Have you aver questioned authority or superior forces than yourself? Martin Luther and John Calvin, two famous theologians deeply questioned their times authority, the Catholic Church. These two had created a new way of thinking and voicing it out, especially when it comes to religion. Questioning the Catholic Church and the works that came with that made both of them landmark points in the world’s history but the question relies on why they attacked the fundamental principles of the church. The strong opposition to selling indulgences and that anyone could make its way to heaven if they had the right amount of money was what ignited the reformation, including Martin Luther 95 theses against indulgences.
Later on came John Calvin’s work against the Catholic Church including the Geneva reform and his idea of predestination, the idea that God is willing all of the events that can happen in one’s life. Both of these theologians had intentions of creating a truer version of the Christian religion and created their own form and version of Catholicism, Calvinism and Lutheranism. Some viewed these new branches/forms of Christianity as a new way of interpreting the religion and some; according to Prentice Hall world history thought it would be a chance to “throw off the rule of both the Church and the Holy Roman Empire.” (Ellis and Esler 64) In a whole, both of their works were a way to challenge and attack the Church and to voice out their ideas, which differed from those of the religious authorities.
In this time period, late 15th through the end of the 16th century, the Catholic Church was the predominant authority and religion in most of Europe, it had a set of rules, in theory based on the bible, that everyone had to follow. However, these so called laws from the bible were modified and made to arrange the leaders, especially rich individuals. One of the main laws was flagrantly unequal and people understood that but couldn’t voice it out fearing the superior powers in rule. This law, of course was in the advantage of the most fortunate and the richest. This was the law selling indulgence and paying off your sins, meaning that if you had the right amount of money one could pay its way to heaven. As said earlier, several people believed it wasn’t correct and equal; however the problem they faced in those times was that a wide range of people did not know how to read and had no evidence or proof that what the Catholic Church said was different from what was written in the bible.
When well-educated theologians such Martin Luther heard about such law, he found it unacceptable, to demonstrate it, he wrote a set of points against selling indulgences and how indulgences should be. This directly “challenged the teachings of the Catholic Church on the nature of penance, the authority of the pope and the usefulness of indulgences.” (Theopedia, Encyclopedia of Christianity) Luther posted these points on the Church’s door and it grabbed people attention, nevertheless a wide range of people believed that these points were true. This was the spark of Lutheranism, a new branch of Christianity based on the Martin Luther’s ideas and works.
Few years later came John Calvin, a theologian and reformer. Calvin attacked at his turn the Catholic Church. He, very similarly to Luther, believed that selling indulgences wasn’t correct and more importantly he embraced the concept of predestination, the belief that God is wanting and knows everything that might happen in one’s life. He also created a theocracy; a government that was ran by church headmen. Based on his ideas and concepts he created, at his turn, a new branch of Christianity. This was another challenge forwarded to Catholic Church.
On the other hand, the Catholic Church did not change any of its laws through out the reformation period. Catholicism compared in numerous ways with both Calvinism and Lutheranism on many subjects. In Catholicism, the bible is one source of truth and church tradition is another source of truth. However in Calvinism and Lutheranism, the bible is the only source of truth. These branches also differ in how the belief is revealed, in Catholicism the priest interprets the bible and people are transmitted that information through Church teachings. On the other side, in the two other branches, people read and interpret the bible for them to find what is written. Catholicism also believes that salvation is achieved through faith and good work, and most importantly that one can pay off its sins with current money; this is way the branches differ.
Selling indulgences was the result of needing money to finance lavish pope lives, and the artists they paid to work for them. This meant that the Catholic Church was widely moving away from the original biblical writing and interpreting it differently to finance personal projects. In these cases religion wasn’t respected and that is what mainly sparked these large reforms. In Catholicism, the only way to achieve salvation is through faith and good works. At those times, popes and renaissance leaders took advantage of all of these modified biblical rules and mind washed people to achieve once again personal projects.
This branch of Catholicism also gave a disadvantage of unfortunate people, lower classes and poor people. During the reformation times, poor people did not know how to read and therefore could read and have their own interpretation of the bible. Their only way to know what is supposedly written was through the priest’s interpretation and Church teaching. However, as stated earlier these teachings and passing of religious laws were not accurate, they were modified by the priests and upper class barons, which obviously gave them an advantage.
Lutheranism was the first branch that appeared. When Martin Luther posted the 95 theses on the Church’s doors, he expected an obvious opposition by the leaders and authorities. When Luther’s ideas started spreading the Church asked him to remove all of his works and let his projects down. Instead “ he developed even more radical and new doctrines.” (Ellis and Esler 63) One of the key factors to the spread of his ideas was the existence Gutenberg’s’ invention, the printing press. It made it possible to print a large amount of copies of the 95 theses. Among his ideas, he stated that salvation could be achieved through faith and faith alone, compared to Catholicism and Calvinism.
Martin also said that at the head’s church should be an elected council. Calvinism was also a source of inspiration to all of the peasants that believed that this rule has been brain washing them and in favor of the richest. It ignited revolts all over Europe and results in socio-economic changes; these were mainly present through out Germany. One of the points Luther stressed is that all Christians should have the same and equal access to religion and God. This was an immense attack to the principles of the Catholic Church.
What was making the Catholic Church’s head so influent and imposing was being attacked, those times people not accessing accurate information made it possible for the authorities to remain. However, with these new prominent and seemingly fair ideas, the Church was vulnerable to new revolts and opposition. Last, Lutheranism also was a wonderful opportunity to gain power. Small German princes embraced Lutheranism for the simple reason to overthrown the current Catholic Church. On the other side, Lutheranism doesn’t share a lot of details with Catholicism; they both share monotheist views, faith in God and Jesus as well as other broad and large concepts.
Lastly, Calvinism came to create a new reformed type of Protestant Christianity. John Calvin, the major author of this new branch was himself a reformer and had lived in various European countries, he was a “refugee among refugees.” (Vosloo 3) However once in Geneva, Protestant wanted him to lead their people. To do that Calvin created a theocracy, a government led by church leaders. They later on gave birth to Calvinism, which was fundamentally attached to the predestination concept.. To Calvinists, predestination is what rules our everyday life and our future, God knows what we did, do, and will do.
They also believe in the idea that God has already determined who would acquire salvation, and that the world contained two different types of people, those who sinned and saints At its turn it was a way to challenge the Catholic Church since it strictly denied the existence of predestination and that there wasn’t such thing. Calvinism was not very far different from Lutheranism, both believed that the bible is the only source of information and that every citizen should read and interpret the bible by his or her own means.
In this branch, work and honesty, Calvinism was so strict that anyone that engaged in laughing in church, dancing, or fighting would be heavily fined. Nevertheless, Calvinism expanded through visitors and travelers that came to Geneva to embrace the concept of Calvinism, and then brought it back home. This was so successful that in Scotland a Calvinist rebel defeated the Catholic Queen and gained power. On the other side of the English Canal, violent war was going on between Calvinists and Christians.
To conclude, the reformation was a time period of questioning, a time of new reforms and equal laws. Martin Luther and John Calvin were the landmarks in these times and were the ones that ignited the reformation. Creating new religious branches, Calvinism and Lutheranism, which embraced laws that gave an opportunity to the poor to understand the true meaning of the bible. Giving this opportunity to unfortunate people helped start new socio-economic reforms in their favor.
It was the fruit of Luther and Calvin’s questioning of the Church and the attack of their principles. By writing the 95 theses against selling indulgences, Luther made people aware that the Church’s laws were not always coherent. The people’s huge uncertainty toward the Catholic Church made it easier for Calvin to impose new beliefs such as predestination and a more refined and clean way of living religion. All three branches of Christianity had both common and non-common points however Lutheranism and Calvinism were much more similar than to Catholicism.