Interesting post from Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner. I can’t recall where I read someone else make a related point: that what Islam needs is not a Luther but a Pope. Doctrinal authority in Islam is dispersed… self-styled Imams everywhere, multiplying the crazy. (In that sense, not so unlike some non-denom evangelical circles.) Islam could use a Nicea and a Pope to establish universal (peaceful, tolerant) doctrine.
(Reuel Gerecht’s) observation that “you don’t get to arrive at Thomas Jefferson unless you first pass through Martin Luther” is, to say the least, thought-provoking.You can certainly make a case that Luther either set in motion or accelerated a process under which (a) what remained (despite the schism between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) of the notion of a universal Christendom — a Christian umma in some respects — was finally banished to the realm of fantasy and (b) the church in many countries was subordinated, explicitly or implicitly, to the national political system. You certainly can also credibly maintain that, in parts of northwestern Europe, the effect of those changes, combined with existing local traditions and expansion across the Atlantic, ultimately did indeed lead to Thomas Jefferson. You can even argue (albeit much less persuasively) that that’s a precedent that could in theory be followed in today’s Middle East. But, if so, where’s Martin Luther? If anything, the Muslim Brotherhood are, to stretch this historical analogy a quite some way, the shock troops of some sort of Counter-Reformation, set on taking the Arab world even further away from Enlightenment values, intellectual diversity, the concept of an appropriately subordinate clergy, and, yes, a Jefferson.