Could liberalism and the decline of Christianity have been prevented?

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deuteronomist

Puritan Board Freshman
For the sake of argument, I want to look at history through a forensic lens, insofar as our limited knowledge can get us.

I am requesting that the creation debate be left out of this thread. (Please, I know this is going to be the first thing many touch upon.)

Could the devastating course of history have been stopped? I am referencing liberalism, deism, marxism and its derivatives, mass adoption of secularism, atheism, agnosticism, and moral decay and revolution.

Could this even have been stopped?

It is clear that the beginning of the end was undoubtedly the 18th century. However, my fear is that the Protestant reformation ITSELF, acted as a corrosive force, putting into people’s minds a critical mindset, destroying the wonder and mysticism of the human mind. This isn’t a comment on the doctrines of Rome or the eastern Orthodox.

Could this have been stopped? If so, how? There sheer weight of mass human movement and cultural rot never stemmed and only has intensified. Yet there was limited trace of this problem en force until after the reformation happened.

The past 2 years have essentially forced me to significantly rewrite my political and theological opinions. It’s part of the reason I became reformed. I don’t even know if I can say I believe in religious freedom anymore. The way things are now, the trend seems inevitable. Even if the third world becomes almost completely Christian, will they even resemble orthodoxy? Once they begin adopting critical thought and study, it seems the fate there is likewise inevitable.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
It appears to me liberalism was more or less kept in check before the 18th century through the coercive power of the state. Those with beliefs resembling the scepticism of today either did not voice them because they stood to be severely punished or killed, or they did voice them, and were severely punished or killed. Many will recall that much of modern liberalism has its roots in Socinianism, which was effectively suppressed in Poland where it first sprung up, but gained a foothold in more the more tolerate regions of western Europe.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
However, my fear is that the Protestant reformation ITSELF, acted as a corrosive force, putting into people’s minds a critical mindset, destroying the wonder and mysticism of the human mind

Rationalism started with the Cartesian Roman Catholics who reacted to Jansen. And the first atheistic revolution happened in Paris, so there's that.
 

Jerrod Hess

Puritan Board Freshman
Many will recall that much of modern liberalism has its roots in Socinianism
Could you give more insight/resources on this? I know this was the major heretical sect Owen was dealing with in his day, specifically their views of the Old and New Testaments.
 
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deuteronomist

Puritan Board Freshman
It appears to me liberalism was more or less kept in check before the 18th century through the coercive power of the state. Those with beliefs resembling the scepticism of today either did not voice them because they stood to be severely punished or killed, or they did voice them, and were severely punished or killed. Many will recall that much of modern liberalism has its roots in Socinianism, which was effectively suppressed in Poland where it first sprung up, but gained a foothold in more the more tolerate regions of western Europe.
Would you provide sources? as much as it pains me to think that speech should be suppressed, I am truly wondering if it should be. Also same Jerrod. Which Owen? I'm not sure who you are referencing.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Could you give more insight/resources on this? I know this was the major heretical sect Owen was dealing with in his day, specifically their views of the Old and New Testaments.
Historically Socinians proposed a rationalistic moralistic form of Christianity that denied many of the fundamental truths of the bible such as the divinity of Christ. After getting kicked out of Poland they found new life among the Dutch Arminians, with Vorstius especially having Socinian views. From there it began to gain a following in the UK, and from the UK it came to America in the form of Unitarianism, which by the early 19th century had taken over much of the Northeast, especially Boston, thriving in formerly congregationalist churches, and spreading from there to presbyterian ones. Of course German and French liberalism played a role in our country as well, but I know little about those. I don't know what a good modern resource on Socinianism would be. The old standard resource is a Latin tome by Johannes Hornbeek.
 

deuteronomist

Puritan Board Freshman
Rationalism started with the Cartesian Roman Catholics who reacted to Jansen. And the first atheistic revolution happened in Paris, so there's that.

I can't figure out how to quote and respond to multiple people. What do you mean by "Cartesian Roman Catholics." I'm not aware Descarte was even a Christian of any kind. He was also an advocate of vivisecting animals alive for "science." I really despise that man. Anyway, What I mean is, the Protestant reformation laid the earliest groundwork for the enlightenment, and that faith could not be maintained organically once the wonder had been removed from our eyes.
Historically Socinians proposed a rationalistic moralistic form of Christianity that denied many of the fundamental truths of the bible such as the divinity of Christ. After getting kicked out of Poland they found new life among the Dutch Arminians, with Vorstius especially having Socinian views. From there it began to gain a following in the UK, and from the UK it came to America in the form of Unitarianism, which by the early 19th century had taken over much of the Northeast, especially Boston, thriving in formerly congregationalist churches, and spreading from there to presbyterian ones. Of course German and French liberalism played a role in our country as well, but I know little about those. I don't know what a good modern resource on Socinianism would be. The old standard resource is a Latin tome by Johannes Hornbeek.
Ill check to see if its translated. (looks like it isn't) So could this have been stopped without violence or force?
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
I can't figure out how to quote and respond to multiple people. What do you mean by "Cartesian Roman Catholics." I'm not aware Descarte was even a Christian of any kind. He was also an advocate of vivisecting animals alive for "science." I really despise that man. Anyway, What I mean is, the Protestant reformation laid the earliest groundwork for the enlightenment, and that faith could not be maintained organically once the wonder had been removed from our eyes.

Ill check to see if its translated. So could this have been stopped without violence or force?
Descartes was a Roman Catholic. He actually purports to prove the doctrine of the Trinity in his writings. Unfortunately the proof is both unoriginal and unsound.
I don't think one can stop much of any crimes without force. Every law in society is ultimately backed up with the threat of force. I don't think some kind of inquisitional or Hitlerian repression is necessary though. Many don't realize that state suppression of heresy goes back to the early days of Christendom. Augustine wrote to the magistrate saying he should punish but not kill the Donatists. A Christian rather than pluralistic society has never existed for any significant amount of time without criminal penalties for blasphemy and other crimes against the first table.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
What do you mean by "Cartesian Roman Catholics."

People who demand absolute certainty for authority. They took Descartes' misguided need for absolute certainty and applied it to religion. In popular internet form, it looks like this: "Without an infallible pope, how do you know anything?"
I'm not aware Descarte was even a Christian of any kind.

He was. He considered himself a good Catholic and came up with an interesting take on the ontological argument.
Anyway, What I mean is, the Protestant reformation laid the earliest groundwork for the enlightenment, and that faith could not be maintained organically once the wonder had been removed from our eyes.

No, it didn't. You are asserting that. And even if it were historically accurate, it would be a genetic fallacy. What "wonder" did it remove? Brad Littlejohn decisively demonstrated that the Catholic mass removed the wonder from creation (by removing the created element from the host). That video is somewhere on youtube.
 

Shanny01

Puritan Board Freshman
Could you give more insight/resources on this? I know this was the major heretical sect Owen was dealing with in his day, specifically their views of the Old and New Testaments.
Doesn't get much better than reading straight from the mouth of their proponents. https://archive.org/details/racoviancatechis00rees/page/n3/mode/2up
The vast majority of their writings are locked in Latin. That being said, Unitarians were their spiritual descendants so you could read the writings of Joseph Priestley and John Biddle among others. Of course you could read guys like Theodore Parker, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and company but they were very liberal Unitarians relative to the more conservative theologians named before.

Of course, Owen wrote his Vindiciae Evangelicae against them and that's probably the best English language polemical treatise against them.
 

deuteronomist

Puritan Board Freshman
No, it didn't. You are asserting that. And even if it were historically accurate, it would be a genetic fallacy. What "wonder" did it remove? Brad Littlejohn decisively demonstrated that the Catholic mass removed the wonder from creation (by removing the created element from the host). That video is somewhere on youtube.
I guess what I said is very vague. Apologies. I don't know if this idea is correct or not. It's something that continually occurs to me. What I mean is that that the protestant reformation solidified critical methods of study, and thus critical thought. Lorenzo Valla who was catholic demonstrated that the donation of Constantine was a forgery. The protestant reformation picked up on more limited Catholic academic inquiries.

There are plenty of old grandmas in the world practicing folk elements in their Catholic faith who wouldn't for a single moment question the truth of the Bible. While folk beliefs is unnecessary and occasional perhaps harmful, I am saying that the pre-critical Christian world had in their minds a much more fantasy-like mindset. The existence of sea monsters, and fairies, and so forth, complimented and reinforced an unquestioned belief in the Bible. That doesn't mean you need to believe in sea monsters or fairies in any way. I am just using those things as an example to demonstrate a lack of skepticism on the part of pre-reformation thinkers. I truly don't know. Far from asserting it! I STRONGLY desire the idea I'm positing be WRONG!

Doesn't get much better than reading straight from the mouth of their proponents. https://archive.org/details/racoviancatechis00rees/page/n3/mode/2up
The vast majority of their writings are locked in Latin. That being said, Unitarians were their spiritual descendants so you could read the writings of Joseph Priestley and John Biddle among others. Of course you could read guys like Theodore Parker, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and company but they were very liberal Unitarians relative to the more conservative theologians named before.

Of course, Owen wrote his Vindiciae Evangelicae against them and that's probably the best English language polemical treatise against them.
Thank you for the help! admittedly, I would prefer to read about them because I don't know if I have time to dedicate to reading a lot of socinian works.

Are there any modern works which discuss it or touch on it? Asking anyone in the thread as well. Thanks.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
I guess what I said is very vague. Apologies. I don't know if this idea is correct or not. It's something that continually occurs to me. What I mean is that that the protestant reformation solidified critical methods of study, and thus critical thought. Lorenzo Valla who was catholic demonstrated that the donation of Constantine was a forgery. The protestant reformation picked up on more limited Catholic academic inquiries.

There are plenty of old grandmas in the world practicing folk elements in their Catholic faith who wouldn't for a single moment question the truth of the Bible. While folk beliefs is unnecessary and occasional perhaps harmful, I am saying that the pre-critical Christian world had in their minds a much more fantasy-like mindset. The existence of sea monsters, and fairies, and so forth, complimented and reinforced an unquestioned belief in the Bible. That doesn't mean you need to believe in sea monsters or fairies in anyway. I am just using those things as an example to demonstrate a lack of skepticism on the part of pre-reformation thinkers. I truly don't know. Far from asserting it! I STRONGLY desire the idea I'm positing be WRONG!


Thank you for the help! admittedly, I would prefer to read about them because I don't know if I have time to dedicate to reading a lot of socinian works.

Are there any modern works which discuss it or touch on it? Asking anyone in the thread as well. Thanks.
If I understand correctly, you are identifying humanistic scholarship with Protestantism. It was humanism that began the process of critically examining sources and questioning superstitious or poorly founded beliefs. Humanism was already going on for many decades before the advent of protestantism. Protestantism did grow out of humanism and adopt many ideas from it, so you are correct in that respect, but I don't believe the uncritical embrace of all traditions and superstitions that you point to was ever characteristic of literate persons. It was more the uneducated in society (as is still the case) that would embrace any superstition no matter how absurd. Educated Roman Catholics at the time were also concerned about the poor state of religion among the laity, it's just that their solutions didn't do much to get at the root causes for said superstition. Even if the reformation didn't happen, some form of modern scepticism would probably have resulted. Look at countries where there was no protestant reformation. Many embraced communism or socialism for some part of the 20th century. (Russia, Spain, Jewish Palestine, Yugoslavia, Argentina, China.) Others had strong communist movements that were suppressed (Italy, Latin America, Greece). France had its own pre-communist revolution. By contrast communism never had much success in the protestant world (Germany, Scandinavia, Netherlands, UK).
 

deuteronomist

Puritan Board Freshman
If I understand correctly, you are identifying humanistic scholarship with Protestantism. It was humanism that began the process of critically examining sources and questioning superstitious or poorly founded beliefs. Humanism was already going on for many decades before the advent of protestantism. Protestantism did grow out of humanism and adopt many ideas from it, so you are correct in that respect, but I don't believe the uncritical embrace of all traditions and superstitions that you point to was ever characteristic of literate persons. It was more the uneducated in society (as is still the case) that would embrace any superstition no matter how absurd. Educated Roman Catholics at the time were also concerned about the poor state of religion among the laity, it's just that their solutions didn't do much to get at the root causes for said superstition. Even if the reformation didn't happen, some form of modern scepticism would probably have resulted. Look at countries where there was no protestant reformation. Many embraced communism or socialism for some part of the 20th century. (Russia, Spain, Jewish Palestine, Yugoslavia, Argentina, China.) Others had strong communist movements that were suppressed (Italy, Latin America, Greece). France had its own pre-communist revolution. By contrast communism never had much success in the protestant world (Germany, Scandinavia, Netherlands, UK).
Thank you. I think I heard an passing remark from James White just to that effect. Thank you so much. That was edifying and helpful. Let me add something that I think is pertinent. Do you think a reformationless world would have had less of that, or it would not make a difference?

Why not? (I'm not asking with regard to God's mastery over history.)
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thank you. I think I heard an passing remark from James White just to that effect. Thank you so much. That was edifying and helpful. Let me add something that I think is pertinent. Do you think a reformationless world would have had less of that, or it would not make a difference?


Why not? (I'm not asking with regard to God's mastery over history.)
Less of what? Scepticism? I don't think the world would have less scepticism without the reformation.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
For the sake of argument, I want to look at history through a forensic lens, insofar as our limited knowledge can get us.

I am requesting that the creation debate be left out of this thread. (Please, I know this is going to be the first thing many touch upon.)

Could the devastating course of history have been stopped? I am referencing liberalism, deism, marxism and its derivatives, mass adoption of secularism, atheism, agnosticism, and moral decay and revolution.

Could this even have been stopped?

It is clear that the beginning of the end was undoubtedly the 18th century. However, my fear is that the Protestant reformation ITSELF, acted as a corrosive force, putting into people’s minds a critical mindset, destroying the wonder and mysticism of the human mind. This isn’t a comment on the doctrines of Rome or the eastern Orthodox.

Could this have been stopped? If so, how? There sheer weight of mass human movement and cultural rot never stemmed and only has intensified. Yet there was limited trace of this problem en force until after the reformation happened.

The past 2 years have essentially forced me to significantly rewrite my political and theological opinions. It’s part of the reason I became reformed. I don’t even know if I can say I believe in religious freedom anymore. The way things are now, the trend seems inevitable. Even if the third world becomes almost completely Christian, will they even resemble orthodoxy? Once they begin adopting critical thought and study, it seems the fate there is likewise inevitable.
No it could not have been stopped. Forcing un regenerate people to kneel and pray on Sundays isn't doing them any good. Its like jailhouse conversions there rarely true. Descartes was a catholic and into a sect of secret societies. The critical turn in human history was bound to happen. Without it we wouldn't have modern science. Good or bad it was inevitable.
 

MJ William Denman

Puritan Board Freshman
There's an argument from historical commentary that says that the burning of the Library of Alexandria was a critical point in the natural development of human thought in that much of what was preserved of the intellects of that day (and indeed in history prior) was lost, and thus when the classic and ancient world gave way to the post-ancient world, scientific momentum was stifled for more than a millennia. One instance cited, for example, is a gentleman by the name of Hero of Alexandria who came up with a blueprint and a working prototype of a steam-engine. This prototype, amongst others, was lost in the burning of the library, and the next time that such a prototype was designed and developed was around the 18th Century. And then from that look how quick we made it to the industrial era.

That it took until the 18th Century for this downgrade to occur is quite frankly nothing short of incredible.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
The existence of sea monsters, and fairies, and so forth, complimented and reinforced an unquestioned belief in the Bible.

I believe in all of that yet I reject the folk nonsense in some of the Romanist countries.

You are positing the Brad Gregory thesis about the Reformation. It's been debunked. Roman Catholicism is the one who depends on skepticism: you can't know anything about the Bible until you presuppose what the Pope says. That's mental suicide.
 

deuteronomist

Puritan Board Freshman
There's an argument from historical commentary that says that the burning of the Library of Alexandria was a critical point in the natural development of human thought in that much of what was preserved of the intellects of that day (and indeed in history prior) was lost, and thus when the classic and ancient world gave way to the post-ancient world, scientific momentum was stifled for more than a millennia. One instance cited, for example, is a gentleman by the name of Hero of Alexandria who came up with a blueprint and a working prototype of a steam-engine. This prototype, amongst others, was lost in the burning of the library, and the next time that such a prototype was designed and developed was around the 18th Century. And then from that look how quick we made it to the industrial era.

That it took until the 18th Century for this downgrade to occur is quite frankly nothing short of incredible.
I don't mean to sound critical, but I am astonished by almost every sentence in your paragraph. I have never once heard these things. Would provide sources?
I believe in all of that yet I reject the folk nonsense in some of the Romanist countries.

You are positing the Brad Gregory thesis about the Reformation. It's been debunked. Roman Catholicism is the one who depends on skepticism: you can't know anything about the Bible until you presuppose what the Pope says. That's mental suicide.
Thanks! I actually have never heard of Brad Gregory, these thoughts that developed in my mind over period of time. Would recommend any works covering Brad Gregory's thesis?

For the sake argument, I'm open to the existence of sea monsters and fairies but I'm curious as to how you define sea monster and fairy. I hope you're aren't talking about plesiosaurs. I don't want to discuss the creation debate.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
For the sake argument, I'm open to the existence of sea monsters and fairies but I'm curious as to how you define sea monster and fairy. I hope you're aren't talking about plesiosaurs. I don't want to discuss the creation debate.

They are cryptids. Fairies would be "demonic" (though that term is misleading).
 

Jerusalem Blade

Puritan Board Professor
Chris @deuteronomist,

My take on a few aspects of the course of history you bring up is that the Reformation (starting with Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Beza, etc) was essentially a seeking to return to the Scripture's revelation given us by God's word – apart from the corruptions of said revelation by man – and the bringing of the gathered peoples of God to worship and live in and according to its light.

The Reformation was a great – a mighty – inpouring of light, undeserved favor, and the saving presence of our wonderful God in the Person of Jesus Christ. If you are not a child of the Reformation, how then do you identify yourself spiritually?
 

deuteronomist

Puritan Board Freshman
Chris @deuteronomist,

My take on a few aspects of the course of history you bring up is that the Reformation (starting with Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Beza, etc) was essentially a seeking to return to the Scripture's revelation given us by God's word – apart from the corruptions of said revelation by man – and the bringing of the gathered peoples of God to worship and live in and according to its light.

The Reformation was a great – a mighty – inpouring of light, undeserved favor, and the saving presence of our wonderful God in the Person of Jesus Christ. If you are not a child of the Reformation, how then do you identify yourself spiritually?
I don't know what you mean by a child of the reformation. The reformers are correct, but that's not what I was talking about. I was asking if there were unintended consequences of the reformation. In my opinion, no modern technology is worth the cultural rot and mass authoritarianism today. However, my brothers in this thread have made me understand that it was humanism that is the culprit. I don't know if there's anything to Brad Gregory's thesis, but at the very least I have a better explanation of the problem now.
 

MJ William Denman

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't mean to sound critical, but I am astonished by almost every sentence in your paragraph. I have never once heard these things. Would provide sources?

Thanks! I actually have never heard of Brad Gregory, these thoughts that developed in my mind over period of time. Would recommend any works covering Brad Gregory's thesis?

For the sake argument, I'm open to the existence of sea monsters and fairies but I'm curious as to how you define sea monster and fairy. I hope you're aren't talking about plesiosaurs. I don't want to discuss the creation debate.

 

deuteronomist

Puritan Board Freshman
Oh my goodness. I'm sorry I thought I responded. Thanks a lot I appreciate it. I'm convinced there was a prototype steam engine now after conversations with friends.
 
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