Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Reaction to Papal Infallibility

There was a worldwide reaction to the proclamation of the doctrine of papal infallibility. Millions of Protestants contributed to the first worldwide fund drive. The proceeds were used to construct a magnificent cathedral on the Rhine River at Speyer Germany known as The Memorial Church. Simultaneous with this fund drive, and perhaps related thereto, was the Kulturkampf, a battle between Bismarck and the German Protestant Churches on one side against the Vatican and the German Catholic Churches over state control of faculty and pastoral assignments. Dungan states: “In this highly charged climate of national crisis, it was politically important for Protestant theologians to be able to say in effect to the Roman Catholics, “Not only is your recent (1870) doctrine of papal infallibility utter nonsense, your tradition regarding the priority of the Gospel of Matthew is equally mistaken. We German Protestants have proven scientifically that Mark was written first!”[i]

Farmer, Dungan and Peabody have written about the state control of faculty and pastoral assignments in an effort to support their claim that the results of the research of the German Protestant theologians on the priority of Mark was politically motivated and less than objective. I write to suggest that to complete the story of the history of an idea, one must also research The Memorial Church’s building fund campaign drive and the literature generated about the need to have an edifice on the Rhine as the final triumph of the Reformation. My research has convinced me, in agreement with Hans-Herbert Stoldt, that a “strong, emotion-charged engagement can be discerned in the history of Gospel research for the last hundred and forty years.”[ii] Stoldt finds the evidence of a “strong, emotion-charged engagement” in the literature of the Marcan Hypothesis while I find it in the writings of the Kulturkampf period. The eighty-page Memorial Church brochure contains this statement: “It was the proclamation of the dogma of papal infallibility (1870) and the foundation of a new empire under a Protestant emperor (1871) which brought new impetus to the Speyer project.” The construction was made possible by the gifts of Protestant Christians throughout the world.

My wife and I visited The Memorial Church[iii] in July 1990 as part of our Martin Luther tour of the Reformation sites. We arrived in Germany and were able to visit East Germany days after the walls came down. Our tour guide was crying tears of joy. I plan to return to Speyer Germany to do further research on Shifting Paradigms.

[i] Dungan, A History of the Synoptic Problem, (1999), 329.
[ii] Hans-Herbert Stoldt, History and Criticism of the Marcan Hypothesis (1977, tr. 1980), 2.
[iii] The most famous session of the imperial parliament of the Holy Roman Empire took place in Speyer in 1529 when the Protestant states lodged a protest (hence “Protestants”) against decisions of the Catholic majority. The construction of The Memorial Church sought to commemorate this historic event.

copyrighted 2005


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