Thursday, March 05, 2009

Protestantism's somber joke

A more long-range benefit of the Reformation’s placing ultimate authority in Scripture was that, when coupled with the principle of the priesthood of all believers, sola scriptura required absolute and universal literacy if it were going to work. The Protestant imperative toward every believer’s being able to read Holy Writ for him- or herself excited the drive toward literacy that in turn accelerated the drive toward rationalism and from there to Enlightenment and from there straight into the science and technology and literature and governments that characterize our lives today. There were, of course, some disadvantages.

The most obvious problem of universal literacy is that if one teaches five people to read and then asks them each to read the same document, there will be at least three different interpretations of what the five of them have read. While we may laugh and say that divisiveness was Protestantism’s greatest gift to Christianity, ours is a somber joke.

–Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, p.46

1 comment:

  1. The imperative towards universal literacy was brought to Scotland by John Knox, who was determined that every Scot would be able to read the Scripture for themselves, thus freeing them from reliance on the clergy. His zeal saw the establishment of an education system that is still highly valued today, and has been widely adopted across the world. For this, Knox deserves our thanks.
    Yes education is a two-edged sword, but ignorance is far more dangerous and damaging in the long run.


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!