Saturday, September 5, 2015

The New Church, and the Old Church

Amidst the rediscovery of language and rhetoric, a religious Renaissance was rediscovering God. This was the era of John Calvin and Martin Luther, the official rise of Protestantism and the secession of the Church of England from the Catholic. Up to its elbows in religion, politics and business alike, the Catholic Church held two major monopolies: access to the Bible and other sacred documents, and the authority of its leaders to rescue mankind. If a person wanted to get into heaven, there was a gate, and the key belonged to the Catholic.

At least, it was until the king of England decided to divorce his wife, and in the process divorced the Church. And though the Church of England published the Six Articles in 1539 that would pull the masses back to their Catholic heritage, many others had already turned away from notions of redemption by the Pope and of intercession by the Saints. Such was the case of Martin Luther in Germany, predating the cessation by almost a decade, and Hugh Latimer, who abandoned his catholic traditions shortly after graduating from university (Beeching).

Image result for hugh latimer
Hugh Latimer.

Some reformists, like Tyndale, sought to give common men access to the Bible. Others, like Latimer, taught “so that the servants and handmaids shall carry away as much as the gentler sort” (Beeching). But it wasn’t just recovering literary sources and clarity: the new teachings of these reformists emphasized man’s own inutility and God’s unitary role in salvation. They were turning back to the source of religion itself: an understanding of deity and our relationship to it.

A similar movement is in progress now. Many Christians are de-emphasizing the role of organized religion in our relationship to God, and stressing instead personal feelings and experience. New forms of worship include contemporary music sessions, a movement to be non-denominational and bible study groups operating outside of Sunday worship groups. And there are new translations of the Bible, some adopting contemporary language, some preserving the Hebrew and Greek vocabulary to maintain accuracy.

We may not experience the drama of separating ourselves from a state religion, and our lives may not be at stake. But religion is undergoing similar changes now to what Europe experienced in the Renaissance, changing not only our definition of God, but our definition of ourselves. 

Works Cited

Beeching, Henry Charles. “Sermons by Hugh Latimer: Introduction.” Anglican History. Project 


  1. I find the mission to make the bible accessible fascinating. The early translators you mentioned translated the bible into modern english so those who couldn't speak latin could still read it. I was looking up 'modern' translations of the bible and came across The Message ( The creator saw that people in his congregation were still being kept from the bible because of language so he made this to help bridge the gap. It is an interesting parallel. What do you think? Is it a similar move? Are their motivations similar?

    1. Something like that, yes. I think. In my conversations with other people, and the poking around I've done, I've noticed a dual trend: one group making the Bible more contemporary, like going from Latin to English; the other group eschewing newer translations for "imperfections," and reverting as close to the original as they can because English isn't sufficient. There's a lot of change happening within the Christian denominations right now and I think it's fascinating.

  2. Crazy how it works as a pendulum effect of sorts, huh? I wonder if the pendulum will swing the other way at some point in the future, what do you think?

  3. I'm not sure if it will ever swing back per say. Its hard for me to see the world ever returning to the pre renaissance religious mindset, but I think it will continue to change. I too am curios, though, if society will ever change to take greater interest in religions.