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The Reformation - Religion and Ethics


The Reformation (1517-1648)


Famous for...

A rebellion by Protestants against the Roman Catholic Church.

 The Reformation - Religion and Ethics

Why was Martin Luther important?

Martin Luther (pictured right), a German monk, triggered off the Reformation by nailing his religious grievances (his Ninety-Five Theses) to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31st 1517.


Why did it happen?


1. Corruption

The popes from 1492 to 1521 were immoral and corrupt:The Reformation - Religion and Ethics

  • Alexander VI.
  • Julius II.
  • Leo X (pictured right) .

People (including Martin Luther) particularly attacked the church’s sale of indulgences to shorten people’s stay in purgatory before going to heaven.



2. RepressionThe Reformation - Religion and Ethics

Anyone who challenged the Roman Catholic Church was punished by its inquisition.

The Spanish Inquisition (1483-98) burned around 2,000 people.

In 1633 the great Italian scientist and astronomer, Galileo (pictured right), was forced to publicly withdraw his support for Nicholas Copernicus’s idea that the earth orbited the sun.



3. PrintingThe Reformation - Religion and Ethics

Johannes Gutenberg’s (pictured right) invention of Europe’s first printing press around 1440 meant that people could:

  • read Bibles in their own language.
  • make up their own minds on religion without relying on the Church.

Luther’s German translation of the Bible first appeared in 1522.



4. PoliticsThe Reformation - Religion and Ethics

Politicians, businessmen and rulers (like in Germany) backed the Protestants to:

  • increase their prosperity and power.
  • stop paying money to Rome.The Reformation - Religion and Ethics

Although he remained loyal to the Catholic Church, Henry VIII (pictured right above) started the English Reformation by replacing the pope as the head of the Church of England to allow his divorce of Catherine of Aragon  (pictured right below).



The Reformation’s key theologians


1. Martin Luther

The German who started the Reformation by:

  • attacking the Church’s power and privileges.
  • emphasizing a personal relationship with God based upon faith and the Bible (see below).


2. John Calvin

The Frenchman who:

  • created a strict Christian community in Geneva
  • greatly influenced the Puritans (see below). The Reformation - Religion and Ethics

The Puritans:

  • settled in America in the 1620’s and 1630’s.
  • defeated King Charles I (pictured right) in the English Civil War.


The Reformation - Religion and Ethics


3. Ulrich Zwingli (pictured right)

Leader of the Reformation in Switzerland.



4. John Knox

 Leader of the Reformation in Scotland.



The Reformation’s key ideas


1. Justification by faith alone

People get to heaven by faith in God, not:

  • good works or
  • money given to the Church.

To support this, Luther quoted a verse from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (4:5):

To the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.



2. The Bible’s supremacy

People must:

  • obey the Bible (not the pope).
  • be free to interpret it in their own way (without interference from the Church).


3. Personal God

People can have a direct personal relationship with God without the Church’s help.


The Reformation - Religion and Ethics

4. Predestination

Everything that happens to you is pre-planned by God.

This doctrine of John Calvin (pictured right) was opposed by other Protestants who believed that people controlled their own lives with God’s help.



5. Attack on Catholicism

Protestants rejected the Roman Catholic belief in:

  • the pope’s supreme authority.
  • celibate priests.
  • the miraculous conversion of Communion bread and wine into Jesus’s body and blood (called transubstantiation).
  • the worship of the Virgin Mary and the saints.

 The Reformation - Religion and Ethics

6. Humanism

This is the idea (proposed by the Dutch scholar, Erasmus, pictured right), that people can control their lives through their own thought and actions.



Results of the Reformation


1. Protestantism

The following countries became Protestant:

  • America.
  • Denmark.
  • England (and Wales).
  • Germany (with Catholics in the North).
  • Holland.
  • Norway.
  • Scotland.
  • Sweden.
  • Switzerland.

The following remained Roman Catholic:

  • Austria.
  • France.
  • Hungary.
  • Ireland.
  • Italy.
  • Poland.
  • Spain.



2. The Counter Reformation (the Catholic version of the Reformation)

The Roman Catholic Church was forced to become holier and less corrupt, so stopping the spread of Protestantism.The Reformation - Religion and Ethics

These reforms were:

  • led by the Spaniard, Ignatius Loyola, pictured right (who founded the Jesuit order of monks).
  • put into action by the Council of Trent (1545-63), set up by the pope, Paul III.


3. The “Protestant work ethic”The Reformation - Religion and Ethics

A term coined by the German sociologist, Max Weber (pictured right), to describe the Protestant capacity for:

  • hard work.
  • making money.



4. Intellectual freedom and creativity

Without the intellectual restrictions of the Catholic Church, Protestants were encouraged to discover new knowledge, ideas and products.



5. Persecution

Persecution and executions happened on both sides. For example:


1535The Reformation - Religion and Ethics

Thomas More (pictured right) was executed in England for refusing to:

  • accept Henry as head of the Church instead of the pope.


1553-8The Reformation - Religion and Ethics

Queen Mary of England (known as Bloody Mary) executed 280 Protestants

They included the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer ( pictured right).


1572 (23 & 24 August)

St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, when more than 3,000 French Protestants (called Huguenots) were killed in Paris.


Key quotes

Erasmus laid the egg and Luther hatched it.

- popular 16th century saying about the Reformation.


Here I stand, I can do no other.

- Martin Luther (at the Diet of Worms in 1521, defending his anti-Catholic beliefs).


The Reformation - Religion and Ethics

A man with God is always in the majority.

- John Knox, pictured right (supporting the Reformation’s idea of a personal relationship with God without church interference).


God is our refuge and strength, a very help in trouble

- Psalm 46.

(the opening line  on Luther’s tomb in Wittenberg, Germany).

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