How the Reformation Shaped the World

There’s a video up on Prager University called “How the Reformation Shaped the World” (PDF transcript for those who prefer to read).  Stephen Cornils of the Wartburg Theological Seminary gives an adequate, broad overview of the impact of the Protestant Reformation (albeit with some noise about Martin Luther’s anti-Semitism, which, while accurate, smacks of throwing a sop to politically-correct hand-wringers).  You can view the video in full below.

I’ve written about the influence of Christianity (and it was, notably, Protestant Christianity) on the founding of America, and I’ve discussed how shared Protestantism helped create an American identity.  Indeed, I would argue that, without Protestantism, there would be no America, as such.

I would also argue—perhaps more controversially—that America’s commitment to Protestantism as opposed to Catholicism allowed the nation to avoid the anticlerical upheavals seen in France and other predominantly and officially Catholic countries.  While there were official, established churches at the State level into the 19th-century—which I wrote about in “The Influence of Christianity on America’s Founding“—the lack of federal establishment, and the general movement towards greater religious liberty, ensured a proliferation of Protestant denominations in the early Republic.

Catholicism inherently insists upon a top-down hierarchy of control.  Luther’s view of man’s relation to God is horizontal, as Bishop James D. Heiser argues in his extended sermon The One True God, the Two Kingdoms, and the Three Estates (one of my Christmas gifts, incidentally, and a good, quick read for just $5).  That is, every man is accountable to God directly, and is responsible for accepting Christ and maintaining his relationship with God.  That horizontal, rather than vertical, relationship infuses Western Civilization with a sense of individualism, the effects of which have been far-reaching and both positive and negative.

Regardless, the impact of the Protestant Reformation is staggering to consider.  The Catholic Church in the 16th century was an increasingly sclerotic and corrupt institution, one that had fallen from its great height as the pacifying influence upon a barbaric, post-Roman Europe (of course, the Counter Reformation reinvigorated and, in part, helped purify the Church).  With the advent of the printing press and translations into national languages, conditions were ripe for an explosion of religious reform in the West.  The ripple effects of the Reformation still pulse through Western life and culture.

That said, I’m not anti-Catholic, nor is that the intent of this post.  In today’s political and theological climate, committed followers of Christ must band together, be they Catholic or Protestant.  I don’t “buy” Catholic theology in toto, but I respect the Catholic Church’s longstanding traditions and consistent institutional logic.  Thomas Aquinas’s cosmological argument in the Summa Theologica is pretty much what I learned growing up as an Evangelical Protestant.  And I’m broadly sympathetic to the traditional Catholic argument that the Reformation busted up the orderly cosmos of medieval European society (see Richard Weaver‘s various essays for further elucidation of this idea).  A side effect of the Reformation naturally includes many of the cons of modernity.

Ultimately, too, Christians face the double-threat of modern progressive ideology and radical Islamism.  I’ve written about the former in detail, but not so much the latter.  For the moment, suffice it to say that the two are temporary, uneasy, but powerful allies against a traditionalist, conservative, Christian worldview, and both are deeply antithetical to Western values and culture.

These are some broad and slapdash thoughts, ones which I will gradually develop in future posts as necessary.  Any useful resources or insights are welcome—please share in the comments.

Happy New Year!

17 thoughts on “How the Reformation Shaped the World

  1. The very first settlers to disembark the Mayflower were Protestant Puritans who the American history books claim were escaping religious persecution in Europe. The fact is these people were not innocent victims but Christian terrorist fanatics just as brutal and extremist as Wahhabi Islam is today!
    When you consider that these people were literalists and non spiritual their reign of terror in Europe forming Puritan Armies was based on a deity that imposed itself by force, not love.
    It’s not surprising that their God was a tyrannical racist, and bigot that demanded sexism, blood sacrifice, inhuman cruelty, slavery, genocide, infanticide, theft, and deceit. Nothing more than an enormous human ego gone out of control! Then it’s not improbable that this explains the US as it really is and not the selective absurdities of the history written by sick American Christians who are no better than sick extremist Muslims!


    • I feel like I’ve read this same diatribe, word-for-word, from the Godlike Robert in response to another Christian history post of mine ( Even if your claims about the Puritans were true, and even given the substantial influence of Puritanism on the shaping of the American character and mindset, it ignores the multiple other Christian influences in British North America. Even the Puritans began to fall off in their rigid piety by the end of the 17th century, to the point that churches had to alter rules for voting members.

      Yes, the Puritans did not come seeking “religious liberty”—except for themselves. They established a Puritan theocracy. But that’s not the be-all, end-all of religion in America.

      American Christians today are far removed from the intense piety of the Puritans. If anything, the church in America today is lukewarm or dead—far from the extremist intensity of Wahhabi Islam or other radical Islamic sects.

      As I’ve said before, I appreciate your perspective, but your one-note screeds are reductive, tedious, and unsubstantiated. I do pray you’ll find whatever meaning it is you’re looking for, but I have no time for militant, NPC-like Internet atheists who desperately try to fill the holes in their lives with angry, anti-religious polemics.

      God bless, and Happy New Year!



      • Well you put a lot of effort in ignoring the facts and good luck talking to your imaginary friends in your imaginary world!


      • I acknowledged your facts, such as they are, but the Puritans aren’t the whole story of Christianity since 1600 in America. Your facts, overall, seem to be a litany of SJW talking points—xenophobia, homophobia, etc.—rather than any substantial points about theology. I don’t doubt there are so-called Christians who have twisted the Word of God to fit their own, fallible ends. But neither of us is ever going to change the others mind, and your strident, angry, selective rhetoric reflects that.


      • Christianity invented Hell, Satan, and the Afterlife, it’s hardly what it’s billed as! And to top it off it reintroduced polytheism where the Jews had Monotheism! It’s also ripe with paganism!


  2. […] “How the Reformation Shaped the World” – the title for this post comes from a Prager University video of the same name.  The post explores—in a very broad way—the ripple effects of Martin Luther’s courageous act of faith.  The piece is a short introduction to a very complex idea; feel free to leave your thoughts below or on the original post. […]


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