The term “Protestant Reformation” is used to describe what was originally an effort to “reform” Western or Catholic Christianity (the term Catholic means “universal”) but ended up creating a separate tradition. Several stages can be identified as part of the Reformation, beginning with Martin Luther (1483-1546) in Germany then shifting to John Calvin (1509-1564) and Huldrrych Zwingli (1481-1531) in Switzerland (206). Reforming ideas later spread to England, leading to the Church of England (Anglican) breaking from Rome (1533) and the growth of many Protestant denominations, such as Methodist, Baptist and Congregational.
Luther’s nailing of his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg in 1517 is widely considered as launching the Reformation but earlier people, ideas and movements contributed toward Luther’s actions. Political and religious factors both lie behind the Reformation. First, religious then political causes of the Reformation are discussed below. Among several “forerunners” of the reformation was John Wycliffe (d. 1384), the English Bible translator and his disciple Jan Huss (1372-1415) of Bohemia. Earlier movements and attempts to reform the Church also lie behind the Reformation.
Many wanted ordinary Christians to read the Bible for themselves and blurred the distinction between lay and ordained. One of the major emphases of the reformation was the “priesthood of all believers. ” Direct access to the bible in vernacular languages, not in Latin which few lay people spoke or read, was regarded by Catholic priests as dangerous, by-passing their priestly role as mediators. Luther, an Augustinian monk and professor at Wittenburg, became convinced that the Church substituted itself for “faith”, acting as if “salvation” was a commodity that could be bought and sold, which the Pope did in the form of indulgences.
Preoccupied with “justification,” Luther determined that faith is God’s free gift; it cannot be earned by good works or bought from the church. He also criticized the wealth and political power of the Church. He renounced celibacy, arguing that the Christian life is a vocation that should be lived out in the world. Protestants rejected papal authority; gave priority to the bible, recognized two (as compared with seven) sacraments, baptism and communion (some jettisoned the concept of “sacrament”); gave communion in both kinds (as compared with only bread) and taught the priesthood of all believers.
Behind these Protestant emphases was discontentment with a Church that was dominated by priests, practiced many traditions that could not be traced back to scripture and that was preoccupied with wealth and power at the expense of spirituality. Such practices as buying church offices (simony), clerical marriage or the keeping of mistresses as well as the sale of indulgences, all compromised the Church’s moral and spiritual authority. Faith for Protestants usually involves a personal experience of renewal. You are not born a Christian but become Membership of a Church does not mean that you are necessarily a true believer.
Invention of the printing press, too, made placing the Bible at the center possible because more and more people could now read the bible. Translation also facilitated this process. The above also had political implications. Much money went from countries such as the German states to Italy to pay for building churches or to maintain the lavish lifestyle of popes and bishops in Rome. Earlier, during what was called the investiture controversy of the 11th and 12th centuries, the Pope had vied with kings and princes over who had the right to appoint church officers, with the Pope claiming that only he had the right to do so.
In fact, there was also historical
Effectively, this was what Henry VIII did when he declared that the Church of England was independent from Rome, that it was the established church of his realm. Henry became head of the Church of England. In theory, the Popes saw the Church as “above” the state, since they legitimized kingly succession. In Protestantism, the Church tends to be regarded as “under” the state, or as a partner in running the state. Luther and other reformers were in part successful because they had the support of political leaders.
From the perspective of kings and other temporal rulers, weakening the power of the Pope and retaining money within their own states was a significant factor. For Luther and his fellow reformers, the Reformation had more to do with matters of the heart. Luther experienced a personal transformation while preparing his lectures on the Book of Romans and it was this experience that prompted his ideas about “faith alone”, “grace alone” and “scripture alone”. Yet without the support of temporal rulers he would probably have been convicted of heresy and executed.
Rather than single out one or several causes of the Reformation as the most important, arguably, what lies at the root of the Reformation was a new spirit of humanism that was sweeping Europe. Luther was no “humanist” but he did want to give Christianity back to the people and in a sense to individuals, who would study the Bible, undergo personal, individual religious experiences and who would not have to answer to an external sources of authority. No one would stand between a person and their God, although kings tried to do so as stamped out alternatives to their choice of a state church. . The Renaissance has been called the `birth of modernity. `
Why? The “Renaissance” describes the period from about 1300 to about 1600, although historians disagree about the exact parameters. Historians actually identify several “renaissances” such as the English renaissance and the Scottish renaissance although the term is often restricted to the Italian renaissance. “Modernity” can be a misleading concept, because what was thought “modern” in the 1920’s seems old-fashioned in the opening years of the 21st century. The word means “re-birth”.
Following the Black Death, which emasculated the population of Europe killing about a quarter of the population, some people decided that if life was short they ought to become as much as possible masters and mistresses of their destiny. Life was too fragile to be subject to a great many limitations and controls. The typical Renaissance Man did not confine himself to a single area of interest but studied a wide range of disciplines. Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) for example was a scientist, an inventor, an artist, a anatomist, musician, visionary, musician and engineer.
Arguably, Da Vinci did not want to miss out on any aspect of learning that was accessible to him as a human individual. He wanted everything that life could afford him. One contributing factor behind the emergence of the Renaissance was the rediscovery of classical learning aided by the influx of Greek refugees from Constantinople after 1453, when it fell to the Ottomans. Scholars from the East brought with them copies of Aristotle, Plato and other Greek masters. Other forgotten texts traveled to Europe via the Muslim world through Spain. The City-state of Florence was instrumental in developing Renaissance ideas.
Some suggest that after the Black Death merchants and workers gained importance. Since they were fewer in number, they could demand higher wages and more privileges. In smaller states, their importance was magnified. More wealth led to more interest in spending their leisure time pursuing learning and other interesting activities. Previously, scholarship had been dominated and policed by the Church to ensure that ideas though dangerous and contrary to Christian teaching did not develop. Lay people now turned to serious academic endeavors and were less concerned with conformity to Christian ideas.
What many saw in the classical texts was confidence in humanity itself, in human ability to shape the world, to control human destiny. The way in which the human form was depicted in Greek sculpture testified to the nobility of the human form. Renaissance men such as Petrach (1304-1374) actually thought that ancient times were superior and wanted to reconstruct the past. Ancient knowledge of the functioning of the human body suggested the uniqueness of “man” among other creatures. All of this shifted the human to the center. Renaissance thought is not characteristically atheist but it is generally classed as “humanist”.
Much scholarship focused on the humanities, that is, poetry, grammar, history, moral philosophy and rhetoric and there was a deep concern with how men and women could live virtuous lives. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) famously said that “man is the measure of all things” which can be taken as the motto of the age. The Renaissance was also given a boost because wealthy people decided that patronizing art and learning was worthwhile. In what sense did the Renaissance prefigure or give birth to modernity? Modernity here is understood as the age of mature humanism. God is no longer thought to supervise and pre-ordain human affairs.
The Church is no longer the guardian of learning. Knowledge is that which can be empirically proven, regardless of whether the Church approves or not. While many “great men” of the Renaissance still believed in God and in eternal punishment or reward, others began to distance themselves from religion. Some tended to think that God created the world and humanity but then stepped aside, leaving people to determine their own destiny. Modern thinkers do not look to religious doctrines to determine “right” from “wrong” but see notions of morality as socially agreed constructs which are therefore fluid and subject to change.
A thinker such as John Stuart Mill (1806-73) argued that a world free of religion would be more moral because people would act not in order to earn a reward but simply because an act was moral. Spinoza (1632-77) produced a system of ethics that was derived from rational thought, not from scripture. The idea that humans, by ingenuity can cure diseases, shape the world to suit their needs, redeem past mistakes by new feats of engineering and skill, puts “humanity” at the center and all but makes God redundant.
God becomes either wishful thinking or a dangerous idea, one that prevents people from taking responsibility. Historians, though, are divided on whether the Renaissance was a bridge from the Middle Ages to modernity or whether nostalgia for the past was so rampant that it could not prepare for an unknown the future. Or, even if Renaissance people did glorify the past this was in order to improve the world in which they lived and the world in which their children and their children would later live. Renaissance people were confident that human skill could make the world a better, more attractive place.
The impetus to know the world led to the great explorers, which in turn inspired the more recent quest to reach the stars. Arguably, Renaissance people looked back to take what was best from the past so that humanity could move forward. Thus, modernity has its roots in Renaissance conviction that man is the measure of all things. 2. The Early Middle Ages are often referred to as the `Dark Ages. ` Why? Was there any learning during this period? Dividing history into periods and naming them is problematic because not everyone agrees on how time should be divided.
Characterizing an era by its main ideas or ethos, such as “Renaissance”, “Enlightenment” may be better than using such terms as “Middle Ages” or “Modern” because what can now be called “Middle” will later be nearer the start of written history. What is now “modern” will seem antiquated. The term “Middle Ages” may remain appropriate when applied to the period between the classical and the Renaissance, that is, from the 5th to the 13th centuries, although the Renaissance is sometimes included in the late Middle Ages, ending in the 15th century.
Defining historical periods by describing their ethos depends on establishing a consensus about what characterized them. It was the Renaissance thinker, Petrarch (d. 1374) who first referred to the early Middle Ages (roughly end of fifth to end of ninth century) as the Dark Ages. Petrarch believed that the classical world was superior to the age in which he lived, itself characterized as a period of “re-birth”, that is, of reviving ancient ideas. Consequently, for Petrach, the period between the end of the classical age and the beginning of the Renaissance was “dark”.
The term ‘Middle Ages” was also coined by a Renaissance period scholar, Flavio Biondo (d. 1463) who distinguished the classical, the Middle and the modern periods. For him, modernity began around about his own time, or perhaps from the Fall of Constantinople (1453). During the Dark Ages, Learning was rare, confined almost exclusively to the Church and many clergy were badly educated. Europe was divided, since the attempt to unite the former provinces of the Roman Empire as the Holy Roman Empire failed.
The Catholic Church was the only pan-European organization and this may have hindered the development of science because little other than theology was taught or studied. There was hardly any serious historiography and literature, all in Latin, was almost exclusively hagiography or related to theology. Poetry, creative and imaginative writing, fiction, was conspicuous by their absence. Art did exist but was controlled by the Church and comparatively few great buildings or cultural artifacts were produced, although some were. Examples of great art are the illuminated mss of the Bible, such as the Book of Kells.
Certainly, there was a great deal of superstition during the Dark Ages and anything that the Church authorities could not understand was condemned. This included some ancient knowledge of medicine, dubbed “witchcraft” and spiritual practices that challenges the Church’s authority, such as Celtic Christianity in Ireland, Scotland and Wales where women played a greater role and nature was reverenced. In fact, however, there were centers of learning where non-religious subjects were explored: some monasteries were isolated but maintained libraries where away from the prying age of the protectors of orthodoxy forbidden ideas were explored.
The term “dark ages” highlights the contrast between the age of discovery when development took place in many areas, in science, medicine and technology from the Renaissance on and the earlier lack of progress or achievement. Yet others argue that some important aspects of modern life have their roots in the Dark Ages. For example, although the experiment of unifying Europe under the Holy Roman Empire failed, the Catholic Church did represent a unifying ideal. People were conscious of belonging to an entity that was larger than their political unit. People saw themselves as belonging to the same race, with the same rights.
The idea of the whole globe as a common habitat may stem from this early understanding of human unity. The idea that everyone, even rulers were subject to the same law and the use of juries of peers can be traced back to the Dark Ages. The jury system remains fundamental to how justice operates in the modern world. In Art, realism was a feature during the Dark Ages, laying foundations for later developments such as the Romanesque and Gothic styles. Universities emerged just after the end of the Dark Ages and cannot have appeared from nowhere, that is, the idea of the University must have some roots in the so-called Dark Ages.
The oldest Universities in Europe such as Bologna, Paris and Oxford taught the arts, law, medicine as well as theology. Enough people versed in these subjects but who were not themselves graduates of universities must have existed to teach relevant courses. Presumably, they were the products of monastic centers of learning that had pushed the boundaries of knowledge beyond theological topics. Thus, the term “Dark Ages” may reflect the perspective of Renaissance scholars more accurately than it does those of modern scholars.
On the one hand, the Renaissance is depicted as the beginning of modernity or as its precursor, suggesting that modernity built on antecedents and did not materialize spontaneously, appearing ex nihilo. Similarly, some ideas from the Dark Ages such as early contact with Muslim learning in Spain, may have laid foundations on which the Renaissance built. Pre-Renaissance Europeans were not completely ignorant about classical thinkers, for example. There may be better ways of dividing and characterizing history, although both terms “Dark Ages” and “Middle Ages” have had a long shelf life.