Chapter 14 - Reform and Renewal in the Christian Church

    The condition of the church (ca. 1400-1517)

    1. The declining prestige of the church
      1. The Babylonian Captivity and the Great Schism damaged the church's prestige.
      2. Secular humanists satirized and denounced moral corruption within the church.
    2. Signs of disorder in the early sixteenth century
      1. The parish clergy brought spiritual help to the people.
      2. Critics of the church wanted moral and administrative reform in three areas.
        1. Clerical immorality (neglect of celibacy, drunkenness, gambling) created a scandal.
        2. The lack of education of the clergy and law standards of ordination were condemned by Christian humanists.
        3. The absenteeism, pluralism (holding of several benefices, or offices), and wealth of the greater clergy bore little resemblance to the Christian gospel.
      3. The prelates and popes of the period, often members of the nobility, lived in splendor and moral corruption.
    3. Signs of vitality in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries
      1. Sixteenthcentury Europe remained deeply religious, and calls for reform testify to the spiritual vitality of the church.
      2. New organizations were formed to educate and minister to the poor.
        1. The Brethren of the Common Life in Holland lived simply and sought to make religion a personal, inner experience based on following the scriptures.
        2. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis urged Christians to seek perfection in a simple way of life.
      3. Pope Julius II summoned an ecumenical council on reform in the church called the Lateran Council (1512-1527).

    Martin Luther and the birth of Protestantism

    1. Luther's early years
      1. Luther was a German monk and professor of religion whose search for salvation led him to the letters of St. Paul.
      2. He concluded that faith was central to Christianity and the only means of salvation.
    2. Luther's Ninetyfive Theses (October 1517)
      1. Luther's opposition to the sale of indulgences (remissions of penalties for sin) prompted his fight with Rome.
      2. His Ninetyfive Theses, or propositions on indulgences, raised many theological issues and initiated a long period of debate in Europe.
        1. Luther rejected the idea that salvation could be achieved by good works, such as indulgences.
        2. An indulgence was a release from the penalties to be paid for sin.
        3. He also criticized papal wealth.
      3. Luther later denied the authority of the pope and was excommunicated and declared an outlaw by Charles V at Worms in 1521.
      4. Meanwhile, Ulrich Zwingli introduced the reformation in Switzerland.
        1. He believed in the supremacy of Scripture, and was opposed to indulgences, the Mass, monasticism, and clerical celibacy.
    3. Protestant thought
      1. The basic theological tenets of Protestantism were set forth in the Confession of Augsburg, in which Luther provided new answers to four basic theological issues.
        1. He believed that salvation derived through faith alone, not faith and good works.
        2. He stated that religious authority rests with the Bible, not the pope.
        3. He believed that the church consists of the entire community of Christian believers.
        4. And he believed that all work is sacred and everyone should serve God in his or her individual vocation.
        5. In addition, he believed that every believer was his/her own priest.
        6. Catholics believed in transubstantiation, Luther in consubstantiation, and Zwingli in the Sacrament as a memorial only.
      2. Protestantism, therefore, was a reformulation of Christian beliefs and practices.

    The social impact of Luther's beliefs

    1. By 1521 Luther's religious ideas had a vast following among all social classes.
      1. Luther's ideas were popular because of widespread resentment of clerical privileges and wealth.
      2. Luther's ideas attracted many preachers, and they became Protestant leaders.
      3. Peasants cited Luther's theology as part of their demands for social and economic reforms.
        1. Peasant complaints about landlord seizure of village land and over crop failure led to revolts--which Luther initially supported.
        2. In the end, Luther did not support the peasants' revolts; he believed in obedience to civil authority.
        3. Widespread peasant revolts in 1525 were brutally crushed, but some land was returned to common use.
      4. Luther's greatest weapon was his mastery of the language, and his words were spread by the advent of printing.
        1. Zwingli and Calvin were greatly influenced by his writings.
        2. The publication of Luther's German translation of the New Testament in 1523 democratized religion.
        3. Catechisms and hymns enabled people, especially the young, to remember central points of doctrine.
    2. Luther's impact on women
      1. Luther gave dignity to domestic work, stressed the idea of marriage and the Christian home, ended confession, and encouraged education for girls.
      2. Luther held enlightened views on sex and marriage, although he claimed that women should be no more than efficient wives.

    Germany and the Protestant Reformation

    1. The Holy Roman Empire in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
      1. The Golden Bull of 1356 gave each of the seven electors virtual sovereignty.
      2. Localism and chronic disorder allowed the nobility to strengthen their territories and reduced the authority of the emperor.
    2. The rise of the Habsburg dynasty
      1. The Habsburgs gave unity to much of Europe, especially with the marriage of Maximilian I of Austria and Mary of Burgundy in 1477.
      2. Charles V, their grandson, inherited much of Europe and was committed to the idea of its religious and political unity.
    3. The political impact of Luther's beliefs
      1. The Protestant Reformation stirred nationalistic feelings in Germany against the wealthy Italian papacy.
      2. Luther's appeal to patriotism earned him the support of the princes, who used religion as a means of gaining more political independence and preventing the flow of German money to Rome.
      3. The Protestant movement proved to be a political disaster for Germany.
        1. The dynastic HabsburgValois wars advanced the cause of Protestantism and promoted the political fragmentation of Germany.
        2. By the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, Charles recognized Lutheranism as a legal religion and each prince was permitted to determine the religion of his territory.

    The growth of the Protestant Reformation

    1. By 1555 much of northern Europe had broken with the Roman Catholic Church, but Protestantism was fragmented.
    2. Calvinism
      1. Calvin believed that God selects certain people to do his work and that he was selected to reform the church.
      2. Under John Calvin, Geneva became "a city that was a church" (a theocracy), in which the state was subordinate to the church.
      3. Calvin's central ideas, expressed in The Institutes of Christian Religion, were his belief in the omnipotence of God, the insignificance of humanity, and predestination.
      4. Austere living and intolerance of dissenters characterized Calvin's Geneva.
        1. The Genevan Consistory monitored the private morals of citizens.
        2. Michael Servetus was burned at the stake for denying the Christian dogma of the Trinity and rejecting child baptism.
        3. Calvinists did not view women much differently than Catholics: women were to be obedient to their husbands--and unmarried women were upsetting the natural order.
      5. The city of Geneva was the model for international Protestantism, and Calvinism, with its emphasis on the work ethic, became the most dynamic and influential form of Protestantism.
    3. The Anabaptists
      1. This Protestant sect believed in adult baptism, revelation, religious tolerance, pacifism, and the separation of church and state.
      2. Their beliefs and practices were too radical for the times, and they were bitterly persecuted.
        1. Later, the Quakers, the Baptists, and the Congregationalists would trace their origins to the Anabaptists.
    4. The English Reformation
      1. The Lollards, although driven underground in the fifteenth century, survived and stressed the idea of a direct relationship between the individual and God.
      2. The English humanist William Tyndale began printing an English translation of the New Testament in 1525.
      3. The wealth and corruption of the clergy, as exemplified by Thomas Wolsey, stirred much resentment.
      4. Henry VIII desired a divorce from his queen, Catherine, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, so he could marry Anne Boleyn.
      5. Pope Clement VII (who did not wish to admit papal error) refused to annul Henry's marriage to Catherine.
      6. Archbishop Cranmer, however, engineered the divorce.
      7. The result was the nationalization of the English church and a break with Rome as Henry used Parliament to legalize the Reformation.
        1. Henry needed money, so he dissolved the monasteries and confiscated their lands, but this did not lead to more equal land distribution.
        2. Some traditional Catholic practices, such as confession and the doctrine of transubstantiation, were maintained.
        3. Nationalization of the church led to changes in governmental administration, resulting in greater efficiency and economy.
      8. Under Edward VI, Henry's heir, England shifted closer to Protestantism.
      9. Mary Tudor attempted to bring Catholicism back to England.
      10. Under Elizabeth I, a religious settlement requiring outward conformity to the Church of England was made.
    5. The establishment of the Church of Scotland
      1. Scotland was an extreme case of clerical abuse and corruption.
      2. John Knox brought Calvinism to Scotland from Geneva.
      3. The Presbyterian church became the national church of Scotland.
    6. Protestantism in Ireland
      1. The English ruling class in Ireland adopted the new faith.
      2. Most of the Irish people defiantly remained Catholic.
    7. Lutheranism in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark
      1. In Sweden, Norway, and Denmark the monarchy led the religious reformation.
      2. The result was Lutheran state churches.

    The Catholic and the CounterReformations

    1. There were two types of reform within the Catholic church in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
      1. The Catholic Reformation sought to stimulate a new religious fervor.
      2. The CounterReformation started in the 1540s as a reaction to Protestantism and progressed simultaneously with the Catholic Reformation.
    2. The slowness of institutional reform
      1. Too often the popes were preoccupied with politics or sensual pleasures.
      2. Popes resisted calls for the formation of a general council because it would limit their authority.
    3. The Council of Trent
      1. Pope Paul III called the Council of Trent (1545-1563).
        1. An attempt to reconcile with the Protestants failed.
        2. International politics hindered the theological debates.
      2. Nonetheless, the principle of papal authority was maintained, considerable reform was undertaken, and the spiritual renewal of the church was begun.
        1. Tridentine decrees forbade the sale of indulgences and outlawed pluralism and simony.
        2. Attempts were made to curb clerical immorality and to encourage education.
        3. Great emphasis was placed on preaching.
    4. New religious orders
      1. The Ursuline order of nuns gained enormous prestige for the education of women.
        1. The Ursulines sought to reChristianize society by training future wives and mothers.
        2. The Ursulines spread to France and North America.
      2. The Society of Jesus played a strong international role in resisting Protestantism.
        1. Obedience was the foundation of the Jesuit tradition.
        2. With their schools, political influence, and missionary work, they brought many people into the Catholic fold.
    5. The Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office
      1. This group, established by Pope Paul III in 1542, carried out the Roman Inquisition as a way to combat heresy.
      2. It had the power to arrest, imprison, and execute, but its influence was confined to papal territories.

    The reformations: revolution or continuity?

    1. Recent scholarship argues that the reformations constituted both continuity and radical discontinuity.
      1. Protestantism rejected the status quo in that it rejected the authority of the Roman Catholic papacy. Now there were many Christian churches--Protestantism meant fragmentation and, to some, "modernity."
      2. Others, mainly students of the Catholic church, interpret the reformations in terms of continuity, as the church itself was engaged in reform prior to and after Luther's actions.


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