The Development and Transformation of French Protestantism -- By: James R. Renick

Journal: Grace Journal
Volume: GJ 05:3 (Fall 1964)
Article: The Development and Transformation of French Protestantism
Author: James R. Renick

The Development and Transformation of French Protestantism

James R. Renick

Princeton, New Jersey

[A senior thesis submitted to the History Department of Princeton University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts, May, 1960. Abridged by the author.]

The study of the development and transformation of French Protestantism in the sixteenth century presents a situation strikingly related to the contemporary scene. Nowhere is this relationship more clear than on the many foreign missionary fields of the world where Protestant evangelical missions have made such an impact during the past century.

In the evangelization of large unbelieving populations and in the organization and training of indigenous national churches and Christian leadership, a host of vital questions have faced both missionary and national Christian alike. The desirability of highly-developed ecclesiastical organization, the wisdom of seeking the support of sympathetic officials in the local and national governments, the degree of association of the national church with foreign sources of income and power, the use of converted priests and monks in public Christian work are all matters common to the sixteenth century and to our present era. The questions have become no less delicate or crucial with the passage of centuries. The seriousness of the outcome is illustrated by the tragic results which followed 1562 in France. In our modern situation the final outcome is yet to be determined in many areas.

The sixteenth century was “…an age of transition…a period of instability, of rapidly changing concepts, of widening vistas, and of unprecedented innovations.”1 Western Europe experienced the consolidation of the nation-state, the continued rise of the “New Monarchies,” the great expansion of the European “money-economy,” the declaration of religious reform, the rise and spread of the Lutheran and Reformed faiths, and the revitalization of the Catholic Church through the Counter-Reformation. France, geographically and culturally an integral part of Western Europe, was affected by all of these movements during the course of the century.

In our day the casual student of history might easily forget that the religious question was ever a vital and central one in French domestic affairs. And yet, exactly four centuries ago, that nation was poised on the brink of three decades of civil wars fought ostensibly to

test whether it were possible for two antagonistic and competitive religious systems, Catholicism and Calvinism, to co-exist in France under the same law and the same king...

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