How did the Protestant Reformation affect Christianity?
“It began with the blow of a hammer” - this is roughly how our current picture of the beginning of the Reformation could be sketched. In reality, however, the Reformation is a complex, decades-long process, the causes of which go back further into history and which affected more than just spiritual life. Few historical events have changed as much as the Reformation. It had profound effects on many areas of life and left traces around the world that are still visible 500 years later.
Causes of the Reformation
“Reformation” (Latin: renewal, restoration) is used today to describe a renewal movement in the early 16th century, which was mainly initiated in Germany by Martin Luther and in Switzerland by Johannes Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli. The beginning of the Reformation is generally dated October 31, 1517, the day on which the monk Martin Luther is said to have struck his 95 theses against the abuse of indulgences on the church door of the castle church in Wittenberg. However, their causes and precursors go back much further. The increasing secularization and the often less exemplary way of life of high and low clergy as well as the purchasability of church offices aggravated the resentment in the population. The sale of indulgences, with the proceeds from which St. Peter's Basilica in Rome was to be renewed, finally gave the impetus for the Reformation.
The 95 theses
Martin Luther was reluctant to practice the practice of the church to remit people's sins in exchange for money. He saw the indulgence trade as an abuse and instead called for a return to the biblical foundations of the gospel. He believes that Christians should be freed from the punishment after death through faith in God alone. In his 95 theses, Luther presented his views on the role of the church and turned against the church's indulgences. Thanks to the technical innovation of the printing press, these texts could be reproduced and distributed en masse, thus reaching a large readership.
Power struggle between emperor and prince
Martin Luther's call for reforms in the church hit the nerve of the time. Even princes and cities stood behind him and his theses. They implemented his demands in their territories - and thus withdrew from the power of the emperor and the pope. After more and more imperial estates accepted the Lutheran Reformation, the empire threatened to split up into two denominational camps. At the Augsburg Reichstag of 1530, the different positions were exchanged. The Protestants tried to find a peaceful settlement of the conflict and presented the "Confessio Augustana" (Augsburg Confession) to Emperor Charles V, in which they demanded religious independence from the Pope. Charles V refused this request. The Protestant princes then founded the "Schmalkaldic League" as a protective alliance the following year. This union was crushed by the imperial troops in the "Schmalkaldic War" in 1547 at the battle of Mühlberg.
But it was not until the Augsburg Imperial and Religious Peace of 1555 that there was temporary peace between the emperor and the imperial estates. He authorized every prince to choose the denomination for his rulership himself.
Consequences of the Reformation
In Augsburg, the Lutherans' own doctrine and creed was de facto recognized and with it the failed reintegration of Protestants into the Catholic Church. The reform movement, in turn, split into different Protestant denominations due to different doctrines, of which the Lutherans were only one.
The Reformation, originally intended by Luther as an internal change in the church in order to reduce numerous grievances, ultimately led to a split in the church that Luther did not intend, but also to a split in the German areas into Catholic and Protestant regions. The Reformation not only revolutionized church and theology, it also set in motion an extensive socio-political development: music and art, economics and social affairs, language as well as law and politics - hardly any area of life remained untouched by the Reformation.
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