Thursday, May 15, 2014

Events That Helped Shape the Reformation

While to some it may seem as though the reformation was brought on by the singular act of Martin Luther nailing his 95 thesis to the door of the church in Wittenberg, that is not the case. It starts further back, say to just after the church was divided by what we know as the Great Schism; this is where there we two even up to three popes at one time.[1] To top off all that was going on with the Great Schism, the rest of the papal system was corrupt. The leaders of the church had begun buying their way into leadership, which lead to a decline in the care of the Word of God. Things had gotten so bad that,  “The commitment to learning for which monastic houses had been famous also declined, and the educational requirements for the local clergy fell to practically nil.”[2]
            What came next is now known as the Spanish Inquisition. The inquisition took place under the orders of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain. There was a Dominican friar named Tomas de Torquemada, put in charge of leading the inquisition due to his strong love for orthodoxy.[3] It would be under these leaders that Spain would try to convert by force, Jews and Moors (Muslims). They would use tactics that would be highly frowned upon by most any society. According to Gonzalez, “The means of torture use during the Inquisition, and the manner in which it was exploited for political reasons as well as for personal gain and vengeance, are well known, and their memory would long survive as a prime example of the dangers and consequences of religious extremism and obscurantism.”[4]
            The next key movement that helped move forward the reformation was the rise of the humanist movement and its recognized leader, Desiderius Erasmus. Erasmus was a man who believed more in righteousness than in orthodoxy, not to say he did not believe in orthodoxy, he just believed in righteous living more. He was not pleased with friars who could argue the finer points of theology, but their lives were filled with scandal.[5] Erasmus wanted to see things change so that those teaching were practicing what they preached.     
            The study of church history should make a difference in my ministry by allowing me to see what the men and women of the past have had to go through for me to have the freedom’s that I now posses. It is by studying church history that I can learn what to do and what not to do. The biggest application point that I think I can take away from church history is to be true to Scripture no matter what others around me may be doing. I have to remain faithful to the Word of God and by doing that I will be doing what those who fought in the reformation fought and died for, and that is the right to interpret the Bible the way that it was intended. It is my hope to use the rights and freedoms earned throughout the centuries to the best of my ability, and to the glory of God.

            [1] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity Vol Two: The Reformation to Present Day. (New York: Harper Collins, 2010)7.
            [2] Ibid., 8.
            [3] Ibid., 11.
            [4] Ibid., 12-13.
            [5] Ibid., 17.

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