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The Protestant Reformation

History of the Reformation

 The Protestant Reformation Book Cover
The Protestant Reformation looks at one of the greatest upheavals of the western world. It starts with the context of the time, including the Christian unity of Europe and the provocation of Indulgences. It goes on to explain Luther’s “protest,” its theological implications, how the protest escalated, and the Catholic Church’s reaction. It concludes with an analysis of how the Reformation helped launch the modern age.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Context of the Time
    1. The Cultural Context
    2. The Political Context
    3. The Religious Context
  3. Luther and His Protest
    1. The Immediate Provocation
    2. Ninety-Five Theses
  4. The Protest Escalates
  5. The Protest-ants’ Reforms
    1. Fundamental Theological Issues
    2. Secondary Theological Issues
    3. Practical Implications
  6. The Protest Spreads and the Church Responds
    1. Other Leading Protest-ants
    2. The Church Responds
  7. The Great Civilizational Tumult
    1. A Century of War
    2. Deep Origins of the Modern Western World
  8. Final Word
  9. Timeline

Introduction

Reform is a curious word. It has the flavor of “change” about it: re-form. Less often associated with reform is “revolution.” Yet, when Martin Luther protested certain practices of the Catholic Church in 1517 and tried to reform them, he unknowingly set off one of the greatest revolutions the world has ever known. Without meaning to (at the beginning, anyway), Luther undermined many of the foundations of Church power. In the process, he unleashed a torrent of cultural conflicts and innovations that would end up, indirectly, birthing the modern world.

This book explains how this well-intended monk from a small town in Germany re-arranged the architecture of religious power in the Western World. It begins by explaining the context of the time — the year 1500 — and what grievance Luther was protesting. It then describes the protest itself and how it escalated. It details the deeper theological issues that lay beneath the protest and their implications for the Catholic Church. It discusses how other protesters took up the cause, even as they changed some of Luther’s essential ideas, and how the Catholic Church responded. Finally, it finishes with a reflection on how much the modern Western world owes its essential character to the changes Luther unleashed.

A new concept of salvation — by Faith — lay at the heart of Luther’s revolution. It required a complete rethinking of man’s relationship with God and an equally complete repudiation of the role of the Church as an intermediary between man and God. As a consequence, it shattered the religious unity that had held Europe together as a single cultural entity for a thousand years. Indeed, if we were to reduce the Reformation to its simplest possible seven-word formulation, it might be this: Salvation by faith shattered European religious unity.

Out of this simple idea — an individual’s faith — the old order was shaken to its foundations and the seeds of the modern world were planted. This is that story.

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