Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Roots of American Order Book Club
Chapter VII - The Reformers' Drum

If you have never read this book and think you dont have the time, please reconsider.  We're making it easier for you.  Read Cindy's applications as well as others.  Here's the link to our roundtable discussion.

Origins =  Humanism gained ground.  The primary representative of this new-found religion was a count, one Pico della Mirandola, who borrowed philosophical tenets from Plato, Christianity, and sorcery,  He wrote The Dignity of Man, a manifesto declaring man's god-like capabilities.  This philosophy found expression in churchmen like Erasmus in The Netherlands and Thomas More in England.  Five centuries later America's poet Ralph Waldo Emerson would echo Mirandola's sentiments. 

Reformers = Kirk diplomatically explains that both Protestants (Luther's 95 Theses) and Catholics (Council of Trent) reacted to the excesses of the Renaissance culture which exalted man's egoism (humanism).  Renaissance concupiscence, power politics, and pagan worldview contrasted with the Reformation's Christian morality, principles of justice and freedom, and Biblical worldview.  What started as debates among theologians became a forever breach in Christendom.

Divine Comedy  = makes me think of the Lord, our God, laughing as in Psalm 2 at all this earthly turmoil.  In fact, Kirk wants us to recognize Dante Alighieri, a most imaginative poet.  That Divine Comedy joined scholastic philosophy and medieval imagery synthesizing knowledge and belief.  I have never read this great poem, but aim to acquire not only John Ciardi's translation but also Anthony Esolen's.

Ecclesiastical Eruptions = Knotty questions starting with Mirandola's 900, spurred by Luther's Bondage of the Will, and systematized by Calvin's Institutes effected the break from The Pope, most notably in King Henry VIII's boldness and the establishment of The Church of England.  This seems to be the beginning of today's myriad of Christian denominations.

Renegade Churchmen = Kirk gives us Richard Hooker and John Knox, both fascinating minds who fathered national churches, The Church of England and the Church of Scotland, respectively.  Hooker, more moderate, was the proponent of "via media" (a throwback to Aristole's "golden mean") which characteristic is very English to us Americans.  Knox, a more forceful personality, preached incessantly against the wickedness of the Church (Kingly) Establishment in favor of Biblical Authority.  

Ever interested in history, I am truly appreciating Dr. Kirk's even-handed survey. It so explains me, as I was reared Anglican (I love, love, the Book of  Common Prayer) and became Presbyterian (The Westminster Confession of Faith answered more questions than The 39 Articles) at age twenty.  Our family roots are Scotch-Irish.  We've been Americans since the War for Independence.   

Marching to that different drum,  it's gonna be hard to uproot me.

Added later ~ 
In honor of National Poetry Month, here is a Link to a 16th century poet who marched to a different drum and made a difference:  Marguerite de Navarre


  1. I read your summary even though I haven't finished reading the chapter. (No self control, I tell ya...) As usually, beautifully concise. I look forward to the sections on Hooker and Knox as I am more unfamiliar with them than other reformers like Luther and Calvin...

    1. One of the hardest parts of reading this book is not letting myself go slowly and follow rabbit trails. I have to tell myself... keep reading, Dana, don't stop! Even then, I cannot read Kirk without taking notes....

      This Hooker quote from Chapter One has stuck with me ~

      Without order, there is no living in public society, because the want thereof is the mother of confusion.

  2. Dana,
    Excellent summary. I also have trouble not following rabbit trails and a fear of losing the trails for another day too. Oh, well.