Luther's thought incited anti-Roman sentiment and thought initially in his native Germany. He strongly influenced sympathetic local princes to confiscate church lands and property and to redistribute these. He urged for the end of the practice of granting indulgences. Through his work, 95 Theses, he questioned the worth and truthfulness of indulgences. The Roman Catholic Church "granted" indulgences to absolve one's sin from a "treasury of merits" of the Church. Luther could not accept the clergy's ability to absolve sin and that it was something, which could be bought. He held that there was no biblical basis for indulgences and that the Bible should be the sole basis and center of Christian theology. Outside of the Bible, the clergy had no sure and valid foundation for their interpretations (Hermansen).
The foremost Reformation figure after Luther and Huldreich Zwingli, a Swiss pastor, was John Calvin, a French Protestant theologian (Microsoft Encarta 2009). In or about 1536, Calvin clamored for more reforms than what the town council of Geneva had then instituted. He sought for the congregational singing of the Psalms as part of church worship, instruction on catechism and confession of faith to children, strict moral discipline among pastors and church members and excommunication for notorious violators of Church doctrines. His church organization had a representative and, therefore, democratic form. Pastors, teachers, presbyters, and deacons were elected by the congregation (Microsoft Encarta).
John Calvin's experience of a religious crisis drew him to Protestantism (Hermansen 2009). He believed that God chooses certain persons to perform certain tasks for Him. Calvin believed God selected him to reform the Church. He began executing his reform mission in Geneva, Switzerland and wanted to establish it as a church. He argued that God was omnipresent and all-powerful. Any assertion of the free will would damage the image of God within. He believed that God preordained who would be saved and who would not be saved. As a consequence, many saw that Calvin preached a pessimistic kind of faith. It confused and disillusioned the many who believed that doing God's work would save them. It established a city government, consisting of lay people and pastors, who exercised very stringent observance of the law and behavior. Absence from sermons, adultery, blasphemy, heresy, criticism of ministers, family squabbles, cards, family affairs and drinking were crimes, punished with banishment or death. In enforcing discipline and morals, Calvin ordered a rigid inspection of household conduct with a consistory of pastors and lay persons to implement it. Citizens' dress and personal behavior were prescribed to the smallest detain. Many forms of recreation were banned and blasphemy and ribaldry were cruelly punished. As a result of this regime, many dissenters were persecuted and executed. All citizens were provided a minimum of elementary education in order to reach and understand the Bible. Calvin's writings, influence as an educator, and organizing skills of church and state provided the basis for the consequent establishment of Protestant churches in Switzerland, France and Scotland (Hermansen).
C. Religion, Culture and Politics as Historical Factors
The Renaissance saw that humankind rules nature, leading to the development of modern science and technology (Microsoft Encarta 2009). It used classical culture in defending political concepts, such as republicanism and human freedom, which later had a permanent impact on English constitutional theory, even in the form of government in the United States. Most of all, the Renaissance bestowed lasting artistic concepts to the world (Microsoft Encarta).
The Reformation also had enduring contributions throughout Western Europe (Microsoft Encarta 2009). The traditional power and wealth of the feudal nobility and the Roman Catholic Church moved to the middle classes and monarchical rulers. Political, religious and cultural independence flourished in the region. A new individualism and nationalism in culture and politics developed. The strengthening of democratic governments and the elimination of traditional restrictions on trade and banking uprooted the medieval system of authority. With the growth of modern capitalism from these developments (Microsoft Encarta), politics was the strongest historical factor during the Reformation. #
Hermansen, Joel. The European Renaissance and Reformation. AP World History:
Appleton Area School District, 2009. Retrieved on June 5, 2009 from http://www.aasd.k12.wi.us/staff/hermansenjoel/Notes/The%20European%20Renaissance%20and
Microsoft Encarta. Reformation. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia: Microsoft
Corporation, 2009. Retrieved on June 5, 2009 from http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761562628/Reformation.html