Topic 12 the protestant reformation
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Topic 12 The Protestant Reformation. Began in 1517 with Luther’s “95 Theses.” Series of reform movements throughout Europe. Martin Luther (1483-1546) Led reform in Germany. Sparked movements all over Europe. Early life Education Planning law career. Became a monk instead.

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Topic 12 The Protestant Reformation

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Topic 12 The Protestant Reformation

  • Began in 1517 with Luther’s “95 Theses.”

  • Series of reform movements throughout Europe.


  • Martin Luther (1483-1546)

    • Led reform in Germany.

    • Sparked movements all over Europe.

  • Early life

    • Education

      • Planning law career.

      • Became a monk instead.

    • Monastery (1505-1511)

      • Spiritual struggle over guilt for sin.

      • Found no peace or sense of forgiveness.

    • University of Wittenberg (1512- )

      • Got doctorate in theology.

      • Lecturing on Psalms and Romans.

    • Conversion (“Tower experience”)

      • Romans 1:17 – “The just will live by faith.”

      • Key to gospel is faith – “justification by faith alone.”


  • Martin Luther – cont.

    • Reform

      • “The Ninety-Five Theses” (1517)

        • Nailed to church door in Wittenberg.

        • Challenged church to debate indulgences.

        • Indulgences – certificates of forgiveness of sins.

        • Sale of indulgences was promoted to raise money for rebuilding St. Peter’s basilica.

        • Luther: forgiveness is between believer and God; not in church’s power to sell.

        • Soon published all over Europe.

        • Mark’s beginning of Protestant Reformation.

      • Conflict with church

        • Debates between Luther and John Eck (1519) – most thought Luther won.

        • Begins challenging authority of pope (Leo X).

        • Winning popular support of German people.

        • Excommunicated (1520).


  • Martin Luther – cont.

    • Reform – cont.

      • Diet of Worms (1521)

        • Appeared before assembly of German princes.

        • Emperor demanded he recant his books and errors.

        • Famous “Here I stand” speech – refused to recant unless convinced by Scripture and reason.

      • Refuge at Wartburg Castle

        • “Kidnapped” and protected by prince Frederick.

        • Began German translation of NT.

        • Wrote in support of reforms.

        • Supporters began implementing reforms.

      • Return to Wittenberg (1522)

        • Took leadership; advocated gradual, gentle reforms.

        • Communion in both kinds; eliminated penance; revised Mass; new hymnal; etc.

        • Encouraged monks/nuns to marry.

        • Married Katherine von Bora (1525).


  • Martin Luther – cont.

    • Results of Luther’s work

      • “Lutheranism” had firm hold in Germany and Scandanavia.

        • After period of armed conflict, Peace of Augsburg gave each prince power to choose between Catholicism and Lutheranism.

        • Result was patchwork of Lutheran and Catholic states.

      • Luther also lit fuse that ignited other reform movements all over Europe.

    • Three basic principles of Protestantism (distinguishing from Catholicism):

      • Justification by faith alone

      • Authority of Scripture alone

      • Priesthood of all believers


  • Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) – reform in Zürich

    • Strong reforms based on supremacy of Scripture.

      • Humanist scholar; studied Greek NT systematically.

      • Eliminated any teaching or practice different from NT church; reforms went further than Luther’s.

      • Produced very simplified worship service – stripped of elaborate medieval liturgy and rituals.

    • Implemented through support of city council.

    • Symbolic view of Communion – differed with Catholics and Luther.

      • Catholic: Transubstantiation – elements are transformed into body and blood of Christ.

      • Luther: Consubstantiation – real, spiritual presence of Christ in the elements.

      • Zwingli: Symbolic view – Lord’s Supper is not sacramental; elements symbolically represent and remind us of Christ’s body and blood.


  • John Calvin (1509-64) – led reform in Geneva

    • Developed Zwingli’s work.

    • Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536)

      • First Protestant systematic theology.

      • Emphasizes sovereignty of God.

      • Person can do nothing toward own salvation.

      • Predestination: God “elects” from eternity those who will be saved.

    • Theocracy

      • Wrote laws adopted/enforced by city council.

      • Strict morality; “blue laws;” compulsory church attendance; etc.

    • Presbyterian church structure

      • Authority resides in local congregation – calls own pastor, etc.

      • Elects presbyters (elders) to regional synod.

      • Synod deals with matters beyond local level.

    • Influence – Geneva attracted Protestant refugees; took Calvinism back to their homelands.

      • France/Holland – Reformed churches

      • Scotland – Presbyterian churches

      • England – Puritan movement

      • America – Pilgrims; Congregationalist churches


  • English Reformation

    • Henry VIII (1509-47)

      • Needed male heir; wanted to annul marriage to Catherine.

      • Declared Church of England independent (1534).

      • Appointed Thomas Cranmer Archbishop of Canterbury.

    • Edward VI (1547-53)

      • Real reforms led by Thomas Cranmer.

      • Worship in English; simplified liturgies.

    • Mary Tudor (1553-58)

      • Returned to Catholicism.

      • Persecuted Protestants – many executed (Cranmer).

      • Many fled to Geneva; influenced by Calvinism.

    • Elizabeth I (1558-1603)

      • Ousted the Roman Catholics.

      • Established Church of England as via media (“middle way”).

      • Neither Protestant nor Catholic – compromise with elements of both.

    • Influence – churches called Anglican or Episcopal.


Menno Simons

  • The Anabaptists (“Radical Reformation”)

    • Main distinctive is “believer’s baptism.”

      • Personal faith commitment is necessary before baptism.

      • Infant baptism doesn’t count.

      • 1525 – group out of Zwingli’s church baptized one another.

      • Became known as “anabaptists” = “rebaptizers.”

      • Used pouring – not immersion.

    • Persecuted by Catholics and other Protestants.

    • Concept of “gathered church.”

      • Membership not automatic by birth.

      • Requires personal faith experience.

    • Strong emphasis on “discipleship.”

      • Importance of following Jesus’ teaching, esp. Sermon on Mount.

      • Pacifism; no oaths – refused to bear arms or hold office.

    • Advocated “separation of church and state.”

    • Influence – Mennonites; Brethren; Hutterites; Amish.


F.Catholic “Counter-Reformation”

  • Society of Jesus (Jesuits)

    • Monastic order founded by Ignatius of Loyola (1540).

    • Intensely loyal to the pope.

    • Used education and missions to counter Protestantism.

  • Council of Trent (1545-63)

    • Moral and administrative reforms.

    • Rejected key Protestant ideas.

    • Reaffirmed traditional Catholic doctrines:

      • Scripture and church tradition have equal authority.

      • Latin Vulgate is official Bible; church is its authoritative interpreter.

      • Seven sacraments administered by church are means of grace.

      • Justification is by faith and works.

      • Upheld authority of pope; transubstantiation; Mass in Latin; clerical celibacy.

    • Sealed break with Protestantism.


  • Three Main Branches of Christianity:

    • Eastern Orthodoxy

    • Roman Catholicism

    • Protestantism (Lutheran; Calvinist; Anglican; Anabaptist; etc.)


Luther at Diet of Worms (1521)

Asked to renounce his errors, Luther replied:

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason —I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other— my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.”

Return to lecture

By some accounts, he then added:

“Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”


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