Paradox strikes again in the second event. The chief enemies of the Jansenists had been the Jesuits, or Society of Jesus. Yet in what should have been their hour of triumph, disaster befell the Jesuit order. Too many people, both ordinary Roman Catholics and powerful figures, had become both disenchanted and alarmed by Jesuit tactics, intrigues, undue power, and apparently conspiratorial influence. Hardly, then, had the Jesuits won their long duel with Jansenism when they themselves fell from favor in spectacular fashion. They were suppressed in France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Hungary, and elsewhere in a series of clampdowns from 1759 to 1782. The most bitter pill for the Jesuits, the “shock troops of the papacy” as they have been nicknamed, was when the papacy itself turned on them in 1773, and Pope Clement XIV abolished the Jesuit order.
It was only after the Europe-wide trauma of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars (ending in 1815) that the Jesuits were reestablished. A newly conservative European order, reacting against the perceived perils of revolutionary democracy unleashed in France in 1789, welcomed the Jesuits back as allies of Christian politics and morals against the forces of secular radicalism.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Orthodox world was undergoing its own trials and tribulations. With its ancient heartlands now under Islamic domination, the banner of free Orthodoxy flew proudly in the hands of vast, mighty Russia. However, Russia’s czar in the last decades of the seventh century and the first decades of the eighteenth was the formidable Peter the Great (reigned 1682–1725). Peter became enamored of most things Western, and he harnessed the powerful machinery of the Russian state to “modernize” (Westernize) his empire. For the Russian Orthodox Church, this meant the loss of its autonomy. The office of patriarch of Moscow was abolished in 1721 after lying vacant for twenty years. Peter replaced it with a body called “the Holy Synod.” Modeled on Lutheran forms of church polity, it had ten (later twelve) members, all appointed by Peter and whom he could also dismiss at will. The synod’s presiding officer was a lay procurator, a position that evolved into a very powerful official who ensured that the church was submissive to the czarist state. At the same time, a somewhat Lutheran-leaning theology began to circulate in the Russian church. The systematic theology of Platon Levshin, Moscow’s metropolitan (archbishop) from 1775 to 1812, is little different from a Lutheran treatise.
Machines and Music
One last word on the eighteenth century—another paradox. On the one side, it was the century that witnessed the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution—the birth of the machine age, with all its transforming impact on technology, society, and human thought patterns.
On the other side, the same “century of the machine” witnessed an outpouring of creative musical genius perhaps unsurpassed in history. Composers including Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), George Frideric Handel (1685–1759), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–91), Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), and Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) ensured that music would never quite be the same again. Many of their works are explicitly Christian in nature and have provided spiritual as well as aesthetic inspiration to millions. Karl Barth captured this in a beautiful if half-humorous saying: “When the angels play music for God, they play Bach. When they play for themselves, they play Mozart.”