Did The Reformaton Sew The Seeds Of A Secular Society?

The link below discusses an author’s idea the Reformation started the Western World down a path toward not believing.  It did this by encouraging lay people to read and interpret the Bible themselves. People came up with a gazillion different interpretations and started fighting among themselves.

And, why wouldn’t they?  The Bible’s odd and archaic language, social setting unfamiliar to readers a thousand years later and localized issues of an ancient time left the field open to take many different interpretations.

Besides the imprecision of original writers, their writing has been recopied by hand thousands of times.  Experts say every new copy was in some way different than its source.

The Reformation, the author says, set off this series of events still taking place today.  The only different is the rate of change seems to be increasing rather than decreasing.

The Protestant focus on the Bible as the source of the faith’s tenets made these problems of wide interpretation all the more problematic.  If, for example, reformers had articulated a few clear tenets all were to follow and set the Bible aside as an interesting read, the splintering and eventual secularization might not have happened.

Some argue the same pattern of disagreement and growth of skepticism would have happened anyway–it’s just the nature of people to challenge each other.  Catholicism, however,  with its centralized control of dogma have not scattered as far and wide as Protestantism.

We can all agree, times are changing.  Not everyone will agree change is good.


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40 Responses

  1. Wanna B Sure

    There were many events and situations that converged at the time of the reformation. Some of those things themselves created the climate/ opportunity for the reformations, (plural). The end of the middle ages, the “Turks” moving in from the east, printing, (information), international trade, currency, renaissance, decline of theocracy, cultural/nationalism, etc. None of which happened in a vacume, including the reformations. It can also be said that had the reformation happened at a different time, European turmoil would most likely been much bloodier than it was. (consider the French revolution at an earlier date, and across all of Europe.) I believe it also can be said the “secular societies” as we know them were much tempered and milder than what would have been without the influence of the reformations, in spite of themselves. Many other factors not mentioned here were also present.

  2. Brad

    One thing is for sure, the Reformation was inevitable. The insanity of Catholicism made it impossible for it not to happen. I think there will be another sort of reformation eventually, where there is a movement toward a universal spirituality that breaks away from the divisive nature of man-contrived religion.

      1. Henry

        Perhaps. Maybe some of the churches will reform away from sanitizing sin with something other than the blood of Christ. Saying a sin is not sin may become a thing of the past for awhile.

        1. Henry 4:23 “Saying a sin is not a sin my become a thing of the past for awhile.”

          You really need to form the Anti Sin Political Party. The Republican party is now slipping toward endorsing the marriage of two people who want to get married regardless of sexual orientation. You need to get on your rooftop and scream THAT IS SIN. What has become the majority of the public just doesn’t understand behavior that is evil and is sin.

          You must never waver from reminding people the Christian faith is all about sin, sin, sin.

    1. Matt

      “The insanity of Catholicism”

      you should all really learn at least a little something about what you are bashing. the only way you can beat your opponent(which if your opponent is catholicism you never will…sorry…) is if you know who they are and how they work. try “The Faith of Our Fathers” by James Cardinal Gibbons. if you understood the catholic faith you would join it not mock it.

      1. Brad

        Any religion that requires their clergy to completely abstain from sex is insane. That and a lot of their rituals are just not in the realm of sanity. But, when you get sucked into that bubble and brainwashed and indoctrinated into their version of reality, then the insane become sane.

        I have no intent to try to defeat Catholicism because it is a nation and a government unto itself, untouchable and above pretty much all law other than its own simply because it is a “religion”. On the positive side, at least it is not a hostile nuclear power (at least not yet). I would love to see it busted down and stripped of its political power, but that will only happen from within.

  3. Michael Ross

    Martin Luther argued that the Bible, not the pope, was the central means to discern God’s word. Therefore men were to be ruled by Law and not civil or ecclesiastical tyrants. The U.S. Constitution is a product of the Protestant Reformation. Yes, there are broad interpretations of various doctrines but Gods precepts and biblical mandates are to be understood and implemented by all believers and not by popes and monarchs.

    1. Matt

      again i will give the example of the supreme court and the judicial system. if we didnt have a system and a supreme court to interpret the laws for us then we could all go around making up our own interpretations, doing whatever we want because that is how WE interpret the law. there would be no constant…not standard…it would be complete chaos-the reformation. honestly if you have not devoted your life to studying the bible and how to read it in context and how it was intended, you are not qualified to interpret its meaning.

      i will admit, as will any catholic who is honest with themself, that there are and have been evils in the church. if the reformers would have spent more time fighting those evils from within instead of without the church they would have been far more successful. there were some things that needed to be set straight but they went about it in the wrong way. the book i mentioned back at 11:15 explains this pretty well, check it out.
      God Bless

      1. Wanna B Sure

        Axually; Martini Lutheri, (that’s Latin folks) attempted to change the church from within, starting with his 95 thesis, (topics open for discussion). At the Diet of Worms, he was told to recant. He didn’t/ couldn’t. He was banned, fled for his life, then excommunicated, and remains so today. So much for the chance to fight those evils from within. Then came The Council of Trent, which is claimed to be “reforming”, when in reality it is nothing more than the systematic codification of earlier Middle Age, (dare I say Dark Age) theology. That of which is so profusely quoted in today’s “New Catechism” of the Catholic Church. Now along with “new inventions” thought of earlier, but only now made dogma, (that which must be believed), in the last 150 years . The more things change, the more they remain the same. { Meanwhile back at the ranch,} Luther had just as much, if not more problems with the “Entheuisiasts” shortly after he was kicked out of the Roman Church. Not to mention names, but their descendents are most prominent in our” Southern areas”, (A–hem), in many so called mega churches, and TV.

        1. Matt

          when you get your information from sources that are outright the church of course you will get such a portrayal. the fact is the church was reformed from within…one that i am most familiar with is st. ignatius of loyola. check out both perspectives before you go jumping to too many conclusions.

          1. Wanna B Sure

            No jumping to conclusions. Facts are facts. Internal opinions presented to defend and smooth over errors are not reliable.
            And—-I have checked both perspectives, among many others. Have you studied the Council of Trent in it’s entirety? Have you studied the new catechism of the Catholic Church in it’s entirety? Have you studied the examination of the Council of Trent by Chemnitz? the attemps to abrogate parts of Trent, which remains untoutched? Have you studied the Book of Concord in it’s entirety? I have.

          2. Wanna B Sure

            I must also add; Those things which you consider to be “reforms” are nothing much more than sanitizing symptoms of a much deeper problem and error.

          3. Matt

            haaha tuchae wanna b…guess i bit off a little more than i could chew this time :)….i have not studdied any of it to thoroughly. i wont deny that there was evil mixed into the good. still is some today. there is a bible verse about letting the weeds grown with the wheat and separating them at harvest.(dont have my bible to look it up right now sorry) however, i will stand by my believe that she remains pure and, guided by the holy spirit, teaches 100% truth.

          4. Wanna B Sure

            The weeds and wheat are about people. The church is another matter. One can’t make excuses for bad doctrine or practices. Both before or currently. If one is not part of the solution, he/she is part of the problem, and that is the problem in not only the Catholic, (Capital C) institutional Church, but others just as well. The church catholic, (universal– the communion/ community of saints) is another matter. I would love to discuss this in greater depth with you Matt, but this is not the time or place. My purpose is not to condem, but to objectively correct. Peace.

      2. Wanna B Sure

        Forgot to mention John Wycliffe-Died of natural causes, then declared a heretic, dug up and burned. Followed by John Huss-burned alive 100 yr before Luther. Not a lot of allowance for internal correction there.

  4. Dan


    Interesting article I’ve attached below. It clearly shows how Islamists are intolerant of atheists. How does the atheist community feel about these Islamists views on wanting to “hang atheist bloggers”? I haven’t hear of a protestant calling for atheists to be hung. Yet, they are the focus of attack from the atheist community. Strange… The Islamists calls for hanging atheist bloggers are heard beyond the shores of India. The Muslim Brotherhood in America had participants at the rally. I bet I know what they’re thinking when they get back. Any thoughts?

    Hundreds of thousands of hardline Islamists rallied in Bangladesh’s capital on Saturday to demand authorities enact anti-blasphemy laws punishing bloggers and those believed to have insulted Islam.

    “God is great – hang the atheist bloggers!” some chanted, according to the Agence France-Presse and Al Jazeera.


    1. Dan 3:36 I’ve been in Bangledesh and am concerned about secular friends there. I’m glad I live in a country where I can have this blog.

      The fact is, however, the religion being put into our government, recently here in ND, was not put there by Islamists. It was put there by extreme Christians. That’s why I discuss Christianity here, not Islam.

        1. entech

          Then you are indeed lucky, Mr. Jefferson build up that wall.

          Australia has many of the same constitutional things as you, unfortunately someone managed to sneak in the idea that religious instruction was OK in government schools. Some one else has decided that permissible means required. If you don’t want this imposed on your child you have to send a letter to the school. The franchise has been given to some evangelical group, they claim a neutral approach information but not proselytizing, but the leader has been heard to say “Our job is make little disciples for Jesus”, neutral indeed they lie like most evangelicals, some parents have taken it to court because there kids come home in tears saying that the other kids tell them they are going to hell.

          Information about religion should be part of any education, indoctrination in a particular mythology should not. To make it worse the state government cuts vital funding to schools, but somehow found the money to increase funding for indoctrination. We have our Christian Right Wrong as well.

          1. Henry

            We have the same thing going on in our American schools. Children have to learn atheism through the “science” of evalootion. Children also have to learn the other atheist tenet of homosexuality presented as a viable method. Children that object, too bad for them.

          2. entech

            Henry, unless you are deliberately distorting the truth you know that atheism and evolution are not synonymous, neither is one a natural consequence of the other. Now are there are some of the more forceful atheists who would say that evolutionary theory automatically leads to atheism. There are many religious people that find no problem with faith, belief and an acceptance of evolutionary theory all working together and holding the three things in their minds with no conflict. Father Coyne S.J. is one ( I have references some of his lectures, look them up). Nothing in science precludes the possibility of a creator, nothing actually needs one either. It seems that you personally have a desperate need for a creator, to be part of the universe, just a highly developed part, evolved but not the purpose for which the universe was created conflicts with your ego, your vision, solipsistic value, the universe was a special creation, created with you in mind. Well that is simply not true, just some words in some old books, books that came from the imagination of an ancient tribe, nothing to prove that they are true except for themselves. The evidence for truth is the words written in the books, it is called circular reasoning and it is not valid.

            Homosexuality is a tenet of atheism, even you know that is an outright lie. I am not sure what you are trying to say with presented as a viable method. A method for doing what? Certainly not having a family, however you twist it, it is certainly not hereditary.

            Henry, I think you are becoming increasingly desperate in your attempts to attack “The Atheist”on any pretext, even as now, total invention. change the name of your rubbish but it is still cretinism ( see any one can deliberately misspell).

  5. Wanna B Sure

    A quote from the start of Luther’s Small Catehism; “As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household”.—-“What does this mean?”—“This is most certainly true”.

  6. Brad

    “No religion was “put into our government”.”

    There is a scary trend starting to emerge. Just recently, the North Carolina state legislature tried to pass a law establishing an official religion for the state of NC. It failed, but it is frightening to even suggest something like this.

    1. Henry

      I am not advocating for such, but very early on in our country’s history, some states did have a state religion. The precedence is there.

      1. Brad

        No matter what anyone’s religious belief is, any form of government sanctioned religion would mean the end of America as we know it.

        1. Michael Ross

          A global empire that has caused the death of millions. $120 trillion in unfunded liabilities of the federal government. Incarceration capitol of the world. Over half of our population on at least one government handout program. The top 2% of the population controlling over half the wealth. Poverty rate back 1960’s levels. Etc., etc., etc.

          “any form of government sanctioned religion would mean the end of America as we know it.”

          We wouldn’t want that, now would we?

          1. Speak for yourself. One only has to look at how many people in other countries list the United States as the spot they would most like to live in to appreciate what we really have. I’m a glass half-full kind of citizen.

          2. Michael Ross

            “people in other countries list the United States as the spot they would most like to live”

            Of course, who wouldn’t, with all the freebies we offer. Of concern (but not to you “half full” guys):

            *America hasn’t passed a budget since April of 2009 … almost three and a half years.
            *Its annual income is $2 trillion, while its total debt obligations are $121 trillion (that’s a debt ratio of 60/1 … typically anything over 1/1 is a HUGE red flag to any investor, indicating that the entity of interest may not be able to pay its debts in 12 months’ time).
            *Since 1900, the country’s expenses have increased by an average of 24% a year, while revenues have risen only 15% year.
            *It has lost money 42 out of the last 47 years.
            *The U.S. expenses are 56% higher than its revenues.
            *America expects to double its debt within the next 10 years (the interest on that debt alone will equal $1 trillion a year)…
            *The U.S. now owes 885% of its GDP, more than any other industrialized country.
            *The U.S. debt per capita is higher than Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain

          3. Michael Ross

            There has never been a golden age of morality but when the Christian ethos was strong none of those issues existed. We had moral failures to be sure but we are now on edge of total societal collapse.

          4. Michael 12:47 “..but we are now on the edge of total societal collapse.”

            A bit of the-sky-is-falling hyperbole there. We’ve had gay marriage in several states for a few years, I haven’t seen any change in the moral state of affairs. Abortion was available in some states, at least in New York, even before Roe. No change there either.

          5. Michael Ross

            OK Jon, everything’s just rosy. We can live forever on borrowed money. As Lesley Gore sang: Sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows:

  7. Wanna B Sure

    So to answer the question of the name of the topic; “Did the Reformation sew the seeds of a Secular Society?—- The question seems to imply a one or the other, with no middle ground. One of the reformers (Luther) proposed both– sacred and secular. Side by side, one not”Lording it over the other” . He called it realms, (spheres). An early understanding of the seperation of church and state. Both responsible and respective of the other, yet not subject to the other. This comes from the distinction between Law, (the state,) and Gospel,(the church). (Not to be confused with the biblical doctrine of Law and Gospel.) Marriage is one such example. The legal marriage is of the state, the sacremental nature is of the church, if you wish it to be. The state was for order, safety and protection, both internally and externally, the church was a conduit for self restraint and salvation. The church didn’t save, the faith nurished and taught by the church did. Today, many on both sides, (secular and sacred) wish to intrude/combine these, which is the cause of most of the arguments here. It appears that today, those on the sacred side are the more agressive, with the secularists pushing equally back. Most all of the modern sacred movement are inspired by those from the later post-reformation side, that of intruding into the secular. It is not surprising that history shows many of our politicians have been associated with post Calvanism, (Presbyterians). Calvin himself had a political edge to his philosophy, and his sucessor Beza ran with it. Zwingly himself was killed in battle. Everybody on both sides have made errors, but this is a general overview of the then and now.

    1. Wanna B Sure

      PS A lot of Baptists have Calvanistic influence included especially in their soteriology. Along with the “Reformed” (buzzword for Calvanistic) churches. Most of the congregationalist and community churches are in the same theo/politico camp. This would explain a lot.

  8. Henry

    Jon: “Did the Reformaton Sew the Seeds of a Secular Society?”

    No. They were too busy sewing quilts for the poor.

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