Reformation

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Was the Reformation a Revolution?:

Was the Reformation a Revolution? Applying the Five Habits of Historical Thinking to Better Understand the Reformation By Jonathan Burack

In 1517, a German monk and theology professor sparked one of the great upheavals of European history.:

In 1517, a German monk and theology professor sparked one of the great upheavals of European history. Most accounts say he did this by nailing his 95 Theses (statements of his views) to the door of the church in Wittenberg.

A key complaint of the 95 Theses was about indulgences, which the Catholic Church was selling to raise funds.:

A key complaint of the 95 Theses was about indulgences, which the Catholic Church was selling to raise funds. The Church said an indulgence from the Pope in Rome would release the buyer from certain punishments in the next life for sins committed in this life. The Pope portrayed as the Antichrist at a sale of indulgences

The monk who nailed the 95 Theses to the door was Martin Luther. :

The monk who nailed the 95 Theses to the door was Martin Luther. In Luther’s view, indulgences were a fraud. He said that the Pope should never claim to be able to do what only God could do.

Indulgences were only one of many complaints Luther and others had about the Catholic Church, which had become very powerful and wealthy.:

Indulgences were only one of many complaints Luther and others had about the Catholic Church, which had become very powerful and wealthy. Interior, Bayeux Cathedral, France Interior, Church of St. Etienne-du-Mont, Paris, France

In fact, the indulgences Luther protested to were being sold to help the Pope rebuild the grand St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.:

In fact, the indulgences Luther protested to were being sold to help the Pope rebuild the grand St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Luther said that indulgences fooled people into thinking they could bargain their way into heaven by their own effort—that is, by their “works.”:

Luther said that indulgences fooled people into thinking they could bargain their way into heaven by their own effort—that is, by their “works.” “Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they’re smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.” Martin Luther, from “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” 1522

In Luther’s view, man could only be saved by a powerful and true faith in Jesus Christ.:

In Luther’s view, man could only be saved by a powerful and true faith in Jesus Christ. “The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace.” Martin Luther, from “An Introduction to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans,” 1522

The Pope soon condemned Luther in a papal decree known as a “bull.”:

The Pope soon condemned Luther in a papal decree known as a “bull.” In defiance, Luther publicly burned the papal bull. The Pope excommunicated him on January 3, 1521.

Luther later took a famous stand before an assembly of German princes and the German emperor. He refused to recant, or take back, his teachings.:

Luther later took a famous stand before an assembly of German princes and the German emperor. He refused to recant, or take back, his teachings. “I stand convinced by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us.” Martin Luther, at the Diet of Worms, April 17, 1521

Luther could have been captured and punished, but some powerful German princes protected him. :

Luther could have been captured and punished, but some powerful German princes protected him. Luther was given a safe hiding place at Wartburg Castle by his prince, the elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony. This is the room in the castle in which Luther stayed.

Many princes, especially in Germany and other parts of northern Europe, resented the Church’s great power and wealth.:

Many princes, especially in Germany and other parts of northern Europe, resented the Church’s great power and wealth. They wanted more control over that wealth in their own realms. Many of them supported Luther, hoping his reform effort would weaken the Church’s power. Wartburg Castle, above the town of Eisenach, Germany

Soon, many other Reformation leaders arose to push Luther’s ideas—or even more radical ideas of their own.:

Soon, many other Reformation leaders arose to push Luther’s ideas—or even more radical ideas of their own. Clockwise from left: Philipp Melanchthon, John Calvin, Johannes Bugenhagen, Gustav II Adolf, Ulrich von Hutten, Ulrich Zwingli, John Hus, and Martin Luther

So what led so many to follow Luther and other Reformation figures in splitting Christianity into warring camps?:

So what led so many to follow Luther and other Reformation figures in splitting Christianity into warring camps? That’s not an easy question to answer. Historians have been arguing about the Reformation for a long time. ?

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After all, the past itself is gone. All we have to go on is the historical record. Primary source documents like these are one kind of record. Yet they often leave out as much as they reveal. ?

As the first of the Five Habits of Historical Thinking puts it: “History is not the past itself.” It is an account of the past based on primary source evidence left behind.:

As the first of the Five Habits of Historical Thinking puts it: “History is not the past itself.” It is an account of the past based on primary source evidence left behind. Five Habits of Historical Thinking History Is Not the Past Itself The Detective Model: Problem, Evidence, Interpretation Time, Change, and Continuity Cause and Effect As They Saw It: Grasping Past Points of View

The second of the Five Habits describes what we call “The Detective Model.” How would this apply to the Reformation?:

The second of the Five Habits describes what we call “The Detective Model.” How would this apply to the Reformation? A Mennonite church (Protestant), Germantown, PA Lutheran pastor, 1527 Bayeux Cathedral (Catholic), France

Like a detective, a historian sets out to solve a key problem or answer a major question.:

Like a detective, a historian sets out to solve a key problem or answer a major question. “Was the Reformation a mere protest movement, or a full-scale revolution?” ?

But this question—“Was the Reformation a mere protest movement, or a full-scale revolution?”—only leads to many others.:

But this question—“Was the Reformation a mere protest movement, or a full-scale revolution?”—only leads to many others. Why did the Catholic Church oppose Luther so strongly? Why did Protestantism split into so many mutually hostile sects? Why did many kings and princes back the Reformation? What does the word “revolution” really mean anyway? ?

To answer such questions, historians must look for clues, or evidence. The problem is that the sources are incomplete, and usually they do not all agree.:

To answer such questions, historians must look for clues, or evidence. The problem is that the sources are incomplete, and usually they do not all agree.

For example, Luther was horrified when German peasants revolted partly in his name and began burning the estates of the rich and killing nobles.:

For example, Luther was horrified when German peasants revolted partly in his name and began burning the estates of the rich and killing nobles. “[The peasants] cause uproar and sacrilegiously rob and pillage monasteries and castles that do not belong to them, for which, like public highwaymen and murderers, they deserve the twofold death of body and soul. It is right and lawful to slay at the first opportunity a rebellious person, who is known as such, for he is already under God’s and the emperor’s ban.” Martin Luther, “Against the Murderous and Robbing Hordes of the Peasants,” 1525

On the other hand, at least some Reformation figures backed the peasants and favored a total social upheaval.:

On the other hand, at least some Reformation figures backed the peasants and favored a total social upheaval. “Open your eyes! What is the evil brew from which all usury, theft and robbery springs but the assumption of our lords and princes that all creatures are their property? …It is the lords themselves who make the poor man their enemy. If they refuse to do away with the causes of insurrection how can trouble be avoided in the long run? If saying that makes me an inciter to insurrection, so be it!” Thomas Muntzer, Vindication and Refutation , 1524

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“Open your eyes! What is the evil brew from which all usury, theft and robbery springs but the assumption of our lords and princes that all creatures are their property? …It is the lords themselves who make the poor man their enemy. If they refuse to do away with the causes of insurrection how can trouble be avoided in the long run? If saying that makes me an inciter to insurrection, so be it!” “[The peasants] cause uproar and sacrilegiously rob and pillage monasteries and castles that do not belong to them, for which, like public highwaymen and murderers, they deserve the twofold death of body and soul. It is right and lawful to slay at the first opportunity a rebellious person, who is known as such, for he is already under God’s and the emperor’s ban.”

The Reformation unleashed a century of religious upheaval and conflict.:

The Reformation unleashed a century of religious upheaval and conflict. Kings and nation-states were gaining power over lesser princes. Towns were growing. Moreover, the recently invented printing press made it much easier to spread radical new ideas. A summary of Luther’s ideas A massacre of Protestants in France

Yet through it all, Europe remained a mainly Christian society, with all sects accepting the Bible as God’s word and as the basis for religion, society, and law.:

Yet through it all, Europe remained a mainly Christian society, with all sects accepting the Bible as God’s word and as the basis for religion, society, and law. A Catholic church, France A Protestant church, England Page from Gutenberg Bible

The third of the Five Habits is “Time, Change, and Continuity.” To understand the Reformation you have to see both what changed and what did not.:

The third of the Five Habits is “Time, Change, and Continuity.” To understand the Reformation you have to see both what changed and what did not.

The fourth of the Five Habits is “Cause and Effect.” For example, what caused the Protestant Reformation? :

The fourth of the Five Habits is “Cause and Effect.” For example, what caused the Protestant Reformation? “Rising nation-states wanted more control over their own religious institutions.” “The Church had grown corrupt and lost touch with ordinary Christians.” “A rising middle class wanted a religion more in tune with its individualistic values.” “The printing press made it far easier to spread ideas and independent thought.”

Some historians stress religious and intellectual causes; others stress social, economic, and political causes.:

Some historians stress religious and intellectual causes; others stress social, economic, and political causes. Religious & Intellectual Social, Economic & Political “Rising nation-states wanted more control over their own religious institutions.” “The Church had grown corrupt and lost touch with ordinary Christians.” “A rising middle class wanted a religion more in tune with its individualistic values.” “The printing press made it far easier to spread ideas and independent thought.”

Another challenge for historians is to see things they way those at the time saw them. The fifth of the Five Habits deals with this challenge.:

Another challenge for historians is to see things they way those at the time saw them. The fifth of the Five Habits deals with this challenge. Five Habits of Historical Thinking History Is Not the Past Itself The Detective Model: Problem, Evidence, Interpretation Time, Change, and Continuity Cause and Effect As They Saw It: Grasping Past Points of View

After all, it’s hard enough to empathize with others around us. How much harder is it to see the world the way these people did?:

After all, it’s hard enough to empathize with others around us. How much harder is it to see the world the way these people did? “Arise, O Lord, and judge thy cause. A wild boar has invaded thy vineyard… We can no longer suffer the serpent to creep through the field of the Lord. The books of Martin Luther which contain these errors are to be examined and burned.” Pope Leo X, in his bull Exurge Domine condemning Luther’s ideas (1520) “Therefore there will also unquestionably fall from us the unchristian, devilish weapons of force—such as sword, armor and the like, and all their use [either] for friends or against one’s enemies.” From the Anabaptist Schleitheim Confession (1527) “If the fury of the Romanists continue, there seems to me to be no remedy left but that the emperor, kings, and princes, girding on their armour, attack these pests of the earth, and decide the matter, not by words but with the sword.” Martin Luther, in a reply to Sylvester Prierias (1520)

Keep the Five Habits in mind as you do the rest of this lesson on the character of the Reformation.:

Keep the Five Habits in mind as you do the rest of this lesson on the character of the Reformation. Tasks ahead: Interpret several primary sources Read and debate two secondary sources Draw your own conclusions about this past episode

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