The Heritage of the Reformation

 
9781258279066: The Heritage of the Reformation

Excerpt from The Heritage of the Reformation
Reformation. But while it is quite right to attribute a decisive sig nificance to Luther's deed which destroyed the claims of papa] supremacy over the whole of human life, it is not permissible to interpret this deed as if it had been inspired by a spirit akin either to the individualism of the Renaissance or to the individualistic freedom of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For Luther protested against papal authority not because he desired to pit the authority Of his own mind against that of the papal church, but because he found it irreconcilable with the Word of God which he had rediscovered in the Bible. Luther can therefore hardly be regarded as the pioneer Of that secular individualism which found its most definitely marked expression in political liberalism, nor can he be considered as a pioneer of that religious individualism which is SO characteristic Of the thinking of many modern men.
It is not surprising that Roman Catholics should be most prone to attribute to Luther an individualistic spirit and to make him then responsible for that divisiveness of modern civilization which has found expression in the modern cultural crises. They are inclined to idealize the unity of the cultural life which, under the leader ship of the church, supposedly prevailed in the Middle Ages, and, in consequence of this idealization, they lay the responsibility for the disunity of modern life at the door Of Luther and the Reform ers, hoping in the meantime that modern men will see the errors of their ways and return to the obedience Of the only institution Of salvation.
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Pauck is Charles A. Briggs Graduate Professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary, New York City.

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