Religion is a predominant force in our world today. It also had a strong impact on the lives of those alive during the Protestant Reformation. Many changes were brought along by this historical chain of events.
Recently, many incidents have occurred to change the way people view religion. Examples include the Holocaust and, more recently, the Branch-Davidians in Waco, Texas. Even a more spectacular event in history occurred when a group of people decided that just because everyone around them had said it was so, that did not mean that they should blindly follow this idea. The Reformation was led in three different countries by three different men who varied in the reasons for their country’s need for reformation.
The Reformation was an attempt to recover a lost golden age of primitive purity as set forth in the Bible. This search for the primitive purity led to some very impure acts by some on the quest to regain this cleanliness (Gonzalez 31).
The origin of the word “Protestant” roots back to an event that took place nearly a half-millennium ago in April of 1529. At an assembly of political and religious leaders, a protest was read against the accustomed traditions of Roman Catholicism. The protesters, who consisted of fourteen free German cities and six Lutheran princes, read their complaint to those in attendance at the assembly known as the Diet of Speyer. The assembly itself contained Roman Catholic princes of Germany and the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. The challengers of the previously untouchable Catholic dogmas stated that if they were forced to choose between obedience to God and obedience to Caesar, they would unanimously choose in favor of God (Gottfried 4). The Diet was not delighted to hear such slander against everything their country stood for. This milestone of rebellion in religion furnished the name, Protestants, to those gathered there to protest (Gottfried 4).
Although the protesters did not immediately welcome this new label placed upon them, their enemies did (Gottfried 4). The protesters main foe became the Roman Catholic Church, which in turn declared all those who claimed to be Christian, but opposed Catholicism, as Protestants. This declaration included the protesters, Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and other denominations.
Commencement of the Reformation was spearheaded by a German monk, Martin Luther (Rosten 9). Born in 1483 in Eisleben, Martin Luther began his schooling in Magdeburg. Although he led a very strict childhood, his parents used this rigid boarding only as positive re-enforcement (Backman 19). Martin Luther was brought up to believe in superstition mixed with Christianity, which led to his more liberal interpretation of the Bible (Backman 19). After his initial schooling, he went on to study in many different universities across Germany. During one of his daily travels, Martin was thrown to the ground when a bolt of lightning struck near him. He interpreted this as a sign from God. At that instance, he declared that he would give up his schooling and become a monk.
As a monk, Martin Luther led a very expected solitary life (Backman 22). He devoted himself to endless hours of contemplation of religion and the fundamental workings of all aspects of Catholicism. Nevertheless, the hours of constant meditation and study of the Bible led him to find flaws in the papal doctrine of that day. A loyal member of the Catholic Church, he was later to shatter the structure of the medieval Catholicism. A devoted servant of the Pope, he later related the popes with the Antichrist (Gottfried 10).
Many of Martin Luther’s followers proclaimed him to be a prophet of the new era. Some went as far as to compare him to Moses because he reformed the culture of the religious world just as Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt (Backman 20).
After Martin Luther, there came a man from France who would take the Reformation to the next plateau (Green 49). Born in 1509 in Picardy, France, John Calvin was the fourth son of the secretary to the chapter of the Noyon Cathedral. Calvin was given many excellent schooling opportunities because he was friends with a family that was relatives of the bishop of Noyon (Green 52). Later, Calvin attended college in Noyon. His father had predetermined that John would enter the priesthood. With this decision in mind, John’s father sent him to the University of Paris. When his father died in 1531, Calvin completed a doctorate of law and began to turn his attention to religion. His conversion to the ways of the Protestants occurred when God transformed Calvin into an uncompromising Protestant (Green 53).
John Calvin contributed to the Protestant Reformation in that he used Luther’s basic ideas to spread the account that Catholicism was not the only way to worship God (Hillerbrand 13). Calvin used Luther’s elemental objective for the Reformation in that just because an idea has become accepted, it should not always be trusted to be true (Hillerbrand 13). He took Luther’s proposal one step further when he not only broke off from the Catholic church, but he also detached himself from Protestantism forming his own denomination known as Calvinism. John Calvin became like one of the disciples who knew the truth of Jesus Christ, and related the account to the rest of the world (Jackson 3).
Twentieth century Europe has an imprint of Reformation. Italy, France, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, the south of Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and parts of the Balkans in eastern Europe have continued to be mostly Catholic. The rest, Scandinavia, England, Scotland, Switzerland, the north and east of Germany, and parts of Eastern Europe have largely remained Protestant.
The Protestant Reformation has affected the lives of those alive during this time period. Many religions have been started from the Reformation. It has also impacted the lives of millions of people today.