ARE PROTESTANTS TO BLAME FOR OUR SECULAR COUNTRY?
Brad Gregory is a professor of European history at Notre Dame. He’s also an intellectual iconoclast. In his recent book, Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts That Continue to Shape Our World, Gregory argues that the Protestant Reformation unleashed a wide variety of unintended consequences. The worst of these is the creeping secularization that has settled over our land. This is actually a common Roman Catholic criticism of Protestantism in general.
Gregory argues that when Martin Luther published his 95 Theses in October 1517, he had no intention of starting a revolution. But very quickly Luther’s criticism of indulgences became a rejection of the papacy, the Catholic Church, and pretty much all authority in general. Gregory says that Luther’s ideas inspired spontaneous yet sustained uprisings all over Europe.
Gregory’s bottom line: the unintended consequences of the Reformation continue today. The Protestant rebellion led to further epochal changes—from the Enlightenment and self-determination to moral relativism, modern capitalism, consumerism, and in a cruel twist to Luther’s legacy, the freedom of every man and woman to practice no religion at all.
So, are Protestants to blame for our nation being so secular? Fascinating question. One thing is for certain: Protestant churches in America have a nasty habit of becoming just like the culture around them. This is evident in the liberal theology of mainline churches and in the popular show-business atmosphere of many mega-churches. Gregory’s critique is a wake-up call to all of us. The Bible calls us to more, so much more.
by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor