The Church’s Influence on Society

Thus if our model of the apostolic life is monks living in a monastery off in the wilderness, we wouldn’t think think that even the highest degree of sanctity would necessarily put an end to violence and disorder in the world. The situation is, of course, very different if we think of the Christian life not in terms of minority communities, but as embracing everyone. But even this doesn’t mean that social order must accrue to sanctity; we have to remember that all parties during the Reformation, but especially the Protestants, held to a hyper-Augustinian position, according to which only a small minority were saved. The way in which Christian living could bring about order in society was thus not, in all consistency, that every member was a saint. That was the path of the separatist sects, firmly refused by both Luther and Calvin. Rather it would have to be that the Godly minority control things and keep them on the right track.

From Charles Taylor’s magisterial work, A Secular Age (p 105).

We can see the way Calvinist and Lutheran societies “kept things on the right track” in Luther’s Germany, Calvin’s Geneva and Puritan New England, among other places.  But is this model workable in our post-Christendom age? And if not, does that necessitate even the Reformed faiths falling back into the Anabaptist social posture that Taylor here has them “firmly refusing”?


2 responses to “The Church’s Influence on Society

  1. In my limited understanding, it seems that Luther’s Germany, Calvin’s Geneva, and the Puritan’s New England all suffered a lack of some of the basic Christian categories of behavior, ironically, in regard to the machinations of state. It seems to me we have yet to see a true Christian government on earth – yet I would prefer something more like those places and times over what we have now here and in most of the world, where every person does what is right in their own eyes.

  2. “Rather it would have to be that the Godly minority control things and keep them on the right track.”

    And thus we have secular society fighting back, resistant to a minority controlling them. We are called to witness and share the truth, but I do not think there will EVER be a truly Christian-led society here on earth. Those who fled European dictatorships in order to worship freely could not have forseen how today that “freedom of religion” would be interpreted, because they also felt that they were the only ones who were right.

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