In between driving up and down the road to Quebracho, and putting power-point presentations together, and parenting a two year old and the other minor interruptions of life, I’ve been boning up on the Reformation. The first thing I learn is that it is complicated, people have devoted their entire lives to the study of the Reformation, there are whole institutes dedicated to it. So my ninety second overview is going to be a sketchy one, but that’s OK because that’s all the occasion requires, so quite a lot of what I have been reading is interesting background but surplus to my requirements. They say the best way to learn is teach.
The best quote I have found so far is this from BBC History:
“The culmination of centuries of Catholic corruption, or a bit of a fluke? The consequence of a European power vacuum, or grand theological debate? So much in history is a bastard child of both long-standing, simmering emotion and the opportunistic seizing of a moment.”
Possibly the best source of easily digestible material neatly organised for the novice information-seeker can be found at Reformation Happens On this site, I found a host of useful topics such as key people, events, and the wide social factors influencing the Reformation, from the printing press to the Black Death.
I believed, along with lots of others I guess, that Martin Luther was the main protagonist, although it is obvious really that Luther didn’t operate in a vacuum, and neither did he come out of one. Arguably, he was the key player, but he had been preceded by a long line of worthy characters, probably pointing back as far as Wycliffe and Hus in the 1300’s. Wycliffe believed that a return to Scripture was called for, and that the Bible should be made widely available, and thus translated the Latin Vulgate into English. However, Luther in the 1500’s had the advantage of being able to disseminate to a much wider audience through the printing press, so although the nailing of the 95 Theses to the door is the event that captures our imagination, it was probably his published pamphlets that had the greatest effect.
Anyway, most of this is outside the scope of our ninety seconds, so what exactly do we need to include? I think I’m trying to put across the notion that we share the same roots, that the Protestant church came out of the Catholic church, at least partly as a result of Luther’s excommunication from the Catholic church in 1521. I think I also need to show that there might have been valid reasons for at least some of the criticism levelled at the Catholic church at the time. Actually, I think the laity in Argentina might spot some interesting modern day parallels with the suggestion that the Medieval Catholic Church had become rather too deeply involved in politics (of Western Europe) resulting in scandal, intrigue, political manipulations, leading to the church’s increasing power and wealth, and culminating in moral and spiritual bankruptcy in the eyes of the people.