Reformation and Identity
At first, there were no “Protestants” and “Catholics,” only Christians of differing views. As hopes for unification receded, however, church authorities on all sides of the controversy began reorganizing religious identities around the doctrines particular to their creeds. In the process, the new creeds gradually developed a sense of their own place in the flow of history, separate from the Roman church. Printing accelerated this transformation too, reinforcing orthodoxy in the process. One manifestation was the publication of new histories, most prominently Johannes Sleidan’s Truthful Description of All Ecclesiastical and Secular Things (1557), the first proper history of the evangelical movement. Another example is the so-called “Magdeburg Centuries,” a massive publishing effort led by the Lutheran minister, Flacius Illyricus, that re-told the entire history of Christianity with the Lutheran creed as its natural culmination. Similarly, Gilbert Burnett’s History of the Reformation placed the Anglican church in the flow of sacred time.