Type of paper: Term Paper

Topic: Religion, Church, Christians, Europe, Reformation, Martin Luther King, Politics, God

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2021/02/27

Religious studies

Reformation - a broad religious and socio-political movement in Western and Central Europe in XVI - early XVII centuries, aimed at reforming the Catholic Christianity according to the Bible. Its beginning is considered to be the performance of the doctor of theology Martin Luther at Wittenberg University: in October 31, 1517 he nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church his "95 Theses", which opposed the existing abuses of the Catholic Church, in particular the sale of indulgences. The end of the Reformation is considered by historians signing the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 by results of which the religious factor has ceased to play a significant role in European politics. Protestantism was spread throughout Europe in the creeds of followers of Luther (Lutheran), Calvin (Calvinism), "Zwickau prophets" (Anabaptist), Ulrich Zwingli (Zwinglianism) and Anglicanism.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the church played an important role in society, perfectly fitting into the dominant in the West feudal system. Being the great feudal lord, the church in different countries of Western Europe had to 1/3 the amount of the cultivated land, at which it used the labor of serfs, using the same methods and techniques that secular lords used. Thus usurping the ready-made forms of feudal society, receiving from them countless benefits as an organization, at the same time the Church has formed the ideology of feudal society, putting its task the substantiation of regularities, justice and godliness of this society. Monarchs of Europe, in turn, went to any costs in order to get the higher sanction from clergy for their rule.
Feudal Catholic Church, the former ideological sanction of the medieval society, could exist and prosper as long as it was dominated by the material basis - feudal system. But in the XIV-XV centuries, first in central Italy and Flanders, and in the end of the XV century and throughout Europe began the formation of a new class, gradually capturing the economy in their hands, and then rushing to political hegemony - the bourgeois class. New class, having a claim to supremacy, was needed a new ideology. Actually, it was not so new: bourgeoisie was not going to give up Christianity, but it did not need Christianity, which served the old world; the new religion was different from Catholicism primarily by simplicity and cheapness: mercantile bourgeoisie needed money not to build the majestic cathedral and organize magnificent church services, but putting them into production, create and multiply their increasing enterprises. And in accordance with this becomes not only unnecessary, but also simply harmful an entire organization of expensive Church with its pope, cardinals, bishops, monasteries and church lands.
In those states where there was a strong royal power, which went towards the national bourgeoisie (for example, in England or France), the Catholic Church by special decrees was limited in its claims and that for the time saved from destruction. In Germany, for example, where the central government was illusive and the papal curia had the opportunity to host as in their own backyards, the Catholic Church, with its endless exactions and extortions aroused widespread hatred and indecent behavior of high priests repeatedly intensified that hatred. In addition to the economic and national oppression a prerequisite for the Reformation served humanism and changed intellectual environment in Europe. Critical spirit of the Renaissance allowed for a fresh look at all the phenomena of culture, including religion. Renaissance focus on individuality and personal responsibility helped to critically examine the structure of the church, having carried out a kind of revisionism, and the fashion of the ancient manuscripts and original sources drew people's attention to the discrepancy between early Christianity and the modern church. People with an awakened mind and worldly outlook became critically disposed to religious life of their time in the face of the Catholic Church.
In October 31, 1517 Augustinian monk, professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg in Saxony (Germany), Martin Luther put at the door of the local church his 95 Theses directed against sale of indulgences. The original intention of Martin Luther did not go beyond the organization of ordinary theological dispute. But his act in a tense situation "feudal reaction" aggravated the complex set of economic, social and political contradictions in the late medieval German society, it was the starting point of mass reform movement, first in Germany and then in other Western European countries undergoing similar in origin, historical processes. Orthodox Catholic doctrine of salvation of immortal human soul by finding in the church one way or another particle of "divine grace", Martin Luther opposed his concept by "justification by faith." According to this a person reaches salvation not due to formal participation in church ceremonies and, moreover, not by material offerings to the Church, but as a result of his purely personal and sincere faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, a faith that throughout the course of life of a Christian should hourly be confirmed by his godly way of life. In the religious doctrine of Martin Luther everyday labor activity of the individual acquired the value of the highest spiritual value and the human personality rose to the possibility of establishing a completely personal relationship with God, without any mediation by the church.
Most of the German peasantry, suffering from a "feudal reaction", and from the first manifestations of the process of the so-called "Original" accumulation of capital, as well as a significant part of the urban plebs, lost in the new economic conditions the former but relatively stable social status, perceived performance of Martin Luther as a call to the beginning of struggle against all forms of exploitation for the creation of a society of absolute justice. Expression of the ideals of "peasant and plebeian" trend in the reformation movement was Thomas Munzer calling for the immediate creation based on the commonality of all properties "the kingdom of God on earth." Threat to all forms of ownership, coming from Munzer primitive communist ideology, ultimately led to the unity of all proprietary segments of the population of Germany.
In the 20-ies of XVI century Lutheran social base has expanded considerably. Implacable hostility of reformers to supranational Catholicism, as well as the idea of Martin Luther of the power of secular authorities in solving worldly affairs long attracted those of German nobles and princes who were burdened by the secular power of the Catholic Church in their country, they even thought about the secularization of church property and seeked to strengthen the princely absolute power in Germany, by diminishing emperor’s power of so-called multinational "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation". The joint struggle against the common enemy in the suppression of peasant and plebeian movement led to emergence in Germany of the socio-political alliance of the burghers and nobles on basis of Lutheran ideology, led by princes who accepted the Reformation, which was named "burgher-princely" direction of the Reformation movement. As a result of its appearance to the mid-30s of XVI century Lutheranism was approved as the dominant religion not only in a number of major urban centers, but also throughout the principalities of the north-eastern Germany.
Already in the 20-30-ies of XVI century, originated in Germany the Reform Movement penetrates in France, covers the Netherlands, spreads in the countries of Central and Northern Europe. The Reformation was used by the sovereigns of the Scandinavian countries to suppress the aristocratic opposition and completion of the process of political centralization. With the support of the nobility, the burghers and prosperous peasants, Gustav I Vasa (1523-1560) in 1527 started church reform on the Lutheran model in Sweden. King Christian III (1533-1559), defeating the nobles in the Civil War, in 1536 implemented the Lutheran Reformation in Denmark and in the 1537-1539 extended it to subservient Norway and Iceland. Not Lutheran variant of this "royal" in the direction of the Reform Movement was transformations, which begun in 1534 by the British Parliament, which declared the absolutist King Henry VIII Tudor the head independent of Rome state "Anglican" church. Catholic monasteries were closed, their property passed into the ownership of the royal treasury. This limitation of the Reformation did not satisfy many people, and they were fighting for the continuation of the Reformation.
During the 1524-1536 Geneva was the scene of acute social and political struggles that took the form of clashes of supporters and opponents of the Reformation. In 1536, the City Council took the decision to adopt Protestant Reformation and commissioned Reformation transformations to the preacher Guillaume Farel (1489-1565). Shortly thereafter, in Geneva for a short time stopped during his journey a native of the French province Picardy John Calvin (1509-1564). Studying at the provincial and metropolitan universities in France, J. Calvin perceived ideas of the Reformation and joined its supporters. Based on the idea of the omnipotence of God, the Geneva Reformer argued that terrestrial fate of all who dwell in the world of people, as well as the fate of their immortal souls in the other world have been predetermined by God "even before they made anything good or bad" and therefore do not depend on human will, which is nothing compared to God. According to its inscrutable providence God divided the people into two unequal groups: most of them are condemned to eternal damnation and torment, less - predestined to salvation favorites. Man is not only unable to make any changes to this absolute divine predestination, but can not even comprehend it clearly. According to his earthly life a person must work conscientiously, not to seek comfort and pleasure, be conscientious and accumulate money. If a person has an opportunity to make a profit and he does not use it, it will be a great sin. If Catholicism considered wealth as a sin, then Calvin, by contrast, gave it a sign of God's blessing. Calvin justified usury, considered possible the existence of slavery, which was gaining strength in the colonies. Despite these extremes, Calvinism in general, corresponded to the needs of the formation of a new society. Views of Calvin have spread from Geneva to the countries where they began to develop market relations, and they became the basis of the ideology of "business man" of modern times.
Founded on the principles of election, the Calvinist church - the community had no permanent hierarchically organized governing structures, denied a magnificent religious cult and expensive rituals and was therefore ideal for the bourgeoisie the so-called era of capital accumulation, model of "cheap church." Calvinist Church - the community was separated from the state by the voluntary associations of equal before God and the law (and therefore between each other) Christians who were guided in their religious activities exclusively by personal faith. One should keep in mind that the European reformers in general and Calvin in particular identified the concept of "faith" and "conscience" and considered it as a God-given, and therefore the most valuable inalienable individual spiritual state of a person. That is why, recognizing the God-instituted nature of the state and its unquestionable authority in solving worldly affairs, they most emphatically rejected the slightest encroachment on the part of the secular authorities to freedom of conscience. Such encroachments were considered by reformers as a manifestation of ungodly tyranny entitling believers to resist terrestrial rulers. These ideas, developed by Protestant theologians, have had a significant though indirect impact on the formation of the most important political and legal rules and principles inherent to modern Western civilization. Since the era of the late Middle Ages into the mass consciousness of Europeans are beginning to penetrate the presentation on the availability of the inalienable rights of the individual and, above all - freedom of conscience and the right to resist tyranny, and classless equality between people and before the law and therefore - the legal society and the state, about the need to separate church and state and the separation of the secular and spiritual powers, the need to maintain a balance of public and state interests.
Finally settled in 1541 in Geneva, J. Calvin vigorously promoted the spread of his teachings in Switzerland and abroad. It is recognized that the principles and dogmatics of church organization proposed by the Geneva reformer, expressed the philosophical ideals of the most mature and active part of Western European bourgeoisie of the so-called era of accumulation of capital, which resulted in a rapid and relatively wide distribution of Calvinism primarily in the commercial and industrial center of Western Europe XVI century.
During the acute confrontation with Protestantism within Catholicism there was a partial update, which allowed suspend distribution of the new doctrine. This process of internal renovation is known as Catholic Reformation or "Counter-Reformation". The main stronghold of the Catholic faith was Spain, where during the Reconquista it became the national religion of the country which promoted unity in the fight against the Muslims. The main tool for strengthening the traditional belief in Spain became a special church court - the Inquisition, established in the country early in 1480. The gloomy memory left the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada who has sent to the fire nearly two thousand followers of Christ, accused of apostasy from the faith. Execution of heretics turned into a solemn spectacle conducted before large crowds. During the Reformation the Inquisition sharply intensified. In 1570 in Spain were burned last Protestants. With the election of Pope Paul III (1534-1549) Catholic Reformation gained consistent and pan-European scale. He published a decree on the reorganization of the Inquisition, which was transformed into a general for the whole Catholic world institution designed to combat the heresy throughout Europe.
The most important instrument of the Catholic Reformation was the Jesuit Order (named for Jesus Christ). Its founder was a nobleman of the Spanish Navarre, a participant of the Italian Wars Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). In 1534 Loyola and six of his associates formed a society that aimed to contribute the restoration of the power of the pope and the Catholic Church. In 1540 created by him organization was approved by Pope Paul III as a monastic order, which became the main instrument of the Catholic Counter-Reformation. The main obligation lay in the fact that they must devotedly obey everything that is ordered by the current and future popes. Their main slogan was: the end justifies the means. Order was distinguished by strict hierarchical structure: only the leaders of the Order obeyed to the Pope directly, and all the other members had to deal with their superiors, each of which occupied a certain level in the hierarchy of the Order. Loyola demanded to look at each senior as Christ himself. Directions of activity of the order were different. The Jesuits had to become ardent and eloquent preacher- propagandists capable of refuting Protestant and other heretics during the theoretical debates. Order of the Jesuits set the task to master the school business so as to use it for the education of the younger generation in the spirit of undivided loyalty to the Catholic Church. Another important task of the Order was a political activity: intrigue at the courts of kings and princes, espionage, performing delicate diplomatic assignments to remove unwanted politicians. The Jesuits have shown themselves the great masters, primarily because they were not bound by any moral norms that corresponded not only to that time practice, but also to the theoretical guidance of the Order.
Jesuits provided support to Pope during the Council of Trent, which lasted for 18 years in a bitter struggle not only with Protestantism, but with conciliatory positions inside the Catholicism. Decisions adopted by the Council confirmed previous dogmatic and cult positions of Catholicism. At the same time, it was recognized that for a successful fight with the advent of Protestantism are not enough threats and prohibitions, it was needed to increase the overall literacy and religious education of the clergy through the creation of a Catholic education system. Under the conditions of the emergence and strengthening in Europe of centralized absolutist monarchies papacy could no longer claim to be a political center, it had to be reoriented and renounce claims to secular domination, leaving itself only the role of the spiritual master of the universe. To carry out this role in 1543, it was announced that no book in the future may be published without the permission of the Catholic Inquisition. Soon began to appear lists of banned books by church. The first "Index of Forbidden Books" was published in 1559; its release remained until 1948.
Cathedral called for the purification of the church from its unworthy members, sale of indulgences and church offices was prohibited. Church returned to its main business - taking care of people's souls and helping the poor; monks opened the gates of monasteries for the sick, the poor and homeless people. For two centuries, Western Europe was engulfed by fire of religious wars. As a result of measures taken by the Catholic Church, it was able to prevent the onslaught of Protestantism which was defeated mainly in Scandinavia, Northern Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, the British Isles and North America. Stronghold of Catholicism was Italy, Spain, France, Austria and some other countries.
Results of the Reformation movement can not be described unambiguously. On the one hand, the Christian world, which brings together all the peoples of Europe under the spiritual leadership of the Pope, no longer existed, as well as there was no single Christian culture. The One Church was replaced by a variety of national churches that are often depending on the secular rulers, whereas before clerics could appeal to the Pope as an arbitrator. On the other hand, national churches have contributed to the growth of national consciousness of the peoples of Europe. This significantly increased the cultural and educational level of the people of Northern Europe, which until then was like a suburb of the Christian world - the need to study the Bible led to the growth of both primary schools (mainly in the form of parochial schools) and higher, which resulted in the establishment of universities for the training of national churches. For some languages has been developed specifically writing system in order to publish on them Bible. The proclamation of the spiritual equality has stimulated the development of ideas about political equality. For example, in countries where the majority was Reformers, the laity had great opportunities in the management of church, the citizens - in management of government.
In economic terms, the Reformation promoted the replacement of the old feudal economic relations on a new capitalist. The quest for savings, the development of the industry, to abandon costly entertainment (and costly worship services) facilitated the accumulation of capital that was invested in trade and production. As a result, the Protestant states began to outpace the economic development of Catholic states, even the Protestant ethic contributed to the development of the economy. The most important consequence of the Reformation was the division of Europe by religious principle. This determined many tragic events in its subsequent history. Religious wars caused by the Reformation took place in many countries, and religious differences between them have played a crucial role in the origin of the largest pan-European conflict - Thirty Years War.


Radhey Shyam Chaurasia. History of Europe. Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2002.
C. Scott Dixon. The Reformation in Germany. Blackwell Publishers, 2002.
John Witte. The Reformation of Rights: Law, Religion and Human Rights in Early Modern Calvinism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Michael Mullett. The Catholic Reformation. Routledge, 1999.
Carter Lindberg. The European Reformations. Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

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