Still, the fact remains that Protestantism is essentially medieval, or, if we prefer, post-medieval. This is documented by the fact that Protestantism clung to the Gothic style long after it had become obsolete in the Catholic world. Even today the Gothic style is prevalent among American churches and colleges with the Catholic minority “joining in.” Of course, it cannot be denied that Protestant “Medievalism” has been emptied of its soul through a relativizing and liberalizing process. Anybody visiting that Gothic skyscraper, the “Cathedral of Learning” of Pittsburgh University, will be struck by the sight of professors in medieval gowns and mortar boards teaching pragmatist and instrumentalist philosophy. Yet the facade remains and also many thought patterns. Thus the real year of the Reformation is not 1517, but 1511, when Martin Luther, the Augustinian friar on his mission in Rome, for the first time in his life was face to face with the Renaissance. Here was a man from the backwoods of Christendom aghast at the grandiose effort toward a synthesis between Christendom and the immortal and lasting values of antiquity. The annexationist character of Catholicism had been hidden to him and the fact that the synthesis became only perfect in the Baroque he could not guess. Yet what he disapproved of was the cultural aspect of the Renaissance which said “God and Man.” From a “circle” Catholic culture had turned to an elliptic form with two foci. After all, man was created in the image of God and his destiny was to become more god-like after death. There is a real process of theosis envisaged—as we find it, in a different form, also in Eastern theology. Hence the veneration of saints. But the Reformers replied to these efforts “Soli Deo Gloria!” and tried desperately to go back, back to the Middle Ages, back to some sort of imaginary catacomb Church, back to the Old Testament.

Unless we are able to picture Luther wandering around in Rome as a hill-billy preacher from the Alleghanies on Broadway in New York, we do not understand the initial spark which started the 16th-century wave of Reformers.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time (1940)


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