Toleration and the Reformation - Vol. 1

Toleration and the Reformation - Vol. 1

Toleration and the Reformation - Vol. 1

Toleration and the Reformation - Vol. 1

Excerpt

Since the end of the Second World War much has been written and there has been much discussion, both among Christians and among disunited Christians, on the subject of religious freedom or tolerance. The polemics about the condition of Protestants in Spain and Colombia, the Swiss legislation against the Jesuits, the attacks of the journalist Paul Blanshard on American Catholics, the differences of opinion among Catholics themselves about religious freedom and the lay State: all these facts are too well known to require elaboration. From a higher point of view there is an obvious relationship between the oecumenical concern, so common in our time, and the question of how to face the fact, at present insoluble, of denominational divisions.

Discussions of this kind normally require reference to history. At the root of the present problems lie events of all kinds: persecutions, injustice, oppressive laws against religious minorities, old controversies on the suppression of heresy and on unity of religion within the State. How can one ignore all these previous data? Now, it seems a fact that many of our contemporaries suffer from imperfect and fragmentary knowledge of history in these matters. What is known, in the ordinary way, of the evolution of the problem of tolerance since the beginning of the modern era? Except in regard to certain famous personalities and spectacular events, the documentation by theologians and even by historians is often confused, if not positively erroneous. One can hardly blame them. The present state of research on this aspect of religious history is much less advanced than one might suppose.

Most of the learned work done on tolerance is limited to monographs. There are good works on Erasmus, Luther, Sebastian Franck, Sebastian Castellio, Michel de L'Hospital, Jacobus Acontius, Dirck Coornhert . . . to mention only some sixteenth- century authors. One or other penetrating study, like that of Johannes Kühn, Toleranz und Offenbarung (Leipzig, 1923), is limited to a choice of authors whose arguments are analysed with remarkable care and method. The same may be said of a . . .

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