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Martin Luther and the Refromation

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Martin Luther and the Refromation

Joel Erhardt

The book, Sixteenth Century Europe, by L.W. Cowie speaks about the precursors of the Protestant reformation and how they impacted on Catholicism, and it also looks at the precursors to the reformation. These precursors are what we know as the Renaissance humanists. Many of these ‘new thinkers’ provided new doctrines and biblical knowledge that would greatly impact the reformation. Without the Christiana humanists, the protestant reformation would not have changed the doctrine and beliefs of the Catholic Church.

By the 15th-century Renaissance scholars applied a new style to the scriptures, and translated many biblical texts in their own dialects and to also apply their principals into religion. Many scholars also translated scriptures into the vernacular to increase the spread of biblical text. This would allow for increased literacy rate of the masses, and would also allow them to question the authority of the Catholic Church. Also, Imitation of Christi by Thomas S Kempis was published, this book would spread the belief in the ‘perfectibility of man’ and would allow for people to not be content with what there were given but many people would now attempt to improve many things like political structure, but more importantly people were now questioning the Church, and also wanted to improve upon it. I would also like to point out that this ‘new thinking’ and questioning of the Church are the type of values, which that would lead into the scientific revolution. This new thinking would lead to the reformation. Due to the great schism, this new wave of thought looked for answers from Christian humanists. This new type of Renaissance thinking was the early stages of the reform, and the humanist’s scholars would attempt to apply biblical knowledge, which, in turn, allowed them to question the authority and relevance of the Church, and to attempt to improve or fix it. The Catholic Church was becoming increasingly corrupt due to the vast amounts of wealth it had gathered through the selling of indulgences. Luther would attack the Church out of anger, and faith, while it was argued that the Christian Humanists attacked the Church for the sake of purifying and improving in order to improve upon it and to purify it. Many precursors of the reformation, from like John Wycliffe and to John Huss, attempted to redefine the Catholic Church. They saw that the Catholic Church was abusing the masses, and that, due to the fact that they were illiterate, were often taken advantage of. This was because many of the people during 16th century Europe were either illiterate or they wouldn’t be able read the scriptures in their langue. Many people would have to simply trust the teachings of the priests, which were frequently unreliable. This would allow for church doctrine to be changed and would result in the radical overhaul of the church’s doctrines. For example, the selling of indulgences was a church doctrine, yet it is not found in the bible. John Huss and John Wycliffe would argued by using the doctrine of predestination. The concept of predestination allowed for the scriptures to be portrayed as the ultimate authority and therefore argued that Christ should be the head of the Church. This concept would benefit the masses, since it gave them the opportunity to interpret religious texts for themselves, and to go back to the basics of scripture. Thiw concept of predestination would also disallow all ‘incorrect’ theories of ‘bibical truths’ that the Catholics believed in. Many of the Catholics would attempt to correct this line of thinking and would stress man’s dignity and tolerance. Yet little did they know, that a Germanic Cleric would enter into the age of Reformation to greatly impact the Catholic Church.

Martin Luther would attempt to Reform the Church through the basics of scripture, the printing press, new doctrines, and an emphasies on salvation though faith. Martin Luther’s new emphasis on faith would greatly impact the Catholic Church. H, he is quoted here saying, “Instead, faith is God's work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God” (213, Luthers speech on Faith). By this Luther means that Faith is God’s work and not ours. Therefore, we cannot be saved by our works but through Gods work in us. This is referred to as Sola Fide, which means ‘by faith alone’. This doctrine greatly negatively impacts the Catholic Church negatively because it calls people to go back to the scriptures, which will hurt the Church’es credibility. Luther’s other doctrine called Sola Scriptura (by scripture alone) argues many of the Catholics churches teachings. The Humanists spoke about these doctrines, but I refer to them again in this paragraph because Luther places more of an emphasis on these doctrines. These doctrines are the building blocks, which uphold Luther’s reform on the Catholic Church. L.W. Cowie puts an emphasis on being justified through faith alone, he is quoted saying, “This was Luther's doctrine of justification through faith alone, which has become the watchword of the Reformation” (155). By this L.W. Cowie means that ‘justification through faith alone’ or Sola Fide is the main doctrine which allowed Luther to successfully reform the Catholic Church. This would directly affect the Catholics, because the Church was gaining a great amount of wealth through the selling of indulgences. Through the printing press, these ideas would become widespread and the right to interpret scripture would bring economic, and political freedom to the masses.

L.W. Cowie brings an fascinating perspective on the precursors of the Reformation, and on Luther's doctrines. The author argues that without the Christian Humanists (or precursors), many of Luther doctrines would have not been as credible and therefore dismissed by the Church community. L.W Cowie taugh me many new things. For example, the author then begins to talk about how the Renaissance and the Reformation lead to the secular thinking of the Scientific Revolution. Cowie argues that the Renaissance allowed the masses to question the church and therefore we’re able to think for themselves. Then the author argues that being able to ignore the dogma of the time and to critically think is one of the reasons why the Scientific Revolting started. The author had a lot of insight regarding the Reformation, and I was very fortunate to have read L.W. Cowies book.

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