but I did not. And another one, well, several lines:
Unlike either the Renaissance or the Reformation, the Enlightenment
had begun not as an attempt to rescue some hallowed past, but as an
assault on the past in the name of the future…It was a period which
sought to overturn every intellectual assumption, every dogma, every
‘prejudice’ (a favourite term) that had previously exercised any hold
over the minds of men. Anthony Pagden.
There is the problem. Too often shallow history sees the Enlightenment is seen as one side of the coin of which the Reformation is the other -- a vast movement of freedom casting off the constraints of authoritarianism, Biblicism, and dogmatism in favor of a Star Trek approach to the understanding of God and man -- to boldly go where no man has gone before. What foolishness!
The Reformation began as a quest FOR authority -- not some contrived authority posited in men or councils who may agree for a moment only to change their minds later but an eternal authority that has the yesterday, today, and forever stamp upon it. Luther was a man on a quest not from the past but into the past, to the church before institutions had assumed what belonged to the voice of the Apostles and their written words that carried the authority of the Son of God. It was never a sola scriptura in the sense of the Bible alone, naked, ripped from the community of faith and the succession of believers whose creeds and confessions flowed from the living Word. It was never a sola under the domain of reason trying to tie up God's loose ends and systematize and organize a God who often appears wild (gadfry, Lutherans have never really produced much in the way of systematic theology to tame the untamed God or His Word). We live within the comfort of paradox that seems to conflict but lives at the same time awaiting the fullness of the Spirit and the disclosure which will render the questions mute.
Liberal Christianity is surely the bastard daughter of the Enlightenment. It is the repudiation of authority and the invention of truth on a relative scale, ever evolving and never the same. It is centered not in God nor in His Word but in man, the god who lives at the center of all things and rules his universe (if only from the vantage point of his own mind). Liberal Christianity eschews authority and truth just as much as the Enlightenment takes on as its guiding principle the refutation of the past. Liberalism always appears egalitarian but is in reality the most snobbish and elite of ideas. Freedom yes but not for all -- everyone else must live within the politically corrected vocabulary and ideas that have the approval of the cultural elite for the idea that we are all free and equal is, of course, an illusion. Some are always freer and more equal than others.
Lutherans are so often misunderstood even as they so often misunderstand themselves. The golden thread through our Confessions is not any of the buzz words of the Enlightenment but rather the clear and manifest insistence that we have not deviated from Scripture, from catholic doctrine, or from catholic practice and, in this regard, we are the fruit of the one authority that is genuine and that has the power to hold up our lives -- the efficacious means of grace in the Word and Sacraments who are the God whom we confess at work to deliver what He has promised to all who will receive His gifts.