Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fruits of Protestantism?

A recent article that appeared in an English newspaper gave me pause. The title: Two thirds of teenagers in England apparently don't believe in God. This conclusion is the result of a poll of some sort was conducted by Penguin Books that found that the majority of English youth do not believe in God. Moreover, one in ten British teenagers that do believe in God also believe that a person is reincarnated as an animal after they die.

While I do have some questions pertaining to the accuracy of the study and I am somewhat skeptical of the article itself as we are talking about the Telegraph which is often anti-religious in general and states Catholic doctrines inaccurately almost as many times as some of the Protestant polemicists I have commented on, it does seem to mirror the general spiritual malaise I have perceived to exist in those European countries that happen to be predominately Protestant or traditionally so. (To be fair I do see this phenomenon to a lesser extent, in Catholic Europe as well).

Could there truly be something about Protestantism's five solas that is endemically inimical to faith in God? Or is Protestantism less immune than Catholicism to the heresy of modernism that seems to pervade all aspects of present-day society because of the devaluing of the role of Church in peoples' lives? Or perhaps Professor White will treat us to a sermon on how it is an established fact that the majority of British kids that denied the existence of God in that poll are practicing Catholics? Anyone have any thoughts on the subject?


Reginald de Piperno said...

Hello Paul,

I'm not sure that it's a fruit of Protestantism, but if it's not, then it's certainly a sibling born of the same father.

Protestantism throws off the authority of the Church in favor of the individual's conscience. But this is no more than what our culture has degenerated into with respect to almost everything, it seems: no one can tell you what's right or wrong; you must decide for yourself; what's true for you may not be true for me; etc: the sovereign individual, unfettered by anyone's authority, so long as he does not harm others.

Now of course that's not to say that Protestantism is the same sort of cultural wreck as what is happening more generally in the West, but the exaltation of the individual's right to decide what the truth is for himself is the same in both cases: Bob Baptist and Paul Presbyterian both decide for themselves what the Bible teaches; Andy Atheist decides for himself what the truth is, too.

I'm not really qualified to defend this next point, but what few hints I've put together from reading about nominalism makes me think that this had something to do with both the rise of Protestantism and the Decline of the West. When nominalists deny universals and the moderate realism of St. Thomas and Aristotle, they reduce the Church from the very Body of Christ (in that mystical and sacramental sense we know) to a collection of men. But men make mistakes. Therefore the Church makes mistakes. Therefore we are not bound by the Church, but must resort to revelation alone; thus the philosophy of the nominalists lays the foundation for the rejection of the Church's authority.

(Or so I conceive the progression of how the thing may have happened).

Luther was an Ockhamist, as reported by Bainton.

Anyway, I don't know if I have even a scintilla of a clue here. But you did ask for thoughts, so here they are :-)



Agellius said...

I was going to say what Reg said, but then found that he had already said it. It has been my understanding that the Reformation begat the Enlightenment, which begat Modernism. As Reg says, it all flows from private judgment.

Catholic countries have now been poisoned by formerly Protestant countries. Primarily due to their having been historically more economically "successful" (though the meaning of that term may be debated), Catholic countries have imported their culture while allowing their own to be weakened. This is why the decay is somewhat slower in Catholic countries, but is occurring nevertheless.