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Background to the Reformation


Background to the Reformation


Did Luther tear apart a united Christendom?
Were the Reformers impatient? immoderate? unfaithful? simply wrong?

There were many tensions and crises on many fronts:
princes akin to warlords;
towns in tension with rural dwellers;
the Holy Roman Emperor in tension with kings and princes;
tension within the church between
(1) conciliarists and papalists,
(2) scholastics and humanists,
(3) those who sought
 greater spiritual depth and those contented with
e.g., masses for the dead and
     a shift from agricultural economy to an urban entrepreneurial economy.


Features of the turbulence:
[A] Religious upheaval:
Hussite movement
Late mediaevalists who sought simpler expression of the Christian faith
devoid of pomp and

[B] Objections to Papal Power:
The question of Rome’s primacy
The precedent of France and England
Germany’s objection despite its political fragmentation

[C] Renaissance Humanism (see next week)

[D] Ecclesiastical corruption and public perception of it



The nature of the clergy
a: higher clergy
b: lower clergy
c: public perception



The religious life of the common people
a: the prevalence of fear
b: the propensity for “revelations”
c: the place and proliferation of relics
d: the traffic in indulgences
e: the primacy of Jesus the Judge
f: the godliness of, e.g., the Brethren of the Common Life
g: mysticism
h: the nature of, e.g., the Devotio Moderna



The religious consequences of urbanization


The influence of Occam
The authority of the church
The Council of Constance





Other Forces:
[A] economic
[B] social unrest
[C] printing press
a: theological tomes
b: tracts and treatises, “occasional” writings
c: pamphlets
[D] new universities


Reverend V. Shepherd