Protestantism Essay Research Paper Throughout the Middle

Protestantism Essay, Research Paper Throughout the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church continued to assert its primacy of position. The growth of the papacy had paralleled the growth of the church,

Protestantism Essay, Research Paper

Throughout the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church continued to assert its primacy

of position. The growth of the papacy had paralleled the growth of the church,

but by the end of the Middle Ages challenges to papal authority from the rising

power of monarchical states had resulted in a loss of papal temporal authority.

An even greater threat to papal authority and church unity arose in the

sixteenth century when the unity of medieval European Christendom was

irretrievably shattered by the Reformation. Martin Luther was the catalyst that

precipitated the new movement. His personal struggle for religious certainty led

him, against his will, to question the medieval system of salvation and the very

authority of the church. His chief opposition was Holy Roman Emperor Charles V

who, due to multiple circumstances, was unable to impede Luther?s movement. He

opposed the Catholic doctrine of faith and good works for salvation, instead

proposing a doctrine of salvation through faith. His publishing of the

Ninety-Five Theses, which covered the abuse of indulgences, is often seen as the

beginning of the Reformation movement. However, the movement was not only

confined to Luther’s Germany. Native reform movements in Switzerland found

leadership in Ulrich Zwingli, who eventually sought an alliance with Luther and

the German reformers, and especially in John Calvin, whose Institutes of the

Christian Religion became the most influential summary of the new theology. On

most important doctrines, Calvin was in agreement with Luther. Calvin differed

from Luther in his belief in the concept of predestination, derived from his

belief in God?s supreme authority. This concept became the central focus of

succeeding generations of Calvinists. One of the more radical Reformation

groups, the Anabaptists, set themselves against other Protestants as well as

against Rome, rejecting such long-established practices as infant baptism and

sometimes even such dogmas as the Trinity and denouncing the alliance of church

and state. They believed in nonviolence and strict separation of church and

state, equality, and voluntary congregations. England during the Reformation was

one of continuous change. The English Reformation, provoked by the marital

troubles of Henry VIII, reflected the influence of the Lutheran and then of the

Calvinistic reforms, but went its own ?middle way,? retaining both Catholic

and Protestant elements. Following Henry?s reign, Edward VI moved the Church

of England toward Protestantism, followed immediately by a reversion to

Catholicism by Mary I. Elizabeth then reverted to Protestantism, and tried to

merge Catholicism and Protestantism into the Anglican church. The Protestant

Reformation did not exhaust the spirit of reform within the Roman Catholic

church. In response both to the Protestant challenge and to its own needs, the

church summoned the Council of Trent, which would not compromise with the

Protestants by reaffirming traditional teachings, making both faith and good

works necessary for salvation. They reestablished the sacraments, relics,

clerical celibacy, and the practice of indulgences. Responsibility for carrying

out the actions of the council fell in considerable measure on the Society of

Jesus, which was grounded on the principles of absolute obedience to the papacy

and to militarily protect the word of God. The chronological coincidence of the

discovery of the New World and the Reformation was seen as a providential

opportunity to evangelize those who had never heard the gospel. Trent on the

Roman Catholic side and the several confessions of faith on the Protestant side

had the effect of making the divisions permanent. In one respect the divisions

were not permanent, for new divisions continued to appear. Historically, the

most noteworthy of these were probably the ones that arose in the Church of

England. The Puritans objected to the ?remnants of popery? in the liturgical

and institutional life of Anglicanism and pressed for a further reformation.

Because of the Anglican union of throne and altar, this agitation had direct

political consequences, climaxing in the English Revolution and the execution of

King Charles I in 1649. Just as many other denominations that would form such as

the Quakers and Nonconformists, Puritanism found its most complete expression,

both politically and theologically, in North America, where denominations could

find some sanctuary from the persecution of the homeland.

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