It was no accident that the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation were largely concurrent movements. Renaissance is a term meaning "re-birth," and in such pseudo-religious terms it described a conscious return to the humanism of the Classical period; Reformation, on the other hand, referred to a revitalization of true Christian doctrine and practice in the face of Catholic apostasy.
The Renaissance celebrated the works of men—art, invention, poetry, political science, philosophy and architecture. Here, all the foundations of the Enlightenment were laid, from the emphasis on human knowledge and progress, to the near-worship of the Classical Age and blatant imitation of its forms and ideals.
On the other hand, the Protestant Reformation celebrated God's truth. Orthodox doctrines were recovered and codified, and those who rejected the corruption within the European state churches separated from them, often at risk of safety and even life. It was a rebirth of the Church, a revitalization and rescue from the influence of humanism and a bent Gospel.
These two movements set the course for modern civilization. It was not a new tension by any means, but the form it would take in future discourse was determined: human reason vs. divine revelation, the philosophy of men against the truth of Yahweh. The scorn with which secular intellectuals treat Christianity is directly linked to Renaissance humanism, which arbitrarily determined that God's authority was not enough, and only man's efforts were capable of satisfying his owndesire for understanding.
A proper Christian response is similarly rooted in the ideals of the Reformation: the primacy of Scripture, the doctrine of salvation by faith through grace, the necessity for repentance and good works as an outworking of faith but by no means a basis for salvation, etc. This is the wisdom of God which godless man meets with scorn, but which sustains and motivates His people to holiness and evangelism.
It's essential that we understand these immensely important turning points, both the Renaissance and the Reformation, if we intend to understand and be effective in our own time. If the world doesn't understand them properly, we have an advantage in evangelism and apologetics; if they do, then at least we'll be able to communicate clearly. Either way, our Christian duty is to spread Christ's Gospel untainted by humanism and true to the pure faith of our spiritual fathers, whether Reformers or otherwise.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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