OVERVIEW OF THE PROTESTANT
-The Protestant Reformation was the religious movement that occurred in the sixteenth century.
-Two of its most remarkable leaders were undeniably Martin Luther and John Calvin.
-Having political, economic, and social consequences with an enormous influence, the Reformation laid the foundation for
Protestantism, which became one of the three biggest branches of Christianity, together with Catholicism (with which it shares a
number of common beliefs) and Eastern Orthodoxy.
CAUSES OF THE PROTESTANT
-The world of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, of which the
sixteenth century reformers were members, was a difficult one.
-The church, in particular in the office of the papacy, played an
increasingly larger role in the political life of Western Europe.
-One of the causes of the insolvency of the church as a divine force was
the ensuing trickeries and political managements, combined with the
increasing authority and wealth of the church.
-The church’s spiritual power was challenged by abuses including the
selling of indulgences (or spiritual freedoms) by the clerics and other
charges of corruption.
-Nevertheless, without regard to how much they were played up by
orators, these cases must be understood as exceptions.
-To most people of sixteenth century Europe, the church still provided
-Despite proof of anticlericalism, the church on the whole benefited from
devotion as it always had.
-One development is obvious: the political authorities gradually tried to
limit the church’s public role, which caused tension.
NINETY-FIVE THESES: BEGINNING OF THE
-The Reformation of the 16th century was not unparalleled.
-Reformers within the medieval church, including St. Francis of
Assisi, Valdes (founder of the Waldensians), Jan Hus, and John
Wycliffe addressed aspects of in the life of the church in the
centuries prior to 1517.
-Erasmus of Rotterdam, a great humanist academic, was, in the
sixteenth century, the main advocate of liberal Catholic reform
that criticized popular misconceptions in the church, desiring the
imitation of Christ as the highest moral teacher.
-Such figures disclose a continuing worry for renewal within the
church in the years prior to October 31, 1517, the eve of All
Saints’ Day, when Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses on
the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg; this date is
traditionally the day that started the Reformation.
LUTHER’S CRITICISMS OF THE
-Luther asserted that what made him different from reformers before him was that whereas they criticized corruption in the life
of the church, he examined the scriptural origin of the problem- the distortion of the church’s principle of redemption and
-Luther, himself a professor, theologian, and professor at the University of Wittenberg, condemned the predicament of God’s
free gift of grace in a complicated system of indulgences and good works.
-In his Ninety-Five Theses, Luther condemned the practice of indulgences, and suggested that the pope did not exercise power
over purgatory and that the doctrine of the importance of the saints did not have a basis in the gospels.
-It was here where Luther’s concerns with the moral and religious reform of the church originated: Scripture itself is
authoritative (sola sciptura) and reasoning is by faith (sola fide) rather than by works.
-Despite having no intention of breaking with the Catholic Church, Luther, over his criticisms, found himself in a conflict with
-Luther refused to recant his writings, and the conflict with Pope Leo X led to Luther’s excommunication in January 1521.
-What started as an inner reform movement became a fracture in Western Christendom.
-The Reformation movement within Germany expanded just about
instantly, and other reform instincts began independently of
-Huldrych Zwingli established a Christian theocracy in Zürich,
where church and state joined for the service of God.
-While Zwingli shared Luther’s belief in the importance of the
principle of justification by faith, he showed a different
understanding of the Holy Communion.
-Luther dismissed the Catholic Church’s principle of conversion,
which asserts that the bread and wine in Holy Communion are the
true body and blood of Christ.
-According to Luther’s view, Christ’s body physically exists in the
elements because Christ is present everywhere.
-Zwingli asserted that there was a divine occurrence of Christ and
an affirmation of faith by the receiver.
-Another group of reformers, frequently (but not altogether)
correctly known as “radical reformers”, suggested that baptism be
carried out on adults who professed their love for Christ and not
-Known as Anabaptists, they remained a minimal phenomenon
throughout the sixteenth century, but still survived- in spite of
violent persecution- as Mennonites and Hutterites into the twenty-
-Opponents of the old Trinitarian creed, known as the Socinians
(after the name of their founder, Fausto Sozzini), founded
flourishing congregations, particularly in Poland.
-Calvinism (also known as the Reformed tradition or the Reformed faith),
named for the French lawyer, theologian, and pastor who escaped
persecution of the Protestants in France after he converted to the
Protestant cause, John Calvin, is another important branch of
Protestantism (as those demonstrationing against their oppressions were
designated by the Diet of Speyer in 1529).
-In 1536, Calvin brought out the first issue of his Institutes of the
Christian Religion (Institutio Christianae religionis), the first methodical
theological dissertation of the new reform movement, in Basel,
-Calvin was in understanding with Luther’s teaching on justification
through faith, but he found a more favorable place for law place for law
within Christianity than Luther did.
-Calvin was even able to test his model of an ordered community of the
elect in Geneva.
-He also emphasized the principle of destiny and understood Holy
Communion as a mystical sharing of the body and blood of Christ.
-Calvin’s tradition later merged into Huldrych Zwingli’s into the Reformed
tradition, which was granted theological expression from the second
Helvetic Confession in 1561.
SPREAD OF THE REFORMATION
-During the course of the sixteenth century, the Reformation expanded
to other parts of Europe.
-Lutheranism, as the teachings and doctrines of Luther are called,
became the dominant faith of Northern Europe.
-Eastern Europe gave safety to even more radical groups of Protestantism
because kings were weak, nobles were tough, and there were few cities;
religious pluralism had also been around for a long time.
-Catholic majority countries such as Spain and Italy were important
midpoints of the Counter Reformation (the time of Catholic revival
starting with the Council of Trent of 1545-1563 and ending with the end
of the Thirty Years’ War in 1648 that was organized by the Catholic
Church in reaction to the Protestant Reformation; shown in the map,
opposite), and Protestantism never became a stronghold in either
THE REFORMATION IN ENGLAND
-The origins of the Reformation in England were both political and
-Henry VIII, enraged that Pope Clement VII denied him an end to his
marriage, rejected papal authority, establishing the Anglican church in
1534 with the king as the supreme head.
-Despite its political allegations, the church’s reform allowed for the start
of religious change in England, including the groundwork of a church
service in English, the Book of Common Prayer.
-In Scotland, John Knox, who made a visit to Geneva and was significantly
inspired by John Calvin, presided over the establishment of
Presbyterianism, which later formed the union of Scotland with England.
MODERN DAY EUROPE
-Blue: Roman Catholic
-Purple: Protestant (Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican)
-Red: Eastern Orthodox
-Green: Sunni Islam
IMPACT OF THE REFORMATION
-The impact of the Protestant Reformation brought about a
change to religious beliefs, practices, culture, and society of
Christians in Europe.
The Protestant Reformation divided Christians and restructured
Europe’s political and religious aspects.
The Protestant Reformation questioned the power of the Catholic
Popes over provincial leaders.
Kings won absolute power over their kingdoms.
The Protestant Reformation also caused anti-authoritarianism,
which resulted in dislike of the Medieval Feudal System and the
authority of the Feudal Lords and a liking for government by the
The Protestant Reformation developed modern theories of
-Today, Protestantism remains the third biggest branch of Christianity,
practiced mostly in Scandinavia, two of the three Baltic states (Estonia and
Latvia), most of Germany (only Bavaria, the Rhineland, and Baden are
mainly Catholic), part of the former Czechoslovakia (not displayed on the
map, opposite), part of Hungary, the Szeklerland (Romania) part of the
Netherlands, part of Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (includes
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