foundation of a new church.

Like Huss, Luther quoted Paul to prove that princes are not subject to the guardianship of the church but are called of God to rule over priest and bishop. In his appeal, "To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation", he tried to prove that according to the doctrines of Holy Writ, there was in reality no priestly caste but only a priestly function which anyone could serve who possessed the necessary ability and the confidence of his congregation. From this it followed that the church had no right to exercise temporal power; that belonged to the state. According to Luther's concept all power should be vested in the state, which was appointed by God himself to guard the public order. In effect, in this concept the whole political significance of Protestantism exhausted itself.

Protestantism had freed the conscience of man from the guardianship of the church only to barter it to the state. In this the "Protestant mission" of Martin Luther, who called himself God's servant, but was in reality only the servant of the state and its minion, completely exhausted itself. It was this innate servility which enabled him to betray the German people to the princes, and together with them to lay the foundation stones of a new church which in private agreement sold itself body and soul to the state and proclaimed the will of the princes and nobles as God's commandment. Luther accomplished the unholy union of religion with the interests of the state. He locked the living spirit into the prison of the word and thus became the herald of that dead-letter learning which interprets Christ's revelations to suit the state; which makes of men humble galley slaves, led to the portal of Paradise to compensate them by the life eternal for the slavery of this world.

Medieval man had not yet known the state in the real sense of the word. The concept of a central power which forces every vital activity into definite forms and guides men from the cradle to the grave upon the leading strings of a higher authority was strange to him. His ideas of right were based on custom transmitted to him by tradition. His religious feeling recognised the incompleteness of all human systems and made him inclined to follow his own counsel, and to help himself and to shape his relations with his fellowmen in conformity with the ancient customs of mutual agreement. When the rising state began to undermine these rights and raised its cause to the cause of God, he fought against the injustice which was being done to him. This is the real meaning of the great popular movements of the age of the Reformation, which endeavoured to give to the "freedom of the Evangelical Christian man"-as Luther called it-a social significance.

Only after the popular movement had been drowned in seas of blood, while Luther, "the beloved man of God," blessed the butchers of the insurgent German peasants, did victorious Protestantism raise its head and gave the state and its legal control of affairs a religious sanction, bloodily purchased with the gruesome slaughter of a hundred and thirty thousand men; Thus was accomplished the "reconciliation between religion and law," as Hegel later chose to call it. The new theology was taught by the lawyers. The dead-letter learning of the law killed conscience or invented a cheap substitute. The throne was transformed into an altar on which man was sacrificed to the new idols. "Positive law" became divine revelation; the state, the representative of God on earth.

In the other countries, too, Protestantism pursued the same ends everywhere; it betrayed the people and made of the Reformation an affair of the princes and the privileged sections of society. The movement started by Wycliffe in England, which spread to other countries, especially to Bohemia, was primarily of political character. Wycliffe fought the pope because the pope had embraced the cause of France, England's mortal enemy, and had demanded of the English government that the kingdom should continue to regard itself as a vassal of the Holy See and pay tribute to it, as John Lackland had done to Innocent III. But those times were passed. When Philip III of France braved the ban of Boniface VIII and compelled his successor to take up his residence at Avignon, the unlimited rulership of the Papacy received a blow from which it never recovered. Consequently, the English parliament could calmly dare to answer the pope's demands with the declaration that no king was ever empowered to surrender the country's independence to the pope.

Wycliffe at first merely defended the complete independence of the temporal power from the church and only advanced to a criticism of churchly dogmas after he had become convinced that the question would never be settled without a bold break with papism. But when the great peasant rebellion in England broke out and the revolting hordes of Wat Tyler and John Ball brought the king and the government into greatest danger, Wycliffe's opponents embraced the opportunity to raise their public accusation against him. Wycliffe declared that he did not sanction the action of the rebellious peasants; but he did it with a gentleness of understanding for the sufferings of the poor which compared most favourably with the Berserker rage wherewith Luther in his notorious screed "against the robbing and murdering peasants" encouraged the German princes to butcher them mercilessly.

When, later on, Henry VIII completed the breach with the papal church and confiscated its estates, he made himself the head of the new state church, which was completely under the dominance of the temporal power. When the same Henry had launched a virulent epistle against Luther, only, soon after, to defend the "national interest" against the Papacy, he did but prove that in England also-temporal advantages possessed a greater interest for the tenant of the crown than "the pure word of God" of the new doctrine.

In Bohemia, where the general situation was already very tense, it became accentuated by the national antagonisms between the Czechs and the Germans, in consequence whereof the Reformation assumed there an exceptionally violent expression. The real Hussite movement became prominent in Bohemia only after the death of Huss and Jerome of Prague at the stake. The preachings of Huss had been, on the whole, only the tracts of Wycliffe, which the Czech reformers translated for their country men into their own language. Huss, like Wycliffe, urged the complete liberation of the temporal power from the petty guardianship of the church. The church was to concern itself only with the salvation of men's souls and to stand aloof from every temporal governmental office. Of the "two whales," as Peter Chelcicky had called church and state, Huss would concede only to the state the power over temporal things. The church must be poor, must renounce all earthly treasure, and the priests must be amenable to temporal government even as any other subjects. Furthermore, the priestly office was to be open also to laymen, provided they possessed the necessary moral qualities. He condemned the moral degeneracy which had become prevalent among the priesthood, turning with especial severity against the traffic in indulgences, at that time most shamelessly practiced by the church, especially in Bohemia. Besides the purely political demands, which alone interest us here and which, being understood, appear especially favourable to the nobility, Huss made a number of theological demands directed against the oral confession, the mendicant monks, the doctrine of purgatory and other items. But what principally secured him the support of the Czech population was his teaching that the paying of tithes was no duty and his specially nationalistic position against the Germans, regarded by the Czechs as despoilers of their country.

The Calixtines and Utraquists, 2 to which sects chiefly the nobility and the richer citizens of Prague belonged, had been easily satisfied with the realisation of these demands and refused all social reforms, being principally concerned with the acquisition of the rich church estates and, for the rest, with peace and order in the country. But the real popular movement, comprising mainly the peasants and the poorer city population, pushed further and demanded especially the liberation of the peasants from the yoke of serfdom which so heavily oppressed the rural districts. Already Charles V had been compelled to stay the nobles from putting out the eyes and cutting off the hands and feet of their serfs for the slightest transgression. The movement of the so-called Taborites 3 embraced especially all democratic elements of the people up to the communists and chiliasts and was inspired with an ardent courage for battle.

It was inevitable that between these two movements of the Hussite agitation violent contentions were sooner or later bound to arise; they were delayed only by the general political condition of the times. When the German Emperor Sigismund, after the sudden death of his brother Wenceslaus, became the wearer of the Bohemian crown, the whole land was seized by a mighty commotion. For by the emperor's dastardly breach of faith Huss had been compelled to mount the pyre, after which Sigismund was regarded in all Bohemia as the sworn enemy of all reform movements. Soon after his ascent of the throne, in March, 1420, Pope Martin V in a special bull called all Christendom to a crusade against the Bohemian heresy, and an army of 150,000 men recruited from all parts of Europe moved against the Hussites. Now revolt arose all over the land to a devouring flame. Calixtines and Taborites, threatened by the same immediate danger, let their inner differences rest for the time being and united quickly for common defence. Under the leadership of the aged Zizka, an experienced warrior, the first crusading army was bloodily and decisively beaten. But that did not end the struggle; pope and emperor continued their attacks against the Bohemian heresies; and thus developed one of the bloodiest of wars, waged on both sides with frightful cruelty. After the Hussites had expelled the enemy from their own country they invaded the neighbouring states, wasted cities and villages, and by their irresistible bravery became the terror of their foes.

This brutal warfare lasted for twelve years, until the Hussites put the last army of the crusaders to fight in the battle of Taus. The result of the peace negotiations, concluded at the Council of Basle, was the "compact of Prague," which gave the Hussites far-reaching concessions in matters of faith and, above all, announced the renunciation by the church of its estates which the Czech nobility had appropriated.

This concluded the war against the external enemies, but only to make place for civil war. During the short breathing spells permitted the Hussites in the war against pope and emperor the differences between Calixtines and Taborites had flamed up anew, repeatedly leading to bloody conflicts. As a consequence, the Calixtines had repeatedly started negotiations with the pope and the emperor. And so it was inevitable that after the conclusion of peace, in which outcome they were chiefly instrumental, they should be supported against the Taborites by their former enemies to the best of their ability. In May, 1434, there occurred between the two parties the murderous battle of Lipan, in which thirteen thousand Taborites were killed and their army almost completely annihilated.

With this the popular movement was definitely defeated, and there began hard times for the poor populace of city and village. But thus early it became apparent that the revolutionary popular movement, which by its own or others' fault had come to be involved in a protracted war, was forced by circumstances to abandon its original aims, because military demands exhaust all social forces and thereby nullify all creative activity for the development of new forms of social organization. War not only affects human nature calamitously in general by constant appeal to its most brutal and cruel motives, but the military discipline which it demands at last stifles every libertarian movement among the people and then systematically breeds the degrading brutality of blind obedience, which has always been the father of all reaction.

This the Taborites, too, had to learn. Their opponents, the professors of Prague University, accused them of striving for a condition where "there would be no king nor ruler nor subjects anywhere on earth, all control and guidance would cease, none could compel another to anything, and all would dwell in equality like brothers and sisters." It was soon apparent that the war drove them constantly farther away from this goal, not only because their military leaders suppressed with bloody force all the libertarian tendencies within the movement, but because the nationalist spirit which animated them and which in the course of this terrible war increased to white heat, necessarily estranged them more and more from all truly humanitarian considerations, without which no truly revolutionary movement can ever succeed. Once men have become used to the thought that all problems of social life have to be settled by force, they logically arrive at despotism, even though they give it another name and hide its true character behind some misleading title. And thus it happened in Tabor. The yoke of restriction bore more and more heavily on the citizens and crushed the spirit that had once animated them. Peter Chelcicky, a forerunner of Tolstoi and one of the few innerly free men of that epoch, who opposed both church and state, described, in the following weighty words, the terrible condition into which protracted war had plunged the country:

. . . and then someone fills vile dens with thieves and commits violence, robbery, and murder and at the same time is a servant of God and does not carry the sword in vain. And truly he does not carry it in vain, but rather to do all sorts of injustice, violence, robbery, oppression of the labouring poor. And thereby have these various lords torn the people asunder and incited them against one another. Everyone drives his people like a herd to battle against others. Thus by these many masters the whole peasantry has been made familiar with murder, for they go about armed, always ready for battle. Thereby all brotherly love is infiltrated with bloodlust and such tension created as easily leads to contest, and murder results. 4

In Sweden, where the young dynasty founded by Gustavus Vasa imposed Protestantism on the people for purely political motives, the Reformation assumed quite a peculiar character. It was by no means holy zeal for the new divine doctrines that caused Gustavus I to break with Rome, but simply very sober political motives united with highly important economic considerations. Several grave mistakes of the papal power greatly favoured the success of his plans.

Soon after the commencement of his reign the king had addressed a most respectful letter to the pope requesting him to appoint new Swedish bishops who would be "concerned to guard the rights of the Church without encroaching upon those of the Crown." More especially Gustavus wished the pope to confirm as Archbishop of Upsala the newly nominated Primus Johannis Magni, whose predecessor, Gustavus Trolle, had been condemned by the Rigsdag as a traitor because he had invited the Danish king, Christian II, into the land to overthrow the regent, Sten Sture. Gustavus had promised the pope to "prove himself a faithful son of the Church" and he assumed that the Vatican would respond to his wishes But the pope, badly advised by his counsellors, believed that Gustavus' reign would not last long, and with unyielding insistence demanded the reinstatement of Gustavus Trolle. With that the die was cast. Gustavus could not have yielded to this demand even if he had intended to avoid an open breach with Rome. Although the great majority of the Swedish people were good Catholics and wanted nothing to do with Luther, a renewal of the Danish dominion appeared even less endurable to the free Swedish peasants. The bloody tyranny of the fatuous despot, Christian II had given them plenty of cause for fear. Hence the king could risk the breach with papism which, secretly, he doubtless desired. But although Sweden separated from the Holy See, and the king thereafter favoured the preaching of Protestantism, the church service remained the same.

What Gustavus principally desired was under some pretext to confiscate the estates of the church, which in Sweden were very rich. After some cautious attempts in this direction, which aroused the opposition of his own bishops, he finally dropped the mask of impartiality and, in order to carry through his political plans, announced himself as an open enemy of the church. In 1526, he suppressed all the Catholic publishing houses in the country and seized two-thirds of the church's income to liquidate the debts of the state. Later, when a serious contention arose between the king and the spiritual dignitaries concerning the further confiscation of church properties, Gustavus Vasa gradually abolished all the prerogatives of the churches and made them subservient to the state.

The king could not, however, take such steps relying solely on his own power, for the peasants were definitely opposed to the so-called "church reforms" and were especially outraged by the theft of church property. How little the people cared for Lutheranism is apparent from the fact that the peasantry frequently threatened to march on Stockholm and destroy that "spiritual Sodom," as they called the capital because of its Protestant tendencies. Their opposition compelled the king and his successors to rely more and more on the nobility; and the nobles granted their assistance to the Crown only for a price. Not only were a great part of the church estates yielded to the nobility to purchase their favour, but the peasants were pressed by royalty ever deeper into servitude to the nobility to retain their good humour.

Naturally, the antagonistic attitude of the peasant population repeatedly brought the young dynasty into a very dangerous position. The Swedish peasants, who had never known serfdom during medieval times, possessed a strong influence in their country. It was they who had elected Gustavus Vasa king to foil the secret machinations of the Danish party. Now, when the king tried to impose upon the country a new faith, and further burdened the peasants with heavy taxes, there arose frequent and serious disagreement between the Crown and the people. From 1526 to 1543 Gustavus had to fight not fewer than six uprisings of the peasants. While these were not at last, it is true, completely successful, they did force the king to curb somewhat his ever growing lust for absolute power.

Gustavus Vasa knew very well that for weal or woe his-dynasty was inextricably entwined with Protestantism. By his confiscation of church estates and the public execution at Stockholm of two Catholic bishops he had burned all his bridges behind him and was obliged to pursue the path he had taken. Hence, in his will, he most urgently adjured his successors to remain true to the new faith, for only thus could the dynasty continue to prosper.

Thus Protestantism was in Sweden from the very beginning a purely dynastic affair, systematically imposed on the people. That Gustavus Vasa was converted to Protestantism from inner conviction is Just as much a fairy tale as the assertion that his later successor, Gustavus Adolphus, only with a heavy heart and against his will, invaded Germany to aid his hard-pressed fellow religionists. For such a purpose neither "the snow king," as his enemies called him, nor his clever chancellor, Oxenstierna, would have spent a penny. What they were after was unlimited dominion over the Baltic, and for such a purpose any pious lie was acceptable.

Wherever Protestantism attained to any influence it revealed itself as a faithful servant of the rising absolutism and granted the state all the rights it had denied to the Roman Church. That Calvinism fought absolutism in England, France and Holland is not significant, for, with this exception: it was less free than any other phase of Protestantism. That it opposed absolutism in those countries is explained by the special social conditions prevailing in them. At its source it was unendurably despotic, and determined the individual fate of men far more completely than the Roman Church had ever tried to do. No other religion has had such a deep and permanent influence on men's personal lives. Was not the "inner conversion" one of the most important doctrines of Calvin? And he continued to convert till nothing was left of humanity.

Calvin was one of the most terrible personalities in history, a Protestant Torquemada, a narrow-hearted zealot, who tried to prepare men for God's kingdom by the rack and wheel. Crafty and cunning, destitute of all deeper feeling, like a genuine inquisitor he sat in judgment upon the visible weaknesses of his fellowmen and instituted a regular reign of terror in Geneva. No pope ever wielded completer power. The church ordinances regulated the lives of the citizens from the cradle to the grave, reminding them at every step that they were burdened by the curse of original sin, which in the murky light of Calvin's doctrine of predestination assumed an especially sombre character. All joy of life was forbidden. The whole land was like a penitent's cell in which there was room only for inner consciousness of guilt and humiliation. Even at weddings music and dancing were forbidden. In the theatres only pieces with religious content were offered. An unendurable censorship took care that no profane writings, especially no novels, were printed. An army of spies infested the land and respected the rights of neither home nor family. Even the walls had ears, for all the faithful were urged to become informers and felt obliged to betray their fellows. In this respect too, political and religious "orthodoxy" always reach the same result.

Calvin's criminal code was a unique monstrosity. The least doubt of the dogmas of the new church, if heard by the watchdogs of the law, was punished by death. Frequently the mere suspicion was enough to bring down the death sentence, especially if the accused for some reason or other was unpopular with his neighbours. A whole series of transgressions which had been formerly punished with short imprisonment, under the rulership of Calvinism led to the executioner. The gallows, the wheel and the stake were busily at use in the "Protestant Rome," as Geneva was frequently called. The chronicles of that time record gruesome abominations, among the most horrible being the execution of a child for striking its mother, and the case of the Geneva executioner, Jean Granjat, who was compelled first to cut off his mother's right hand and then to burn her publicly because, allegedly, she had brought the plague into the land. Best known is the execution of the Spanish physician, Miguel Servetus, who in 1553 was slowly roasted to death over a small fire because he had doubted Calvin's doctrines of the Trinity and predestination. The cowardly and treacherous manner in which Calvin contrived the destruction of the unfortunate scholar throws a gruesome light on the character of that terrible man, whose cruel fanaticism is so uncanny because so frightfully calm and removed from all human feeling. 5

But as human nature could not, for all that, be exterminated by pious pretence, secret desires continued to glow, and created externally that miserable care for appearances and that revolting hypocrisy characteristic of Protestantism in general and of Calvin's Puritanism in particular. Furthermore, historical research has discovered that under the rule of Calvinism moral degeneration and political corruption flourished to a degree never known before.

Since Calvin is frequently given credit for maintaining democratic principles in political administration, it should be remembered that Geneva was no great monarchic state, but a small republic, and that the Reformer was for this reason compelled to accept the democratic tradition. Furthermore, it must not be overlooked that in so fanatical a time, when men had lost all inner balance and were utterly without any reasonable consideration, it was precisely formal democracy which could best serve Calvin to confirm his power, since he could announce it as the will of the people. In reality, the democratic appeals in Calvin's policy were but a deceitful camouflage, which could not disguise the theocratic character of his government.

Protestantism did, therefore, by no means unfold the banner of spiritual independence or "the religion of freedom of conscience," as is so often asserted. It was in matters of faith just as intolerant as was Catholicism, and as inclined to the brutal persecution of dissenters. It but assisted the transfer of the principle of authority from the religious to the political field and thereby wakened Caesaro-Papism to new forms and a new life. It was in many respects more narrow-minded and mentally more limited than the heads of the old church, whose rich experience, knowledge of human nature and high intellectual culture were so totally lacking in Protestant leaders. If its rage for persecution found fewer victims than did the consistent intolerance of the papal church it was simply because its activity was confined to a narrower field and cannot be compared with the other.

Toward the rising science, Protestantism was as innately antagonistic as the Catholic church. It frequently manifested its antagonism even more strongly, as the dead-letter beliefs of its representatives barred every freer outlook. The translation of the Bible into the various national languages led to a quite unique result. To the great founders of the Protestant doctrine the Bible was not a book or a collection of books conceived as written by men, but the very revealed word of God. For this reason "Holy Writ" was for them infallible. They interpreted all events according to the text of the Bible and condemned all knowledge not in harmony with the words of Scripture. Thus, to the adherents of the new church the letter became everything and the spirit nothing. They locked reason within the chains of a dead-letter fetishism and were, for this reason if no other, incapable of scientific thought. Not for nothing had Luther called reason "the whore of the devil." His judgment concerning Copernicus is a masterpiece of Protestant thinking. He called the great scholar a fool and refuted the new cosmic concept by simply stating that it is written in the Bible that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.

Furthermore, this religious dead-letter faith was the immediate predecessor of the later political belief in miracles, which swears by the letter of the law and is just as disastrous in its results as the blind belief in "God's written Word."

It was the mental bondage, characteristic of all Protestantism, which induced the humanists-who had at first welcomed the Reformation in northern lands most gladly-later to turn away, when it became clear to them how much of theological persecution and how little of spiritual freedom had intrenched itself behind this movement. It was neither irresolution nor over-anxiety which influenced their attitude. It was Protestantism's lack of intellectual culture and obtuseness of feeling which estranged the leaders of humanism. More than this, it was Protestantism's nationalistic limitations, destroying the spiritual and cultural ties which up to then had united the peoples of Europe. But principally, two different modes of thought existed here which could have no genuine point of contact. When Erasmus of Rotterdam publicly asked to have named to him "the men who under Lutherism had made marked progress in science," his question remained for most of his Protestant opponents eternally unintelligible. They sought, not in science, but only in the word of the Bible, to find the unique way to all knowledge. Erasmus's question shows most clearly the width of the gulf which had opened between the two movements.

  • 1Carl Vogl, Peter Chelcicky: A Prophet at the Turn of the Time.
  • 2"Calixtines," from the Latin calix, cup; "Utraquists," from the Latin, sub utraque specie ("in both forms"), because they received the Eucharist in two forms, receiving from the priest not only bread but also wine, wherefore the cup became the sign of the Hussites. This custom, however, did not originate with Huss, but with Jacob von Mies, also called Jacobellus.
  • 3''Taborites", because they had given to a town which stood on a hill in the neighbourhood of Prague, the biblical name of Tabor. Tabor remained, until the Suppression of the Taborites, the spiritual centre of the movement, and its inhabitants practiced a sort of communal possession which might be called a war communism.
  • 4Peter Chelcicky. The Net of Faith. translated into German from the old Czechic by Dr. Carl Vogl. Dachau, Munich, 1925, p. 145.
  • 5The Genevan historian, J. B. Galiffe, in his two writings, Some Pages of Exact History, and New Pages collected a mass of material from the old chronicles and file records which gives a positively shocking picture of the conditions prevailing in Geneva at that time.