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religion on world events cannot, and should not be underestimated in its importance in dictating the events of history. The Protestant Reformation is one such historic event or epoch that seemingly altered the way religion and society intermixed. The 16th century was a time of revolution and revolt and this modification of the church helped exposed many of the problems that the church had in maintaining a control over its subjects.
A the time shortly before Martin Luther's edict of worms, many were having problems with the Catholic church and an opportunity for a new sect to break off was ripe. The main problem with the church at this time was its ineffectiveness in dealing with personal salvation. The pomp and bloviated rituals apparently had lost their folk values and growing numbers were despondent and unsatisfied with the Catholic church's stance on many issues.
The main issue with the Catholic church at this time, and what Martin Luther essentially exposed, was the incredible amount of corruption that existed within the confines of power within that organization. Arnold (1999) suggested the same ideas when he wrote "Religious, economic and political factors that had been brewing for centuries set the stage for the Reforma-tion. The papacy was corrupt; monasticism and scholastic theology had declined; mysticism was on the upswing; there was a revival of the Greek and Roman classics; men with a spirit of inquiry and independence were discovering the new world; the printing press had been invented, and the Greek New Testament republished. The Renaissance was also a factor in that it challenged men to use their minds - but the Renaissance was purely secular, not religious. The Renaissance brought humanism, but the Reformation brought true Christianity. These things were all part of God's plan to bring about the greatest religious revival since the first three centuries of the Church."
The populous upheaval and the eventual splitting away from the Catholic church made it very difficult for any counter attack to be successful. The spiritual and political forces at work appeared to be too much for the institution to defend itself. Essentially the ideas expressed by Martin Luther are most representative of the unfolding of the event. The qualities that are best expressed in the historical context are also those same qualities expressed in Luther the man himself.
While Luther is often credited for leading the reformation, there were many other voices that contributed to the cause. Huldrych Zwingli, a Swiss spiritual leader also laid ground work for the transformation that occurred during this time. Unlike Luther, however, Zwingli was more radical and perhaps more eager for the fall of the church. Luther held on to some of the rituals and practices that the church espoused, however Zwingli urged that the abolishment of unhealthy rituals should be more widespread. "But while Luther, being a pious man aware of his roots on the countryside, still believed in the mysterious real presence of Christ in the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper, Zwingli as an intellectual sharply distinguished the material from the spiritual and was horrified of the idea that "physical objects might be the vehicles of spiritual gifts."
John Calvin was another prominent figure in the Reformation movement of the 16th century and devoted his entire life's effort to redefining spiritual enlightenment and religious atonement. Calvin, like Luther and unlike Zwingli was extremely spiritual and saw a practicality in faith that differentiated him from other theologists and spiritual thinkers of that time. The differences were essentially subjective in their ideas, but their objective to diminish the church's power were both the same. " It is no surprise there is much similarity between Calvin's theological statements and Luther's, as the former was in a way influenced by the latter. The Reformation movement was a small camp against the unbiblical doctrines of Rome. So, you see, to be Calvinist or to be Lutheran is not a great divide. Yet, Calvin's doctrines were further refined to become the basis of the Reformed churches we know today," (Manteufel, 1994).
The results of the Reformation varied between area in Europe, however the catholic church was dealt a severe blow to its power and reach in political matters. England's more practical and political aspirations were soon met during this time, as well as Germany's need for spiritual enlightenment was also achieved. This suggests that when old and powerful institutions are weakened, the resulting fracturing may cause differing results for different countries.
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