Reformation and counter-Reformationby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Explain the causes and effects of the Protestant Reformation and counter-Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church
After Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven, no Christian had ever heard of the “Catholic” or the “Protestant” church. Christ’s church was the Church. However, as time passed, the Catholic church strayed from the teachings of Christ and the Bible, specifically the Apostle Paul’s teaching on salvation by grace alone, by faith alone. The Church began to teach salvation by works, the doctrine of purgatory, and other unbiblical principles. Because of this, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five thesis to a church door, telling the people the ninety-five reasons why he disagreed with the Roman Catholic Church’s practice of indulgences among others. Later, people would call this day “reformation day,” and would celebrate it for many years to come.
What took the Catholic church away from the foundations of Christianity? What created the need for a reformation? Man’s quest for money led to corruption in the Roman Catholic church, as nearly every leader from the Pope to Parish priests began to accept bribes. The leaders in the church were less concerned with the eternal souls of the people than with how they could use the people to gain money and power. In 1476, Pope Sixtus IV said that if anyone bought an “indulgence,” a piece of paper, that one of their loved ones would be freed from Purgatory. Indulgences were also sold to cut time off of your own stay in purgatory, or to clear your soul of a sin that you had committed. Originally indulgences had been a sort of “good job” medal when someone displayed great virtue or bravery, but now they were being used only for money making schemes. Many clergy members used indulges to make money off of their congregation.
The Bible had originally been written in Hebrew and Greek, languages that the early Christians were familiar with. They read the scripture on their own. As time went on, Latin became the language of scholars, and so the Bible was translated into Latin. The common people had no way of reading the Bible and searching for Truth on their own, which meant that most people believed whatever the pope or their local priest said. This led to a mass deception of the Christian community. It started small, but over time the heresies added up, until Popes were preaching salvation through works, Purgatory, the practice of indulgences, transubstantiation, and others. The common people could not challenge the church leaders, because the people themselves did not know what the Bible says.
Early efforts to reform the church included several brave men who wanted to return the Church to her former “glory in the cross.” John Wycliff, in 1370, began to preach salvation through faith, and made the Bible available to the masses in their own language. However, many of the “common” people, and very few of the women of the time could read at all, so the Church could still feed the people only what they wanted out of the Bible. In Eastern Europe, John Huss heard of Wycliff’s teachings, and translated many of Wycliff’s writings into Czech. However, the church leaders arrested Huss and burned him at the stake in 1415, because of his “heretical” teachings.
Finally, upset with everything that had happened, on 31 October, 1517, Martin Luther threw down the gauntlet. He nailed his ninety-five thesis to the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church. Enventually, followers of Luther began their own churches, and the Lutheran movement was born. Most of northern europe split from the Catholic Church, enraged that they had been duped for years by the church leaders.
But Luther still believed in transubstantiation, a practice that some began to question. Ulrich Zwingli of Switzerland firmly believed that the bread and the wine in the Lord’s Supper were symbolic, and did not actually change into the real blood and the real body of Christ. Luther firmly believed that Zwingli was wrong, and the two grappled over the issue. Although they agreed on nearly every other theological point, Luther considered this disagreement so great that he would not have anything to do with Zwingli or his reformers, even after Zwingli’s death.
The reformed movement split into two parts. Lutherans, who kept the hierarchy of the church, but instead of having a pope, priests were accountable to princes. The more extreme reformers stripped everything from their Churches that they could not find scriptural basis for. John Calvin, a French reformer exiled to Switzerland, became the leader of the new reformed church. Many congregations today base their churches on the Calvin model, a church based solely on scripture, not on man-made traditions.
By the mid sixteenth century, the Catholic Church had mostly stopped the practice of indulgences, many Catholics themselves being outraged knowing that their “indulgence” money was being used simply for the Pope’s pet schemes. Although many people left the catholic church, some stayed behind and tried to reform the Catholic church itself. In this the "counter-reformation," Catholics affirmed many of their twisted doctrines with a mixture of papal tradition and the Apocrapha (books that were not reliable as scripture). Reactionaries had brought about both reformations. Using some of their great wealth, Roman Catholic priests were sent out to Asia and the recently discovered "New Spain". The Jesuit order of monks were also established, a group of men who’s desire was to spread the gospel “for Jesus,” hence the name “Jesuit,” or “of Jesus.” The heiarchy that was pressed upon the culture of Latin America is only now beginning to give way to a Pentecostal revival. Nominal works of a cultural Christianity could not endure the living Word free of ritual. Although the Catholic church reformed somewhat, it never returned to the founding principle of Christianity, salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, as declared in the Bible alone.
Multiple Choice Questions:
1. The 95 thesis was:
a. Names of 95 corrupt church leaders
b. An anti-Catholic paper written in 1495
c. Martin Luther’s 95 reasons that indulgences were wrong
d. A pro-catholic book that was 95 pages long.
e. A paper written by a schoolboy that got a grade of 95.
Correct answer: C
2. Pope Sixtus IV…
a. Fought with Alexander V for the papacy.
b. Declared that indulgences would free a loved one from purgatory
c. Supported the reformation.
d. Invented the doctrine of transubstantiation.
e. Secretly admired Ulrich Zwingli.
Correct answer: B
3. The Bible was originally written in…
d. Hebrew and Greek
e. Pig Latin
Correct answer: D
4. Ulrich Zwingli and Martin Luther disagreed over the doctrine of..
b. Papal succession
c. salvation through faith
e. whether to serve wine or grape juice in Communion.
Correct Answer: A
Hodges, Miles H. “New Geneva.” The Protestant Reformation. Accessed 11 October 2003. Copyright 2002 http://www.newgenevacenter.org/west/reformation.htm
Pollon, J.H. “Catholic Encyclopedia.” The Counter-Reformation.
Accessed 11 October 2003. Copyright 2003.
Thompson, Stephen P. The Reformation. Greenhaven Press, Inc. San Diego, California. 1999.
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