A History of Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century

By J. W. Allen | Go to book overview

A HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY

PART I
LUTHERANISM AND CALVINISM

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTORY

AMBIGUOUS as are the words standing at the head of this section, they, are far less ambiguous than the word Protestantism. Loose talk about something called 'Protestantism' is one of the more serious difficulties that students of the sixteenth century must contend with. It is a word used in many different senses and sometimes, it seems, with no precise sense at all. It is even possible to use it in two senses within the same paragraph, and that once done no sense remains. The word is often used to signify rejection by Christians of the claims of the Papacy. That is a use alluring in its apparent simplicity. But, in that sense, Anglo-Catholics, old and new, are Protestants for all their protests and the Eastern churches are equally Protestant. Also the question might well be asked: 'What claims of what Papacy?' Rejection may be partial; and the line between complete and incomplete rejection may be very fine. Cardinal Bellarmine certainly rejected the extreme claims put forth on behalf of Pope Sixtus V and he was rewarded with a place on the Index. The French Gallicans of the later years of the century went much further still in rejection; and it is not so easy to distinguish between the official view of King Henry VIII of Engand and the views of Louis Servin, 'Catholic' minister of Henry IV.1 Even for the sixteenth century alone, and putting aside the ambiguity already attached to the word 'Christian', this use of the term 'Protestant' leads into difficulties.

Less superficially the word 'Protestantism' has been used to

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1

For Servin, see Pt. III, Chap. VII, p. 374.

-1-

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