Sunday, February 5, 2012
Religious reformation: 16th century
I thought I would quickly post the information I collected from various websites about the religious reformation. It was the segment I presented on for our group's presentation this past week. CAUSES OF RELIGIOUS REFORMATION The Protestant Reformation had been building within the Catholic Church for 200 years. At the forefront was the discrepancy between a Church tasked with a spiritual mission of salvation and a Church of money, power, and influence. By the fifteenth century, the papacy had become unable to respond effectively to people's increased concerns about their salvation. Meanwhile, demand for reform in the church was spurred by the search for freedom of private religious expression, the print revolution, and northern humanist interest in the Bible and early Christianity. In response to the decline of papal moral authority, many lay Christians were drawn to new forms of worship, such as the Modern Devotion, which emphasized individual prayer and introspection. The Modern Devotion spread quickly due to the invention of the moveable type printing press, which made books affordable. Humanists, writers devoted to rediscovering the lost knowledge of the ancients, began to examine the sources of Christianity, not to criticize Christianity or the Church, but to improve the moral behavior of all Christians. These "Christian Humanists" were nonetheless often shaken by the discrepancy between what they read in the Bible and what they observed in the Church of their own time, even as they popularized the idea that biblical understanding could purify faith and combat corruption. MARTIN LUTHER’S CONTRIBUTION Martin Luther, a student of law, suffered a throw from a horse that shocked him into abandoning his professional career. Donning the garb of the monk, Luther pledged obedience to the Augustinian Order, where he continued his education, this time in theology, and went to Wittenberg to teach at the town's university. While there, Luther spent much time wrestling with the Church's dogma on penance, finally concluding that salvation came purely from God's grace, a gift unmerited. In other words, humans were incapable of performing good works alone...they needed the intercession of God. Therefore, the performance of good works was an outward proof of an individual's receipt of God's grace and salvation. Striving to finance the construction of the new St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Pope Leo X issued a special new indulgence to raise funds. An indulgence was a unique penance whereby a sinner could remove years of suffering in Purgatory from his soul by performing a good work (donating cash) here on earth. Leo's indulgence was audacious as it promises a one-time-only exemption from all previous sins for the payee (or departed relative). Some of Luther's students asked his advice on the indulgence, and in response he prepared in Latin ninety-five theses-arguments against the practice of indulgences that he was willing to debate in open forum. Luther had a few copies made and, according to Lutheran tradition, posted one on the doors of the Wittenberg Cathedral. There is no evidence that he actually posted the theses though this was the standard practice for debates at the time. According to the story, no one showed up to debate Luther, but he had drawn the attention of Rome and began to gather followers. His central argument: salvation could not be bought and sold. WHAT IS PROTESTANTISM? The Diversity of Protestantism The term "Protestant" eventually came to mean all western European Christians who refused to accept the authority of the pope. The Reformation in Switzerland Independent of the Holy Roman Emperor, local authorities in Switzerland were free to opt for religious reform without imperial opposition. The majority of the Swiss were peasants unable to farm the mountainous region. Their main supplement was working as professional soldiers of fortune, often for the pope. Zwingli's Zurich Ulrich Zwingli had served as chaplain with a detachment of Swiss mercenaries serving the pope. In 1520, Zurich was named the People's Priest of Zurich, a position from which he began to criticize his superior bishop for recruiting young Swiss men to die in the pope's armies. Undaunted by warnings from Rome, Zwingli called for general reformation of the Church, advocating the abolition of the roman Catholic mass, the marriage of priests, and the closing of monasteries. He emphasized the reading of the Scripture during services rather than the ritual of the Church and removed all painting and statues from the churches under his jurisdiction, calling them a distraction from God. Two features distinguish Zwinglian Reform from Lutheran Reform: one was Zwingli's desire to involve reformed ministers in governmental/secular decisions; the other was Zwingli's understanding of the nature of the Eucharist and the representation of bread as a symbol and not the physical body of Christ. Calvin's Geneva The generation following Luther and Zwingli saw the Reformation moving to the Swiss city of Geneva under the leadership of John Calvin. Calvinism eventually became the dominant form of Protestantism in France, the Netherlands, Scotland, and New England. Calvin's theology built upon that of Luther and Zwingli to their logical conclusions: the salvation of any individual by the grace of God would be logically predetermined or "predestined." Only the Elect could make sense of, and follow, the will of God. □□□The Reformation in Britain In the sixteenth century, the nation we know today as Britain was a loose collection of Wales, England, and Ireland. Scotland remained its own separate kingdom. The Tudor kings of England imposed the Reformation as policy, but were unable to influence the cultures of Ireland, which remained Catholic. Scotland wholeheartedly accepted the Reformation despite having a Catholic monarch. The Tudors and the English Reformation In 1527 King Henry VIII of England clashed with the Church of Rome. Henry wanted his marriage annulled in order to marry again and produce a son, but as Henry's first marriage had been granted a papal dispensation, to annul it would be to admit the papacy had made a mistake, so Pope Clement VII refused the requested annulment. The subsequent departure of England from the Catholic Church, while hardly a royal whim, was largely the work of the crown and a few top agents. Henry's Reformation could be called Catholicism without the pope, as Henry had virtually no interest in changing doctrine, but did seize personal control of the English church, and went on to close the monasteries and redistribute the monastic lands. The English Reformation was more about consolidating the power of the Tudor dynasty than any religious reform. As such, the official religion of England changed with each succeeding ruler of the Tudor house. Between 1559 and 1563, Elizabeth I (Henry's daughter, who succeeded Edward and Mary) issued her own set of moderately Protestant laws which established the Church of England (known as Episcopalian in the United States). Scotland: The Citadel of Calvinism Scotland, an independent kingdom at the time, embraced Calvinism with open arms with encouragement from England's Elizabeth. John Knox created the official liturgy for the Scottish church in 1564. The most significant difference from the Anglican Church was the Scottish Presbyterian system of organization, which did away with the episcopal bishops and placed decisions in the hands of pastors and church elders. □□□The Radical Reformation Magisterial reformers in Germany, Switzerland, England, and Scotland lived somewhat peacefully with official sanctions, usually at the cost of some compromise. Among their numbers were usually radical members who wanted the reforms of religion put in place faster. The number of radicals was low in comparison to all Protestants, but their significance was felt by local authorities continuously answering their arguments. Radicals can be divided into three categories: Anabaptists, Spiritualists, and Unitarians. Anabaptists: The Holy Community Anabaptism means "to rebaptize," and was a central doctrine to this group of radicals. Anabaptists saw the Bible as a living document for the operation of society as well as the church. They rejected infant baptism, believing only an informed adult could make a choice of accepting salvation. As a result, Anabaptist congregations contained only members that had made a conscientious choice to join the sect. They rejected private property and called for communal wealth within the highly disciplined "holy communities" in which they lived. Attempting to reorganize society along biblical lines drew a violent reaction from other Protestants, and the Anabaptists were forced underground to avoid prosecution. The Amish and the Mennonites are their surviving descendant sects. Spiritualists: The Holy Individual Personal introspection was the capstone of this Radical Reformation sect, which held that personal salvation came only as the result of divine intervention during intense prayer and meditation. The resulting spiritual illumination was referred to as "the inner Word." Spiritualists pursued a physical demeanor devoid of stress and cravings, a "castle of peace." Unitarians: A Rationalist Approach Christian theology is built upon the supposition that Jesus Christ was in fact God made into human flesh. The idea of the Trinity, the three identities of God, made this deification of Jesus possible for Christians. Unitarians and other smaller sects held that Jesus was a divinely inspired man but no god unto himself. Unitarians thought the Trinity went against common sense and had no biblical basis. Unitarians were viewed with hostility by other Protestants but were unwilling to compromise their beliefs. Conclusion: Competing Understandings The Reformation divided the West into two religious camps: Protestant and Catholic. The unity of religion that had been achieved through centuries of Church effort was obliterated within a generation, changing forever the nature of the relationship between clergy and laity.