Reformation 500: Any Cause for Celebration?

John Milbank


From the introduction:

The 500th anniversary of the European Reformation has not fallen in an auspicious year. In the British Isles, where arguably the divisions over this event most of all still linger (subtly and not so subtly), they have once again covertly resurfaced. The referendum vote to leave the European Union appears in many ways to repeat the old suspicion of Rome and a Protestant desire to cast adrift—to opt for an island, maritime and individualist destiny, rather than a Continental, cross-border and communitarian one. The mood may be populist, yet it oddly coincides with a British liberal revival of anti-Catholicism [...].

Viewed in more measured terms, one might regard such a supposed destiny as dubious—as a premature impulse to depart, in despair of slow reform, that tends to cause rupture, upheaval and eventually war. For just this reason, 2017 appears to be an unfortunate year in which to seek to celebrate a half-millenium of Protestantism. [...]

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