October 31 marks 500 years from the day when the young German theology professor Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) posted his thesis 95 on the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, criticizing the practice of indulgences and the Catholic Church in general. It is from this event that it is customary to count the beginning of that process, which would later be called the Reformation, and which marked the beginning of the emergence of a new ideological trend - Protestantism. Despite the fact that Protestantism, unlike centralized Catholicism, immediately disintegrated into many sects, it had a decisive influence on history Europe and set the vector of its development for centuries to come. Protestantism most fully expressed the spirit of the "new Europe", and Protestant ethics - the spirit of capitalism. Read more - in the material on the eve of .RU.
Protest against indulgences in the Catholic Church
The formal reason for Luther’s protest was the widespread practice of indulgences. It is usually considered that it was absolution for money. This is not entirely true. To understand the background of this issue and the essence of Protestantism as a socio-political phenomenon, it is necessary to take into account the understanding of the sacrifice of Christ. If in Orthodoxy the emphasis falls on the salvation of mankind from the power of sin and death, then in Catholicism Christ’s sacrifice is seen primarily as redemption. In the same way, the spiritual life of believers was built, which were supposed to atone for their sins with their own merits. God is understood as a judge-redeemer, weighing the sins and merits of man on the scales of justice. Therefore, personal salvation in Catholicism must be bought back from God. To this end, as well as to enrich the Catholic Church, the concept of "a treasure trove of the merits of Christ and the saints" was introduced, from which for donations the church endowed believers with these "fruits of redemption". In fact, there was a sale of the “merits of the saints”, which could “shield” before God, outweigh their sins and avoid temporary punishments for them (see catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1471-1473).
Hardly the common people were aware of this casuistry, but the money carried willingly, especially after the beginning of the construction of the new Cathedral of St.. Peter at the beginning of the XVI century, when indulgences became one of the main sources of its financing. As a result, a person received an indulgence, and all this was seen simply as absolution for money. From a social point of view in many ways it was.
Luther rebelled against this evil practice, putting forward a different understanding of the death of Christ — as an excuse. "The sins of the believer - real, future, as well as past - are forgiven because they are covered or hidden from God by the perfect righteousness of Christ and therefore are not used against the sinner. God does not want to impute, write our sins on our account (characteristic introduction of a commercial term to theology, “), But instead treats the righteousness of the Other in Whom we believe as our own righteousness,” he wrote.
Thus, the new trend made it a dogma: the person is already justified. This had tremendous social and political consequences.
The quotient becomes higher than the total.
The very name of the "Protestant Reformation" contains the whole pathos of the new trend, which became the ideological basis of the New Age, the modern era. This is reform through protest. What seems obvious today is a product of Protestantism. If in medieval Europe, man’s dissatisfaction with his position was to be overcome through self-improvement (of course, within the framework of the Catholic tradition), then the era of the Reformation brought about a fundamental revolution. From now on, dissatisfaction at the individual level began to demand alteration of the church, society and the state.
A spiritual revolution was accomplished: the particular was put above the general. It is the general that must henceforth be transformed into the particular, the individual. The exteriorization of an individual's requests for all of society has become a dogma. Something does not suit me - the society and the state are guilty. At first the Protestants had the Catholic Church guilty, but very quickly it spread to the state. Protestantism brought a very special understanding of the tradition - as a meaningless regulation that impedes individual success. The tradition began to be perceived as an empty and unnecessary rite, excessive prescriptions, without which the individual can easily do. The individual with his own interests became the center of philosophy.
"I do not ascend and do not consider myself to be better than doctors and cathedrals, but I put my Christ above all dogma and cathedral," Luther wrote.
Individualism has become the spirit of the new era, which in many ways continues to this day. German sociologist Max Weber (1864 - 1920) indicates that it was Protestantism that became the ideological basis of the nascent capitalism. The Protestant ethic has become the "spirit of capitalism." That is why Protestantism cannot be regarded as an exclusively religious movement.
"Capitalism is an exceptional belief that the activities of the most disgusting scum, driven by the most basest motives, will somehow benefit everyone," said the famous English economist John Keynes (1883 - 1946). In Catholicism such a faith could not arise, it required the birth of a new faith. Protestantism did not just reject faith. He rejected the old (Catholic) faith, but spawned a new one, which completely broke with tradition, declaring it a relic of the past, and placed it in the center of an individual who directly, "without intermediaries" addressed God. This opinion is popular nowadays: why should a man “mediate” with God in the form of the Church? However, look at this question like this.
The Catholic Church had an imperial project for organizing a European society, in which the total, whatever it was, was more important than the private one. Protestantism decisively rejected this, putting individual interest above all else and rejecting any tradition at all. In the twentieth century, the capitalism generated by this revealed the following advantage in survivability over the socialist project: it most fully rejects tradition and the common project, i.e. project for everyone. It became a project for the most successful, for the elect, whose “God's chosen people” were confirmed by their financial situation, which do not need “mediators” with God. Succeeded - it means that you are better than those who are poorer and closer to God.
Both socialism and capitalism are the product of modernity. But it is capitalism that more fully and consistently expresses the individualistic logic of modernity. Socialism, in part, refers to the traditional attitudes to the cathedral, which are perceived as obstacles in the path of "progress."
All this would be only a bare theory, if at the end of the twentieth century the Soviet people did not pass through it. In the late Soviet era, the idea that the economy (and therefore people) should simply be given the opportunity to determine what is needed and what is not was very popular. This was the way to the idea of the invisible “hand of the market”. And to say that she only imposed from above, it is impossible. People also went in the same direction, since modernist thinking is most consistently implemented in the logic of Protestantism and capitalism. And it was already laid down in the program of the CPSU, which took the course of "meeting the growing material needs of the Soviet man," which could not be fully realized in the USSR. A philistine criterion was set, close to an individual, but disastrous for the country as a whole. As a result, individual discontent was resolved by the destruction of the whole — the whole country. In the USSR, the Protestant logic was realized: the individual is displeased - the state is to blame.
"Modernity" as the brainchild of Protestantism
In this paradigm, seemingly self-evident, we still live. She is the brainchild of Protestantism. And to the extent that we assimilate the thinking of modernity, we are also children of Protestantism. In particular, the protest against the Church is of Protestant origin. Protestantism broke with the claim of the Catholic Church on the project of society, ultimately separating it from the state. This provision, which also became a part of almost all constitutions, practically forces one to put oneself in the context of Western European history, which was imposed as a universal way of development of all mankind. For the same reason, the Protestant idea of "human rights" in its origin is considered to be universal.
About the new faith of Protestantism, you can make some unexpected judgments. Keynes’s quoted quotation about capitalism as faith very expressively reflects the background of that thinking, which then came to be called scientific. This is due to the following circumstance. In the era of the Middle Ages in Europe physicist Aristotle ruled, which was of an exceptionally qualitative character. Aristotle radically divided physics and mathematics, considering the first the doctrine of the independent and mobile, and the second - of the non-independent and immobile. For this reason, the application of mathematics to the explanation of the essence of phenomena was unthinkable: physics was of a qualitative and descriptive nature of the phenomena observed. However, from the XVI century, especially from Descartes, Galileo and others, mathematical constructions of a speculative nature are beginning to be applied to the explanation of the world. Abstract constructions are beginning to be understood as the most preferred.
Only under these conditions could the belief arise that maximizing one’s own benefit leads to the optimization of the whole of society. This is a purely mathematical position. (At the same time, in the theory of systems, it is known that the system consisting of optimal parts is generally not optimal.) Thus, the mathematization of natural science was reflected in social science. Since this thinking later came to be called scientific and opposed to other types of knowledge of the world, Protestantism became a sociological expression of the spirit of scientific thinking. It is no coincidence that it was from Protestant countries that the largest number of Nobel laureates came out. We point out some more of the historical consequences of the Protestant coup.
The road to European revolutions
In protest of Luther and other reformers, slogans of freedom, equality and fraternity are already seen, under which the French monarchy will be crushed. For example, the requirement of freedom concerned the translation of the Bible into national languages, so that people of all countries could read it themselves, and not rely on the interpretation of Catholic priests. The Vatican, on the other hand, believed that the only liturgical language should be Latin, which was incomprehensible to Europeans of that time. The interest of the papacy was obvious - to hold control over the interpretation of Scripture and the spiritual life of believers. For this reason, among the reformers, a protest arose against Catholic priests as "mediators" between God and man, preventing direct conversion to God through prayer and the reading of Scripture. To this day, the Protestants stand on the fact that a person needs only to read the Scripture himself and understand it the way he wants. We repeat that this popular opinion today originated in Europe. In Russia, such a problem never stood, since already in the 9th century the Bible was translated by Cyril and Methodius into the Old Slavonic language.
The requirement of fraternity was directed against the excessive regulation of Catholic society, where the church subordinated the state to itself. The Protestants wanted to get away from this legalism and live in the spirit of the ancient Christian communities. (It is worth noting, however, that for centuries the Catholic Church fastened the entire European civilization, fragmented into many principalities, duchies, kingdoms, etc.)
The demand for equality that arose in Protestantism concerned the supply of bishops. Since in Christianity only two bishops can ordain a new bishop, then, having rejected the Catholic clergy, the Protestants faced the problem: where should they get their bishops from? And they began to choose and supply them to the community itself. That is, the bishop became simply an elective office, and the apostolic succession was rejected in favor of the self-government of the community. The sacred was sacrificed to the political. But at the same time the hierarchy was forever rejected, i.e. the hierarchy, and in its place a new, modern edition of democracy, radically different from the ancient Greek, appeared. At the same time, this understanding of democracy concerned only “our own”. The protestant state of the USA demonstrates this approach very convincingly. Everything can be chosen. The question boils down to who and how it will do. It should be recognized that the United States has been very successful in creating these mechanisms of "direct democracy", which is not so direct, and not quite democracy in the sense of democracy by the people. How did it happen that in the Protestantism, which called for roots, the "elect" arose?
Three Versions of Protestantism - Three Socio-Political Models
One of the ideologists of the Reformation, John Calvin (1509 - 1564), argued that the posthumous fate of a person is predetermined by God. And whom God has predetermined for salvation, can be established already during life on the basis of material well-being, which has become the criterion of righteousness. Rich and successful - well done, God will save him. After all, we see that he has already achieved success in his lifetime, which means that God favors him. Here there is still a reference to God, but the thirst for profit gradually became a self-sufficient value, without any connection with the posthumous fate of the soul. Calvinism became the matrix of bourgeois liberalism, which began to consider the Catholic Church as an obstacle to the society of prosperity and extolled the individual beginning. It is common in the Anglo-Saxon world, Holland, Switzerland, less - in other European countries.
In parallel with this, the idea of equality of all people before God arose in Protestantism, but embodied already on earth in a special social model. Waiting for the imminent onset of the "last times", these communities professed full social and property equality and a return to the original paradise state of man. They believed that a new era had begun - the era of the Holy Spirit, in which all people would live in brotherhood and equality. The movement was strongly influenced by the ideas of the medieval Italian philosopher Joachim de Flore (1132 - 1202), and during the Reformation, realized by the preacher Thomas Munzer (1489 - 1525), who founded the Anabaptist religious community in Thuringia. Later, these ideas were picked up by the Utopian socialists Charles Fourier (1772 - 1837), Henri Saint-Simon (1760 - 1825), and then Karl Marx and his followers. So the ideas of the Anabaptists migrated to Russia and partly embodied in Russian socialism. In Europe, the Anabaptists were crushed and preserved only in scattered sects. This may explain why Russian liberals have systemic support in the West, while Russian communists do not. The reason is that the Anabaptists did not survive there.
The third direction was actually Lutheranism. It strengthened as the ideology of the German princes, who from the very beginning gave Luther maximum support, regarding this as a justification of their own political independence. Religious overtones here became secondary, yielding primacy to the idea of a military-state system. This formed the basis of the political system of Prussia in the 18th and 19th centuries, where the nation-state became a value in itself.
Thus, in three directions of the Reformation, the sources of three basic political models characteristic of the 20th century are easily guessed: Calvinism became the forerunner of liberal capitalism, Anabaptism of socialism and communism, and Lutheranism of national-state regimes. Russia was heavily influenced by the second and third directions. Anabaptism was partly embodied in socialism, and Lutheranism was in the very idea of an independent and militarily strong Russia, because in the 18th century many Russian rulers were of German origin. Yes, and Peter I, fortunately, brought from Europe to a greater extent precisely the Lutheran view of the state. This explains its simultaneous imitation of Europe and the desire for political independence from it.
As for Calvinism, by now it has degenerated into an ideology of "human rights" that justifies any crimes. He fully realized the idea of Luther that the righteous is saved only by faith. “Because of this belief in Christ, God does not see the sin that still remains in us. God imputes sin not to sin, even though it is truly sin,” Luther wrote. In the same way, the “civilized world”, when worshiping “human rights”, is ready to justify any sin.
Overcome the conflict of orthodoxy and socialism
The Reformation dramatically changed Europe and the world. Its influence on Russia has also become enormous. In particular, socialism, which came from Europe and was originally Protestant in origin, superimposed on the Orthodox cultural code of the Russian people, causing a conflict with the Church. Supporters of socialism believe that they embody Christian ideals, and partly right in this, but we must also not forget that these ideals go back to Protestantism. This caused the historical conflict of the socialists and the Orthodox in Russia. Both those and others are inspired by the messianic (not the petty-bourgeois!) Idea of Russia, but they understand it differently due to the different theological background. This example clearly shows how political controversies eventually grow out of abstract theological issues. Maybe in the year of the 500 anniversary of the Reformation, this should be for us the main conclusion from it. If Russia is able to overcome the internal conflict of worldviews between the Orthodox and the socialists (communists), then only by understanding where they historically diverge.