Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dialogue on 16th-Century Christians & Religious Tolerance (With Attempted Analogies to Communists, Muslims, & Pagan Romans) (vs. "CPA")

The following exchange was taken from comments concerning my paper, Philip Melanchthon's Agony Over the Sectarianism of Early Protestantism / Little-Known Derivation of the Term "Protestant". "CPA" is a Lutheran, with whom I have had many fruitful, amiable dialogues. His words will be in green.

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If the United Nations offered the Christian world a deal whereby we agree to tolerate both Christianity and Islam as equal religions in Europe and America, but Islam was the only religion allowed in the Middle East, would you think that fair? Would you "protest" it? Would you be upset if the US angrily rejected such a one-sided tolerance?

All of the Catholic offers of tolerance you mention were predicated on the Catholic local authorities (for example in Bavaria, Austria, Bohemia, and Cologne) continuing to have the right to apply all the old laws on heresy against Evangelicals. So in Bavaria, Evangelicals would continue to be banned, but in Saxony Catholics would have to be tolerated. And if a Saxon prince converted to Catholicism for love or money (like Maurice did), then nothing would prevent him from banning the Evangelical faith again. (And that's exactly what happened in the early stages of the Thirty Years War.)

It's the old "What's mine is mine, what's yours is negotiable" line that Communists peddled in the 1970s and 1980s and the Islamists are peddling now.


Nice try, Chris. This is absurdly simplistic and I think you're sharp enough to know that (being an historian by profession). The "x" factor that you conveniently omit is the fact that (historically, or sociologically-speaking, but also, to some extent, theologically, as partial heresy from a Catholic perspective) Protestantism was a radically new thing. One must also include in the analysis the fact of widespread pillage and theft of Catholic properties.

So your analogy doesn't quite fly. Since you wanted to do a barely-plausible Christianity-Islam comparison, I'll play your game, even though we are dealing here with two variants of the Christian religion.

Islam has been around almost 1400 years, and Christianity nearly 2000 years. At the time of the Diets of Spires (aka Speyer or Speier) or Augsburg or Regensburg or Poissy, Lutheranism / Calvinism / Zwinglianism had been around 12, 13, 24, or 44 years (starting from Luther's 95 Theses and 1517, which seems reasonable enough).

Now at the time, these self-proclaimed "evangelicals" were presumptuous enough to claim that they represented the true Christian religion, while Catholicism did not (even to the extent that Catholic worship, which had a long history going back to the beginning, was invalid, blasphemous, idolatrous, and an abomination). According to them, the "Gospel" (as they newly-defined it) had been thoroughly corrupted and practically lost. So that gave them the "right" and "duty" to spit upon the established religion and to make out like they were the new carriers of the supposedly newly-recovered torch of Christianity.

So, to follow the Islam-Christianity analogy, one would have to present the following scenario: Muslims would come to the United States, and take over, say, the entire Western half, west of the Mississippi, resulting in a split along religious lines, as in 16th century Germany, Switzerland, and so forth.

Now, they would, of course (being the one, true, religion, and vastly superior to Christianity), not allow Christianity in their environments, since it is false and involves the blasphemy of worshiping three Gods (polytheism), etc.

At first the Christians resisted by force of arms these Johnny-come-lately intruders. But after so many years of strife and unrest, it got old, and so the Christians in the east, realizing that Islamic-Western America was here to stay, figured that they should negotiate some sort of sensible, lasting peace.

The Muslims in the meantime, simply pillaged and stole all the Christian properties in their areas. The Christians tried to get that back. The Muslims absolutely refused. Failing that, all they demanded was that Christians be allowed to worship as they please in the newly-acquired Muslim territories of America, and then in turn, the Muslims would be allowed to worship as they saw fit. The Muslims again refused. This went against all laws of God and conscience, so they claimed. They could not allow blasphemy to take place in their territories.

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According to you, the Catholics at the time were acting like Muslims or Communists. In fact, the exact opposite is the only plausible analogy. It was the new guys in town who were demanding all the rights and excluding the rights of the people who rejected their new religious belief-system, and who happened to live in the territories they took over.

All the Catholics were asking for was the continuance of the 2000 year tradition of Catholic worship, in areas which had been overrun by Protestants. They were under no obligation to entertain Protestantism in their own areas, since it was a heresy by their standards, and thus to be avoided. Toleration and societal sanction of something (a new thing, mind you) regarded as heretical and bad for that society, is not required. But one can decide to be tolerant of such a new religious system in other areas, if the majority has adopted it.

The catch, then, is how to treat those in the newly-Protestant areas who wish to remain Catholic: to simply remain as they were. The Protestants refused to allow any tolerance for that. They just moved in, proclaimed the "Gospel" (i.e., the peculiar Protestant version of it which excluded virtually all distinctives of Catholicism), stole all the Church properties, destroying many countless works of religious art in the process, and took over the area.

Catholics (i.e., in the councils or diets discussed) were willing to tolerate even all that, for the sake of peace: in effect they said, "practice your religion as you will; even to the point of making Protestantism the official religion, but please don't interfere with the Catholics in your region."

If you wish to press your fundamentally-flawed analogy, be my guest, but if you think you will convince anyone in the US that Muslims ought to come in and take over part of the country and forbid Christian worship in those areas, while at the same time they demand equal rights even in the still-Christian parts of the country, I'd love to see that.

Moreover, the United Nations part doesn't fit. There was nothing like that at the time. It was simply Catholic western Europe, in the form of (politically) a Catholic empire, insofar as there was any supra-national unity. America already grants Muslims religious freedom, whereas Muslims almost universally do not grant that to Christians, in any meaningful sense of the term.

You ask would I "protest" that? Of course I would, but at the same time, I understand that this is the consistent response of a Muslim, according to their own system. They exclude what they think is untrue. They think it is absurd to allow a belief-system that is untrue, because they believe it would harm society. Christians used to think like that, too, and indeed there is much that can be said for it. But now we think that heresy and religious falsehood are trifling matters, not even worth fighting for anymore, either militarily or even politically or conversationally.

Anyway, it is clearly the early Protestants who are acting like the Muslims. They wouldn't allow Catholicism at all, just as the Muslims don't allow Christianity. They stole property, just as the Muslims ransacked Hagia Sophia [for readers unfamiliar with it: one of the largest and most beautiful Christian churches ever built, in Constantinople; now Istanbul] and made it into a mosque. Look at Henry VIII's England, for heaven's sake. It is estimated that in 1550 or so, England was still about four-fifth's Catholic. But the Protestants got their way by persecution, murder, and massive pillaging. A huge uprising took place, with some 50,000 Catholics in arms (the "Pilgrimmage of Grace"), but Henry simply tricked the leaders, had them all killed, and it dissipated.

This is largely how early Protestantism made itself grow (again, a lot like the first Muslims). Even so, Catholics were willing to allow them freedom in worship in lands that only a few years earlier had been Catholic. But the Protestants didn't think that was worthwhile enough or fair enough of a deal. They would not allow Catholic freedom of worship. But they expected freedom in any Catholic lands that they took over by force or by majorities.

You made an interesting observation above: "the Catholic local authorities. . . continuing to have the right to apply all the old laws on heresy against Evangelicals." Yes, the "OLD laws." In other words, the previous status quo. What's wrong with that? Every society has a status quo which it cherishes and seeks to uphold. But Catholics were supposed to bow to these upstarts, who possessed all truth, and expected everyone to immediately adopt their ways?

This is unreasonable; I would say, absolutely outrageous. And that is why Melanchthon, and even Luther, saw the folly of the "Protestants" rejecting the offer they received from the Catholics of tolerance in their own regions (i.e., the situation from which the name "Protestant" was derived).

That's why Melanchthon wrote: "The articles of the Imperial Recess 'do not press hardly on us. On the contrary, they afford us ample protection." And he called the ridiculous "protest" a "terrible business . . . we should not stand in any danger if our party were more accommodating, and behaved more reasonably . . ." Are you saying that you understand the situation then better than one of the highest leaders in Protestantism, who saw the folly of this intransigent stance?

Not only that; he rightly saw how religious war and division would be the fruit of Protestant irrationality and unflinching opposition to religious freedom and tolerance: "I tremble lest from these beginnings, there should follow a convulsion of the Empire; and it is not the Empire alone that is in danger, but religion as well."

Of course, that is exactly what happened. The next hundred years were devoted to war, until Europe got exhausted with all the pointless fighting, and started its rapid rate of secularization, with which we live to this day.

If the first Protestants would have simply accepted the [by the prevailing standards of that time] generous offer of tolerance granted by the Catholics, then perhaps much of that could have been avoided. Luther saw plainly that the setting up of a Protestant League would lead to a Catholic League, and thus, far more chance of war.

But Joe Protestant had by then, already started being so stubborn and self-righteous that they wouldn't even listen to their own leaders' wise advice. The genie was already out of the bottle. This was one of the main points of my paper: Luther and his fellow revolutionaries unleashed incredibly destructive forces that were inevitable. Once the path of individualism and sectarianism was given sanction by well-meaning, sincere, but dangerous and wrong doctrines (such as private judgment and sola Scriptura and radical new forms of Church government) there was no turning back.

I don't hold Luther et al personally responsible for all that. I only say that they bear some responsibility for the incredible naivete and silly assumption that it could possibly have been any different, given the radical nature of their novel innovations.

Secular historian Will Durant gives an apt summary of how a Catholic would have viewed all these early happenings:


Your emphasis on faith as against works was ruinous . . . for a hundred years charity almost died in the centers of your victory . . . You destroyed nearly all the schools we had established, and you weakened to the verge of death the universities that the Church had created and developed. Your own leaders admit that your disruption of the faith led to a dangerous deterioration of morals both in Germany and England. "You let loose a chaos of individualism in morals, philosophy, industry, and government. You took all the joy and beauty out of religion . . . you condemned the masses of mankind to damnation as 'reprobates,' and consoled an insolent few with the pride of 'election' and salvation. You stifled the growth of art, and wherever you triumphed classical studies withered.

You expropriated Church property to give it to the state and the rich, but you left the poor poorer than before, and added contempt to misery . . . You rejected the papacy only to exalt the state: you gave to selfish princes the right to determine the religion of their subjects . . . You divided nation against nation, and many a nation and city against itself; you wrecked the international moral checks on national powers, and created a chaos of warring national states . . . You claimed the right of private judgment, but you denied it to others as soon as you could . . .

Every man becomes a pope, and judges the doctrines of religion before he is old enough to comprehend the functions of religion in society and morals . . . A kind of disintegrative mania, unhindered by any . . . authority, throws your followers into such absurd and violent disputes that men begin to doubt all religion, and Christianity itself would be dissolved . . . were it not that the Church stands firm amid all the fluctuations of opinion and argument . . . the one fold that can preserve religion.

(The Reformation, 936-937)

Can't you see any of this, Chris? Does party affiliation so bias you that you can't even imagine how all this would look from a Catholic perspective in 1530, 1541 or 1561?

Well, maybe I shouldn't have floated my argument via an analogy, since of course it opens up lots of areas for attack -- as do all analogies.

Here's what I think shows up the big difference between our perspectives:



You made an interesting observation above: 'the Catholic local authorities. . . continuing to have the right to apply all the old laws on heresy against Evangelicals.' Yes, the 'OLD laws.' In other words, the previous status quo. What's wrong with that? Every society has a status quo which it cherishes and seeks to uphold. But Catholics were supposed to bow to these upstarts, who possessed all truth, and expected everyone to immediately adopt their ways?

I was assuming that we were attempting to look at this whole colossal conflict from the point of view of our-own hard won principles of religious liberty. My point was to emphasize that the Catholic side was not sincerely interested in religious liberty at all, and using it simply as a tactic to eventually secure the return to uniformity. I don't think you can dispute that. (Certainly you haven't presented any evidence along those lines).

As a historian, I can appreciate that Catholic persecutors were applying their own laws to those whom they took as heretics can be understood in their own perspective as simply doing what they had every right and indeed an obligation to do.

But on the other hand, you can surely understand that the Evangelicals, being convinced that Catholicism is false, and that the church of Christ must teach true doctrine, were undestandably concerned with bringing all of the church and its properties into the hands of the true religion. And you can surely understand how they did not agree that they are heretics and should be burned.

Indeed we should also be willing to extend this argument to the Romans who were just following the OLD law in deciding that while Jews were legitimately monotheistic because it was their traditional religion, Christians were not legitimately monotheistic because they were either converts from the Roman religion they ought to have stuck with, or else from the Jewish religion which repudiated them. So Christianity is a religion that combines innovation and intolerance -- the exact reason the Romans made it illicit.

And of course the church properties in Germany dated back to the time of Charlemagne's crusading conquest of the pagan Saxons (you can read about it in Richard Fletcher's "Barbarian Conversion") which was exactly a process of an invader coming in, butchering the locals, smashing their idols and seizing their temples, forcibly converting the surviving populace, and assigning vast tracts of (stolen) territory to the usurping church. At most one could say that the Catholic church lost its German church property by the same process it gained it.

As an Evangelical Christian, I am obviously "on the side" of the Christians in the Roman empire, and the Evangelicals in the Holy Roman Empire. (And "on the side" of Charlemagne vs. the Saxons as well.) But as a historian, sure, I can see that the Romans and the Catholic persecutors were in both cases defending the order they had grown up with. And I can see that in both cases, they had a valid "If we don't crush them first, they'll crush us" argument. Particularly in the Roman case, this proved to be an accurate forboding. All I am asking you Dave to recognize is that the Evangelical "heretics" had exactly the same and exactly as factually well grounded feeling about the Catholics: "if we don't crush them first, they'll crush us." And second to recognize that the Catholic offer of toleration was not really sincere, in the sense of marking a genuine respect for conscience, but simply a tactical compromise, a reculer pour mieux sauter, as was demonstrated in the succeeding decades.

As an American, of course I look back on all this as some kind of nightmare of the past. Despite the difficulties of religious liberty (which are more significant I think than usually considered), I have no regret for the creation of it. I'm not proud as an Evangelical in much of the "how" in England or Sweden becoming Protestant. (In Germany much less bloody compulsion was used.) Reading about the martyrs under Queen Mary is a good deal more comfortable for me than about the martyrs under Queen Elizabeth. I would likewise hope that you as a Catholic are not proud of the details of how the Czech lands became Catholic, or how Protestantism basically disappeared in France and Austria (or indeed how the Saxons became Christian in the first place).


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Well, maybe I shouldn't have floated my argument via an analogy, since of course it opens up lots of areas for attack -- as do all analogies.

I'll take that as a concession that it was an invalid analogy. Otherwise, you would have defended it and shown some fault in my defeater.

I was assuming that we were attempting to look at this whole collossal conflict from the point of view of our-own hard won principles of religious liberty.

To some extent, yes, though you know as well as I that the categories we think in today in this respect do not always apply to the 16th century, on either side.

Secondly, you compared the Catholics to Muslims and Communists (what were the Protestants: good American conservative Republicans?), so I was compelled to show that this was 1) untrue, and 2) if true to any extent, much more applicable to what the early Protestants did, not the Catholics.

My point was to emphasize that the Catholic side was not sincerely interested in religious liberty at all,

Well, that's easy to say, isn't it? It is precisely this mistrust which sank all the earnest efforts at achieving some sort of peace and truce and peaceful coexistence. The Catholics had already tolerated these upstarts coming in piilaging and stealing churches. But they were willing to let them worship as they wanted in their own territories. I fail to see how that is "intolerant." The Catholics had every right to go in and put down the mass insurrection by force, just as Luther advised the princes in 1525. That's what happens today, right? If a riot begins and folks start stealing things and looting, the police go in and put it down, using force where necessary.

Are you saying the Catholics had no right to defend their property from being stolen, and priceless religious treasures being destroyed ore trampled on by horses, etc.?

The Protestants were breaking civil laws; not just the laws and doctrines of the Church. Note, e.g., one incident from the Diet of Augsburg in 1530:

Early in July the bishops presented their complaints to the Diet of the plundering and destruction of churches, seizure of monasteries and hospitals, prohibition of Masses, and attacks on religious procesions by the Protestants. When Charles called upon the Protestants to restore the property they had seized, they said that to do so would be against their consciences. Charles responded crushingly: 'The Word of God, the Gospel, and every law civil and canonical, forbid a man to appropriate to himself the property of another.' He said that as Emperor he had the duty of guarding the rights of all, especially those Catholics unwilling to accept Protestantism or go into exile, who should at least be allowed to remain in their homes and practice their ancestral faith, specifically the Mass; the Protestants replied that they would not tolerate the Mass . . .

(Warren Carroll, The Cleaving of Christendom; from the series, A History of Christendom, Volume 4, Front Royal, VA: Christendom Press, 2000, 103-107)
and using it simply as a tactic to eventually secure the return to uniformity. I don't think you can dispute that. (Certainly you haven't presented any evidence along those lines).

I don't know every detail of every incident (we can't cover everything here). I have simply presented certain known facts about these early efforts at conciliation. Protestants refused, and even Melanchthon agreed that they were being unreasonable in doing that (a fact you have studiously ignored in your reply).

As a historian, I can appreciate that Catholic persecutors were applying their own laws to those whom they took as heretics can be understood in their own perspective as simply doing what they had every right and indeed an obligation to do.

If heresy is a bad thing, and causes strife and people to potentially go to hell, it should be suppressed. Would that we had a bit more of that attitude today (while still preserving religious tolerance and liberty).

But on the other hand, you can surely understand that the Evangelicals, being convinced that Catholicism is false, and that the church of Christ must teach true doctrine, were undestandably concerned with bringing all of the church and its properties into the hands of the true religion.

Sure, I understand it. They thought Catholicism wasn't Christian; therefore, they felt like they had a duty to steal their properties and "Christianize" them. But of course this is wrong on two major counts:

1) Catholicism is, in fact, Christian, and a consistent Protestant argument otherwise is impossible to make; indeed, almost inconceivable.

2) Stealing is against civil and natural law (and against the Ten Commandments).

Moreover, your huge problem here is that you are defending a movement which held to some basic assumptions that you reject; viz., that Catholicism is not Christian, and that the Mass is in no way, shape, or form a Christian worship service. This is the dilemma you find yourself in. Anti-Catholic Protestants can defend all this as consistent with their self-defeating beliefs. But you cannot, since you are not anti-Catholic (far as I know).

And you can surely understand how they did not agree that they are heretics and should be burned.

Would that they would have had the same attitude regarding the Anabaptists, whom they drowned in mockery of their belief in adult baptism. They were heretics on many grounds, by Catholic standards (it must be judged by individual beliefs). But I am in favor of religious tolerance.

Indeed we should also be willing to extend this argument to the Romans who were just following the OLD law in deciding that while Jews were legitimately monotheistic because it was their traditional religion, Christians were not legitimately monotheistic because they were either converts from the Roman religion they ought to have stuck with, or else from the Jewish religion which repudiated them. So Christianity is a religion that combines innovation and intolerance -- the exact reason the Romans made it illicit.

Quite remarkably, after abysmally failing with your first analogy, you attempt another, equally fallacious and inapplicable to the situation. Note this new one:


Roman paganism = Catholicism (insofar as Catholicism wanted to uphold the status quo)

Christianity = the good and virtuous Protestants
So if it's Christianity against paganism and Catholics are like the pagans, then who could object to a Protestant triumph???!!

Again, for the analogy to have any force or persuasive ability at all, you have to defend the unspoken premise: that Catholicism was as corrupt and/or unChristian as the pagan Roman empire. Without that element, it doesn't apply at all, as it was one established notion of Christianity, with an unbroken historical pedigree back through the Middle Ages and fathers and apostles, vs. a new radical sect(s), which, though still Christian, was previously unknown to Christian history, and departed in many major ways from Christian precedent and received orthodoxy.

In other words, the burden of proof is with the Protestants, to show not only that the Catholics were not Christian, but that Protestants somehow exclusively were, in some bizarre, Mormon-like "restoration of Christianity from many hundreds of years of apostasy" sense. But it never happened. Mostly, Protestants simply assumed this without much argument. Luther made a number of arguments on particular issues (95 theses, etc.), but he did not, to my knowledge, prove that the Mass is blasphemous, idolatry, and all the rest. He simply railed against it, as if its monstrosities were self-evident to all Christian people of good will.

But if that is so, then how does one explain that the Mass had been in place for some 1500 years (or 1100, if you want to quibble about when a true Mass originated). Christians (if they are such) got it wrong all those years? Augustine wasn't a Christian, etc.? These are the huge difficulties that one runs into in these analyses.

I've never seen a satisfactory answer to it. Even those ecumenical Protestants like yourself who acknowledge Catholicism as Christian - some of whom deny that Luther and Calvin were anti-Catholic - have never even attempted to explain how they cannot be anti-Catholic, given their view of the Mass and those who attend it.

And of course the church properties in Germany dated back to the time of Charlemagne's crusading conquest of the pagan Saxons (you can read about it in Richard Fletcher's "Barbarian Conversion") which was exactly a process of an invader coming in, butchering the locals, smashing their idols and seizing their temples, forcibly converting the surviving populace, and assigning vast tracts of (stolen) territory to the usurping church. At most one could say that the Catholic church lost its German church property by the same process it gained it.

It was wrong, then, too. I think it is wrong to steal. You do, too, of course. Now, granted, if you take over a whole area, you have to do something with the buildings. That would be another discussion entirely. I don't claim to have all the answers to that, and it is something I would have to think about quite a bit.

But I do know that there is a difference between conquering pagan or barbarian lands and conquering fellow Christian lands and stealing what was already in Christian hands. That's why the sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders has always been regarded as a huge abomination by the Orthodox. I agree with them. I condemned that in a paper years ago, and showed how the pope of the time had not condoned such an action at all. It was done independently of his knowledge or sanction.

I can hardly believe that that was wrong, and that stealing is wrong, and also think that what the Protestants did was somehow alright because they believed that they had the truth and that the Catholics were not Christians. It's wrong to steal, period - even if Catholics aren't Christians, as in the ludicrous anti-Catholic worldview!

I do agree, though, that conquering lands presents a number of difficult ethical issues to be worked through. I only disagree that Protestant sins and scandals in how the early revolution proceeded can be rationalized away on the grounds that Catholics took barbarian territories earlier. What's wrong is wrong. If earlier events were wrong, so were later Protestant events of the same ilk, and so you shouldn't attempt to defend them or lightly dismiss the sins of such events. Yet if you don't defend them, you are at odds with the heritage of your own religious tradition, which saw nothing at all wrong in doing these things at the time.

As an Evangelical Christian, I am obviously "on the side" of the Christians in the Roman empire, and the Evangelicals in the Holy Roman Empire

I think the latter stance poses many difficulties for you, as not only an Evangelical, but as an ecumenical Christian.

(And "on the side" of Charlemagne vs. the Saxons as well.) But as a historian, sure, I can see that the Romans and the Catholic persecutors were in both cases defending the order they had grown up with. And I can see that in both cases, they had a valid "If we don't crush them first, they'll crush us" argument. Particularly in the Roman case, this proved to be an accurate forboding.

Again, if Catholicism is Christian (I happen to think that it is, if anyone wondered), then one would expect Catholics to defend it from a full-scale attack, including stolen property, prohibition of Masses, and banishment. I don't see how this is arguable. But if it isn't Christian, then it is indefensible for the pagan to defend himself against the Christian, because he is on the wrong side and fighting against God (Dylan could write a great song about that).

All I am asking you Dave to recognize is that the Evangelical "heretics" had exactly the same and exactly as factually well grounded feeling about the Catholics: "if we don't crush them first, they'll crush us."

I agree to that extent, from a purely human, reflexive, sociological standpoint. But the fact that they were Johnny-come-lately revolutionaries makes it vastly different from a theological or ecclesiological perspective. On what authority do they do such a thing? What authority does Calvin or Luther or Zwingli possess? None at all; not if they oppose the Church which existed since the time of Christ.

And second to recognize that the Catholic offer of toleration was not really sincere, in the sense of marking a genuine respect for conscience, but simply a tactical compromise, a reculer pour mieux sauter, as was demonstrated in the succeeding decades.

One can always question motives in retrospect. I don't know all the facts. It's a huge matter and extremely complex. All I know, regarding this present debate, is that Protestants, too, were guilty of huge crimes. Catholics (being human) did a lot of wrong things, as well, but if we break down our analysis and look at one thing at a time, I think a good case can be made that [in this instance] Catholics were basically in the right and Protestants in the wrong. This is very clear to me with regard to stealing property and forbidding the Mass.

Granted that religious liberty and toleration was dimly understood by both sides in those days (though I think the high, crucial importance of orthodoxy was better understood than today).

As an American, of course I look back on all this as some kind of nightmare of the past.

Yes, exactly. But our American experiment has not ended up all that well, either. It was severely flawed from the beginning (slavery, treatment of the Indians and of women), and continues to be (abortion, rampant sanctioned immorality, especially sexual). We have no superiority whatsoever over those in the 16th century, who at least persecuted over matters of high importance (heaven, hell, the nature of Christianity, how one is saved, the nature of Christian authority, how to best interpret the Bible, etc.).

Despite the difficulties of religious liberty (which are more significant I think than usually considered), I have no regret for the creation of it. I'm not proud as an Evangelical in much of the "how" in England or Sweden becoming Protestant. (In Germany much less bloody compulsion was used.)

For being "much less," it was still quite a bit, as I document in one of my papers:

The Protestant Inquisition ("Reformation" Intolerance and Persecution)

Reading about the martyrs under Queen Mary is a good deal more comfortable for me than about the martyrs under Queen Elizabeth.

We both can readily agree that Christians making other Christians (or even Arians, etc.) martyrs is a scandal and a shame and black mark in Christian history.

I would likewise hope that you as a Catholic are not proud of the details of how the Czech lands became Catholic, or how Protestantism basically disappeared in France and Austria (or indeed how the Saxons became Christian in the first place).

I oppose religious persecution and intolerance in all its forms. My responses along these lines are not about denying any Catholic crimes. They are always bout "evening the score"; showing both sides of the stiory; showing that Catholics are not always the "bad guys" and Protestants the "pure as the drive snow" good guys and true, noble Christians. The truth is far more complex.

When it comes to the councils of Spires (there were two: 1526 and 1529), Augsburg, Poissy, and Regensburg (the original subject), I think the Catholics were far more in the right, and justified and reasonable in their positions. The Protestants were quite unreasonable and exercised double standards. The soon-coming religious wars might have been avoided or at least greatly lessened if there had been some serious attempt at mutual toleration.

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