The Age of Reformation: 1517-1648 (Seeds of Reform)

These are my notes from Ken Rees’ presentation at FPC Edmond, 10/25/2006

The point we have been making up to this point in this class is that roots of Christians in reformed traditions go back much further than the reformation

In 1517, the world was quite different: (1517 was when Luther nailed the 95 theses to the church door)
– 4 nations of Europe (Spain, Portual, France and England) have strong monarchs
– Germany was more a collection of states with German speaking people, hadn’t been
– Italy more like city-states of ancient Greece (one is Vatican City)
– Renaissance was in full-flower (hard to put a date on it, people do argue about what it meant and means) – Michaelangelo and Da Vinci were at work
— in Medieval times, people were encouraged to stay where they were with their thinking
— now you have people thinking in new directions, starting to adopt the idea that the human is the center of the universe (growth of humanist movement)
— people becoming more interested in the human side of things, idealistic conceptions of humanity

Key technologies into the West
– gunpowder from China
– compass (had really limited mariners before this time)
– most important: printing press (just around for 60 years) – turned
– “America” recently discovered by Columbus, Cortez just starting conquest of Mexico, age of exploration

Muslim world: In last 50 years they were kicked out of Spain (Iberian Peninsula)
– occupy north Africa, Middle East, most of Greese and into Eastern Europe
– Ottoman Turks are a rising power

Africa is an unknown continent except for some posts where traders stop

Eastern Orthodoxy
– Constantinople: Fall meant that eastern Orthodoxy suffered a huge reversal
– center of orthodoxy has now moved to Russia, which had been evanglized by
– Russia had been ruled for a time by the Mongols, have shaken them off and emerging as a strong
– Moscow developing as replacement for Constantinople as center of orthodoxy

Other roots leading up to 1517
– 14th century: had been rival popes
– John Wyeclif became leading Oxford professor in 1372, entered the controversy about whether all authority over humans flows from God through the Pope regardless of the morality of church practices
— argues that the English king can discipline corrupt church officials
— rejected the idea of levels of sanctity for believers
— argued every righteous believer is equal in God’s eyes (dominion founded in grace)
— he was a zealot

These were novel ideas that the church hadn’t been
– Wyeclif “got this” message by studying the scriptures, going back to the source
– he wanted to see the whole church structure shorn of its wealth which had corrupted it
– felt the church didn’t need to be ruling like princes
– went beyond that: Said Rome doesn’t have all that authority vested in one person
– started studying Revelation and came to believe (and preach) that the Pope was the antiChrist

Focused on idea that God knows all the believers who will be in his church
– if that is true, how could we bargain with God via indulgences and penances?
– Wyeclif claimed these acts didn’t and don’t have anything to do with our salvation, because God knows who the ‘saved’ are
– encouraged focus on good preaching, not the sacraments
– at this time many priests were largely illiterate, many learned their job
– had some powerful friends among the nobility

Stayed at Oxford, and eventually crossed the line and argued that in scripture no where did it say for communion that the bread and the wine literally become the body and blood of Christ
– that caused his supporters to finally kick him out of Oxford
– preachers he taught went out into the countryside, sharing the message that everyone is equal in the eyes of God
– peasants started to question paying
– group was called the Lollards, were harshly put down by the English government who feared a broader peasant revolution

John Hus was a professor at the Univ of Prague
– picked up on Wyclif’s ideas in 1396 and began preaching them
– was excommunicated
– pled his case at the Council of Constance but was handed over to the Inquisition
– refused to recant and was burned at the stake in 1415

Biggest reason Martin Luther was able to lead the reformation starting in 1517 was Guttenberg
– by 1517 there were not only printing presses, but also publishers
– other reasons: Luther was fortunate to be in a good position
— may have been a more persuasive preacher, persuaded some princes that gave him sanctuary

Another important transitional figure: Erasmus
– was a scholar’s scholar
– didn’t have the zeal to overturn everything, he had a zeal for truth
– in the universities there was an argument that the Renaissance leaves you open to search for truth wherever you can find it
– Erasmus learned Greek to translate the New Testament from Latin into Greek
– published “A Handbook of the Christian Soldier”
– he stayed within the church, because he felt his mission was to reform the church
– later he was accused of laying the egg that Luther hatched as the Reformation

Another thing that happened in 100 years is the Papacy lost more of its power and influence
– had lost a lot of moral authority when there were two popes, three popes, some popes going to battle
– Pope wanted to be a partron of the arts like other Kings were, wanted to me a Medici
– cost a lot of money to build the Basilica of St Peter, church resorted to selling indulgences
– offering people the chance to buy salvation, and buy salvation for others to liberate them from purgatory

All that is left now of the temporal power of the Pope now is Vatican City
– that is the remnant of the former power and authority of the Catholic church

First time Luther heard the sermon on indulgences and become enraged
– had been a monk, and also a professor
– Luther was overburdened by the power of sin in his life early on
– in 1515 he began to study the book of Romans, when he found “the just shall live by faith”
– came to understand it is not something you have to DO to become free of sin: justified not by your own doings, but rather by the act of Christ on the cross

Luther decided the entire idea of “treasury of merit” was a crock
– idea was that the “saints” had stored credits in heaven, who had more than they needed
– that was and is why many people appeal to the saints for help

1517 Luther posts 95 theses to Wittenberg church
– argued that authority does not reside with humans
– we are invited to approach God through Christ on our own
– we have that level of freedom: we don’t need the intercession of people living and dead (priests and the Saints) to approach God
– source of authority was and is NOT the church
– says scripture is the authority for our faith and practice

University training in general at this time did not have different degrees
– Wittenberg was not a theological seminary: but everyone studied theology
– everyone who obtained a university education probably until the last century had a background in theology from the university

Popes at that time were paying large bribes for their positions
– parish priests tended to be less literate, and just knowing the liturgy they’d learned on the job

as we moved into the 16th century, more people were learning to read and had access to the written word

Earlier Popes going back to Benedict said there were 7 sacraments
– Luther said he could just find scriptural support for 7 sacraments: The Lord’s Supper and baptism

Luther called for the priesthood of all believers
– tried to narrow the gap between the priesthood and the pew
– before that time often, the cup was only taken by the priest
– now, both the cup and wafer were taken by the people
– in the past during communion, the priest used to take communion facing away from the people, similar to how the priest would go into the holy of holies

Luther did NOT have the radical idea that Wyclif had that the bread and wine were just symbolic
– Catholic church believed in transsubstantiation (trans: cross over from physical elements to the literal body and blood of Christ)
– Luther came up with idea of consubstantiation (con: idea of “with” – elements maintained their physical characteristics but also become the bread and body of Christ.

Luther was immediately attacked by the church, Pope Leo X excommunicated Luther
– German king declared Luther an outlaw
– Duke of Saxony hid Luther, during which time he translated the Bible into German and got it to a printer

Luther was a Renaissance man in many ways, he was also a musician
– said we shouldn’t just listen to a choir doing chants in Latin, he said in the early church they sang hymns
– he introduced congregational singing into the life of the church
– he wrote several dozen hymns, including “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

Luther viewed salvation as NOT mediated by a sacrament

KEN ACTUALLY CITED “I FOUND A WEBSITE THAT SAID LUTHER DID NOT ADOPT BAR SONG MELODIES” – NO INDICATION OF THE WEBSITE SOURCE!

Luther’s message of freedom provokes a peasant revolt which was ruthlessly put down after he failed to support the peasants
– later in life, teaching veered into anti-Semitism

Augsburg Confession was written in 1530 without Luther:
1- salvation by faith alone, not works
2- All authority is from scripture, not Roman Church
3- Church is the priesthood of believers
4- essence of Christian living is serving God in any useful calling, lay or clergy

MY THOUGHT: LACK OF STRONG CENTRAL AUTHORITY IN GERMANY AT THIS TIME WAS CRITICAL TO LUTHER’S CONTINUED SURVIVAL AND THE GROWTH (EVENTUAL SUCCESS) OF THE REFORMATION

Ulrich Zwingly in 1519 in Switzerland, influenced by Erasmus and more radical reforms of Luther, lead movement toward austerity
– trying to avoid idolitry at all costs
– were first to get the principle of infant baptism
– couldn’t find scriptural support for infant baptism, so said it had to be for believers “of the age of understanding”
– were called “anabaptist”
– believed in freedom from state authority
– were pacificsts, believed in individual conscience, didn’t have a church hierarchy (congregationalists)
– setup confession in 1527: wanted to be witnesses in a transformed style of living
— saw themselves called to be Nazarites like Sampson
— foresweared accumulation of wealth
— this idea was so radical: no princes supported Zwingly
— tried to lead a popular movement, took a lot of heat
– pushed into rural areas of Eastern Europe, Jakob Hutter was one of those leaders (Hutterites)

1532 radicals under Jan of Leiden, similar to David Koresh and Branch Davidians

Differences between Lutherans and Anabaptists: Anabaptists were just surviving, not very widespread
– Lutheranism established itself as a force to be recognized
– Omish had their roots among the Anabaptists

Separation of Church and state, focus on independent thinking are roots of our form of government here

Man being qualitatively equal before God is rooted here

Next week: Calvin!