Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Protestantism at 500

While perhaps not known online for being especially moderate or nuanced, like many High Church Anglicans I have mixed feelings about the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On the whole I'd have to come down on the side that it did more harm than good, and the splintering of Christendom, setting European Christians against each other, surely must be seen as a tragedy. I have no use at all for the radical, iconoclastic, egalitarian, proto-republican wings of Protestantism. (Neither did Luther.) At the same time, I can't quite condemn it as unequivocally as my staunch Roman Catholic friends do. I certainly would not want to be without the distinctive Lutheran and Anglican choral traditions, and include many Protestant royalty among those I admire in European history. I think I've always been clear that it's more important to me whether one is loyal to his King or Queen than whether he calls himself a Protestant or a Catholic. I don't think any work of music better captures my ambivalence than this B Minor Mass by the greatest of all Lutherans, Johann Sebastian Bach.


Aaron Traas said...

I'd posit that the distinct German and English choral traditions would have developed regardless of the break from Rome. Had the reformation never happened, Trent likely would not have been convened, and the various national differences in the liturgy would have persisted, leaving open the opportunity for the different choral traditions.

You know where I staunchly disagree with you, both forcefully and respectfully. The differences between protestant and and Catholic doctrines of justification alone warrant quite a heavy consideration: the fate of your immortal soul hangs in the balance. I can understand your argument of indifference due to ecclesiology (though again, I disagree), but not where the four last things are concerned.

Theodore Harvey said...

I don't know. I see the use of the vernacular (which ironically I oppose in a RC, Vatican II context) as integral to the Anglican and Lutheran musical traditions as we know them. And I think Western Civilisation is richer for it. The same cannot be said of the Novus Ordo. I can't see Rome permitting the liturgical use of English or German prior to when it did--nor, in a way, do I think she should have. Hence my conflicted position.

Aaron Traas said...

Counterfactuals are hard.

In the unlikely event that Lutherans could be reconciled, I'd be in favor of having forms of the Roman rite, similar to the current Anglican Use, that would preserve their cultural traditions. Though I'm staunchly Roman myself, I understand the strengths of the Orthodox model of national liturgies. We're all Christians after all, and their distinct traditions, particularly art and music, should be preserved where they are compatible with the truth.