At the dawn of the sixteenth century, the church was in a state of disarray. The church, particularly the papacy, was in serious decline in influence and prestige. Corruption and politics had entered into an area, the papacy, where it never should have been. People distrusted the papacy and the message of the cross, became overshadowed, by pope(s) who looked more to worldly glories and eternal glories. The time was indeed ripe for reformation. The different councils that were convened to end the Great Schism, succeeded in ending the Great Schism, but left the area of reformation untouched. Many believe this was due to the fact that many of the conciliar attendees were in of themselves, part of the problem. Cronyism and the selling of favors or positions was common practice in the church, and some of the bishops and other attendees to the councils reached their position through the corruption that many had hoped would be addressed. As can be seen although definitely needed, reform was a threat to the power and prestige that the church flaunted, and by which the church was unfortunately was losing the flock. This paper will look at four different reform movements in the 16th century, showing who the reformer(s) were, what their unique theological points were and any major events or significant situations that occurred in the movement.
Martin Luther Martin Luther was born in 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, to Hans and Margaretta Luther. Martin’s childhood was not a pleasant one, as his parents were extremely severe in their punishments. Martin’s father had wished for Martin to become a lawyer and scrimped and saved, to ensure his son could attend the schooling to become a lawyer, Martin had other ideas. Martin entered a monastery after, on July 2, 1505, Martin was had a horrendous scare during a lightning storm. During the storm after a bolt of lightning knocked him down. “Petrified, he lies in the mud able to do no more than gabble frightened prayers.”1 This story reminded me of the conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus. Martin had not been overly religious and God used a horrific event to bend a young man toward the will of God. Martin certainly could have moved on, but he didn’t and the world has not been the same since. “The distinctive doctrines of Lutheran theology have commonly been related to the classical leitmotifs of the Reformation: sola Scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide.”2 Martin’s theology was a literal interpretation of the Bible, a belief that the Scripture is the basis for our actions, not some dogma coming out of the church: sola Scriptura. Luther also believed, as did late medieval theologians, it is doubtful that man could reason or investigate matters of faith: sola gratia. However it is possible to know through natural reason or thought that God exists and one can know him. The Old Testament is the Law, and the New Testament contains the Gospels. God reveals himself through both, to his people and we are justified through it: sola fide. Luther was more against the Catholic organization, than he was the Catholic doctrine, from the Pope on down the Catholic organization was corrupted by power.
The burning of the Papal bull, by Luther, I believe was the point of no return. By performing this act, Luther was cementing his separation from the Church. Luther then at the Diet of Worms alienated himself from the empire. These two actions, while potentially detrimental to his well-being made him a national hero among the populace who were suffering under the hardships of the lords of the empire. He continued his writings and preaching of the “Lutheran” theologies.
Ulrich Zwingli was born in Wildhaus, Switzerland, as small village about fifty mile southeast of Zurich, on January 1, 1484. “From his boyhood he was destined for the priesthood.”3 Zwingli studied early in life at Berne and Vienna before entering the University