Published to mark the 500th anniversary of the events of 1517, Reformation Divided explores the impact in England of the cataclysmic transformations of European Christianity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The religious revolution initiated by Martin Luther is usually referred to as 'The Reformation', a tendentious description implying that the shattering of the medieval religious foundations of Europe was a single process, in which a defective form of Christianity was replaced by one that was unequivocally benign, 'the midwife of the modern world'. The book challenges these assumptions by tracing the ways in which the project of reforming Christendom from within, initiated by Christian 'humanists' like Erasmus and Thomas More, broke apart into conflicting and often murderous energies and ideologies, dividing not only Catholic from Protestant, but creating deep internal rifts within all the churches which emerged from Europe's religious conflicts.
The book is in three parts: In 'Thomas More and Heresy', Duffy examines how and why England's greatest humanist apparently abandoned the tolerant humanism of his youthful masterpiece Utopia, and became the bitterest opponent of the early Protestant movement. 'Counter-Reformation England' explores the ways in which post-Reformation English Catholics accommodated themselves to a complex new identity as persecuted religious dissidents within their own country, but in a European context, active participants in the global renewal of the Catholic Church. The book's final section 'The Godly and the Conversion of England' considers the ideals and difficulties of radical reformers attempting to transform the conventional Protestantism of post-Reformation England into something more ardent and committed. In addressing these subjects, Duffy shines new light on the fratricidal ideological conflicts which lasted for more than a century, and whose legacy continues to shape the modern world.
While I was reading the excerpt on issuu, a platform I'd never heard of before, I noticed that there are other resources available, including entire books! One book, which I read several years ago, is Thomas E. Woods, Jr.'s dissertation-cum-book, The Church Confronts Modernity: Catholic Intellectuals and the Progressive Era:
As the twentieth century opened, American intellectuals grew increasingly sympathetic to Pragmatism and empirical methods in the social sciences. The Progressive program as a whole—in the form of Pragmatism, education, modern sociology, and nationalism—seemed to be in agreement on one thing: everything was in flux. The dogma and "absolute truth" of the Church were archaisms, unsuited to modern American citizenship and at odds with the new public philosophy being forged by such intellectuals as John Dewey, William James, and the New Republic magazine. Catholics saw this new public philosophy as at least partly an attack on them.
Focusing on the Catholic intellectual critique of modernity during the period immediately before and after the turn of the twentieth century, this provocative and original book examines how the Catholic Church attempted to retain its identity in an age of pluralism. It shows a Church fundamentally united on major issues—quite unlike the present-day Catholic Church, which has been the site of a low-intensity civil war since the close of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. Defenders of the faith opposed James, Dewey, and other representatives of Pragmatism as it played out in ethics, education, and nationalism. Their goals were to found an economic and political philosophy based on natural law, to appropriate what good they could find in Progressivism to the benefit of the Church, and to make America a Catholic country.
The Church Confronts Modernity explores how the decidedly nonpluralistic institution of Christianity responded to an increasingly pluralistic intellectual environment. In a culture whose chief value was pluralism, they insisted on the uniqueness of the Church and the need for making value judgments based on what they considered a sound philosophy of humanity. In neither capitulating to the new creed nor retreating into a self-righteous isolation, American Catholic intellectuals thus laid the groundwork for a half-century of intellectual vitality.
What a nice surprise and reminder!