A Short History of English Sectarian Tolerance

A reader with the warlike yet noetic name of Scholar-at-Arms writes:

” Its philosophical basis is the claim that civic peace is more important than true religion, which if one has lived through an England wracked by civil war might seem eminently reasonable based on experience”

Peace more important than religion? With all due respect, you misread history.

During that enlightened period mislabeled ‘The Dark Ages’ the Church was separate from the secular power and extended to all princes regardless of the boundaries of their kingdoms. During the Reformation, the King of England decided to arrogate to himself spiritual authority, the power to rule on Church teachings, and in all other ways to become a local and national version of the Pope.

The Universal Church was broken: the local church of England began.

Sure as night follows day, other heretical breakoffs took place, and other private men privately interpreted or misinterpreted scripture to invent simplistic and unchristian notions, such as double predestination or sola scriptura, sola fides, and to preach this as if it were the word of Christ.

My apologies to my Protestant brethren, but I cannot think of a softer way to phrase the matter: these doctrines in both cases are an attempt to simplify a complex matter, either to simplify the balanced question of God’s omniscience and Man’s free will by eliminating the free will, or to simply the balanced question of the relation between scripture and tradition by eliminating tradition. Neither answer can be reconciled with scripture or with tradition. Both answers are unique to the era in which they were invented, and reflect the opinions of those times, not of any Early Church Father or Jewish precursor.

These dissenting churches quarreled with the church of England, and they were persecuted and martyred in the same fashion as English Catholics. In weariness for the turmoil and trouble of these civil broils, during the dark ages mislabeled ‘the Enlightenment’ someone got the bright idea, as if out of nowhere, of separating the spiritual from the secular authority, and placing the Church once again sacrosanct and beyond the power of the prince to interfere.

For better or worse, since the community of Christian believers in England had been shattered into dozens and hundreds of competing denominations, the Enlightenment thinkers could not think of restoring the Church, but only of freeing the individual conscience.

At that point, Christianity became a matter of private opinion, not a public and corporate devotion, and so became a hobby shared by the majority of believers rather than the backbone and heart of the society. Hence today.

The unpeace created by the usurpation of Church authority by secular princes was restored when the secular authority renounced it pretensions to rule on Church matters and Church teaching.

By that point, however, it was too late: the monasteries had been looted, the priesthood uprooted, and the hospitals, charity wards, universities and schools were now all in secular hands, or had become departments of the government.  There was no one to whom to return the stolen magisterium: it was merely scattered into what was now regarded (falsely) to be a private matter, a question of personal opinion rather than a question of objective truth.

Please read and support my work on Patreon!