… one needs above all a thorough understanding of the true significance of the Protestant Reformation. It is too frequently regarded … as the beginning of liberalism and democracy with their various sequels, such as the United Nations and medicare; yet it was, to the contrary, a conservative revolution. The birth of the Reformation was not in 1517, the date on which Luther nailed up his ninety-five theses, but a half dozen years earlier in the winter of 1510-1511 which Luther spent in Rome. It was there in the Eternal City that the German Augustinian friar made his first contact with modernity. Before then he had encountered Humanism only in its literary form; in Rome he found himself face-to-face with the synthesis of Christianity and Antiquity, whereby the mediaeval concept of the world as a circle with God as its center had been replaced by the concept of an ellipse with two focal points -- God and man. Luther had no patience with what Karl Barth has called das katholische Und, “the Catholic And.” Neither could he accept the Catholic-Humanist doctrine that everything true, everything beautiful, whatever its origin, had to be embraced and integrated into the treasurehouse of Christianity. To Luther the spirit and climate of the Renaissance were a treason to Christ. The new age, visibly perfected in Italy, was the revival of paganism; it represented a triumph of rationalism, estheticism, and secularism, all of which he detested and rejected.
Thus it is a mistake to think of Luther as “the first modern man” -- a designation more appropriately applied to Nicholas of Cusa -- or as “modern” in any sense; rather he was a Gothic man who came from a very new German university in a truly “colonial” area, for from the wall of Wittenberg one could then look over the thatched roofs of the cottages of the indigenous Slavic inhabitants … Thus it is clear that the Reformation began as a reaction against Humanism and the spirit of the Renaissance. In Germany the movement was distinctly illiberal and anti-intellectual. It supported royal absolutisms as against the later mediaeval conception of the monarch restrained by law, the principle of rex sub lege; but at the same time Lutheranism was an organic outgrowth of the mediaeval spirit. While Catholicism moved on from the Renaissance to the Baroque, and from the Baroque to the Rococo, the world of the Reformation continued to adhere to the Gothic style, to the old order and the common law. For a long time the Reformed Church remained the most conservative force in Europe.
An important emphasis of Anglicanism has always been the need to serve the common good. This history has important implications for our current listening process. For many more liberal minded Anglicans, there is no real sense of a sharp divide between ‘culture’ and ‘church’. Rather, the two are always in a mutually enriching dialogue. Anglican Evangelicals (the inheritors of Puritanism) tend to view the claims of the Gospel as being inherently counter-cultural (oppositional) (p.54)