This item includes a Power Point Presentation on the beginning of the Reformation with student notes. Likewise, if you don't want to cover this material with a presentation, there is a guided reading worksheet to do instead.
The content covered includes the follows:
The Reformation Begins
The Renaissance encouraged individualism, the focus of the self over the group, and secularism, the focus on the here and now over religious priorities of belief in an afterlife. This environment encouraged people to question the power and traditions of the Catholic Church. Many felt the Catholic Church of the 1500s abused its power and pursued wealth, such as paying for expensive art and building grand cathedrals, rather than focusing on the advancement of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Early in the Renaissance, during the 14th and 15th centuries, individuals rose up to offer what they saw as critiques against the Catholic Church of their era. In England, John Wycliffe (1320s-1384) argued that Christians should read the Bible in their own languages, not just in Latin, a language only the clergy leaders could use. On the mainland of Europe, in Bohemia (the modern day Czech Republic) John Hus (1369-1415) and others called for similar reforms in the church that Wycliffe suggested. Hus was martyred for his beliefs.
Martin Luther served as a monk of the Catholic Church. Luther became convicted that the Catholic Church of his day had drifted from the original Jesus movement that started Christianity. One thing Luther really despised was the selling of indulgences, certificates claiming to forgive sin. He asserted the original Christians never taught this practice. On October 31st, 1517, Luther wrote a work called The 95 Theses and nailed it to the church door of Wittenberg. He listed 95 complaints against the Catholic Church, including critiquing indulgences sold by a man named Johann Tetzel (1465-1519) in his area.
Luther ultimately claimed the Catholic Church had drifted from true Christianity. He eventually felt a need to return the Church to the original teachings of the New Testament, as he interpreted them to be. He claimed a person would only go to heaven through faith alone in Jesus Christ. He asserted good works could save nobody and that the Catholic Church must stop asserting good works were necessary to be saved. He did not feel good works should be abandoned, but asserted good works were evidence of salvation, not tools to gain salvation.
Luther felt an unhealthy separation had developed in the Catholic Church between the laity, Church members with no leadership roles, and the clergy leaders. He felt there should be a degree of equality between laity and clergy. One aspect Luther scorned was that only the clergy could read the Bible, which was mainly used in Churches in the Latin Vulgate translations. Luther claimed all believers should get to read the Bible and that the Bible should be distributed in translations of the vernacular, the common languages of the people.
One tool that helped Luther’s ideas to spread quickly was the printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440. By Luther’s time, the invention had been perfected and could be used to spread documents and ideas at an unprecedented pace. When Luther’s ideas began to spread, Pope Leo the 10th threated excommunication against Luther, which meant he would be kicked out the church and considered a false teacher.
Luther was never apprehended by the authorities. He found refuge in German areas controlled by local nobility and many started following his teachings, called Lutherans. Other groups began to adopt Luther’s ideas. The Protestants, as they were called, since they protested the Catholic Church, began to grow. As Luther’s ideas spread, many took his teachings to other conclusions, such as asserting the economic class system of Europe was wrong and that the poor serfs should rise up, since all individuals were equal.
The Roman Catholic Church had dominated Western Europe up until this time. In 1054 CE, the Orthodox Church had split from the Catholic Church in Eastern Europe. Yet, in Western Europe, Catholics dominated society. After Luther’s Protest, various Protestant groups began to break away from the Catholic Church and form their own churches, from Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Calvinists, and the like. Charles the 5th fought many conflicts with the Germans. He eventually signed the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, which asserted German nobility leaders could remain Protestant and their subjects could be Protestant too. Yet, conflict, partially related to the tensions between Protestants and Catholics, continued, called the European Religious Wars, all the way to 1648.
Both groups believed in Jesus Christ. They asserted Jesus died and rose again around 1500 years prior to their era and that he was the savior of mankind. The Catholic Church taught good works and faith could save a person’s soul so they could go to heaven when they died. They claimed the authority of the church rested in the traditions of the Church leaders and the Bible. Protestants taught that only faith in Jesus would save a person’s soul. Good works were evidence of faith, not tools to gain salvation. They claimed the only final authority for Christians was the Bible, not tradition or current leaders in the churches.