Church and State in the Modern Age: A Documentary History

By J. F. MacLear | Go to book overview

Preface

The aim of this book has been to present some fundamental documents in the history of church and state relations, primarily in Europe and America and chiefly since the eighteenth century. Despite the past and continuing importance of this theme, there has been a surprising lack of any collection making available the basic documents in the field. It is true, of course, sssthat source collections for European and American history are numerous, and these commonly touch on areas of church-state conflict, though generally the subject has, been a tangential one and the treatment cursory. It is also true that several collections of documents on church history exist. But these tend to concentrate on earlier periods -- ancient, medieval, and the Reformation. When they have dealt with the modern age, they have seldom focused on church and state problems and they have often had a denominational orientation. This collection has an end in view different from these earlier publications. It seeks to document, as comprehensively as possible, the evolution of the post-Reformation churches -- Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox -- in their relation to the simultaneously evolving modern state in areas where Christian culture has historically predominated.

I am aware that by various definitions the "modern age" may be thought to commence at any time from Renaissance to post-Napoleonic nineteenth century. But for the purposes of this collection the term (primarily) describes developments beginning toward the end of the seventeenth century. This definition may be somewhat arbitrary, but it is not entirely so. Events of the earlier seventeenth century -- Huguenot commotions in France, the Thirty Years War in the Empire, the Puritan role in the English Revolution -- certainly foreshadowed in significant ways the shaping of modern politics, but the problems that provoked them were essentially problems of the age of the Reformation and Counter-Refortnation. By the century's end, in contrast, the secular-oriented and centralized nation-state was beginning to assume some definition, and at the same time the dogmatic relaxation associated with the approaching Enlightenment was already in evidence. I confess that some what inconsistently I have violated this scheme in including very early American documents. But since the "American experiment" proved to be an important and critical turn in church-state history, it seemed useful to provide the documentary bases from which the American tradition of "separation" evolved.

To the task of assembling documents I have tried to bring some limiting principles of selection. I have adhered to a preciser meaning of "document." This collection is not a book of "readings." It seeks to draw only on the official or nearly

-vii-

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