I think this chapter does an excellent job in showing how a culture can influence religion just as much as religion can influence a culture. In previous readings, we discussed the origins of both Judaism and Christianity; we saw how circumstance influenced many of the stories in the Torah, and we saw how Christianity in its early days was very much shaped by the surrounding Hellenistic and Roman ways of thinking. But since it happened so long ago, I suppose it can be very easy to think of it as something that only occurred at the beginning, and that was it. I think this reading proves otherwise.
The 16th-17th century was, for a lack of better words, largely unstable in the area of religion. The Tudor reign alone produced a tug-of-war sort of effect between Protestants and Catholics; the English Civil War, among others, brought a lot of instability in how Christianity was viewed and how it operated. While the introduction of new religious groups itself did not threaten the stability of organized Christianity, the constant push and pull of power (as well as acts such as brutal persecution towards other religious groups and burning ‘witches’) certainly did. This is where society and religion, once again, began to influence one another. The Enlightenment was, in many ways, largely a response against organized religion and the problems it brought; the highlighting of reason and of the natural over blind faith and the supernatural could be read as people trying to get away from the confusion brought by the shifts in power in the recent past. But just as the movement of religion largely influenced the introduction of the Enlightenment, religion itself was affected by the Enlightenment as well. There was the idea of Deism that cropped up, which focused on the rationality of Christianity as well as on the idea that God “could be found in the natural world”. This view encouraged religious tolerance, as well as put away the idea of God being ‘mysterious’ and reinforced the idea that God was a being of reason.
Of course, the reactions to the society of the time was not all positive, and definitely was not limited to trying to adapt to it; movements such as Pietism largely went against both the ideas of Deism and the Enlightenment as a whole; unlike Deism, which put aside Scripture if did not come off as logical and viewed God as a creator but not necessarily a sovereign being, Pietism was largely Bible-centric and emphasized on personal conviction. This movement went on to inspire Methodists, which became a revivalist movement within the Church.
So really, it was really interesting to see how society moved forward, and how religion moved along to adapt and react to it, and vice versa. It’s like a continuing cycle, and I really don’t think that it will ever stop.