Christian Liberty in Historic Germany

The interruption to our cruise caused by flood damaged Locks required a ship change involving a couple of hours on a coach so we were offered a tour of the preserved, walled mediaeval city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber as a bonus.
It is an amazing city. We agreed we would love to stay a couple of days just looking around. It remains fully walled, 500 years after the introduction of explosives and artillery caused most cities to demolish such fortifications. Shops proudly identify that they were established in the 12th Century!

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A high, hilltop position, thick high walls, towers and positions to fire down on your attackers, helped keep towns safe before the arrival of the artillery

It was visiting the Lutheran Church of St James that made me think about what Christian Liberty means … And costs.

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The Church of St James (Jakob) is more than 700 years old. For 200 years it was Roman Catholic. For 500 years it has been Lutheran. Why the change?

When Martin Luther published his theses against the sale of indulgences in 1517 and refused to backdown to the Popes authority at the Diet at Wirms in 1521 he was proclaiming his liberty as a Christian to interpret God’s Word. What followed was The Thirty Year War. This outcome cannot be blamed on Luther. There were similar social, political factors at work here that later produced revolutions in France, England and America without the religious overtones. Nonetheless, Luther’s stand for liberty against religious corruption and abuse of power was the trigger that resulted in enormous bloodshed and social division in the waring Princedoms that made up what we now call Germany. After 30 years, war, disease and forcible migration had reduced the population by 30 to 60%.

A suitable solution was found With Germanic efficiency in “religious freedom” – but not in the individual sense that Luther saw it.

The Peace of Westaphalia, signed between May and October 1648, ,, involved the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III, of the House of Habsburg, the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of France, the Swedish Empire, the Dutch Republic, the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and sovereigns of the free imperial cities. Rottenburg was one of these.

These treaties initiated a new system of political order in central Europe, later called Westphalian sovereignty, based upon the concept of a sovereign state governed by a sovereign and establishing a prejudice in international affairs against interference in another nation’s domestic business. The treaty not only signaled the end of the perennial, destructive wars that had ravaged Europe, it also represented the triumph of sovereignty over empire, of national rule over the personal writ of the Habsburgs. The treaties’ regulations became integral to the constitutional law of the Holy Roman Empire, and stood as a precursor to later large international treaties and thereby the development of international law in general.

The main outcomes affecting religion were:
All parties would recognize the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, in which each prince would have the right to determine the religion of his own state, the options being Catholicism, Lutheranism, and now Calvinism.
Christians living in principalities where their denomination was not the established church were guaranteed the right to practice their faith in public during allotted hours and in private at their will.

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6 thoughts on “Christian Liberty in Historic Germany

  1. Fantastic! My uncle took me there in 1985, an amazing place and you even spelled it correctly. I actually read this “history lesson” with a bit of interest and I actually looked up some stuff up myself because this one question has been bugging me for years.
    WHY are there so many religions or shall we say forms of Christianity, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholics, Calvinism (had never heard of this one) Church of England (actually I do know this one, one of the earlier kings who had a lot of wives who was Catholic and wanted to divorce but his religion wouldn’t allow it started up his own COE which allowed divorce) just to name a few. I guess they are all different interpretations of the Bible which comes back to “no two people ever read the same book”. But don’t you all “work for the same boss”?
    Then there is Hindu, Buddhism, Islam (they actually believe that Abraham, Jesus and Moses were prophets which sort of relates to the bible so are they also working for the same boss?)
    If I were to pick a religion to follow which one would I pick????? I would have to choose one over all the others, meaning the others are wrong. The Muslims have the Koran and Allah, and the Christians (and all forms thereof) have the Bible and God. Is one wrong and the other right and if so which is which, depends on your beliefs but there are devouts on both sides so……………? When it comes to the end do the Christians go to God and the Muslims go to Allah?
    It’s a discombobulating conundrum! For me anyway.
    Rothenburg ob der Tauber really is a beautiful place.

    • Thanks for the great reply partner! Sometimes writing a blog feels like shouting in the wilderness. Stats tell me that lots of people are receiving ( yes and maybe reading?) from all round the world but it is replies that make it real. My wife also keeps me real, telling me it doesn’t actually matter if no one reads, I am writing for my own satisfaction. Great to hear your uncle had taken you to Rottenburg.
      Good question about religions – you have opened Pandora’s box and the consequences were not all about silver jewellery! You might remember Pandora was the first created woman in Greek mythology, the box contained all the evils in the world and her curiosity forced her to open it regardless of the consequences.
      I am actually a modern day Calvinist in my beliefs and the short answer to why so many religions? It’s what Calvin called “total depravity”. We can talk about it some time if you like.
      Eight days we will be home. Tonight we will be on our 3rd boat (we have had to swap from stranded boats because of flood damage) and will arrive in Vienna. Wednesday we leave the boat in Budapest, train to Prague, three nights there then fly out for Sydney arriving late Sunday night.
      I tried the gym on the boat a week ago after 7 weeks away. 20 minutes on a stationary bike then 10 minutes push-ups and dumb bells. Felt good they next day so doubled The program. The next day I was so sore in chest and arms I could hardly move. It was 5 days before I could move my arms without extreme pain.

      I can hear you laughing from 20,000 km away!

      Gary

      • You know me well, ha ha! Will look up Calvanism in more detail, the whole thing fascinates me. Look forward to your return partner.

  2. Gary
    Refer previous advice given eat dark chocolate 70% get the same high without pain. I also read these and will be disappointed when you return home and my holiday ends.
    PS have not heard if you want Harrods bag.
    Russell

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