Protestant Reformation Essay, Research Paper
Title: Protestant ReformationContent: An overview of the Protestant Reformation in EuropeDescription: Discuss the Protestant ReformationReligion is a predominant force in our world today. It also played a strong impact on the lives of those alive during the Protestant Reformation. Recently, many events have occurred to change the way people view religion such as the holocaust and more recently, the Branch-Davidians in Waco, Texas. But 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 countries need for reformation. The Reformation was “an attempt to recover a lost golden age of primitive purity as set forth in the Bible” (”Protestantism”, 206). This search for the “primitive purity” led to some very impure acts by some on the quest to regain this cleanliness. The origin of the word, “Protestant”, stemmed to an event which took place nearly a half-millenium ago in April of 1529 at an assembly of a politicaland religious leaders when a protest was read against the accustomed traditions of Roman Catholicism. The protesters, who consisted of 14 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. Needless to say, the Diet was not delighted to hear such unheard of slander against everything there country stood for. This milestone of rebellion in religion furnished the name “Protestants” to those gathered there to protest. Although the protesters did not immediately welcome this new label placed upon them, their enemies did. 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 entailed the protesters, Baptists, Lutherans, and other denominations. Commencement of the Reformation was spear-headed by a German monk, Martin Luther. 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 reenforcement. Martin Luther was brought up to believe in superstition mixed with Christianity which led to his more liberal interpretation of the Bible. 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. He devoted himself to endless hours of contemplation of religion and the fundamental workings of all aspects of Catholicism. But the hours of constant meditation and study of the Bible led him to find ominous flaws in the papal doctrine of that day. Bainton said it best in his book, Here I Stand, when he said, the man who thus called upon a saint was later to repudiate the cult of the saints. He who vowed to become a monk was later to renounce monasticism. A loyal son of the Catholic Church, he was later to shatter the structure of the medieval Catholicism. A devoted servant of the Pope, he was later to identify the popes with the Antichrist. For this young man’s name was Martin Luther (15). 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 (Bainton, 18). Still others compared him more so to John the Baptist. Bainton said that “he has revived the Christian consciousness of Europe” (15). In doing this, Luther laid the bridgework just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, and for this reason, his followers referred to him as the “German Hercules” (Bainton, 93). After Martin Luther, there came a man from France who would take the Reformation to the next plateau. Born in 1509 in Picardy, France, John Calvin was the fourth son of the secretary to the chapter of the NoyonCathedral. Calvin was given many excellent schooling opportunities as he was friends with a family that were relatives to the bishop of Noyon. 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. There, Calvin became fascinated with his classes in logic which relayed to him the art of argumentation. However, his father decided that Calvin should not continue to study theology, but turn his attention to law. This turn derived from an argument of Calvin’s father with the cathedral chapter. Calvin followed his father’s wishes, but in his heart, he never forgot his true calling to religion. Accordingly, when his father died in 1531, Calvin was free to make his own choices and completed his doctorate of law and began to turn his attention back to religion. His conversion to the ways of the Protestants occurred when God transformed Calvin into an ardent and uncompromising Protestant. When John Calvin adopted the Protestant faith, his one younger brother and two half-sisters followed him to Geneva. There, Calvin Latinized the family name to be called Calvinus and was thereafter written in French as Calvin (”John Calvin”, 237).
Calvin came under scrutiny by religious leaders in Geneva, but gained public appeal throughout the land. In Geneva, Calvin wrote the Ecclesiastical Ordinances which constructed an outline of discipline, preaching, worship, and instruction, with a ministry of pastors, teachers, elders, and deacons (”John Calvin”, 239). From here, Calvin and his followers became known as Calvinists. Calvinism is commonly applied to the body of Calvinist doctrine centering in the sovereignty of God and the divine predestination of every human being, either by election to an eternal state of bliss in God’s presence, or by reprobation or preterition to a state of misery in alienation from Him. 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. 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. 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. In England, the driving force behind the Reformation lied not so much on the religious facet, but more so on the political viewpoint. Unlike Martin Luther or John Calvin, King Henry VIII was not so concerned with the spiritual founding of the Reformation. Henry was merely looking for an easy way to get what he wanted out of his marriage. The one endowment that his wife Catherine of Aragon had yet to bestow upon him was a son. She had successfully bore him a female child, princess Mary, but Henry insisted upon a male heir to the throne. England’s present law did not forbid female rulers, but because of the recent War of the Roses, Henry felt a female on the throne would bring nothing but conflict. Henry decided that Catherine would never bear him a son, so he demanded that he be divorced from her. Divorces did occur in the Roman Catholic church, but only for impending blemishes in the marriage. Henry had managed to find one foreboding error in his wife which lied in the fact that Catherine was previously married to his brother, Arthur. Henry declared that in the book of Leviticus in the Bible, it said, “it is unclean to touch your brother’s wife.” (Leviticus, 20:21). Henry now had concrete proof that his marriage to Catherine must be annulled. Catherine defended herself by saying that her marriage to Arthur had never been consummated and was therefore, null. She also questioned the Pope that if the marriage to Henry was in Biblical rror to begin with, why did he let it occur. The Pope guarded his position by saying that he allowed it to occur because he had given a dispensation to cover the fault on the account that Catherine was never rightfully married to Arthur. Henry now believed he would soon be rid of Catherine, but the tangled webs of politics wouldsoon intervene. What Henry did not realize was that Catherine was the aunt of Emperor Charles V; Charles V controlled the Pope. So as far as the Pope was concerned, the divorce would never occur. Pope Clement stalled to keep the truth that he would never annul the marriage from reaching Henry. And as most people do when they know that they are doing something wrong, Henry became anxious. He eventually took the matters into his own hands and split off from the Roman Catholic Church. Now, Henry no longer had to answer to the Pope, but was now under his own authority. Henry immediately associated himself and his people with the Anglican Church with him at the top as supreme head. The spiritual head of his denomination became the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. Henry could now divorce Catherine and move on. Which he did by marrying Anne Boleyn. She bore him only a female child, princess Elizabeth. As before, Henry once again remarried until he finally obtained a son, Edward VI. Henry bestowed major changes such as the suppression of monasteries, the introduction of the Bible in the vernacular, and the clergy was now given permission tomarry; although the latter was soon revoked. With the death of Edward VI, England’s power was returned to Roman Catholicism in 1533 under Queen Mary. This prompted the English Protestants to believe that this deed was an act of God upon a nation that had not taken the Reformation.