What happens when tradition is forcibly overturned, when competing governance structures are eliminated, when the source of law is monopolized in a single physical sovereign? We are offered a real-world examination of these questions in the transition from medieval Europe to Renaissance Europe; the fulcrum is Martin Luther.
Inherently the examination involves Christianity and the Catholic Church – the Church was the foundation of the common tradition, it was the governance structure competing with the physical sovereign. Certainly in the last 2000 years of western history, I can think of no better example through which to examine the questions raised in the opening paragraph.
For those who don’t appreciate the value of religion in human affairs, replace the Catholic Church of the time with any institution that you believe might play a similar role. If you don’t like the use of “graceless” in the title, replace it as you like; how about “the fantasy-football-less body politic”? You know, something like that. And then find for me a 1000 year example.
The author of this chapter is Christopher A. Ferrara. Here he cites Luther Hess Waring:
Luther and His Progeny…
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Thus the ecclesiastical Reformation led to a political one….It would be a great mistake, a grievous error, to regard the movement of which Luther was the source and center as purely religious.
According to Ferrara, Luther played a “seminal role in the emergence of the modern nation-state.” Citing Brad Gregory: