AllFaith: Aum Truth

The Fourth Great Awakening

The Essence of Contemporary American Religion

By John of AllFaith © 1989 (updated Sept.2, 2006)

Awakening The Fourth Great Awakening
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Around June 23, 6 B.C.E. a baby boy was conceived by an unmarried Jewish girl in her early to mid teens. The child, born in a barn, was named Isous in Greek (Joshua or Yeshua in Hebrew), a name which means that the Hebrew Deity Yahweh saves (DRP352). Seemingly, the mercy of the child's ancestral God was his only hope. Under normal circumstances, his conception would have resulted in the shunning of his mother (if not her stoning) and possibly her entire family. Conceived from such a socially and scripturally condemned union, Isous would have been branded a bastard and would have had little if any chance of leading a meaningful life (Isa. 57:3). This time it was different however, for you see, this child, according to millions of people around the world, this Isous, whom the English-speaking world knows of as Jesus, was none other than the Christ, the Son of the Living God; the Messiah of the Jews and origin of us all according to the world's largest religion. (John 1:1,2) Of him it is said:

    "He is the most well-known historical figure in of all human history. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, have not affected the life of humankind upon this earth as much as this "One Solitary Life."

Perhaps even more astonishing, it is said that his mother was a virgin whom Yahweh, the God of Israel Himself impregnated by His Holy Spirit. It should be mentioned in passing that in the Bible the doctrine of the virgin birth is not clearly established as the Greek word employed, parthenos means "maiden" not virgin (GD 3933). Presumably, of course, a godly maiden, a parthenos, would also be a virgin, but the word itself does not mean this ( note 1 ). For the vast majority of Christians, Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, etc., Jesus' virgin birth remains an essential religious tenant, an article of faith. This is confirmed in the Apostles' Creed and throughout greater Christendom (BC 15; KWB 47; IBJ 197).

Since the days of Rome's conversion or usurpation of Christianity, the West has focused on and debated the fundamental nature of Jesus' birth and the proper human response to it. Religious debate, revivals and awakenings therefore, have occurred primarily within the diverse Christian traditions. Even in the East, the influence of Christianity and its debates has been felt. For instance, there can be little doubt that the popularity of bhakti-yoga, the Hindu Path of Devotion, Pure Land Buddhism, and other teachings became more popular because of the Christian Faith.

Once Roman Universalism (Catholicism) was established, very little dialogue occurred between Christian and non-Christian philosophers or religionists. One thing that makes the current Fourth Great Awakening unique is the degree of non-Christian participation (CE 3). Indeed, it can argued, that the emergence of Islam as a major Western religion is now setting the agenda of this Awakening.

During the Third Great Awakening, as will be discussed below, Eastern traditions entered the dialogue, but it was not until our period that they exorcised any real influence. Concepts such as karma, transmigration, ahimsa, yoga, meditation and the like are all basic Eastern ideas which have been broadly incorporated into Western culture and religion ( note 2 ).

Today the designations of East and West are far more arbitrary than many would care to believe (MiD 199). Throughout recorded history, explorers and other travelers have circumambulated the globe in search of the exotic. These people discovered regions with little or no outside contact with the West, however these were in the minority (S 13,14). Sikhism would be an example of such once alien religions that are now commonplace in the West. Europe and America always had some communication with the East, and as a result, its ideas and insights have influenced us more than we tend to realize.

At least as far back as the Persian ruler Darius I (c.500 B.C.E.), the West has had first hand knowledge of basic Eastern concepts ( note 3 ). By the time Alexander the Great conquered Darius III (Codomannus) at the Battle of Issus in 333 B.C.E. Western influence was permanently established in India (HA 6,7). Even the Buddhist architecture of Ashoka, with its pillars and winged lions owed much to western influence (S 13,14). Indeed, the link between India and the West, in architecture, language, economics, religion, and philosophy is of great antiquity.

After the Roman Christian subjugation of Europe however, the exchange of ideas between what the Christian Church viewed as the heathen East and the godly West was largely halted. As Rick Fields points out, in the West the Buddhists, regardless of how pure their ideals or sound their ethics were condemned as unrepentant heathens destined for eternal torment. Hence, Eastern thought was generally rejected in the West and most communication ceased (S 20).

It is incorrect to say however that during the Church's theocratic stranglehold on the West only its missionaries confronted Eastern religionists. While contact was minimal, it did occur. For instance, there were the travels of explorers such as Marco Polo (1254-1324). La Loubere, Louis the XIV's envoy to the king of Siam (1678-1679), discussed the difficult concept of nirvana in detail in his Description du Royaume de Siam (S 24). Likewise, in 1727 Englebert Kampfer, with his History of Japan Together with a Description of the Kingdom of Siam published the first English book on Zen Buddhism and introduced zazen, satori and Koans (S 24,25) ( note 4 ). Due to the religious intolerance that typified Medieval Christianity, meaningful dialogue between East and West remained quite limited until the Third Great Awakening in late nineteenth century however.

Christianity began in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4; 2:1). Shortly after the Day of Pentecost, through the efforts of the Twelve Disciples (especially Peter and Paul), it quickly spread throughout Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Greece, modern Turkey, North Africa, Italy and Spain. Within three hundred years of its inception, Christianity became the dominant religious and political force of the Roman Empire in the lands that bordered on the Mediterranean Sea. In the next six hundred years, it spread throughout Europe and beyond. With the rise of Islam however, the Church faced stiff competition.

Shortly after the death of Prophet Muhammad (June 8, 632), on August 26, 636 Byzantine fell before the Muslim armies at the battle of Yarmouk and all of Syria was taken over to the Taurus. In February 637, the Persian army was devastated at Qadasiya, just south of Hira. All of Iraq was occupied by the Muslim armies, including Ctesiphon, its capital (just south of Baghdad). In 640 Egypt was occupied; that same year the Persian Empire ceased to exist (IWH 377-398). In what remained of the Roman Christian Empire the Church was divided into two main bodies. The Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church was centered in Constantinople (now Istanbul in northwest Turkey), and the Roman Orthodox Catholic Church, remained centered in Rome (RNA 54). Both of these religious bodies, the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Churches can trace their origins to Emperor Constantine by whose authority modern Christianity was established.

Between 661 and 750 CE the armies of the Islamic Ummah conquered a large portion of the known world, China excepted. Determined that Allah's Shariah ( note 5 ) or laws were to be observed everywhere on earth, the forces of Islam moved into Europe with seemingly unstoppable force. However, the advance of the religion-based kingdom of Mohammed Mustafa was finally halted in 732 at Tours in central France, by the "stout hearted army of Franks' and their leader Charles Martel" (grandfather of Charlemagne). This single battle determined the religious and political future of Europe and, indirectly, the U.S. Because of Martel's defeat of political Islam, the West was given into the hands of the Christian Church while much of the East became the domain of Islam (PWB 445).

From the Battle of Tours until the present time, Christianity has remained the indubitable religious, social and legal authority in Western society. It is not surprising therefore, that most of the Awakenings, as well as the revivals which occur within them, have taken place within the Christian arena (RNA 10). By this, I mean that for the most part the awakenings have been manifested as reform movements within Christian communities. There are, of course, exceptions to this.

The Jews in galut (or exile, i.e. the Diaspora) have manifested remarkable spiritual achievements throughout the Christian era as well. Elias del Medigo and his disciple Picus de Mirandula, in the fifteenth century, were quite influential in the development of Jewish Theosophy. In 1485 the De Substantia Orbis was released ( note 6 ). These texts foreshadowed the great Kabalistic Scripture known as the Zohar, which, between about 1500 to 1800, established itself as an essential source of Jewish doctrine and revelation equal in authority to the Bible and Talmud. No other Jewish writing can make such a claim (Z 7).

It was Rabbi Moses de Leon, not Picus de Mirandula, according to many authorities (such as Gershom Scholem), who actually authored the Zohar toward the end of the thirteenth century (HK 563). And not only Jewish scholars were drawn to the Kabala either, many Christians accepted and studied its mysteries as well. Cornelius Agrippa of Nettersheim, a Christian of the fifteenth century, prepared the first methodical description of the entire Kabala system. His three books, entitled De Occulta Philosophia are still standard textbooks on the subject (HK 452). The birth and development of Kabala, Hasidism and other forms of Jewish mysticism made significant contributions to Jewish thought and to some extent influenced Christianity as well.

Another example of non-Christian revival occurred among the Wiccan population ( note 7 ). In many ways the Christian rulers of Britain were more tolerant than those on the Continent during the Burning Times ( note 8 ) The British Throne enacted several laws against the Old Religion, but seldom enforced them. As a result, British Wiccans lived their lives with considerably less persecution while Continental Pagans suffered fierce persecution. The Pagans living under English rule, bid their time, hoping their Christian monarchs would mellow or be replaced by Pagans. By the twelfth century however, it became obvious that that would not happen. The New Religion was here to stay. As a result, Pagans throughout the Continent and the British Isles became emboldened and a major Pagan revival took place. Many of the ancient rites were brought back into the open again and Pagan leaders such as Helen Philipps of Pembroke, Mrs. Robinson of Kidderminster and Mabel Brigge of York, boldly proclaimed the rebirth of the Old Religion ( note 9 ).

Beginning in 1232 (by order of Frederick II) the Christian rulers seriously sought to quell the spread of what they considered renewed heresies and forced their subjects to disavow all non-Christian religions on pain of death. On the Continent, this attempt culminated in the infamous Inquisitions. This increase in violent persecution was not only directed at the Pagans. It also extended to Muslims, Jews, and what were known as Judaizers, i.e. those Christians seeking to maintain or rediscover the Jewish origins of their faith as well.

In 1252 torture was first employed by order of Pope Gregory IX. In 1479 Ferdinand and Isabella, in conjunction with the Pope, issued the notorious Inquisition as an assault on the Marranos (Jewish converts) and Moriscos (converts from Islam). Many of these Marranos (literally "pigs" in Spanish) maintained their ancestral Jewish traditions while publicly professing Roman Catholicism in order to escape the growing persecutions. Likewise, the Moriscos ("people of the moors") were externally converts from Islam who converted in name and form only. This word, Morisco, is similar to the word Heathen used to describe those of the British Isles who maintained the Old Religion (these people largely lived in the heath or outer regions). The Inquisition was later extended to include Protestants, Streges ( note 10 ) and other so-called undesirables. In 1542, Pope Paul III established the Order of the Holy Inquisition as the highest court in the Land. The Spanish Inquisition was not abolished until 1814 (DRP 337,338). This darkest period of Christian history officially lasted 582 years, although its influence is still extant in Church attitudes towards non-Christian religions. From the current Official Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church we read the following:

  • 7. Which Church is the true Church of Jesus Christ?
  • The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church...
  • 8. Can any other Church except the Roman Catholic Church claim to be the Church of Jesus Christ or at least part of it?
  • No other Church can claim to be the Church of Jesus Christ ... Ecumenism is the movement aimed at the reunion of Christians into the one true fold of Jesus Christ (BQ).

It was not until the reign of Queen Mary I (Mary Tudor, half sister of Protestant Queen Elizabeth I) that serious religious persecution began in the land of Shakespeare. When Mary Tudor ascended the British Throne (July 6, 1553), many radical Protestants were forced to flee to Calvinistic strongholds such as Strasbourg, Geneva and Zurich. Bloody Mary, as she is sometimes known, had almost three hundred religious dissenters executed. She brought a reign of Roman Catholic terror to the previously "liberal" Protestant haven. Under previous reigns, the Pagans were allowed limited freedom, but as Mary proclaimed Britain to be a Catholic country, things quickly changed and the Inquisition entered.

It is commonly believed among Pagan historians, that after Mary's death and the ascension of Elizabeth 1 (the Virgin Queen) to the throne of England and Ireland as the final Tudor Dynasty monarch, that when the Protestant dissidents returned to England from the Continent, they brought with them a fear and hatred of Pagans they had previously not held. Regardless of the accuracy of this view, beginning in 1563 Witch persecution in England began in earnest.

Considering the fierceness of Pagan persecution on the Continent and the relative peace in England, the British Witches, assuming they had if not popular support then at least the tolerance of their British neighbors, continued to come out of their broom closets even as the Protestant exiles returned. They saw no reason Protestants and Pagans could not live together in peace and mutual respect as allies against their common Roman enemy. This mistaken assumption resulted in a major revival of the Old Religion as is demonstrated by John Jewel's (the Bishop of Salisbury and one of Queen Elizabeth's advisors) warning to the Queen, at some point between November 1559 and March 1560, that:

...this kind of people (I mean witches and sorcerers) within the last few years are marvelously increased within your grace's realm. These eyes have seen the most evident and manifest marks of their wickedness. Your grace's subjects pine away even unto death, their color fadeth, their flesh rotteth, their speech is benumbed, their senses are bereft. Wherefore, your poor subjects' most humble petition unto your highness is, that the law touching such malefactors may be put in due execution. For the shoal of them is great, their doings horrible, their malice intolerable, the examples most miserable. And I pray God they never practice further than upon the subject [sic] (The Works of Jewel, ed. Parker Society, 1845-50).

Today however Christianity is no longer the only significant religion in the West. Hosts of Eastern religious traditions are making profound inroads into the West and the importance, not to mention the legitimacy, of Christianity is being openly debated by archeological and textual finds, the sciences, Humanistic philosophy and so on. Due in part to the current philosophic and scientific suppositions of cultural relativism many people are questioning the basic assumptions upon which traditional Western religions, especially Christianity, are based. They find these traditional beliefs lacking in substance, yet continue to feel the need for spiritual insights and experiences. This situation was the impetus for the current Fourth Great Awakening ( note 11 ).

Fundamentalist Christianity is currently in a state of revival even Christianity's influence over society continues to wane. Whereas the more traditional forms of the religion are losing members and political/social authority, this branch continues to grow despite the fact more and more often Christianity is being viewed as a cult. Christian Fundamentalists claim to be the true reflection and restoration of Jesus' original teachings. They typically reject both branches of Orthodox Christianity, i.e. Roman and Eastern, as well many of the traditional mainline Christian denominations. They point to what they consider the apostasy of many Christian organizations and individuals, citing the biblical condemnations of lukewarm Churchianity as the cause of Christianity's decline ( note 12 ). This situation, they remind us, was predicted for the last days (LGPE). So while some churches seek to update their teachings in an effort to make them more inclusive, more politically correct and relevant for modern people, these Fundamentalists do the exact opposite. They actively seek to root out all hints of 'modernism,' and what they see as 'compromises with the world' of Satan.

Even as the Protestant Reformers (who achieved their zenith in the sixteenth century), sought not the disintegration of the Roman Catholic Church, but rather its reformation (a need that many Roman Church leaders had acknowledged for nearly two centuries), so too contemporary Fundamentalists seek to ignite a Church-wide revival. They hope to spark 'lukewarm Christians' to repentance and a return to what the Fundamentalists deem traditional, biblical Christian beliefs and values. Of the remainder of 'lukewarm Churchianity,' they believe the following is written:

Revelation 18: 1-8:

1 And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.
2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
6 Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.
7 How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.
8 Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.

Typically, the belief is that these lukewarm, non-Fundamentalist Christians will, in the always-near future, join together, often said in league with the Roman Papacy, to embrace the coming Antichrist and his false prophet. Prior to this time, such Christians still have time to repent and embrace the 'Fundamentals of the Christian Faith' as taught at Revelations 3:20.

In support of this understanding, Fundamentalist Christian scholar C.I. Scofield ( note 13 ) writes:
There are two forms which Babylon is to have in the end-time: political Babylon (Rev. 17:8-17) and ecclesiastical Babylon (Rev. 17:1-7) ... Ecclesiastical Babylon is all apostate Christendom, in which papacy will undoubtedly be prominent; it may even very well be that this union will embrace all the religions of the world (SB. Rev. 18: 2 footnote).

Sixteenth century Christian Reformers such as Martin Luther (1483-1546), Calvin (1509-1564) and Zwingli (1484-1531) ( note 14 ) did not intend to leave the Roman Church. They merely hoped to reform it. One event triggered Luther's actions, or more correctly, acted as 'the straw that broke the camel's back'. In 1517, the Church began selling indulgences to the German Catholics. These Catholics were told that in exchange for their assistance in building Rome's St. Peter's Cathedral, they would receive full pardon for all sins, past, present and future. Furthermore, all their loved ones who reside in purgatory ( note 15 ) would be granted immediate access to Heaven! That was too much; Luther and his compatriots had to speak out in opposition. At the Diet of Speyer in 1529 this group of Catholic Reformers signed and posted a petition consisting of ninety-five theses to express their dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the Roman Church and its doctrines ( note 16 ).

The Ninety Five Thesis of the Reformation

(This modern translation of the Thesis taken from

1. When Jesus said "repent" he meant that believers should live a whole life repenting

2. Only God can give salvation - not a priest.

3. Inwards penitence must be accompanied with a suitable change in lifestyle.

4. Sin will always remain until we enter Heaven.

5. The pope must act according to canon law.

6. Only God can forgive -the pope can only reassure people that God will do this.

7. A sinner must be humbled in front of his priest before God can forgive him.

8. Canon law applies only to the living not to the dead.

9. However, the Holy Spirit will make exceptions to this when required to do so.

10. The priest must not threaten those dying with the penalty of purgatory.

11. The church through church penalties is producing a 'human crop of weeds'.

12. In days gone by, church penalties were imposed before release from guilt to show true repentance.

13. When you die all your debts to the church are wiped out and those debts are free from being judged.

14. When someone is dying they might have bad/incorrect thoughts against the church and they will be scared. This fear is enough penalty.

15. This fear is so bad that it is enough to cleanse the soul.

16. Purgatory = Hell. Heaven = Assurance.

17. Souls in Purgatory need to find love - the more love the less their sin.

18. A sinful soul does not have to be always sinful. It can be cleansed.

19. There is no proof that a person is free from sin.

20. Even the pope - who can offer forgiveness - cannot totally forgive sins held within.

21. An indulgence will not save a man.

22. A dead soul cannot be saved by an indulgence.

23. Only a very few sinners can be pardoned. These people would have to be perfect.

24. Therefore most people are being deceived by indulgences.

25. The pope’s power over Purgatory is the same as a priest’s.

26. When the pope intervenes to save an individual, he does so by the will of God.

27. It is nonsense to teach that a dead soul in Purgatory can be saved by money.

28. Money causes greed - only God can save souls.

29. Do we know if the souls in Purgatory want to be saved ?

30. No-one is sure of the reality of his own penitence - no-one can be sure of receiving complete forgiveness.

31. A man who truly buys an indulgence (ie believes it is to be what it is) is as rare as someone who truly repents all sin ie very rare.

32. People who believe that indulgences will let them live in salvation will always be damned - along with those who teach it.

33. Do not believe those who say that a papal indulgence is a wonderful gift which allows salvation.

34. Indulgences only offer Man something which has been agreed to by Man.

35. We should not teach that those who aim to buy salvation do not need to be contrite.

36. A man can be free of sin if he sincerely repents - an indulgence is not needed.

37. Any Christian - dead or alive - can gain the benefit and love of Christ without an indulgence.

38. Do not despise the pope’s forgiveness but his forgiveness is not the most important.

39. The most educated theologians cannot preach about indulgences and real repentance at the same time.

40. A true repenter will be sorry for his sins and happily pay for them. Indulgences trivialise this issue.

41. If a pardon is given it should be given cautiously in case people think it’s more important than doing good works.

42. Christians should be taught that the buying of indulgences does not compare with being forgiven by Christ.

43. A Christian who gives to the poor or lends to those in need is doing better in God’s eyes than one who buys 'forgiveness'.

44. This is because of loving others, love grows and you become a better person. A person buying an indulgence does not become a better person.

45. A person who passes by a beggar but buys an indulgence will gain the anger and disappointment of God.

46. A Christian should buy what is necessary for life not waste money on an indulgence.

47. Christians should be taught that they do not need an indulgence.

48. The pope should have more desire for devout prayer than for ready money.

49. Christians should be taught not to rely on an indulgence. They should never lose their fear of God through them.

50. If a pope knew how much people were being charged for an indulgence - he would prefer to demolish St. Peter’s.

51. The pope should give his own money to replace that which is taken from pardoners.

52. It is vain to rely on an indulgence to forgive your sins.

53. Those who forbid the word of God to be preached and who preach pardons as a norm are enemies of both the pope and Christ.

54. It is blasphemy that the word of God is preached less than that of indulgences.

55. The pope should enforce that the gospel - a very great matter - must be celebrated more than indulgences.

56. The treasure of the church is not sufficiently known about among the followers of Christ.

57. The treasure of the Church are temporal (of this life).

58. Relics are not the relics of Christ, although they may seem to be. They are, in fact, evil in concept.

59. St. Laurence misinterpreted this as the poor gave money to the church for relics and forgiveness.

60. Salvation can be sought for through the church as it has been granted this by Christ.

61. It is clear that the power of the church is adequate, by itself, for the forgiveness of sins.

62. The main treasure of the church should be the Gospels and the grace of God.

63. Indulgences make the most evil seem unjustly good.

64. Therefore evil seems good without penance or forgiveness.

65. The treasured items in the Gospels are the nets used by the workers.

66. Indulgences are used to net an income for the wealthy.

67. It is wrong that merchants praise indulgences.

68. They are the furthest from the grace of God and the piety and love of the cross.

69. Bishops are duty bound to sell indulgences and support them as part of their job.

70. But bishops are under a much greater obligation to prevent men preaching their own dreams.

71. People who deny the pardons of the Apostles will be cursed.

72. Blessed are they who think about being forgiven.

73. The pope is angered at those who claim that pardons are meaningless.

74. He will be even more angry with those who use indulgences to criticise holy love.

75. It is wrong to think that papal pardons have the power to absolve all sin.

76. You should feel guilt after being pardoned. A papal pardon cannot remove guilt.

77. Not even St. Peter could remove guilt.

78. Even so, St. Peter and the pope possess great gifts of grace.

79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross is of equal value with the cross of Christ.

80. Bishops who authorise such preaching will have to answer for it.

81. Pardoners make the intelligent appear disrespectful because of the pope’s position.

82. Why doesn’t the pope clean feet for holy love not for money ?

83. Indulgences bought for the dead should be re-paid by the pope.

84. Evil men must not buy their salvation when a poor man, who is a friend of God, cannot.

85. Why are indulgences still bought from the church ?

86. The pope should re-build St. Peter’s with his own money.

87. Why does the pope forgive those who serve against him ?

88. What good would be done to the church if the pope was to forgive hundreds of people each day ?

89. Why are indulgences only issued when the pope sees fit to issue them ?

90. To suppress the above is to expose the church for what it is and to make true Christians unhappy.

91. If the pope had worked as he should (and by example) all the problems stated above would not have existed.

92. All those who say there is no problem must go. Problems must be tackled.

93. Those in the church who claim there is no problem must go.

94. Christians must follow Christ at all cost.

95. Let Christians experience problems if they must - and overcome them - rather than live a false life based on present Catholic teaching.

This document, known as the protestatio, or the protest inadvertently placed the negative label of Protestantism on their religious descendants. The term is negative because it represents the Reform movement as anti-Catholic rather than Pro-Reform. The result of making the Protestant movement appear anti-papal is clearly seen in statements such as the above quote by Dr. Scofield. For Protestants living after the Reformation, the Catholic Church was vilified. Clearly, this was not the intention or the desire of the Reformers. The Protestant Fathers saw much good in the Roman Catholic Church. They still regarded it as the Church Jesus had built. They merely wanted to purge it of certain weaknesses and return it to what they considered Biblical theology. The hierarchical inflexibility of the Church prevailed however, and the Reformers were excommunicated.

The Papacy first ordered Luther's superior to silence him, but to no avail. The Reformers were adamant. Next, Luther was commanded to go to Augsburg, Germany for a hearing. There Cardinal Cajetan, the Papal legate, personally ordered Luther to desist and publicly withdraw his protests against the Church. Luther refused, demanding that scriptural evidence should judge the matter. This resulted in a debate at Leipzig with Catholic apologist John Eck. During this debate, Luther was coerced into rejecting the infallibility of the Pope and Church. Because of this 'heresy', a papal bull was issued ordering the destruction of Luther's writings. Instead of obeying the order, Luther publicly burned the bull in protest. Shortly thereafter, Luther was excommunicated from the Holy Roman Orthodox Catholic Church and, in 1520, he declared the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in his tract On Christian Liberty with the words: A Christian man is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian man is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all (IBC 78-81).

The Roman Church had elevated Papal authority and Church tradition above the scriptures. Martin Luther was a biblical conservative, both politically and theologically and he accepted no authority in either realm that did not arise from his reading of the Bible. He and his peers, especially Calvin (each in his own way), stressed the importance of God's absolute transcendence, the importance of personal revelation and the subsequent faith it invoked, the preaching and ultimate authority of the Bible (even above Church Tradition and Papal authority) and the observance of rites prescribed in the New Testament only. They also demanded a much higher standard of ethical conduct for the Church hierarchy. Again, even though all these points were already being discussed within the medieval Church, the Reformers believed them to be down played by the labyrinth of medieval theology and corrupted by the notorious abuses of the Church hierarchy and clergy. While the Reformers sought to establish individual freedom and expression, what they created, according to Geddes MacGregor, were, "orthodoxy's too rigid and liturgies too limited to accommodate the light the Reformers sought to kindle (DRP 507,508). Hence, the new Protestant Churches, although established on the principles of religious liberty, quickly became as intolerant as their Roman counterparts were. Indeed, as mentioned above, the Protestant exiles instigated the brutal persecution of non-Christian British subjects during the Burning Times.

The Church had traditionally been viewed as the bastion of intellectual thought. The hierarchy had always produced the most well educated people. Indeed, it was sometimes illegal for non-clergy people to be literate at all. But, as time passes, things change. Due in large part to the frequent religious conflicts, turmoil and controversies of the seventeenth century, this authoritative position was forfeited during the eighteenth century in what came to be known as the Age of Enlightenment (das Aufklärung) ( note 17 ). Newly educated Europeans began questioning and then rejecting the Roman Church's claims of theocratic exclusive jurisdiction and its mandates on morality, its mystical pretenses were elided and ridiculed. Rumors of secrete societies began to be whispered and previously hereticized philosophies began coming into the light of day. In Germany, das Aufklärung reflected this growing dissatisfaction with the Church self-proclaimed authority and teachings. The Enlightenment had among it ideals the need for religious toleration. This view was admirably expressed in Lessing's Nathan der Weise and manifested in the political policies of Frederick the Great. While the Enlightenment demanded religious toleration and plurality, it also insisted than any religious system wishing to be taken seriously had to make reason the basis of its religious (and all other) truths.

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  1. Note 1: That she was in her teens is indicated, in the Greek, by the word parthwnoos which means maiden (GD 3933). Return
  2. Note 2: Of course, the law of karma was expressed in Jesus' teaching: you reap what you sow, and meditation is to be found among Christians independent of direct Eastern influence. Likewise for transmigration and non-violence. The Eastern explanations and presentations of these concepts however have fine-tuned the practices of the pre 1960 Western practitioners and introduced them to the masses. I might add that pre-Christian Wiccacrafte (the Pagan religion practiced by much of pre-Christian Europe, especially Britain) held all of these tenants, though again there is some divergence. For instance, the traditional Crafte accepts reincarnation rather than transmigration. Return
  3. Note 3: Darius I took possession of Gandhara and Hindukush. Later, Indian troops formed an alliance with Persia and fought the Greeks at Thermopylae. Return
  4. Note 4: Zazen: Sitting meditation
    Satori: Sudden awakening or enlightenment
    Koans: Fundamental principle which is directly experienced; a story which points to this experience. Return
  5. Note 5: Literally pathway, the path which Allah wills people to follow. Return
  6. Note 6: It was edited and republished by Issac Reggio in Vienna in 1833. It is this edition which is best known. Return
  7. Note 7: Wicca is a Pagan religion which was widely observed throughout the British Isles and Europe prior to the political ascendancy of Christianity. Return
  8. Note 8: The Burning Times refer to the period of legal English Witch persecution which lasted 173 years, from the reign of Elizabeth I (1563) to that of George II (1736). The Inquisitions (which are sometimes referred to as the Burning Times as well) lasted from 1814-1232, 582 years. Return
  9. Note 9: All three of these women were burnt at the stake due to their religious convictions. Return
  10. Note 10: I.e. Spanish Wiccans. Return
  11. Note 11: Or, is the current period of uncertainty due to the Awakening? Return
  12. Note 12: In the Book of Revelation Jesus describes seven churches. According to most Fundamentalists, these refer to seven Church Ages. This interpretation is based largely on the works of the Rev. Clarence Larkin (DT). According to this view, the present dispensation is the seventh and final. It is known as the Church of Laodicea and reflects the hypocrisy of the modern pseudo-Christian religion. Of this Church Jesus said: I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. So, then, because thou art lukewarm ... I will spew thee out of my mouth. Fundamentalists believe themselves to be among the few who open the door to this truth and receive Divine favor (Rev. 3:14-19). Rev. Larkin, incidentally, taught during the Third Great Awakening. Return
  13. Note 13: Rev. Scofield, who is still considered by many to be one of the most authoritative Christian teachers, lived and worked during the Third Great Awakening. Return
  14. Note 14: The three men were quite different in their approach. It has been said that if Luther was the prophet of the Reformation, then Calvin was its theologian (RNA 89). Zwingli, a Catholic priest, worked to keep the Protestants in the Church. Return
  15. Note 15: Luther rejected the Church's teaching concerning the existence of Purgatory. Return
  16. Note 16: According to legend, these demands were nailed onto the doors of the university chapel, as if in rebellious outrage. For what its worth, Luther's spiritual decedents point out that this particular chapel door was the usual town bulletin board. The Reformers merely sought to evoke public (especially Church) discussion of their issues (IBC 79,80). Return
  17. Note 17: It should be remembered of course that the Enlightenment was foreshadowed by the work of the old rationalists such as Descartes, Leibniz and Spinoza, as well as the rise of modern (old paradigm) science in the 17th century. Return