Monday, October 02, 2017

Reformation Information.

In terms of religious antecedents, the Reformation is no exception. Since the days of Jesus Christ (when he was physically in the Earth) and the early Apostles, many Christians have advanced a simplistic, culturally enriching, and powerful Gospel. Cyprian was a religious leader during the 200’s A.D. He was a bishop of Carthage. He wrote much literature about spiritual matters ranging from theological debates to history. He was the person who wrote that no man should act as “bishop of bishops” in saying that no bishop from Rome or anyone else should act as the primary leader of Christendom. As time went on, the Catholic Church, as we see it, would be invented and false doctrines from purgatory to the veneration of saints would be part of its foundational doctrines. Vigilantius of the 5th century A.D. spoke out against many errors that were spread in Europe. Jerome criticized Virgilantius harshly, because Vigilantius continued to oppose the vigils in basilicas or churches. Jovianius also criticized the myth that virgin is better than a wife in the sight of God. I don’t agree with Jovanius on every issue, but he is right to question plus oppose authoritarian institutions and false doctrines.  After the Roman Empire ended, the Germanic tribes (like the Franks and Visigoths) conquered much of Western Europe and even parts of Northern Africa. They later became part of the many kings of Europe. The Pope continued to work with the kings in dominating European politics, religion, and culture. Still, independent Christians flourished. During the early Carolingian Empire of the 800’s, many religious scholars questioned transubstantiation (or the belief that the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is present during communion ceremony, which is blasphemous and illogical). These scholars included Ratrammnus of Corbie, John Scotus Eriugena, (an Irish theologian), and others (from the 840’s A.D.). Claudius of Turin rejected the cult of images during the 820’s A.D. Gottscahlk questioned many Catholic doctrines too. Many people in their positions risked imprisonment, their books burned, and some even experienced death. Many religious people, who disagreed with Romanism back then, were in fact killed by political authorities because of their religious views. By the 1100’s, Peter of Bruys was a French religious leader who criticized infant baptism, opposed the erecting of churches and the veneration of crosses, opposed the doctrine of transubstantiation, and denied the efficacy of prayers for the dead. He’s right on all of those accounts except for the opposition of the erecting of churches. I disagree with him on some issues, but his followers called the Petrobrusians opposed mandatory clerical celibacy. He was killed by a mob later by 1131.

One of the most influential predecessors of the Reformation was Peter Waldo. He lived from 1140 to 1205 A.D. He was a leader of the Waldensians. He opposed purgatory and transubstantiation. His followers preached around Europe, promoted a translation of the New Testament into the vernacular (or the Franco-Provençal language), and he believed in the universal priesthood. His followers existed for centuries in northern Italy to escape suppression. By the 1300’s, John Wycliffe was born. He is called the Morning Star of the Reformation because of his views, which were very similar to the Reformation’s ideologies. John Wycliffe was an English scholar, theologian, Bible translator, and seminary professor at Oxford. He attacked the greed among some of the clergy. He helped to create the Wycliffe Bible of 1382 (it was in the English language). He criticized indulgences, wanted to promote anti-simony (or religious bribes), and desired changes in the church. His views were condemned in 1377 by Pope Gregory XI. He focused on helping the poor. Wycliffe rejected transubstantiation. He wrote literature and passed away in 1384 at the age of 64. His followers were the Lollards which expressed his doctrines throughout England. The Catholic Church condemned him, excommunicated him, and burned his bones (and his ashes were thrown into the River Swift, which flows through Lutterworth). William Thorpe of the 1400’s followed the views of Wycliffe too.  Jon Huss also disagreed with the Roman Catholic Church on issues. He lived in Prague and was a Czech priest. He was murdered in 1415. It is said that when he was about to expire, he cried out, "Christ, son of the Living God, have mercy on us!". Hus' ashes were later thrown into the Rhine River. The religious freedom that we take for granted in America was brutally suppressed in many areas of the world centuries ago. The Hussites were his followers. Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples believed in justification by faith and he believed in the authority of the Scriptures. Erasmus wanted reform in the Catholic Church and he resisted greed and excess found in many parts of the Catholic Church. He promoted study of theology and he was from the Netherlands. Much of his research contributed to the Reformation Bibles of Europe.  Erasmus published Novum Instrumentum that deals with the Greek New Testament.

The Reformation was created, because of many factors. The Roman Catholic Church dominated the lives of Northern and Western Europe. It didn’t have universal approval too. Many of the church leaders wanted more worldly recognition and power than spiritual enlightenment. These realities caused dissenters to increase their voices more forcefully. People criticized the Vatican as not going far enough in establishing far reaching reforms. By 1500, the Renaissance took total flight in Europe. It caused more people to question reality and the doctrines of the Vatican. The printing press spread diverse ideas rapidly including ideas that challenged the Catholic Church’s political power (as church and state are unified in the Vatican back then in most of Europe). Many Popes were overtly corrupt. Some organized wars and lived extravagantly. One example is how Pope John XII (955–964) gave land to a mistress, murdered several people, and was killed by a man who caught him in bed with his wife.  Pope Alexander VI admitted that he fathered several children and had mistresses. In 1500, Pope Alexander VI called for a crusade against Turkish peoples. The world’s population reaches about 400 million while 100 million live in Europe and Russia. Powerful monarchs challenged the Vatican as the supreme power in Europe. Many leaders viewed the pope as a foreign ruler with too much power. European princes and Kings fought over wealth. Merchants and others hated paying taxes to the Catholic Church. The sale of indulgences was not only repugnant, but it was opposed by many. Some priests were illiterate and poorly educated, so they couldn’t teach the people greatly. Some were using alcohol into excess and some gambled. Some were married and I have no problem with clergymen or clergywomen being married. Humanists like Erasmus and Thomas More promoted reform within Catholicism, but soon the Reformation existed. 

The leader of the modern Reformation was Martin Luther. Martin Luther had strengthens and weaknesses. To describe both, we must start from the beginning. He lived from 1483 to 1546. He lived in Germany. Ironically, many of his views not only opposed Catholic teachings. Some of his views are in fact very similar to Catholicism. To begin, he was born in Eisleben, Saxony (then apart of the Holy Roman Empire in Germany). His father was Hans Luder and his mother was Margarethe. He had many brothers and sisters and he was close to one brother named Jacob. Martin Luther went to Latin schools in Mansfeld and then Magdeburg in 1497. He was educated in another school on grammar, rhetoric, and logic by 1498. Martin Luther entered the University of Erfurt in Germany at the age of 19 in 1501. Luther did learning and spiritual exercises there. He received the Masters of Arts in philosophy by the year of 1505. Later, he was almost struck by a lightning bolt. He left law school, sold his books, and entered St. Augustine’s Monastery in Erfurt on July 17, 1505. He became an Augustinian monk during the autumn of 1506. He was ordained a priest at Erfurt Cathedral on April 3, 1507. His family wanted him to be a lawyer, but he decided to be a monk. He taught religion at the University of Wittenburg from 1512 to his passing. He received a Doctor of Theology on October 19, 1512. The Vatican wanted indulgences to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The friar Johann Tetzel supported the promotion of indulgences (or money sent to the church which causes a church to pardon someone of sins). Tetzel’s antics were wrong. Martin Luther opposed and protested the sale of indulgences. So, On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. He invited other scholars to debate him. The 95 theses was a letter sent to Albert of Mainz. The full title of it was “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulges.” Back then, Martin Luther had no intention of splitting with the church, but an objection with one church policy. Thesis 86 asks rightfully that: "Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?" When word spread of the 95 Theses, Luther became well known throughout Germany. Luther later said that forgiveness was God’s alone to grant and buying salvation via indulgences was a huge error.

The 95 Theses was translated in Latin and German by his friends in January of 1518. He later believed in justification by faith alone. He believed that justification is the work of God, which is true. He promoted his views by citing the verses from the books of Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians. The salvation by God alone via grace through faith is one core belief of the Reformation. Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz and Magdeburg did not reply to Luther's letter containing the Ninety-five Theses. He had the theses checked for heresy and in December 1517 forwarded them to Rome. Luther believed that church teachings should be based on the words of the Bible. He rejected the authority of the Pope and Church tradition. He believed that priests don’t necessarily need to interpret the Bible for people since all people with faith are equal. His ideals spread quickly. The Vatican at first tolerated him as a rebellious monk. By 1518, Luther denied that the popes had an exclusive right to interpret scripture. He didn’t view the Pope nor church councils as infallible. The theologian Johann Eck later wanted Luther to be defeated because of his views. In 1518, Luther appeared before Cardinal Cajetan in Augsburg and appealed to the General Council while refusing to recant. In 1519, Luther and Johann Eck debated in the Leipzig Debate. In June 15, 1520, Pope Leo X threatened Luther with excommunication via his papal bull or edict Exsurge Domine. The pope wanted him to recant 41 sentences drawn from his writings including the 95 Theses in 60 days. Luther refused and publicly set fire the bull and the decretals on December 10, 1520. He wrote about this in his "Why the Pope and his Recent Book are Burned and Assertions Concerning All Articles." As a consequence, Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X on January 3, 1521, in the bull Decet Romanum Pontificem. Martin Luther continued in his religious views.

After Martin Luther was excommunicated, his life was certainly in danger. As late as the 1500’s, anyone disagreeing with the Vatican in public (in Europe) risked death. Devout Catholic and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V opposed Luther’s teachings. Charles V controlled a lot of lands and had great power. So, Charles V summoned Luther to the town of Worms. He stood trial. Luther refused to recant or take back his statements. This event is called the Diet of Worms (which is found on the Rhine). Prince Frederick III or the Elector of Saxony protected Luther’s life literally. Later, the Emperor Charles V showed his final draft of the Edict of Worms on May 25, 1521. It declared Luther an outlaw; it banned his literature, and wanted his arrest. It said that: "We want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic." It also made it a crime for anyone in Germany to give Luther food or shelter. It permitted anyone to kill Luther without legal consequence. Prince Frederick the Wise of Saxony protected Luther’s life. In one of his castles (in the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach), Luther translated the New Testament from Greek into German. He created many writings. He attacked with literature Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz. He worked with his friend Melanchthon.  Luther came back into Wittenburg in 1522. He had his own separate religious group called the Lutherans. Immediately by 1524, the heroic Peasants’ Revolt existed. This revolt was against the injustices of feudalism and economic exploitation by the wealthy elites. The German peasants believed that Luther’s views can inspire change. Luther opposed the revolt and called for the princes in Germany to stop it without mercy. The German princes killed as many as 100,000 people. The peasants rejected Luther’s religious leadership, because they felt betrayed by him. Northern German princes supported Luther. They became the Protestants. In two of his later works, Luther expressed anti-Semitic views, writing that Jewish homes and synagogues should be destroyed, their money confiscated, and liberty curtailed. There is no excuse for anti-Semitism as it is racist and evil period. Today, every Lutheran denomination has condemned those views and anti-Semitism in general. Later, Protestants included those who disagreed with Roman Catholicism in Western and Northern Europe. Charles V of Germany fought against the Protestant princes. Charles V won the war, but the movement of the Reformation grew. The Peace of Augsburg allowed princes in Germany to decide for themselves their own religion.

While the Reformation grew, England had many people that started to embrace Protestantism during the 1500’s. The Catholic Church’s stronghold in England started to end. The Lollard movement existed in England for a while. King Henry VIII of England wanted a son to control his empire. He wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon. The Pope refused to do so. So, he decided to end the marriage himself. In 1529, he asked the Parliament to end the pope’s power over his government in England. By 1533, Henry secretly married Anne Boleyn and the Parliament allowed the divorce of his first marriage. In 1553, the Parliament promoted the Act of Supremacy which ends the Pope’s control over England politically. This policy wanted King Henry VIII not the pope to rule the Church of England (or the Anglican Church). Thomas More was an English Catholic who criticized policies of the Vatican, but refused to break away from the Catholic Church. He refused to obey the Act of Supremacy. So, King Henry VIII had him arrested and executed. Anne Boleyn had a child named Elizabeth. She was beheaded in 1536 for not giving birth to a son.  King Henry VIII died in 1547. He had a son named Edward, who was born in 1537. Edward’s mother was Jane Seymour. Edward VI was advised by Protestant adult advisers. He ruled for six years. Later, Mary or the daughter of Catherine of Aragon was on the throne in 1553. She was a Catholic and supported the Pope. She had many Protestants executed. That is why she was nicknamed "Bloody Mary." She died in 1558. Elizabeth or the famous Queen Elizabeth (daughter of Anne Boleyn) inherited the throne. In 1559, Queen Elizabeth I modernized the Church of England or Anglicanism with the help of Parliament. She tried to please both Protestants and Catholics by: allowing priests to marry to please Protestants and to allow trappings of Catholic services to please the Catholics. Elizabeth I faced economic problems, many Catholics trying to kill her since she was a Protestant, and other Protestants viewed her as not going far enough in reforms.  William Tyndale was a famous English scholar and a translator of the Bible. He lived from c. 1494 to October 6, 1536. He was one of the most heroic people of religious freedom. He was born in Gloucestershire, England. He graduated from Oxford to get his B.A. and Masters of Arts. He was a gifted linguist and became fluent over the years in French, Greek, Hebrew, German, Italian, Latin, and Spanish, in addition to English. Between 1517 and 1521, he went to the University of Cambridge. Erasmus had been the leading teacher of Greek there from August 1511 to January 1512, but not during Tyndale's time at the university. Tyndale was sub deacon too. He became a chaplain and translated the Bible into English. He studied religion in Germany and worked in Antwerp. Tyndale denounced the practice of prayer to saints. He taught justification by faith, the return of Christ, and mortality of the soul. Eventually, Tyndale was betrayed by Henry Phillips  to the imperial authorities. He was seized in Antwerp in 1535, and held in the castle of Vilvoorde (Filford) near Brussels. He was tried on a charge of heresy in 1536 and was condemned to be burned to death, despite Thomas Cromwell's intercession on his behalf. Tyndale was strangled to death while tied at the stake, and then his dead body was burned. His final words, spoken "at the stake with a fervent zeal, and a loud voice", were reported as "Lord! Open the King of England's eyes." William Tyndale's Bible was influential and contributed many words to the English language. His work contributed heavily to future English translations of the Bible. William Tyndale was heroic in promoting his views.

Other forms of Protestantism existed in Europe too. Huldrych Zwingli was influenced by Erasmus and Luther. By 1520, Zwingli criticized the abuses of the Vatican. He wanted the people to control the church in a simplistic fashion.  His reforms existed in Zurich, Switzerland. Protestants and Catholics fought it out in Switzerland and soon Zwingli died in 1531. John Calvin was a young person. He was 8 when the 95 Theses existed. John Calvin gave additional structure to the doctrines of the Reformation. By 1536, Calvin wrote the Institutes of the Christian Religion. It talked about God, salvation, and human nature. Calvin was correct that humans can’t earn salvation by works alone since only God grants that. Yet, Calvin promoted a very rigid, exaggerated form of predestination. He believed that since the beginning of time, God preordained a select group of people to be saved called the elect. Calvinism is his founding teaching. He formed a theocracy or a religious government in Europe. He formed it in 1541 in Geneva, Switzerland. His theocracy had extreme rules. Everyone was forced to attend religious classes. No one played card games or wore bright clothes. Anyone who broke those rules risked excommunication or expulsion from Geneva (which had 200,000 people back then). John Knox admired Calvin’s views and promoted his Presbyterian movement in Scotland. He organized laymen or presbyters to work in a church by 1559. Calvin revolutionized the Protestant reformation. His views influenced those in France, the Netherlands, and Scotland. Huguenots were the French followers of Calvinism. Many of them suffered the murder in Paris on August 24, 1572 (which is called the Bartholomew Day Massacre). This was when many Catholics executed Protestants. Over 12,000 Huguenots were murdered in cold blood. So, there is diversity in the Reformation. All of these Protestant groups agreed that believers can interpret the Bible for themselves, that preaching and service is important, that the Bible is the sole source of revealed truth, they rejected purgatory, they rejected the pope being infallible, and they rejected indulgences. Anglicans and Lutherans retained more Roman Catholic beliefs than Calvinism. Lutherans believe in the sacramental union. Anglicanism is sense as a hybrid between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism too. Also, Protestants back then believed in an union of church and state (which would be rejected by the Anabaptists and early Baptist groups. They believed in the separation of church and state).  Also, Anabaptists and early Baptists believed that adults should be baptized as they can make a conscious decision to do it (while Protestants back then believed that infants can be baptized). Diversity in Protestantism continues to this day.

By Timothy

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