During the scientific revolution in Europe there emerged countless scientists who contributed greatly to the scientific scene. Among these was a botanist named Carl Linnaeus. The Swedish botanist was born in the countryside of Småland in southern Sweden and lived from 1707 to 1778. Linnaeus paved the way for the modern biological naming scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is also considered as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also believed to be one of the fathers of modern ecology. At the age of 70 he passed away, however he was one of the most acclaimed men in Europe. It is safe to say that without Linnaeus modern science would just not be the same.
At the beginning of the 18th century there was a war that could have changed the balance of power forever. This was the War of Spanish Succession, which lasted from 1701 to 1714. The conflict began when Charles II of Spain died childless. With no heir to the throne several nations arose with their own candidates. Louis XIV of France had a candidate as well as Leopold I, who was the Holy Roman Emperor.
At this point in history France was amassing an immense amount of land and power. So much so that there was concern that if they controlled Spain as well there would be a shift in the balance of power. After a mangled mess of politics concerning the matter, France and Spain were pitted in a war against countless nations, which included England, Austria, Holland, and the Holy Roman Empire.
The Climax of the war was reached at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. France for the first time under the rule of Louis XIV suffered its first loss in battle. Not only was it a loss, but also it was a dreadful one. France was in fact invaded in 1708 and at this point Louis was ready to make peace. However, the Dutch and the Holy Roman Empire had him right where they wanted him and refused any treaty as of that time. Yet, in 1714 peace was declared and the lands of Spain were divided amongst the victors.
Cardinal Richelieu was a French clergyman who lived from 1585 to 1642 AD. Although he was given the title cardinal and he was a member of the clergy, his primary interests in life were not in God or church. Richelieu was a statesman first and foremost. While he was Roman Catholic, it did not bother him to make alliances and work along the side of Protestant Countries. Richelieu believed that the power and glory of France must be protected and upheld before any thought of God would be brought to mind.
In the city of La Rochelle the Huguenots (French Protestants) had become extremely self-sufficient. They ran and governed the city as if it had zero connections to France. The fact that they were autonomous was not a problem for Richelieu. However, since the Huguenots were independent they allowed their port in La Rochelle to be free with no restrictions. This allowed for enemies of France to set foot in the country. Also, dreaded pirates were harassing French trade through this port. It was because of this that Cardinal Richelieu led an assault on La Rochelle ultimately defeating all of the Huguenots. Luckily for the Huguenots the Cardinal believed in religious tolerance therefore he spared all their lives. It is clearly seen hear that Cardinal Richelieu’s chief interest here was not assaulting the Huguenots for religious reasons but for political reasons instead. Furthermore, It is possible that because of his state oriented mindset he may have found more use for some of these Huguenots if they were alive rather than if they were dead.
John Locke answered many philosophical questions. One interesting point he made was his view on property. Locke believed that any property that is bought or received as a gift or as payment would be given to the receiver as 100% his property. But how is it someone can come to own something that they are not buying or receiving as a gift or receiving as payment? Locke’s answer was that an individual would have to add their labor into the item or property that they wish to own. In the 17th century lets say that there is a man in a European country. This man finds a valley that no one owns. No one has ever been there and no one has ever worked there. So our European decides that he wants to settle down and live there. Consequently, he builds a house and clears away all of the overgrowth. According to John Locke this man now owns the valley because he was the first person to add his labor to the property.
In the 16th century there arose a group of philosophical thinkers known as the Eutopians. Interestingly, they changed their name from Utopians to Eutopians because in those days utopia literally meant “no place” while eutopia meant “good place”. To achieve eutopia they believed that everyone in their society must work, even members of higher classes or rulers. They believed that no one had any special privileges that would allow them not to work. Also, if everyone worked then everyone would have a lighter load. Some Eutopians even believed that the work hours of many would be decreased under this system, because the whole society would chip in on the workload.
They wanted a society without trade. A society without money would be ideal to these people. They wanted everyone to work to create a pile of wealth for the entire society to take from evenly.
The chief philosophers behind Eutopianism were Thomas More, Tommaso Campanella, and Francis Bacon. These thinkers wrote many books on the subject.
Many new ideas for forming governments and societies would arise in the 16th century. Perhaps it was because of the discovery of new lands and peoples. Perhaps philosophers began to see that other people governed their lands differently than those in Europe. Perhaps because they saw this they began to wonder if the traditional molds of governing were not the only way of running a society.
In the late 15th century Holland was under the rule of Philip II of Spain. In Holland the majority of citizens shared the same Catholic beliefs that Philip proclaimed. Although these Dutch were Catholic, they were very tolerant towards Protestants who were living there. However, King Philip was not tolerant at all, as he struck up an inquisition to route out all the Protestants in the Netherlands. The problem with this inquisition was that the Catholic Dutch didn’t approve of all of the bloodshed. They strongly urged Phillip to put a stop to this immediately. Even Margret the Duchess of Parma, who ruled in Phillips stead, insisted that this inquisition be terminated.
Phillip finally lifted the inquisition, however he was uneasy about the fact that Dutch Protestants were holding armed meetings. Also, at this point the Netherlands had fallen into disorder. Many Protestants were vandalizing Catholic churches and the whole scene was not very pretty. So now it enters Phillips mind that maybe he is being to soft on these Protestants. Sure enough Phillip sent 10,000 soldiers led by the Duke of Alba to suppress this Dutch disorder. At this point this imposing force amused neither the Protestants nor the Catholics and it wasn’t long before Phillip had a full-scale rebellion on his hands. The Protestants and the Catholics worked together under the leadership of William “the silent” to claim their independence in 1648.
St. Francis Xavier was a Roman Catholic missionary who lived from 1506 to 1552. He is also known to be a co-founder of the Society of Jesus. Most of his missionary work took place in Japan and in a letter he wrote to Jesuits at Rome we learn many interesting facts about his work. What I gathered was that Xavier was extremely zealous when teaching and preaching his Christian views. He would loudly proclaim the basic tenants of the Christian faith to all who asked what they must do to be one of God’s chosen. It seemed that most of the people he preached to seemed to want to convert to Christianity. The only obstacle that hindered this was a group of religious men known as the Brahmins. The Brahmins were those men who kept the heathen religion of old. When Xavier finally clashed with these men on a philosophical level Xavier emerged victorious in their debates.
While Martin Luther was causing a stir in Germany with his new views on the Christian religion there was a reformation-taking place in England. However, this reformation was very different from Martin Luther’s. King Henry the VIII started the English reformation in a round about way. Henry wanted to annul his marriage to his wife Catherine since she had not bore him a male heir to the throne. As Henry’s minions looked for some obscure law by which they may annul this marriage, Henry had already fallen in love with another woman. It soon became imperative to annul Henry’s marriage due to the fact that his new lover was expecting his child. Thus, the English courts found fault in the marriage and therefore annulled it. The only problem was that they completely bypassed papal authority, since the Rome Pope should have a say in these matters. So, because of King Henry the VIII marital shenanigans the nation of England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. Although England was not completely reformed yet, the stage was surely set and the manner in which it would be reformed was to be completely different than the German reformation.
In the 16th century there were those who believed that double predestination makes God a being that dispenses justice unequally. They believed that God either saves all men or damns all men to hell. They refused to believe that God could choose some and not others. John Calvin refuted this heretical view in his Institutes of the Christian Religion. It was his view that God being the supreme master leader of the universe has the authority to free or condemn whom he sees fit. Calvin states in chapter 23 of the Institutes that,
In giving to some what they do not merit, he shows his free favor; in not giving to all, he declares what all deserve. For when Paul says, “God has concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all,” it ought also to be added, that he is debtor to none; for “who has first given to him and it shall be recompensed unto him again?” (Rom. 11:32, 33).
This teaching by John Calvin spread through the regions of Europe and created plenty of philosophical debate.
Martin Luther, the famous 16th century forerunner of the Protestant Reformation, wrote a book titled On the Freedom of a Christian. In this work he stated some major points to which he believed everyone who believes in the Christian faith should hold.
His first point was that, as Christians we are justified by God’s word not our works. Even though God has given us the law, we cannot follow it perfectly. It is by faith, given to us by God, that a man is saved. However, this does not mean that we should not try to follow the law. Even though it cannot save us God tells us to follow it therefore we must.
His next point was that God will honor those who honor him. Luther quotes these passages from the bible as he writes,
“Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” (1 Sam. ii. 30.) And so Paul, says that Abraham’s faith was imputed to him for righteousness, because by it he gave glory to God; and that to us also, for the same reason, it shall be reputed for righteousness, if we believe. (Rom. iv.)
Hence, if we believe that by faith we are saved and follow the law God will see our righteousness and he will honor us.