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Social and Political Effects of the Protestant Reformation Paper

Martin Luther, a monk from Wittenberg, Germany criticized many of the attributes of the Catholic Church and compiled a list of reasons why he believed Catholicism was entirely flawed. This document was called the 95 Theses and lead to a movement called the Protestant Reformation which ended the unity imposed by medieval Christianity and signaled the beginning of a modern era. Luther’s propositions challenged some portions of Roman Catholic doctrine and a number of specific practices.

He argued that the bible not the pope, was the central means to discern God’s word — a view that was certain to raise eyebrows in Rome since the pope was a very worldly figure and accommodated power in the Catholic church. He saw the bible as the most important factor to spirituality and thought that the Christian followers should abide by it as opposed to the orders of the pope. The system of the Catholic Church was constructed imperially giving some people more authority over others according to how financially stable they were.

For instance, a Christian would take part in indulgences by paying for their sins to be forgiven granting them a position in heaven during their afterlife. This was seen as injustice towards the true meaning of salvation and was in no means a real way of having faith in God. The Catholic Church economically controlled a majority of Europe in the 16th Century as it heavily taxed 1/3 of its land. Luther saw Catholicism as a way of manipulating the lives of people and essentially drawing them away from God.

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Once these problems were listed and documented, he presented the 95 theses at the University of Wittenberg in Latin so that only the priests could read them and then eventually printed them in Vernacular so that everyone else could read them. This stirred awe all over Germany a movement began to grow crystallizing a new basis for Christianity. In 1520, the Catholics recoiled in response to the growth of Luther’s followers and a Counter-Reformation was developed. This reformation combated the new reforms and assisted the doctrine and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.

Mendicant orders such as the Jesuits were formed to reinforce Catholic doctrine, and the Church continued to be supported by the major European monarchies. Ultimately, the Reformation created a north-south split in Europe. The northern countries became Protestant while the south remained Catholic. As old methods of the Catholic Church lost efficiency, and a new denomination of religion formed, political and social changes began to shake the foundations of Europe.

For the wealthy, becoming a Lutheran was one way to keep their wealth yet still be given a chance for salvation without paying homage to Rome. The wealthy followed Luther as a form of protest against the Church. For the very poor, Luther offered individual dignity and respect. Not good works or servitude to Rome could guarantee salvation. Instead, faith held out the possibility of salvation. Luther also opened the doors to other theologians who agreed with his stance on the imperfections of the Catholic Church. John Calvin was an important figure to Protestantism who began the Swiss Reform Church.

Ulrich Zwingli joined the Swiss Reform and developed radical ideas where he taught about theocracy: the idea that the church and government should be combined. Regardless of his successful achievements, Luther was unable to extinguish radicalism further astray. The German Peasant’s War of 1524-25 was instigated during which many atrocities were committed in Luther’s name. His attacks on the Catholic Church conveyed liberal language leading peasants to believe that he would support an attack on the upper class in general.

Revolts broke out in Franconia, Swabia, and Thuringia in 1524, even drawing support from disaffected nobles, many of whom were in debt. Gaining momentum under the leadership of radicals such as Muntzer in Thuringia and Michael Gaismair in Tyrol, the revolts turned into war. This was one major social consequence that was rooted from the Protestant Reformation. The political effects of The Protestant Reformation were quite gradual. They involved one item or country at a time. Luther presented his Thesis and the sale of indulgences ended.

Henry VIII made England a Protestant nation and stopped paying taxes to the Pope and seized the monasteries and set up a more modern welfare system. After a series of religious wars that ended in 1648, the Pope lost all ability to interfere in the affairs of nations. He could no longer end a war or establish a boundary. The pope would no longer have secular authority anywhere. Overall, the Protestant Reformation created major changes in Christianity while created positive and negative effects in Europe during the 16th century.

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