Why were there no mass conversions to Protestantism in the Eastern Orthodox lands?

Nov 2019
125
United States
My opinion, shared by many, is there is a line of relationship between the Reformation and the Enlightenment. There were books owned by average peasants occasionally in Western Europe, but when John Wyclif and others began creating Bibles, by hand printing, and distributing them across Western Europe, it changed both literacy, and ownership of books. There are precepts of reformation that transcend simple elements of theology; ie that independent of court authority, or Church Edict, individuals controlled their own destiny, both in religious faith, and tangentially in life's circumstances.

Here is an example of those who concur: The Reformation and The Enlightenment

To those of us who live in the States and study our own history, the impact of religious dissenters was great, and in many very beneficial ways. It is not surprising that from these dissenters came the Abolitionist movement, child labor laws, prison reform, the women's movement, and even basic tenets of our nation's founding documents. A quick read that might press that thought robustly is Oxford University Press's book "What Hath God Wrought" on American History from 1815 to 1848.

Returning to the issue of the Eastern Orthodox areas and the lack of long term influence by Protestantism; the much greater impact of the Enlightenment in Western Europe than in those nations seems a corollary. Interesting that the Hungarian and Polish growth of the Hussites and other Protestant factions, while the Ottomans were threatening at the gates of Vienna, were later subdued when the Catholic Church found their help unneccessary.
 
Oct 2015
932
Virginia
I've always thought the "protestant reformation" was a movement by capitalists and princes to exploit the reform movement in the Church to break the power of the Catholic Church, Empire and the Papacy so they could better exploit the masses without interference from the Church, Emperor or Pope. (A radical Catholic interpretation ?). Fewer capitalists, princes and no Papal power in Eastern Orthodox lands. (?)
 
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Nov 2019
125
United States
Actually it would be the reverse. the poor flicked to the Reformation's principles in German provinces and Holland. Poor princes as well, meanwhile the oligarchy of the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Emperor and his court sent troops to murder them.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,441
As far as why Protestantism didn't get far initially in Orthodox Christian areas. The schism took care of some of the problems, such as the Latin mass and domination by Italy and southern Europe. There wasn't the problem with extreme corruption as with the Catholic Church at that time. Orthodox Christianity was even showier than Catholicism, so there wasn't much attraction to simpler services.

There were political reasons for the English break from Rome. England was mostly Catholic, similar to France, in the 16th century, and it wouldn't have been politically possible to impose Lutheranism. Anglicanism also mostly avoided religious wars and allowed people to be Catholic or Protestant within limits. Many people also so a point in reforming Catholicism without changing theology or religious practices much. Oxford trained high church Catholic clergy and Cambridge trained low church Protestant clergy.

The upper class mostly stayed Catholic, hid priests in their castles, and so on. Many continue to be high church. For example, Princess Diana's brother crossed himself at her funeral. It might not have been intended, but was an emotional reaction at a moment of stress. There are high church Episcopal churches in the US, which are more Catholic than Catholic in some ways, ignoring Vatican II and so on.

The Anglican Church is similar to the Russian Orthodox Church in some ways, traditionally state controlled, and has good relations with the Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches. The Church Sweden is officially Lutheran, but also became Protestant by royal decree and retains Catholic elements.

The US was freed from established national churches or an establish Catholic Church. The US south traditionally was like 80% Baptist or Methodists. People stayed more religious with religions that suited the feeling of ordinary people their. There were strong fundamentalist movements, from which Pentacolism derives.
 
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Jan 2019
155
Finland
From what I recall that the Orthodox Christians weren't quite as adamant in forcible conversion as Catholics or later Protestants was what I was taught in school. If you look at north-eastern European history it can be seen in broad strokes. Finland and the Baltics became Catholic via crusades and later Protestant, in the now Finnish region of Käkisalmi the Orthodox Karelians mostly either fled Lutheran persecution or were forced to convert. Later, when the Russian Empire conquered those areas they remained Lutheran.
 

At Each Kilometer

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
4,011
Bulgaria
From what I recall that the Orthodox Christians weren't quite as adamant in forcible conversion as Catholics or later Protestants was what I was taught in school. If you look at north-eastern European history it can be seen in broad strokes. Finland and the Baltics became Catholic via crusades and later Protestant, in the now Finnish region of Käkisalmi the Orthodox Karelians mostly either fled Lutheran persecution or were forced to convert. Later, when the Russian Empire conquered those areas they remained Lutheran.
I wondered that myself i do think that main reason is due to the fact that Orthodox churches are autonomous national churches tied to specific nations, cultures and languages. Thus Serbian Orthodox Church belongs to Serbian Orthodox Christians, ROC to Russian ones etc. In the same manner Finnish Orthodox Church belongs to your countrymen of this faith and is theirs only. Aside from the imperial times of the Eastern Romans and especially in Russia where the church was a mere department of the government for two centuries / the Russian patriarchate was abolished in the beginning of XVIII century and restored after revolution during commie rule the irony of it / when they served as a tool for emperor's ambitions / these churches were not interested of the world outside of their linguistic communities, well, until very recently.
 
Jan 2019
155
Finland
I wondered that myself i do think that main reason is due to the fact that Orthodox churches are autonomous national churches tied to specific nations, cultures and languages. Thus Serbian Orthodox Church belongs to Serbian Orthodox Christians, ROC to Russian ones etc. In the same manner Finnish Orthodox Church belongs to your countrymen of this faith and is theirs only. Aside from the imperial times of the Eastern Romans and especially in Russia where the church was a mere department of the government for two centuries / the Russian patriarchate was abolished in the beginning of XVIII century and restored after revolution during commie rule the irony of it / when they served as a tool for emperor's ambitions / these churches were not interested of the world outside of their linguistic communities, well, until very recently.
National churches, tied to specific nations, cultures and languages would generally be a fairly recent thing in that it would be contemporaneous with nationalism. The Finnish Lutheran Church, or at least the arch-bishopry that later became such, was established by sanction from the Russian Empire or something along those lines to distance Finland from Sweden in all matters political. But that the churches are autonomous within a state is a major point of Protestantism and what made it so attractive for kings and princes to adopt and then impose top down on an often reluctant Catholic population. I don't see that it made forceful evangelising less of a thing either. So I'd say the difference is deeper. One idea I have that I just thought of is that maybe the Catholicism and Protestantism are just more political and 'secular' in nature, that the pope's supremacy and the authority that trickles down from him must be recognised, and later with Protestantism it's the same but with the king as the head of the Church. The Orthodox on the other hand had a more separation of Church and State, one might say?
 

At Each Kilometer

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
4,011
Bulgaria
National churches, tied to specific nations, cultures and languages would generally be a fairly recent thing in that it would be contemporaneous with nationalism. The Finnish Lutheran Church, or at least the arch-bishopry that later became such, was established by sanction from the Russian Empire or something along those lines to distance Finland from Sweden in all matters political. But that the churches are autonomous within a state is a major point of Protestantism and what made it so attractive for kings and princes to adopt and then impose top down on an often reluctant Catholic population. I don't see that it made forceful evangelising less of a thing either. So I'd say the difference is deeper. One idea I have that I just thought of is that maybe the Catholicism and Protestantism are just more political and 'secular' in nature, that the pope's supremacy and the authority that trickles down from him must be recognised, and later with Protestantism it's the same but with the king as the head of the Church. The Orthodox on the other hand had a more separation of Church and State, one might say?
I should be more careful with the words nation, nationality, which are indeed relatively new concepts. What i meant is that the Orthodox Churches are autocefalous, independent from Constantinople self governing Churches, some of them before the Great Schism 1054. In contrast Catholic Church was idd universal, CoE was mentioned, it became 'independent' from Rome more than half a millennium later and the process ended with their civil war. For all these churches in question in medieval times we have to certain extend caesaropapism, the head of the head of state, tzar, emperor whatever is above the church leader / to put it simply tzars give orders / patriarchs obey, as was in the early church centuries of the Pentarchy.
 
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Willempie

Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
5,499
Netherlands
I've always thought the "protestant reformation" was a movement by capitalists and princes to exploit the reform movement in the Church to break the power of the Catholic Church, Empire and the Papacy so they could better exploit the masses without interference from the Church, Emperor or Pope. (A radical Catholic interpretation ?). Fewer capitalists, princes and no Papal power in Eastern Orthodox lands. (?)
I disagree with most, but not all. Most support from nobles here in the Netherlands came from the lower nobles, the higher nobles remained catholic. Even William of Orange remained catholic. As to capitalists, I kinda agree. The majority of the people that left the catholic church were what we now call middle class. In the case of Holland/Flanders that meant a lot of merchants, guild members. In short people who could read and made money, so capitalists in a sense, were the main converts.

Then again it is hard to put a demographic to the protestant movement, also because there were many different ones, ranging from the loony Anabaptists in Cologne to Frederick the Wise.

On the original subject, talking from a Dutch perspective, there wasn't much incentive in general to "spread the word". The whole religion, be it Lutheran or Calvinist was focused on yourself and your immediate environment. So you had a village that was Calvinist, but the next could easily be catholic. Ie in the town I lived, people were historically reformed, however the surrounding farmers were catholic (whence we had 2 football clubs for 10k people, one played on Sunday, the other on Saturday). The nearest village to one side was catholic (with carnaval:)), while on the other side we had a very strict reformed village (who would not drive on Sunday and don't use TV or radio).
Obviously throughout the centuries there was pressure, but that mainly consisted of taking over the local catholic church, ask the priest to marry his housekeeper and call himself a reverend. Mostly Catholics were left alone and if they weren't they could bribe the bailiff. In The Hague you could join mass at the various embassies, in Amsterdam and other towns in Holland, they were left alone in exchange for support (and if they wouldn't do it too open), in the countryside nobody cared and nobles with some land were completely left alone.
 
Nov 2019
125
United States
Functional capitalism would not be recognized in the 16th Century German States or Holland. It would be more than a century before real capitalism; individual collection of capital absent control by Courts of the Aristocracy. It would be helpful if people had a better understanding of what capitalism is, basically it was freeing individuals from the autocracy of Aristocratic Courts determining what economic rights and opportunities you can or could possess. It meant that unless some court buffoon could see his way to profitting, economic improvement for societies as a whole were prevented.

Read Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom
or perhaps Fredrich Hayek's The Road to Serfdom