Protestant Reform – What was it, concept, characters and characteristics

We explain what the Protestant Reformation was, its origin, consequences and other characteristics. In addition, more important characters.

What was the Protestant Reformation?

It is known as the Protestant Reformation, Protestant Revolution or simply the Reform at 16th century religious movement initiated by the German Catholic theologian and friar Martin Luther (1438-1546) and the French theologian Juan Calvino (1509-1564).

This movement generated a division within the Catholic Church of the time, and thus gave rise to the different churches that make up Protestantism, the second great branch of Christianity worldwide.

The Reform arose as a result of the discontent that, in different aspects, generated in the population European how the Catholic Church administered the religion. It was manifested in a review of Catholic precepts against what was said by the Holy Scriptures.

His initial fact was the writing and dissemination of the “ninety-five theses” of Luther in 1517, text in which he criticized the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church to raise funds and build the Sistine Chapel.

The term “Reform” is used because according to its initial intentions, the idea was to reform Christianity and recover an original, primitive sense, which was considered lost in the theology of Catholicism

This movement of division of the Christian world separated Europe into two. The conflict involved different princes and aristocrats who saw in the Reformation the opportunity to create their own state Christian churches, thus freeing themselves from the authority of the Pope and the Vatican.

Characteristics of the Protestant Reformation

  • It arises in the 16th century with questions of Martin Luther and Juan Calvino.
  • Proposes retake the “original” spirit of Christianity, from which Catholicism would have departed.
  • Denounced the corruption and lack of faith of many of the Catholic priests, and proposed the return to the Bible as the only true path to Christ. This allowed the emergence of multiple translations of the Bible into local languages.
  • He divided the Christian world in two and gave rise to Protestantism, whose cult differs significantly from the Catholic. For example, their priests can get married and are free from celibacy.
  • He laid the foundation for the Counter Reformation, the opposite theological movement.
  • It was persecuted by the Holy Catholic Inquisition in numerous countries
  • It culminated with the victory of the papacy, but weakened Catholicism in northern Europe forever.

Origin of the Protestant Reformation

The Protestant Reformation began in Germany in 1517, but its roots can be traced much earlier, and they have to do with the configuration of the powers politicians of the time, divided between the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Pope.

The trigger for everything was the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church: the granting of spiritual favors, such as absolution, in exchange for donations, with the purpose of financing the construction of the Sistine Chapel. According to the Protestants, that gesture summarized the fraud and corruption that constituted Catholic procedures.

At that time, just culminating the Middle Ages, religion played a vital role in social organization and was among the powers of State. Therefore, gestures of rebellion to Papal power exposed serious dangers, such as excommunication and punishment.

This explains Luther’s risk in publishing his Disputatio pro declaratione virtus indulgentiarum (“Questioning the power and effectiveness of indulgences”) at the doors of the main temples of its city.

Causes of Protestant Reform

In spite of what has been said before, the Protestant Reformation did not have a single cause, but it was due at the same time to various historical processes and to the own excesses of the Catholic Church. We can summarize its causes in:

  • The weariness of many European countries for the payment of papal taxes and the rejection of the control exercised from Rome by the papal delegates.
  • Abundant accusations of corruption, lack of faith and ill will done against the Catholic Church.
  • The promulgation of Statutes of Mortmain (1279), Provisors (1351) and Praemunire (1393), which reduced the control of the Church over land control in some countries.
  • The state of poverty of the Holy Roman Empire, including its lessons noble, eager to share the assets owned in their nation For the Catholic Church.

Consequences of the Protestant Reformation

The Protestant Reformation was an event of enormous significance in the history cultural of Europe and, therefore, of the West everything. Among its consequences are:

  • The Christian parishioner division in two great aspects: the Catholic and the Protestant (formed in turn by different churches and visions of the creed).
  • The cultural estrangement from the countries of Mediterranean and Catholic Europe, from the Protestant countries of the north.
  • A deep cultural change in values and the philosophy of the Protestant nations, many of which subsequently influenced the emergence of the capitalism.
  • The rise of the Counter Reformation as an opposition movement to the Reformation, which had an enormous influence on the culture of Hispanic America.

Reform and Counter Reformation

The Counter-Reformation was called the movement exactly contrary to the Protestant Reformation: a kind of Catholic “rebirth”, which sought to strengthen the traditional values ​​of the Catholic creed, of papal authority and medieval Christian heritage.

It was presented as the authentic and true form of Christian worship, trying to stop the criticisms of Luther and the other Protestant thinkers.

The Counter Reformation started at the Council of Trent of 1545, which met for almost 17 years, due to continuous interruptions. It established disciplinary measures for Catholic priests, seminars were created to organize the teaching of faith.

In addition, old Catholic orders such as Barefoot Carmelites, or the Society of Jesus were revived.

Most important characters of the Protestant Reformation

  • Martin Luther. This Augustinian Catholic friar was probably the most relevant of all the reformists, founder of the Lutheran doctrine and the church of the same name, not only was a critic of Catholicism, but also an important translator of the Bible into German, his version being the Model for the translation of the sacred text into Germanic language. He married Catalina de Bora in 1525, initiating a movement to support priestly marriage.
  • Juan Calvino. Another of the great Protestant reformists, was the author of a series of doctrines who later founded “Calvinism,” as opposed to those of Dutch Protestant Jacobo Arminio. He was the creator of the Geneva Bible in 1564, as well as of The Institution of the Christian Religion, from 1536.
  • Ulrico Zuinglio. The Leader of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland, born in 1484 and died in 1531, he was also the founder of the Swiss Reformed Church, studying the Holy Scriptures from a point of view strongly influenced by the Humanism. Their conclusions, similar to those of Luther, were obtained independently, and between 1524 and 1529 he translated the Bible into German, with marked Swiss characteristics. This text is known as the Zurich Bible.
  • Jacobo Arminio. Born in 1560 and died in 1609, he was a writer and professor at the University of Leiden, as well as an important Dutch Protestant theologian. He was the founder of the Protestant anti-Calvinist school, and his important legacy for the rise of Methodism.