For most people, the church continued to offer spiritual comfort. There is some evidence of anticlericalism , but the church at large enjoyed loyalty as it had before. One development is clear: the political authorities increasingly sought to curtail the public role of the church and thereby triggered tension. The Reformation of the 16th century was not unprecedented. Reformers within the medieval church such as St. Francis of Assisi , Valdes founder of the Waldensians , Jan Hus , and John Wycliffe addressed aspects in the life of the church in the centuries before In the 16th century Erasmus of Rotterdam , a great humanist scholar, was the chief proponent of liberal Catholic reform that attacked popular superstitions in the church and urged the imitation of Christ as the supreme moral teacher.
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In his Ninety-five Theses, he attacked the indulgence system, insisting that the pope had no authority over purgatory and that the doctrine of the merits of the saints had no foundation in the gospel. While he did not intend to break with the Catholic church, a confrontation with the papacy was not long in coming.
In Luther was excommunicated ; what began as an internal reform movement had become a fracture in western Christendom. The Reformation movement within Germany diversified almost immediately, and other reform impulses arose independently of Luther.
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Zwingli agreed with Luther in the centrality of the doctrine of justification by faith, but he espoused a different understanding of the Holy Communion. Called Anabaptists , they remained a marginal phenomenon in the 16th century but survived—despite fierce persecution—as Mennonites and Hutterites into the 21st century.
Opponents of the ancient Trinitarian dogma made their appearance as well. Known as Socinians , after the name of their founder, they established flourishing congregations, especially in Poland. Another important form of Protestantism as those protesting against their suppressions were designated by the Diet of Speyer in is Calvinism , named for John Calvin , a French lawyer who fled France after his conversion to the Protestant cause.
In Basel , Switzerland, Calvin brought out the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion in , the first systematic, theological treatise of the new reform movement. However, he found a more positive place for law within the Christian community than did Luther. In Geneva , Calvin was able to experiment with his ideal of a disciplined community of the elect. Further, Luther insisted that the Bible and the worship life of the church be translated from Latin into the language of the people, so that all might hear and understand it. And salvation is by faith alone, by the disposition of the heart, not by any penance a priest may prescribe.
Luther preached that salvation cannot be earned, much less bought, for it is a gift. In his break with Rome, Martin Luther left the monastic life and married, thus establishing the precedent for married clergy in the Protestant churches. Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church in The Protestant Reformation marked the beginning of what would become a new movement in the Christian tradition.
Its leaders and forms were many, but the spirit of the Protestant tradition continued to emphasize the importance of personal faith, the gift of grace, and the authority of the Bible.
Lutheran national churches also developed in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. The Lutheran churches of America today include descendants from all of these churches. At the same time in Geneva, John Calvin led a movement that helped found Reformed churches in the Netherlands, Hungary, England, and Scotland.
Martin Luther and the Long March to Freedom of Conscience
The Presbyterian churches are also part of this Reformed tradition, and developed initially under the leadership of the sixteenth-century Scottish reformer, John Knox The more radical Anabaptists took issue with Zwingli and the reformers in Zurich over two issues: the establishment of a state church and infant baptism. At age seven, Luther entered school in Mansfeld.
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- Luther didn't like the fact people could buy indulgences — or reduced punishment after death.
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At 14, Luther went north to Magdeburg, where he continued his studies. In , he returned to Eisleben and enrolled in a school, studying grammar, rhetoric and logic. He later compared this experience to purgatory and hell. In , Luther entered the University of Erfurt , where he received a degree in grammar, logic, rhetoric and metaphysics.
At this time, it seemed he was on his way to becoming a lawyer. In July , Luther had a life-changing experience that set him on a new course to becoming a monk. Caught in a horrific thunderstorm where he feared for his life, Luther cried out to St. The decision to become a monk was difficult and greatly disappointed his father, but he felt he must keep a promise.
The first few years of monastic life were difficult for Luther, as he did not find the religious enlightenment he was seeking. A mentor told him to focus his life exclusively on Jesus Christ and this would later provide him with the guidance he sought. At age 27, Luther was given the opportunity to be a delegate to a Catholic church conference in Rome.
He came away more disillusioned, and very discouraged by the immorality and corruption he witnessed there among the Catholic priests. Upon his return to Germany, he enrolled in the University of Wittenberg in an attempt to suppress his spiritual turmoil.
Through his studies of scripture, Luther finally gained religious enlightenment. Finally, he realized the key to spiritual salvation was not to fear God or be enslaved by religious dogma but to believe that faith alone would bring salvation. This period marked a major change in his life and set in motion the Reformation.
Luther also sent a copy to Archbishop Albert Albrecht of Mainz, calling on him to end the sale of indulgences. Aided by the printing press , copies of the 95 Theses spread throughout Germany within two weeks and throughout Europe within two months. The Church eventually moved to stop the act of defiance. In October , at a meeting with Cardinal Thomas Cajetan in Augsburg, Luther was ordered to recant his 95 Theses by the authority of the pope.
Luther said he would not recant unless scripture proved him wrong. The meeting ended in a shouting match and initiated his ultimate excommunication from the Church.