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This particular view gave rise to the tendency of seeing mission as an attempt to develop the church rather than get involved with the world Bosch Augustine, however, promoted the involvement of the church with the world.

In this respect he maintained that the church's involvement with social change in relation to the poor was personal charity. Augustine was the architect of the doctrine of charity; obedience to God required a genuine concern for the needs of the poor Sider The Middle Ages also saw the rise of the monastic movement which greatly contributed to the Christianisation of Europe Tanner Only monasticism, says Niebuhr, saved the medieval church from acquiescence, petrification and the loss of its vision and truly revolutionary character Quoted in Bosch For upward of years, from the 5th century to the 12th, the monastery was not only the centre of culture and civilisation, but also of mission.

At first glance, the monastic movement appears to be a most unlikely agent for mission and transformation. The communities were certainly not founded as launching pads for mission. They were not even created out of a desire to get involved in society in their immediate environment.

Rather, they regarded society as corrupt and moribund, held together only by 'the tenacity of custom'. Monasticism stood for the absolute renunciation of everything the ancient world had prized, it was an endeavour to refrain from the 'sinful world'. It was 'flight from the world, and nothing else' Bosch Monasticism's one object, immediate as well as ultimate, 'was to live in purity and die in peace', and to avoid anything that could 'agitate, harass, depress, stimulate, weary, or intoxicate the soul' Bosch In the light of the above it may therefore sound preposterous to suggest that monasticism was both a primary agent of medieval mission and the main instrument in reforming European society.

That this was indeed what happened was due, firstly, to the esteem in which the general populace held monks Elliston Secondly, their exemplary lifestyle made a profound impact, particularly on the peasants. The monasteries became self-sustaining communities organised around rules for daily life, rules which pertained to work as well as prayer. This concept was revolutionary in the ancient world, where manual work was seen as fit for slaves. This concept would be emphasised again by Puritanism and have had a powerful effect on the western world. Thirdly, their monasteries were centres not only of hard manual labour, but also of culture and education.

The monks were encouraged to become scholars.

Thus, for the first time the practical and theoretical were embodied in the same individuals. This combination helped create an atmosphere favourable to scientific development, including both workshops and libraries. The monasteries became centres of Christian faith, learning and technical progress as they expanded into northern Europe. According to Cannon, in the West the monasteries became 'the highway of civilisation, itself' Cannon It is interesting to note how the monks related their profound spirituality to an eminently practical lifestyle. They refused to write off the world as a lost cause or to propose neat, no-loose-ends answers to the problems of life, but rather to rebuild promptly, patiently and cheerfully, 'as if it were by some law of nature that the restoration came' Bosch Henry points out that the Benedictine Rule had been 'one of the most effective linkages of justice, unity and the renewal the church has ever known' The Benedictine monastery indeed became a 'school for the Lord's service', and was to have a profound influence in the centuries to follow.

The monastic movement, from its inception, has been concerned not only with the spiritual side of life, but also with its social and economic components.

Ora et Labora was the motto of the Benedictine Order, and it also inspired many other communities. During the Middle Ages, the Church was deeply concerned about economic matters, not only on the theological level, but also on the operational one. Hospices, orphanages and philanthropic work were supported by income generated through economic activities.

How Lutherans Departed From Roman Catholic Teachings

However, most of these were done through the monasteries. Julio De Santa Ana points out that it was the monasteries that chose to radically eradicate poverty The monks saw the need to be involved in the transformation of society as their gospel responsibility. However, the concept of social or community transformation adopted by the medieval church can be classified as that of the conservative paradigm, poverty is just there: 'The poor you will always have with you' Mk The relationship of rich and poor is a personal one of mutual rights and obligations, which are ordained by tradition.

The responsibility of the rich towards the poor is to behave with fairness, forbearance and compassion. The responsibility of the poor, as taught in the medieval church, was to accept their place in life humbly, being hardworking, law-abiding, loyal and grateful for the charity of the rich. This is, usually, reflected in relief programmes to ease immediate hardship and in welfare approaches concerned with meeting 'basic needs'. More broadly, it is seen in institutions such as the 'poor relief' at the parish level.

The provision of such support is often seen as an important part of the role of the Church. While the church in the medieval period took seriously its responsibility to the poor it did not really seek to restructure society. Instead it took the poor and struggling people into the monasteries and cared for them there. This was to change with the coming of the Reformation. The period of the Reformation saw the rise of mercantilism and then industrial capitalism. By , before the reformation, there were many thriving cities and larger towns. The growth of towns and cities led to a growth of rural-urban specialisation.

With urban workers severing all ties to the soil, the output of manufactured goods increased impressively. The expansion of trade, particularly long-distance trade in the early period, led to the establishment of commercial and industrial towns that serviced it.

Table of Contents

Each of these areas of change, particularly the latter, brought about a weakening and ultimately a complete dissolving of the traditional ties that held together the feudal economic and social structure. New systems of commercial law developed. Unlike the system of paternalistic adjudication based on custom and tradition that prevailed in the manor, the commercial law was fixed by precise code.

The worker no longer sold a finished product to the merchant. Rather, the worker sold only the worker's own labour power. This led to the workers and their families becoming dependent on the merchant-capitalists. It was inevitable that such a relationship was in due course going to lead into serious conflict.

England experienced a series of such revolts in the late 14th and 15th centuries. But the revolts that occurred in Germany in the early 16th century were probably the bloodiest of all. The early 16th century is a watershed in European history. It marks the vague dividing line between the old, decaying feudal order and the rising capitalist system. After , important social and economic changes began to occur with increasing frequency, each reinforcing the other and all together ushering in the system of capitalism. The capitalist market economy demanded self-seeking, acquisitive behaviour to function successfully.

From the capitalists views of the nature of humans, and their needs to be free from the extensive economic restrictions that inhibited them in the conduct of their everyday business grew the philosophy of individualism that provided the basis of classical liberalism. By now the church had become completely secularised. As a result, the people could no longer look to the Catholic Church for relief from widespread unemployment and poverty.

Destruction of the power of the church had eliminated the organised system of charity.

Being Christian in Western Europe

The state attempted to assume responsibility for the general welfare of society. All through this time the Christian paternalist view that promoted the general welfare of society still prevailed. However, with the eventual emergence of industrial capitalism this paternalist view was no longer tenable. The capitalists wanted to be free not only from economic restrictions that encumbered manufacturing and commerce but also from the moral opprobrium the Catholic Church had heaped upon their motives and activities. Unfortunately the rise of Protestantism was to provide this in-road.

Protestantism not only freed them from religious condemnation but also eventually made virtues of the selfish, egoistic and acquisitive motives the medieval church had so despised. The Reformers not only influenced their society, but they were also influenced by the ideology economic of their time see Stivers Consequently, the absolute biblical concern for the poor as expressed by the early church was slowly diminishing, even though groups of Christians continued to campaign for the rights of the poor, it was small in comparison to the whole church.

The church was ultimately taking sides with the rich as it provided theological justification for economic and political advancement and the creation of a 'better society'. It was not a 'better society' for the poor and marginalised. We shall examine this now. It has often been pointed out that the Reformers were indifferent, if not hostile, to mission. Gustav Warneck, the father of missiology as a theological discipline, was one of the first Protestant scholars who promoted this view Warneck More recently, however, several scholars have argued that a judgement such as Warneck's implies summonsing the Reformers before the tribunal of the modern missionary movement and finding them guilty for not having subscribed to a definition of mission which did not exist in their own time.

To argue that the Reformers had no missionary vision, these scholars contend, is to misunderstand the basic thrust of their theology and ministry Bosch Luther, in particular, is to be regarded as 'creative and original thinker'. In fact, he provided the church's missionary enterprise with clear and important guidelines and principles. The starting point of the Reformers' theology was not what people could or should do for the salvation of the world, but what God has already done in Christ.

Lutheran Beliefs and Practices

God's righteousness did not mean God's righteous punishment and wrath, but his gift of grace and mercy, which the individual may appropriate in faith see Walker With the Reformation came a fundamental theological shift in the understanding of the church's involvement in society, especially in relation to the poor. As Lindberg points out:. Luther's theological position consists essentially of the conviction that Salvation is not the process or goal of life, but rather its presupposition … Since righteousness before God is by faith alone and salvation is the source rather than the goal of life, it becomes difficult to rationalise the plight of the poor as a peculiar form of blessedness.

There is no salvific value in being poor or in giving alms.

The Protestant Reformation and the Orthodox Christian East

Thus when the Reformers turned to the reform of poor relief and social policy, they had a new theological foundation for their work … They de-ideologised the medieval approach to the poor which had obscured the problem of poverty. Quoted in Sider The new theological emphasis on individual faith contributed to the growing influence of the new individualistic philosophy.

The basic tenet of Protestantism, which laid the groundwork for religious attitudes that were to sanction middle-class business practices, was the doctrine that human beings were justified by faith rather than by works. The Catholic Church had taught that faith and works, which generally meant ceremonies and rituals, justified humans for a discussion on this see Sider Justification by works did not mean that an individual could save himself; it meant that he could be saved through the Church. Hence, the power of the clergy, compulsory confession, the imposition of penance on the whole population gave the priest a terrifying power.

These powers ensured that the medieval doctrines of the Catholic Church were not easily abandoned and that individuals were subordinated to society. The sense of community and obligation to serve the poor were deeply entrenched and maintained. The Protestant doctrine of justification by faith asserted that motives were more important than specific acts or rituals.

Each person had to search his or her own heart to discover if acts stemmed from a pure heart and faith in God. This individualistic reliance on each person's private conscience appealed strongly to the new middle-class artisans and small merchants. Such people felt quite genuinely and strongly that their economic practices, though they might conflict with the traditional law of the old church, were not offensive to God.

On the contrary: they glorified God. The new doctrines stressed the necessity of doing well at one's earthly calling as the best way to please God, and emphasised diligence and hard work. This emphasis, however, sadly took the Christian focus away from the general concern for the community and the obligation to the poor.

It gave acceptance to the liberal paradigm: poverty as backwardness. It said that those who are poor or 'backward' should not be controlled, but enabled to reach their full potential.

Martin Luther | Christian History | Christianity Today

Poverty is the result not of the natural order, but of incomplete development. As this suggests, the liberal world-view is historically intertwined with modernity. Luther's theological position, however, was to influence his care and concern for the poor. The result was the formulation of new social policies to deal with major economic and social change. Luther and his colleague Karlstad made provision in Wittenberg for the city council to provide low-interest loans for workers; subsidies for education and training for the children of the poor; taxes to support the poor - all designed to prevent as well as alleviate poverty Sider In 5 years, they changed the theory and practice of poor relief, which had been established by centuries of ecclesiastical tradition.

They were convinced that fundamental human rights of equality, freedom and brotherly love had their source in the Christian faith. However, Luther also believed that this task of social change was essentially a task for the secular ruler and kingdom to carry out.