In other words, it's not like I was trying to be provocative or anything. Besides, it's Borella who is doing the provoking (with his idea that Protestantism leads inevitably to secular extremism), although I must admit that I do find his argument persuasive (especially in concert with some other more recent scholarship about the religious wars and the Reformation).
I might add that it's somewhat useless to enlist history as a defense of Protestant theology, not just because history cannot justify theology, but because history -- better yet, the past -- keeps changing. In other words, the meaning of the past is largely determined by the present -- which is why each generation must engage the past anew. (You know the crack by that Chinese premier -- Kissinger or somebody asked him what he thought of the French Revolution: "To soon to tell.")
Consider, for example, what the ascendency of Obama meant two years ago, versus what it means today. Which is why no one should get too excited about the coming Republican tsunami, since it will undoubtedly mean something (disappointingly) different two years hence. It is in the nature of waves to begin their withdrawal precisely at high tide.
History is also full of irony -- of good things leading to bad and bad to good, or felix catastrophes. For example, it might be argued that the two most important events in history were the Incarnation and the creation of America. But would the latter have been possible absent the Reformation?
In fact, if I'm not mistaken, at the time, the Vatican still regarded monarchy as the most natural and superior form of government. And of course they had a point, if one compares the latter to the French Revolution, which was and remains the template for most subsequent revolutions, which is to say, the rule of the mob, AKA democracy (which was once a pejorative).
So is a little secularism -- a human sphere independent of religion -- a good thing? Yes, obviously. But can it go too far? Yes, obviously.
Which is something that secularists cannot see and do not recognize -- which is precisely why they are extremists. They imagine that their extreme position is the center, when it is clearly at the periphery, not just politically, but ontologically. Thus their utter failure to understand American conservatism, which is intrinsically balanced between secular and religious, or terrestrial and celestial, concerns.
And "balance" is probably not the most apt word, since it is much more of a dynamic and evolving (because dynamic) reciprocity or complementarity. It is a complementarity between freedom and restraint, rights and responsibilities, individual and collective, the anabolic preservation of tradition and the catabolic destruction of the free market, etc.
Anyway, back to Borella's thesis. Again, his concern is that Protestantism, by rendering the world both irrelevant and unintelligible, eventually opens the way for scientism to fill the breach left open by the complete absence of any integral theology, a la Thomas. Rather, it literally tosses aside some 1500 years of sublime meditation on the Nature of Things, and reverts to the theological barbarism of blind faith, which eventually becomes the sole feeble defense against modernity. But it didn't work and it won't work.
One reason it won't work is that it presents no coherently unified front against the comparatively integral worldview of scientism. Rather, it's not just that the Reformation fractured the Christian world in two, but into hundreds, thousands, millions, and maybe even billions of pieces, so long as we take literally the idea that "every man is his own priest." If this is the case, then there is no authoritative dogma and really no objective Truth to be had.
Indeed, this is one of Borella's points, that the Reformation inevitably leads to subjectivism, relativism and therefore skepticism, for if truth is in the eye of the individual believer, then there is really no truth at all.
Yes, thanks to the Reformation, everyone could now interpret the Bible for himself, but so what? How often do you meet someone who can quote you chapter and verse, but really has no idea what he's talking about?
I would say that this is the rule, not the exception. Few people have an integral understanding of the totality of scripture, in both its vertical and horizontal dimensions. Once the Bible means anything to everyone, the door is open to the religious demagogues and hustlers who plague us to this day, with no central authority to shame them into silence.
It would never even occur to me to try to do this myself, starting from scratch, in a single lifetime. What breathtaking presumption! Again, SPEAKING ONLY FOR MYSELF, I can't imagine life without the stream of commentary, from the early Fathers to Denys to Maximus Confessor to Thomas Aquinas to Meister Eckhart, et al (not to mention the Jewish sages).
It seems criminal -- or criminally irresponsible -- to toss all of this aside as irrelevant so long as one simply has "faith." If it works for you, that's perfectly fine, but my concern is getting more people on board the cosmic bus, especially the secularists who might embrace the Message if it were presented in a way that doesn't strike them as stupid and/or insane. Most people need keys to unlock the Mystery. Just consider yourself particularly gifted if you are able to jump start your divine vehicle without them. I certainly couldn't.
Was the Church less than perfect in Luther's time? It was and always will be (and remember, I'm not speaking as a Catholic, just some guy). But one must balance this against the unholy hell that was unleashed with the Reformation, which, in my opinion, was much more about ethnicity and tribal hatred than it was theology.
I mean, really. People might say they're trying to brutalize each other over some subtle point of theology, but the psychologist in me regards this as pure pretext for the unleashing of the most barbarously savage impulses that the Church had miraculously kept in check up to that point. Many more people died in a year or two -- I don't have time to look up the exact figures, but probably even a good week -- of the religious wars than in the entire Inquisition.
But Luther insisted that there was no way to settle this dispute with words, only "by the sword": "to attack in arms these masters of perdition, these cardinals, these popes, and all this sink of the Roman Sodom" and to "wash our hands in their blood." But... wasn't Christ's blood sufficient?
And while science continued to develop from its Catholic roots in Protestant countries, this is no thanks to Luther, who "was an avowed enemy of reason" who "repudiated the tradition of natural law" -- not to mention the philosophy of Aristotle, whom he regarded as a "heathen and plague." If this intemperate man speaks for Jesus, how could such extremism not give a temperate man the Jesus Willies?
But as I said, this is not about me and especially not you, only about Borella and his ideas. But unfortunately, I'm now out of time, having blathered on for too long. In any event, I hope it goes without saying that no one is obligated to agree with me, and that contrary views are most welcome.