Writing Assignment – Reformations – (L15)

How was the English Reformation different from the German Reformation?

The main difference between the German and the English Reformations were the goal, or the drive. During the spark of the German Reformation, Luther’s goal was to take the deeply corrupted Catholic church and not restore it, but change it; he withdrew from the church in fact and began teaching his own interpretation of gospel and how he thought the churches should be run and handled. However, we see that with the English Reformation, it wasn’t as intentional. Long story short, King Henry VIII was a womanizer in his day, and throughout his reign he went from wife to wife seeking male-bearing loins. In the tangle of all his constant attempts to re-marry, he removed Papal authority in England. This (unintentionally) was a huge step in a progressive direction for Protestants, not that King Henry VIII cared much about anything outside of his love life anyways. Following this, 10 year old Edward VI takes the throne; (under regency) Protestants come to the fore and take the main stage (religiously speaking for England).

What do we learn about St. Francis Xavier’s missionary work in the letter you read for lesson 13?

St. Francis Xavier’s letter from India, to the Society of Jesus at Rome, (1543) reveals a lot about his missionary work; though mostly it expresses his true dedication to God. He went through the struggles of tracking down translators and day after day working to make words of his language touch those of this foreign land. He seems to think of himself as slightly better than those with whom he cannot yet communicate; although not blatantly, he talks like he believes those not following his same religious path are below him, or ignorant. “…when I came to the points of faith in detail and asked them what they thought of them, and what more they believed now than when they were Infidels, they only replied that they were Christians, but that as they are ignorant of Portuguese, they know nothing of the precepts and mysteries of our holy religion.” Going on, we find that these people are basically in the palm of his hand; doing exactly what he says, believing his strange traditions very easily. “…often in a single day I have baptized whole villages…These children, I trust heartily, by the grace of God, will be much better than their fathers.” If one were to worship in a way he didn’t agree with, he would get his children followers (manipulated minds, too young to make decisions for themselves) and sick them on these people and their things. Statues were smashed, people were harassed and abused; all by the encouragement of children, from a man who left his home country to tell strangers how to live their lives. But, I suppose he made up for this in his mind with all the ‘sick people he helped heal’ through the lords prayer; the feel of this letter overall is that his intentions are sincere, but I don’t know how much good he really was doing for those people.

St. Francis Xavier’s letter from India, to the Society of Jesus at Rome, 1543:
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1543xavier1.asp

What kind of impression are you left with by the Spiritual Exercises?

I am not a very religious person, but I consider myself very spiritually in touch. That being said, I did not enjoy reading this whatsoever. I personally think that anyone who needs a being, that they have never seen, met, or connected with, to have complete control of their life, should get a reality check. Right off the bat, people are told to obey at all costs. And for some reason, people do so – usually under the impression that their afterlife depends on it. “First Rule. The first: All judgment laid aside, we ought to have our mind ready and prompt to obey, in all, the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our holy Mother the Church Hierarchical.” Going on, people are told to spend their whole life praising this same being (and other high figures). I do take into consideration and admire the small chunk of this passage that praises knowledge and learning, because truth and knowledge alike are freedom, but, these teachings do not refer to or mention truth. Some of the ‘rules’ were just downright off putting though. “Eighteenth Rule. Although serving God our Lord much out of pure love is to be esteemed above all; we ought to praise much the fear of His Divine Majesty, because not only filial fear is a thing pious and most holy, but even servile fear — when the man reaches nothing else better or more useful — helps much to get out of mortal sin. And when he is out, he easily comes to filial fear, which is all acceptable and grateful to God our Lord: as being at one with the Divine Love.”

St. Ignatius Loyola: Spiritual Exercises
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/loyola-spirex.asp

Why is Ignatius concerned about careless discussion of faith and good works?

The heart of Ignatius’ expression of his concern about careless discussion of faith and good works is run through in the Tenth Rule. “We ought to be more prompt to find good and praise as well the Constitutions and recommendations as the ways of our Superiors. Because, although some are not or have not been such, to speak against them, whether preaching in public or discoursing before the common people, would rather give rise to fault-finding and scandal than profit; and so the people would be incensed against their Superiors, whether temporal or spiritual. So that, as it does harm to speak evil to the common people of Superiors in their absence, so it can make profit to speak of the evil ways to the persons themselves who can remedy them.” In short, he is saying that when people go about trashing the church, it shifts the focus from the “profits” to “fault-finding, and scandal.” Assuming that he isn’t referring to income, Ignatius wants people to focus on what the church is supposed to be at it’s core and go about their lives based on this. He is also informing people that when there is a problem, things will most likely be solved much easier if you go straight to the source. If you think there is a problem in the church, go to the source of that problem and discuss it with them to have it bettered, rather than just talking badly of the church and basically allowing the whole corporation to fall apart.

St. Ignatius Loyola: Spiritual Exercises
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/loyola-spirex.asp

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Luther & Calvin Writing Assignment (L10)

Explain Luther’s main points in the selection you read from On the Freedom of a Christian.

Luther makes many points in his work On the Freedom of a Christian, but, of all his ideas, one of his strongest was that of which he makes clear the process by which an unrighteous man becomes a righteous man, and this was, he said, by justification. Luther went on to say that this justification could be carried out by faith alone; that good works had no meaning in the great order of things. He was a firm believer that human beings were a truly corrupt people, and so he taught that good works should be done purely out of one’s love for God, rather than to get one into heaven. His lack of faith in the human race was reflected in his works on multiple occasions, where he shamelessly wrote of all men’s inability to avoid sin. “For example: ‘thou shalt not covet,’ is a precept by which we are all convicted of sin; since no man can help coveting, whatever efforts to the contrary he may make. In order therefore that he may fulfil the precept, and not covet, he is [109] constrained to despair of himself and to seek elsewhere and through another the help which he cannot find in himself; as it is said: ‘O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.’ (Hosea xiii. 9.) Now what is done by this one precept, is done by all; for all are equally impossible of fulfilment by us.” He also later wrote that “Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation; the soul is full of sin, death, and condemnation.” Luther makes it a point to be clear that he believes the “the whole Scripture of God is divided into two parts, precepts and promises. The precepts certainly teach us what is good, but what they teach is not forthwith done. For they show us what we ought to do, but do not give us the power to do it.” Overall, I find Luther’s main points from this excerpt to be somewhat morbid in the sense that he believes those who have not found salvation of God are condemned to a life, and afterlife of sin and misery. One who is not devoted to a life of religious faith is not living much of a life at all because he will continue on to spend eternity in hell.

Explain Calvin’s main points in the selection you read from the Institutes of the Christian Religion. How does Calvin answer those who say predestination makes God into a being who dispenses justice unequally?

In the given selection of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, each of his major points involves justifying and defending God’s “gratuitous elections” of predestination. Starting in Book Three, Chapter 21, Calvin’s opening statement is that “The covenant of life is not preached equally to all, and among those to whom it is preached, does not always meet with the same reception.” More simply stated, Calvin is declaring that the conditional promises made to humanity by God are not equal to each being, and that although he is not an unjust God, not all is made fair for each man by Gods will. He goes on to say that “by predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.” Here, Calvin is saying, in a quite blunt fashion, that God does as he wills – not with no reason, but none such reasons are explained other than that he decides with himself. Meaning in a greater picture of life, it does not matter the good deeds one has carried out, or the bad deeds one has done, because in the end God has already decided what’s going to happen to you when you die. Towards the end of this selection, in Chapter 23, Calvin offers quite the response to those who say predestination makes God into a being who dispenses justice unequally ; “Wherefore, it is false and most wicked to charge God with dispensing justice unequally, because in this predestination he does not observe the same course towards all.” Calvin states, quite correctly in fact, that it would be even more unjust, and actually unequal if God were to decide the same fate for every man. If the good and the bad are all passed onto heaven, what fairness is in that? Likewise it would be quite unequal to sentence the good and the bad to a life of eternal damnation. However, here Calvin is simply distracting people with other hypothetical inequalities of God’s rule, and he fails to prove why predestination is still a fair and equal way. Just because God is sending different people different places, doesn’t exactly mean he is sending them to the right places. Going into specifics, Calvin says “we admit that the guilt is common, but we say, that God in mercy succors some. Let him (they say) succor all. We object, that it is right for him to show by punishing that he is a just judge. When they cannot tolerate this, what else are they attempting than to deprive God of the power of showing mercy; or, at least, to allow it to him only on the condition of altogether renouncing judgment?” In mercy, God can help man. But then, ‘they’ respond, why not help all? Calvin’s argument to this is that God shows he is a ‘just’ and fair judge by punishing, rather than taking pity on all. He then attacks the people questioning this logic of predestination by stating that they’re attempting to deprive God of the power of showing mercy, because they say unless he has mercy on all, let him have mercy on none. In reality, this is not what the people are saying, but accusing one of questioning Gods judgments is a quick way to shut them up in this setting.