Radical Protestants have always been concerned for the inwardly authentic quality of personal experience and commitment. ... This critical perspective on hypocrisy and superficiality presupposes a more authentic alternative, which is very difficult to define. Once it is clearly defined, that new, more authentic form becomes inauthentic in its turn. ~ John Howard Yoder
The outcome of the Reformation was the victory, not of Luther's perception of grace in all its purity and costliness, but of the vigilant religious instinct of man for the place where grace is to be obtained at the cheapest price.
The antithesis between the Christian life and the life of bourgeois respectability is at an end. The Christian life comes to mean nothing more than living in the world and as the world, in being no different from the world, in fact, in being prohibited from being different from the world for the sake of grace. The upshot of it all is that my only duty as a Christian is to leave the world for an hour or so on a Sunday morning and go to church to be assured that my sins are all forgiven. I need no longer try to follow Christ, for cheap grace, the bitterest foe of discipleship, which true discipleship must loathe and detest, has freed me from that.
The Christian ecumenical movement will have reached its limit, meaning that Catholicism will have turned into Protestantism and Protestantism into agnosticism....But Islam will not have lost any of its rigour....Supernature abhors a supervacuum. With the death of institutional Christianity will come the spread of Islam.
All protestantism, even the most cold and passive, is a sort of dissent. But the religion most prevalent in our northern colonies is a refinement on the principles of resistance: it is the dissidence of dissent, and the protestantism of the Protestant religion.
Kevin Kruse in his book One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America details how industrialists in the 1930s and 1940s poured money and resources into an effort to silence the social witness of the mainstream church, which was home to many radicals, socialists and proponents of the New Deal. These corporatists promoted and funded a brand of Christianity—which is today dominant—that conflates faith with free enterprise and American exceptionalism. The rich are rich, this creed goes, not because they are greedy or privileged, not because they use their power to their own advantage, not because they oppress the poor and the vulnerable, but because they are blessed. And if we have enough faith, this heretical form of Christianity claims, God will bless the rest of us too. It is an inversion of the central message of the Gospel. You don’t need to spend three years at Harvard Divinity School as I did to figure that out.
Although the Protestant Church is accused of much disastrous bigotry, one claim to immortal fame must be granted it: by permitting freedom of inquiry in the Christian faith and by liberating the minds of men from the yoke of authority, it enabled freedom of inquiry in general to take root in Germany, and made it possible for science to develop independently. German philosophy, though it now puts itself on an equal basis with the Protestant Church or even above it, is nonetheless only its daughter; as such it always owes the mother a forbearing reverence.
Heinrich Heine, “The Romantic School,” The Romantic School and Other Essays, J. Hermand, ed. (1985), P. 24
Protestantism promoted the spread of that cold rationality which is so characteristic of the modern individual. ... By allying itself with the rising economic system it made men dependent upon the world of things even to a higher degree than before. Where formerly they worked for the sake of salvation, they were now induced to work for work’s sake, profit for profit’s sake, power for power’s sake.
Max Horkheimer, “The End of Reason,” The Essential Frankfurt School Reader (1982), pp. 33-34
Protestantism itself, in its early phases, was plainly a movement toward mysticism: its purpose, at least in theory, was to remove the priestly veil separating man from the revealed Word of God. But that veil was restored almost instantly, and by the year 1522, five years after Wittenberg, Luther was damning the Anabaptists with all the ferocious certainty of a medieval Pope, and his followers were docily accepting his teaching.
In Catholic doctrine, divine revelation did not end with the scriptures, but continued from age to age through the medium of the Church... Protestants, on the contrary, rejected the Church as a vehicle of revelation; truth was to be sought only in the Bible, which each man could interpret for himself. ...In practice, the State claimed the right that had formerly belonged to the Church, but this was a usurpation. In Protestant theory, there should be no earthly intermediary between the soul and God.
Any of several church denominations denying the universal authority of the Pope and affirming the Reformation principles of justification by faith in Jesus alone, the priesthood of all believers, and the primacy of the Bible as the only source of revealed truth" and, more broadly, to mean Christianity outside "of an Orthodox or Catholic church"
Merriam Webster.com. "Protestantism" on merriam-webster.com dictionary
For what is specific in the Catholic religion is immortalization and not justification, in the Protestant sense. Rather is this latter ethical. It is from Kant, in spite of what orthodox Protestants may think of him, that Protestantism derived its penultimate conclusions — namely, that religion rests upon morality, and not morality upon religion, as in Catholicism.
But further, and especially important: it may be, as has been claimed, that the greater participation of Protestants in the positions of ownership and management in modern economic life may today be understood, in part at least, simply as a result of the greater material wealth they have inherited. But there are certain other phenomena which cannot be explained in the same way. Thus, to mention only a few facts: there is a great difference discoverable in Baden, in Bavaria, in Hungary, in the type of higher education which Catholic parents, as opposed to Protestant, give their children. That the percentage of Catholics among the students and graduates of higher educational institutions in general lags behind their proportion of the total population, may, to be sure, be largely explicable in terms of inherited differences of wealth. But among the Catholic graduates themselves the percentage of those graduating from the institutions preparing, in particular, for technical studies and industrial and commercial occupations, but in general from those preparing for middle-class business life, lags still farther behind the percentage of Protestants. On the other hand, Catholics prefer the sort of training which the humanistic Gymnasium affords. That is a circumstance to which the above explanation does not apply, but which, on the contrary, is one reason why so few Catholics are engaged in capitalistic enterprise.
The smaller participation of Catholics in the modern business life of Germany is all the more striking because it runs counter to a tendency which has been observed at all times including the present. National or religious minorities which are in a position of subordination to a group of rulers are likely, through their voluntary or involuntary exclusion from positions of political influence, to be driven with peculiar force into economic activity. Their ablest members seek to satisfy the desire for recognition of their abilities in this field, since there is no opportunity in the service of the State. This has undoubtedly been true of the Poles in Russia and Eastern Prussia, who have without question been undergoing a more rapid economic advance than in Galicia, where they have been in the ascendant. It has in earlier times been true of the Huguenots in France under Louis XIV, the Nonconformists and Quakers in England, and, last but not least, the Jew for two thousand years. But the Catholics in Germany have shown no striking evidence of such a result of their position. In the past they have, unlike the Protestants, undergone no particularly prominent economic development in the times when they were persecuted or only tolerated, either in Holland or in England. On the other hand, it is a fact that the Protestants (especially certain branches of the movement to be fully discussed later) both as ruling classes and as ruled, both as majority and as minority, have shown a special tendency to develop economic rationalism which cannot be observed to the same extent among Catholics either in the one situation or in the other. Thus the principal explanation of this difference must be sought in the permanent intrinsic character of their religious beliefs, and not only in their temporary external historico-political situations. It will be our task to investigate these religions with a view to finding out what peculiarities they have or have had which might have resulted in the behavior we have described. On superficial analysis, and on the basis of certain current impressions, one might be tempted to express the difference by saying that the greater other-worldliness of Catholicism, the ascetic character of its highest ideals, must have brought up its adherents to a greater indifference toward the good things of this world. Such an explanation fits the popular tendency in the judgment of both religions. On the Protestant side it is used as a basis of criticism of those (real or imagined) ascetic ideals of the Catholic way of life, while the Catholics answer with the accusation that materialism results from the secularization of all ideals through Protestantism. One recent writer has attempted to formulate the difference of their attitudes toward economic life in the following manner: “The Catholic is quieter, having less of the acquisitive impulse; he prefers a life of the greatest possible security, even with a smaller income, to a life of risk and excitement, even though it may bring the chance of gaining honor and riches. The proverb says jokingly, ‘either eat well or sleep well’. In the present case the Protestant prefers to eat well, the Catholic to sleep undisturbed.”
In fact, the summum bonum of this ethic, the earning of more and more money, combined with the strict avoidance of all spontaneous enjoyment of life, is above all completely devoid of any eudaemonistic, not to say hedonistic, admixture. It is thought of so purely as an end in itself, that from the point of view of the happiness of, or utility to, the single individual, it appears entirely transcendental and absolutely irrational. Man is dominated by the making of money, by acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life. Economic acquisition is no longer subordinated to man as the means for the satisfaction of his material needs. This reversal of what we should call the natural relationship, so irrational from a naive point of view, is evidently as definitely a leading principle of capitalism as it is foreign to all peoples not under capitalistic influence. At the same time it expresses a type of feeling which is closely connected with certain religious ideas. If we thus ask, why should “money be made out of men”, Benjamin Franklin himself, although he was a colourless deist, answers in his autobiography with a quotation from the Bible, which his strict Calvinistic father drummed into him again and again in his youth: “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings” (Prov. xxii. 29). The earning of money within the modern economic order is, so long as it is done legally, the result and the expression of virtue and proficiency in a calling; and this virtue and proficiency are, as it is now not difficult to see, the real Alpha and Omega of Franklin’s ethic.
Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, T. Parsons, trans. (Dover: 2003), p. 53
Radical Protestants have always been concerned for the inwardly authentic quality of personal experience and commitment. From this perspective one judges the run-of-the-mill piety which is satisfied with conformity to easily attained patterns of expression. This critical perspective on hypocrisy and superficiality presupposes a more authentic alternative, which is very difficult to define. Once it is clearly defined, that new, more authentic form becomes inauthentic in its turn; yet that kind of preoccupation always belongs as part of the radical Protestant vision. The "civil religion" is judged for being feasible; its demands are too attainable.