Friday, 17 July 2009

The Reformation

A fascinating thing to see, that calling into politics of religion, that desire to overwhelm the secular with pious self-righteousness. A particularly piquant example this week was Murdo Fraser, Deputy leader of the Conservatives, applying the crowbar in an attempt to graft religion and politics in Scotland. He found it passing strange that the SNP Scottish Government had no plans to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the Reformation.

Leaving aside the strangeness of celebrating a 450th anniversary and that Macmillan's Conservative Government didn't celebrate the 400th anniversary, perhaps Mr Fraser is up the wrang dreel here.

I'm no theologian and my knowledge of history is sparse, but did Luther not argue for the separation of church and state? Did he not, in fact, write a treatise called On Secular Authority arguing in favour of Liberty of Conscience and against temporal interference in spiritual matters? The Calvinist viewpoint held, apparently, by Murdo Fraser that secular authority should be little more than an agency for the compulsory establishment of the external conditions of Christian virtue is one that he is entitled to and one that others are entitled to disagree with, but it would still seem strange to expect the secular to celebrate the spiritual when so much of the battle of the Reformation was about removing the perceived pomp and flummery from religion; and perhaps it might be worth keeping in mind another Calvinist.

It's not hard, really, to imagine what reaction John Knox would have to the idea that there should be some form of state-sponsored celebration of events which he saw as serious business, nor would he, I suspect, accept that the Reformation was a one-year event. Knox might have considered, instead that Wishart and Hamilton were as instrumental in bringing about the changes in religious observance in Scotland as he was. Murdo Fraser might like to consider this point through the prism of a lecture delivered to the Scottish Reformation Society eight years ago.

When he's done that he might also wish to consider that the Reformation Parliament of 1560 repressed the Roman Catholic religion and that we might hope to live in more tolerant times these days - and he might also wish to note that the Scots Confession was not ratified for another seven years, so he might want to wait to celebrate this strange 450th anniversary. While my tongue is so far in my cheek I may as well recommend to Murdo Fraser that he takes cognisance of Chapter 24 of the Scots Confession when he is referring to the First Minister and remember that
such persons as are placed in authority are to be loved, honoured, feared, and held in most reverent estimation

Right then, button up your coats and make sure you've got your bunnet because it's raining outside.

Mind how you go!

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