Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Research on Protestant Reform Movement and Mission in Europe and India (Roughly 1500-1792)


1. Introduction
When we look at the history of Christianity, there were many movements that mold and shape the Christianity today. Among many, Protestant Reformation Movement is one which has contributed to a great extent in Christianity. Initially the Protestant movement neglected the aspect of mission to some extent because of many factors. But in the later part, the Protestant movement has contributed vitally in the Christian mission. In this paper, we will try to analyze what were some of the problems in the initial Protestant movement and what are some of the contributions of the Protestant movement and in the mission, in the history of Christianity roughly between the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries.

2. Historical background of Protestant Reformation
Retrospection of Christian history gives the view of how Protestant Reformation has impacted the Christianity in many ways. Through the Protestant Reformation, it brought a new face to the world of Christianity. To understand the Protestant Reform Mission, it is appropriate to get the glimpse of the historical background of the Protestant Reformation briefly. The impact of the Protestant Reformation though it broke out in Europe, it spread all over the world and it change the future course of Christianity. In order to understand the Protestant Reformation it is necessary to recall that in the time before the storm people were intensely religious(Hillerbrand xiii). And in order to understand the context of the Reformation, it is vital to understand the socio-political, economic and religious context, which will enhance our understanding of the Reformation movement better.

2.1 Socio-Political
When we trace back to history there are many people who are responsible for the outbreak of reformation in the sixteenth century. But precisely, the historians begin with Martin Luther as the one who started the Reformation era with his ninety five theses. First and perhaps the foremost is the fact that it was a phenomenon of European dimensions. While the intensity of Protestant belief and measures of eventual success differed from country to country, virtually all Europe was affected-Italy no less than Sweden, England no less than Poland( xx). The acceptance of the Protestant faith was in some instances the least prudent political policy to pursue. This was certainly true in Germany between 1521 and 1525, when it was virtually political suicide to accept the new faith(xxi). The peasants’ uprising of 1524-1525, in support of the Reformation of Lutheran, dismayed those charged with the maintenance of law and order(Hillerbrand xxi). The political power was predominantly controlled by the Catholics and for which it become difficult for the followers of reformation to break away from the Catholic Church.

The great theme of the age was, as Ranke observed, the interaction of religion and politics. Religion alone does not suffice as a full explanation for the events that took place, for in many ways political considerations intruded upon the ecclesiastical course of events(Hillerbrand xxi). Zwingli’s quest for a Protestant alliance, the formation of the League of Schmalkald, and the ecclesiastical transformation in Poland or France, show that Protestantism was Politically involved(Hillerbrand xxi).

Around the end of the fifteenth century, feudal governance was being replaced with rising absolute monarchies, spurred on by Machiavelli’s “principle of state,” which either ignored religion or made it a tool of the state(Bevans and Schroeder 172). During this time the power of the throne was overtaking that of the church. There was also important scientific discoveries which made it possible, for example, to improve compasses-most likely originally invented in China and Europe independently- and therefore to travel further across the unknown seas(172). As a result there was a discovery of many routes and geographical discoveries. The opening of new trade routes was important, furthermore, for the commercial revolution in Europe, which was replacing the disintegrating feudal and agricultural systems(172).

At the time of Luther’s formal censure by church and state, the character of events underwent a change. The Luther affair increasingly became a broadly based movement for spiritual edification and reform(Hillerbrand, The World of the Reformation 28). A movement appeared, vague, undefined, heterogeneous, and unstructured. Concerned about the religious matter, it was not devoid of economic and political notions. While to echo Luther’s cause was to support a man who was declared both heretic and political outlaw, people seemed able to reconcile their endorsement with allegiance to the Catholic church(28).

2.2 Religious Condition
The period’s new euphoria also touched the religious imagination with the inspiring possibility that all these “new” people would soon become Christian. Just as the Muslims were finally expelled from Europe after seven hundred years in the Iberian Peninsula and Sicily, there were now many “waiting” t embrace the Christian faith in the New World(Bevans and Schroeder 173). It was a moment of missionary enthusiasm and optimism. The Protestant spectrum in the sixteenth century included a group of radicals for whim the label “Spiritualists” has become accepted nomenclature(Hillerbrand, The World of the Reformation 67). In contrast to all other religious groups in the sixteenth century, however, they made no real attempt to alter the prevailing ecclesiastical status quo(67). They have criticized the existing forms of religion, but they never decided to form a new church.

A parallel religious renewal in Europe was evident in the Protestant and Catholic Reformations. Without denying other political, economic and social factors, certainly Protestant represented a human spirit that strove for a more radical gospel life(Hillerbrand, The World of the Reformation 173). The initial revival of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and the Anabaptists in the sixteenth century would be followed in the seventeenth century by the emergence of the Puritans, the Quakers and the beginning of Pietism. While it was certainly fueled by anti-Protestant polemic, and so could be called a Counter-Reformation, nevertheless Catholic efforts to reform the church in this context of general religious renewal might well be called a reformation in its own right(Bevans and Schroeder 173).

3. The Birth of Protestant Mission
Martin Luther Roman Catholic priest had heart-searching question “How shall I find a gracious God?” He started reading the Bible in search of his question but he found out several other facts about the Christian faith and practices, which were not taught in the Roman Catholic Churches.  They were not discussed nor explained in the Catholic faiths. The Pope was claiming the headship of the Universal Church by the will of God. “From the eleventh century onward the Popes began openly to claim to be superior to the Emperors. The Popes, they maintained, is the representative on earth of the God whose servant the Emperor is. To disobey the Pope is to disobey God and to forfeit one’s right to rule”(Lefever 7). The political power was control by the Pope and the Catholic Church. In 1309 the Papacy was transferred from Roman to Avignon in French. The real reformation was started at Avignon because the French King started ruling the office of the Catholic orders and the Papacy was control by them.  Other felt resentment and frequent extortions of money by the Popes was greatly increased especially in England. The French King was supported by the Catholic Mission money. The King was announced as the defenders of the Church in their land. “The Emperor, like the Pope, receives his authority from God alone, and both Emperor and Pope should respect each other in their respective spheres” (16). The German Reformation started with Luther’ opposition and protest against the sale of indulgences. 

The Protestant reformation was the result of Martin Luther’ 95 Theses were nailed on the church door at Wittenberg on 31st October, 1517. Luther articulate his teaching in small groups that
1. Man is saved not by own merit but by God’s grace. 2. God has manifested His grace in Christ. 3. Man’s response to God’s grace is faith, personal trust in God and in His work in Jesus Christ. 4. The result of this response is that man becomes a new creature, and lives a new life of sanctification. 5. There is a fundamental contrast between Law and Gospel. 6. There is a real distinction between the outward visible Church and the ideal or spiritual one [61].

The Jesuits mission order was flourishing till fifteenth century.  There missionaries have reached almost all the countries and the Roman Catholic religion was growing with its non theological doctrine. The Pope and Roman were given more important than the scriptural authority. The Roman Catholic Church was monitored by the Pope. The normal people were restricted to use the scripture. In Firths words the Protestant reformation means, “Political, cultural scientific as well as theological factors were intermingled to produce the complex situation which we call the Reformation” (5).

4. Reason for failures in Protestant Mission
One of the puzzling riddles of Christian history is the lack of missionary zeal on the part of the Magisterial Reformers—Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and Knox. It took the Protestant churches almost two centuries to begin any really significant missionary enterprise. Reasons for the “Great Omission”  of the Protestant could be matter that led to the relative omission of mission from thinking and activity of the Reformers was faulty hermeneutics(John Mark Terry, Ebbie Smith, and Justice Anderson 194). The successor of the Reformers took passages in Romans 10 and Psalm 19 to explain that the great commission of Mathew 28 was completely fulfilled by the apostles and their immediate successors. Therefore, Christians of their day were not under the mandate(194).

A second factor in the great omission sprang from the Reformers’ struggles to establish their reform. The reformers were so much engaged in the life-and-death struggle to defend and promote their principles that they had no time to think of a world mission(195). Religious war also contributed to the neglect of missions among the Reformers. The whole period of the Reformation was a time of mortal conflict between the Catholic and Protestants which required a fortress mentality and which prevented any mobilization for offensive missionary activity(195).

Hrangkhuma describes seven reasons for failures of Protestant Mission which will give more details of the reason why it was a failure;
a.       In their concern for the contemporary theological war the reformers overlooked the great commission of the Lord Jesus.
b.      The reformers had no material resources since they were enmeshed in a momentous political and military struggle against the Roman Catholics.
c.       Both Luther and Calvin believed that the princes and other public authorities were responsible for maintaining public worship and spreading of Christianity, and therefore, both neglected missions and had no direct contact with non-Christians.
d.      The reformers stretched their every nerve to re-evangelize, re-Christianize Europe.
e.       The reformers lacked the whole view of world mission as they were preoccupied in consolidating their positions in Europe.
f.       Unlike the Roman Catholics, the Protestant Churches had no missionary structure through which to spread the gospel(Hranghuma 275).

One of the major reasons for the lack of missionary outreach among the Protestants related to their lack of effective missionary organizations. It was so because the Protestantism rejected monasticism. Monasticism was the missionary arm of the Roman Catholic Church. The Reformers did not replace these monastic orders with anything else. This lack of organized groups limited Protestant endeavors(195).

5. Protestant Mission in the period
The two centuries after the Reformation were not completely devoid of Protestant mission awareness. Near the end of 1650, several isolated individuals challenged the popular belief and initiated some significant , yet abortive attempts to mount a Protestant missionary movement(195). Some Calvinist Huguenots established a Protestant community and mission on the coast of Brazil (1555) with the approval of John Calvin(195). Several men of the period emphasized the need for missions. Hadrian Saravia (1531-1613), a Reformed Pastor from Belgium, Count Truchess (1651), a prominent Lutheran layman, and Justinian Von Welz (1664), an Austrian nobleman, all treatises urging the churches to assume their missionary responsibility(195). Although the Reformers neglected the missionary overt mandate, they laid the doctrinal foundation for later missions. The Anabaptist and Pietist movement built their missionary zeal on the basis of reformed theology, and they became the harbingers of the modern missionary movement. As the Protestant began to consider their missionary responsibility in 1650, inspired by the rise of the Pietist movement, the Roman Catholic were consolidating the tremendous gains they had achieved during the Counter-reformation(196).

The four movements namely the Puritanism, Pietism, Moravianism, and Evangelical revivals of the eighteenth century became the pad for the Protestant churches’ world missionary movement(Pierson 177). The needed renewal first sprang from a movement within the Lutheran state churches called “Pietism.” The Pioneer of Pietism was Philip Spener (1635-1705), who sought to renew the spiritual life of Lutherans by small-group prayer meetings and Bible study(197). The famous of all the Pietists, however, was Count Ludwig Von Zinzendorf (1700-1760) and the Moravian mission. These Pietist efforts became forerunners of the Wesleyan revival and William Carey’s Baptist Missionary Society(197). One of the Protestant missionary antecedent must be mentioned, namely: the Anglican societies’ work among the Indians of New England. Beginning around 1639, three of these societies, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, served the colonist and the Indians(198).

One of the significant aspect of Protestant mission was the translation of Scripture from the original language into vernacular languages and distribution of those translations among believers have essential characteristics of all Protestant mission work(John Mark Terry, Ebbie Smith, and Justice Anderson 223). In the seventeenth century the Netherlands, England, and Denmark became important sea power. This opened the possibilities for Protestant mission work overseas(224). Seventeenth-century mission work was usually carried out in the wake of trade. “The religion of truth” accompanied “the religion of trade”(225).

David Bosch is of the view that in order to appreciate the Protestant Reformation’s unique contribution to the understanding of mission it is important to highlight the areas in which it differed from the Catholic Paradigm. He highlights five features which may help us to discern the contours of “Protestant theology of mission”, features which are to be found in all manifestations of sixteenth-century Protestanism, whether Lutheran, Calvinist, Zwinglian, or Anabaptist(Bosch 301). These five features are as follows:
1.      It is beyond dispute that for the Protestant Reformation the article of justification by faith is the starting point of theology. It is the article by which church stands or fall.
2.      Connected with the centrality of justification was the view that people were primarily to be seen from the perspective of the fall,as lost, unable to do anything about their condition.
3.      The Reformation stressed the subjective dimension of salvation.
4.      The affirmation of the personal role and responsibility of the individual led to the rediscovery of the priesthood of all believers.
5.      The “Protestant idea” found expression in the centrality of the scriptures in the life of the church(303).

6. Protestant Mission era in India
The King Frederick IV of Denmark, a Lutheran was instrumental in conceiving the idea of sending Protestant missionaries to India. He assigned his court chaplain to find right candidates in Denmark but he could not find the right candidates so he approached his friends in Germany. There were two young theological students from the University of Halle, Bartholomew Ziegenbalg and Henry Pluetschu accepted the offer of going to India as missionary(Firth 134–136). They were from Pietism movement, which lead the Germany in the Lutheran Church in the seventeenth century. They were sent out to Tranquebar as ‘royal missionaries’ at the personal expenses of the King and they arrived at Tranquebar on the 9th of July, 1706. They got bad treatment by the Danish commandant, J. C. Hassius in India but with help of other junior officials, they could survive. They learned Portuguese and Tamil language because the European traders were using Portuguese language and native were using Tamil language for communication(137). Therefore they could conduct the worship for the German soldiers in the Danish East India Company’s.

They put request to the commandant for issuing leave for two hours every day to receive Christian teaching. Five soldiers join them and first catechism class was begun in November 1706 further they were baptized in the Danish Church(137).

The missionaries adopted orphan children from their guardians after making some payment, so that a small orphanage was formed.  Further the children’ were baptized and were taught German. A Portuguese and a Tamil language school were introduced.

Ziegenbalg started discussing with the Hindus in Tamil language about their religious beliefs and he never lack audience. In result of this first small congregation was found in August 1707 and nine Tamil converts were baptized. Within two years of time he translated the New Testament in Tamil language(140). He contributed a Tamil-German dictionary.

Three other missionaries, Gruendler, Jordan and Boevingh arrived with a large sum of money and the Kings order for the Dutch commander to help them in all their work of mission and social work. A big campus was built with three schools, Tamil, Portuguese and Danish further large houses were built for the missionaries(143). The ministry flourished in Tranquebar and Tanjore area.

The eighteenth century was known as the modern missionary movement because many mission societies were born in England and USA.  This was fruit of Evangelical revival in the Church of England. The Pietist Movement in Germany was leading Protestant missionary movement. The SPCK and SPG old mission societies were working fine but new mission societies were found such as: The Baptist Missionary Society in 1792, the London Missionary Society in 1795, the Church Missionary Society in 1799 and the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society in 1813.  In 1810 American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was first mission society in America(144).

Nevertheless the flag was followed by the cross were ever the Roman Catholic and the Protestant missionaries went. Meanwhile the father of modern mission William Carey arrived in Bengal- Calcutta in November 1793(144).

7. Conclusion
Thus, in conclusion, we can see how the Protestant reformation movement built the importance of mission in the history, as a result of which many missionaries were sent to different places and has impacted upon the life of the people. In the beginning it was not so smooth, yet the Protestantism never ceased to be part of the mission in the world. They have contributed to a great extent in the field of mission which cannot be bypassed in the study of the history of Christian mission.

Work Cited
Bevans, Stephen B., and Roger P. Schroeder. Constants inContext: A Theology of Mission for Today. Philippines: Claretian Publications, 2005. Print.
Bosch, David J. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. New York: Orbis Book, 1991. Print.
Firth, C. B. An Introduction to Indian Church History. Madras: The Christian Literature Society, 1961. Print.
Hillerbrand, Hans J. The World of the Reformation. Michigan: Baker Book House, 1981. Print.
Hillerbrand, Hans J., ed. The Protestant Reformation. New York: Harper & Row Publisher, 1968. Print.
Hranghuma, F. An Introduction to Church History. Bangalore: Theological Book Trust, 1996. Print.
John Mark Terry, Ebbie Smith, and Justice Anderson, eds. Missiology: An Introduction to the Foundations, History, and Strategies of World Mission. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998. Print.
Lefever, H. C. The History of Reformation. Madras: The Christian Literature Society, 1954. Print.
Pierson, Paul E. The Dynamics of Christian Mission: History Through Missiological Perspective. USA: William Carey International Press, 2009. Print.


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