Effects of the Protestant Reformation: Contributions to Liberal Education

by Eric Hutchinson

The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is upon us, and with it a veritable host of narratives both illuminating and misleading as to its causes and effects.

One of those effects is sometimes thought to be a downgrading of the importance of liberal education, intellectual tradition, and the Western heritage of philosophical inquiry into the natural order via the use of reason. Supposedly, the Reformation brought about a surge of irrationalism and blind faith in a God who only made himself manifest through special revelation, and whose creation would therefore be an utterly unintelligible mystery absent such a deliverance from on high.

Such a narrative is particularly pervasive among those who find “modernity” problematic, seeing the Reformation and all that came after it as a sucking chest wound in the (supposedly) formerly sound body of philosophical reflection, leading ultimately to the death of the intelligible world and its replacement by a fideistic ghost. But even a cursory perusal of sources from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries shows that this narrative is, to use a term of art, wrong.

Sachiko Kusukawa’s collection of Philip Melanchthon’s orations on philosophy and education makes it clear how wrong this narrative is. Melanchthon (1497-1560), Martin Luther’s right-hand man and the first Protestant systematizer, was also deeply involved in curricular reform in Wittenberg, synthesizing the gains of Renaissance humanism with what was valuable in medieval education to create a pedagogical model that was influential all over Europe and outlived him by several centuries.

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SOURCE: Christian Post

Eric Hutchinson is an Associate Professor of Classics, Chairman of Collegiate Scholars Program at Hillsdale College.