Skip to comments.Top Ten Moments of the Reformation [Today is Reformation Day]
Posted on 10/31/2012 9:17:09 PM PDT by Alex Murphy
The Reformation was a political and religious movement in Europe that began in the 1500s and lasted for roughly 150 years. It is difficult to pinpoint exact starting and ending dates for the Reformation, but we can point to two events that seem to begin and to culminate the Reformation era: 1517 (Martin Luthers 95 Theses and his protest against the indulgence system of the Roman Catholic Church) and 1648 (The Peace of Westphalia, treaties that ended both the Thirty Years War and the Eighty Years War and thus put an end to most of the civil disruption caused by the religious movement).
1. Luthers Ninety-Five Theses (October 31, 1517)
It has been argued that the importance of Luthers nailing of the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg is often overestimated, since all public disputations were promoted in this manner. Furthermore, it is evident from the 95 Theses that Luthers decisive break with Rome is not yet clear. He upholds the indulgence system, papal authority, and the existence of purgatory. Yet, this crucial event deserves to be at the forefront of any discussion on important Reformation events because it is the spark that led to the flames of revolution. Luthers 95 Theses were published, printed, and disseminated into Europe, and the publication ignited a religious fervor that exploded across Germany and beyond.
2. The Marburg Colloquy (1529)
Luther and Zwinglis discussion of the theology of the Lords Supper may seem an odd choice for the 2nd most important Reformation event, but the political and religious consequences of their failure to come to agreement on the Eucharist set the course for a split which has lasted almost 500 years. Because the Reformers could not agree on the Lords Supper, the political alliance between Reform-minded countries was severely hindered. The religious implications forced the Lutherans and the Reformed to go separate ways, creating an animosity that precluded religious unity and led to even more splintering of Protestantism into differing groups.
3. Publication of Luthers Translation of the New Testament (1522)
Luthers publication of the New Testament into common German was a watershed moment for the Reformation in Europe. He was followed by William Tyndales work on the New Testament in 1526 and by a host of other common-man translations in other countries. The translation of the Bible into the language of the people allowed the Reformers to base their criticism of the papacy on biblical grounds and led to the common man being able to search the Scriptures for himself without relying solely on the Churchs authority.
4. The Act of Supremacy (1534)
Henry VIIIs institution of the Church of England and his positioning of himself as the head of the Church was the beginning of a long and checkered history of Reformation in England, in which the institution of Reformed theology from the top-down brought its own set of problems.
5. The Edict of Nantes (1598)
This event was one of the most hopeful signs that the Reformation would eventually end with different religious groups coexisting peacefully. This innovative act of tolerance formed the basis for the modern-day secular society of freedom of religion.
6. The Council of Trent (1545-63)
The Roman Catholic declarations following the Council of Trent eliminated virtually any hope for reconciliation between the Catholic Church and the Protestant movement. The enormity of this councils output served to codify Roman Catholic theology for the next four centuries, forming the Tridentine period of Roman Catholicism.
7. Calvins Institutes (1559)
John Calvins systematic theology The Institutes of the Christian Religion formed the basis for the adoption of Reformed theology in Europe and America. His theology is important because it was a visionary exposition of theology, whereas the other Reformers theologies were reactionary in nature, being forged in the midst of conflict.
8. Martin Luthers Three Treatises (1520)
Martin Luthers three treatises to the German people in 1520 (Appeal to the German Nobility, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and The Freedom of the Christian) served as a fervent call to reformation of the church, influencing the Protestant movement in Germany and beyond for years to come.
9. St. Bartholomews Day Massacre (1572)
The Catholic mob violence against the Huguenots that lasted for several months claimed the lives of thousands of French Protestants. This event was a turning point in the French Wars of Religion, as it radicalized the Huguenot movement.
10. The Peace of Augsburg (1555)
The first religious war of the century ended, as rulers allowed territories to choose their religion. This was the beginning of religious toleration in Europe, which formed the foundation for the Edict of Nantes and the Act of Toleration.
At the rate they are going, it will take another 150 years for Shiites and Sunni Muslims to settle down to being a “normal” moderately well behaved religion.
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of Gods own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: Gods truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
A generally sympathetic biographer made this point: If Luther had been executed in 5129, Europe would have been spared a hundred years of religious war which discredited all forms of Christianity in the eyes of many in the intellectual elite. But God chose otherwise, and the Church was scourged in the same way that Israel was. Whig historians think this benefical, but given the evaporation of faith in Europe, maybe we can only conclude that a faith not properly observed will die. Still, a large portion of the world today is Christian than in 1500, and we see with some amazement that it is growing in China even as it may be declining in America. God has his own scales, obviously.
Absolutely fantastic list. I find myself in complete agreement. Tomorrow night, Nov 1, our church has its annual Reformation Day Lecture. Yes, yes: it’s the day after Reformation Day, but that is because a bible discussion group was meeting.
Probably not, the church was rather in the business of slaughtering all who opposed it in that time frame. How unfortunate that it was scourged by having to murder so many.
notice how the date says October 32, 2007? lol
Fitting that “Reformation Day” is on Halloween, martin Luther and Henry the VIII both were under the influence of the other.
The slaughtering was done by political factions. By the Tudor monarchs, for instance, who whether Protestant or Catholic, put dissenters to death, robbed them of their property, and/or sent them into exile. Good Queen Bess executed as many people as her Catholic sister, and had a secret police force that reminds one of the Gestapo. In France, Catholic and Huguenot mobs roamed about slaying people at random. Only the Politques, such as the essayist Montaigne managed to stay neutral, at least to a degree. But the engine of all this was the Queen Mother who was trying to keep the Huguenots from deposing her young sons from the throne and her relations who were egging on the Huguenots.
The information he got was that the Queen had prevented a Coup. And indeed, maybe she had. For many years Geneva had been the nerve center of efforts to spread reform in France and members of the royal family had encouraged this. At the other end, the Guise were stirring up things, and working with the Spaniards. The Crown was sort of in the middle. The daggers were out for people on either side. England avoided much of this because of the centralization of power in the Crown. In France, the Crown was compromised by the youth of the Dauphin when Henry II got himself killed in a tournament. The lack of a strong hand in France was evident. Not until Henry of Navarre was able to establish a royal dictatorship did things get better.