The Conservativeness of Protestant Reformation and Christians

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In 1517, Pope Leo X of the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated Martin Luther, leading to the emergence of new Protestant faiths. However the Reformation was not like other reform movements in history, which typically followed a liberal progression, the Reformation resulted in a more conservative christian faith. The progress of Reformation is classified into different steps and forms such as Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Catholic Counter Reformation. As a result, several branches of christianity emerged. After Martin Luther was excommunicated from Catholic Church, he established a new Protestant Lutheran Church, which was considered to be a more conservative form of Christianity. He opposed the “sale of indulgences” advocated by Johann Tetzel and proposed that sale of indulgences is illegal and indulgences can be only guaranteed by true faith in god. At leipzig Martin Luther debated with Johann Eck who supported Catholic doctrines. He, Martin Luther, published 95 theses to organized his opinions. He pointed out that the Pope had no power over salvation by “The pope neither desired nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.” He denied the feasibility of the “sale of indulgences” and limited the approaches for reaching salvation, which is considered to be more conservative. Martin Luther asserted the doctrine “justification by faith” and he believed that salvation can be only reached by true faith and belief in Jesus. He mentioned that true faith in god alone is enough to acquire forgiveness for sins and go straightly into the heaven. He restricted people’s belief according to the Bible. He believed that the Bible was the recording of Jesus’ words and all Christians were supposed to follow his words. And the Bible which has supreme authority is the only guide practice and behaviors for all Christians. He pointed out “I am exceedingly grieved to see the people of Christ fooled under pretense of the laws and name of Christ.

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From day to day the Scriptures are becoming of more aid and assistance to me.” in a letter to his friend. In his opinion, Christians were supposed to follow the god under any circumstances that the Pope’s words went against the Bible. And the Pope had no controlling power over the Bible or even against the Bible. Previously, in Catholic Church, other secular attributions such as donating money could all be counted for confession. However Luther only admitted the importance and essentialness of true faith. Martin Luther originally tried to reform Catholic Church, gradually he realized the infeasibility of that and he established a new church form called Lutheran Church.Since true faith is the only goal that Lutherans pursue for, Lutheran Church was considered to be more faithful and simple without any secular purposes. While Catholic Church is decorated with delicate windows and paintings, which could help unlettered clergy to better understand the Bible, Lutheran Church is made of wood only, which aimed directly to a place for deeds only. Unlike the well-embellished Catholic Church, Lutheran provides a purely sacred place for belief practice. Here are two pictures show the difference between Lutheran Church and Catholic Church. Picture of Lutheran Church, Picture of Catholic Church,To achieve purely sacred goals, some sacraments are prohibited in Lutheran Church. In the Catholic Church, there are seven formal sacraments, while in the Lutheran Church, only two of them which are baptism and eucharist since baptism and eucharist are the only two sacraments mentioned in the bible. Martin Luther also denied the tradition followed in Catholic church, since he believed that those profaned the divineness of god. According to Martin Luther’s belief, Lutheranism which taught people about true faith in god, was established to be a more conservative form of Christianity.

In 1531, under the influence of Martin Luther, John Calvin founded another Protestant Church in Switzerland. Calvin spread this new form of protestant religion throughout the free city of Geneva. Calvin agreed with Luther regarding the “selling of indulgences” or “justification by faith only”, Calvin proposed another concept called Predestination for reaching salvation. Predestination stated that a person had been decided to be sent whether to the heaven or to the hell with no consideration of his behaviors or beliefs. In Calvin’s believing, since men were all “slave of sin” and “full of evil” only god had power to “chooses us for salvation” or “grants the act of believing”, “god preordained, for his own glory and the display of His attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation.” Institutes of the Christian Religion was the set of beliefs published by Calvin in 1536, in which Calvin described his opinion about Predestination. The concept of Predestination was considered to be more conservative since it prohibited everyone’s accessibility to salvation and denied people’s freedom in believing. As Calvinism got more and more popular and powerful, John Calvin transformed the free city Geneva completely into a theocracy which means clergy of the church held the real power of the government. In this case, all of the citizens of Geneva had to follow the rigorous disciplines. Dancing, playing card, fancy dress, unsuitable language were all prohibited according to the law. These conservative disciplines tremendously confined people’s daily interest and fun, making Geneva into a religious and inflexible city. People under such situation, didn’t have any freedom in worship and were compelled into Christian.

Along with the conservative laws, extraordinarily severe punishments were waiting for any illegal activities. Under the influence of Calvinism, Geneva was converted into a feudalistic and conservative theocracy, people suffered unprecedented control from the church. “‘What caused me some surprise,’ he noted, ‘was that during the three days I was in Geneva, I never heard any blasphemy, swearing, or indecent language, which, he hastened to add, ‘I attributed to diabolic cunning to deceive the simple minded by having the appearance of a reformed life’. This quotes from Benedict describes how people’s lives were like under the influence of Calvinism’s conservative reformation. Experienced several Protestant Reformations, Catholic church finally understood its own backwards and irrationality, and in 1530s an internal reform named Counter-Reformation took place in Catholic church. Pope Leo III guaranteed only devout and well-educated people as clergy in the church, thus the church became more and more professional and sacrosanct. To regulate behaviors of people and restrict heresy, Inquisition was introduced. Inquisition as an essential step during the Counter-Reformation was once introduced into Catholic church by Pope Paul III.

According to Inquisition, grievous punishments including burning in the hell, would be performed for any heretic behaviors. Such unacceptably cruel punishment aimed not only on punishing Protestants but more importantly on retaining Catholic church’s position. “The said Inquisitors should order that [heretics and apostates] cannot hold public offices, nor benefices, that they cannot be attorneys, not landlords, nor druggists, nor spice merchants, nor doctors, nor surgeons, nor bloodletters, nor brokers. And they cannot wear gold or silver or coral or pearls or any such thing, nor precious stones, not wear any sort of silk or camlet… and that they cannot ride horses or bear arms for the whole of their lives on penalty of being guilty of relapsing.” In addition, Pope Paul IV issued the Index of Prohibited Books in 1557. “The books of those who originated or revived heresies such as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Balthasar Friedberg, Schwenckfeld, and others like these are absolutely forbidden. The books of other heretics, moreover, which deal professedly with religion are absolutely condemned.” This reaction considerably limited people’s freedom of reading, which could help to restrict other religion and emergence of heresy. To oppose Protestant, Catholic church confined its doctrine in a council called The Council of Trent. The Council of Trent meeting in Santa Maria Maggiore church, Trent.The Council of Trent prohibited Sale of Indulgences, standardized the behaviors of clergy, emphasized the essentialness of ceremonies and priest, and inforced decorated church. “Scripture and tradition were to be of equal authority.” In 1534, Ignatius of Loyola founded an order called Society of Jesus.

In this order, he restated the importance of self-disciplines and good deeds to achieve salvation. He brought people back to original belief in god which required only true faith and real deeds, and this order was considered to be formal order of Catholic church.Through the counter reformation, Catholic church abandoned several secular purposes and built a more conservative form to keep its position in Christianity. Even though Protestant Reformation and Counter Reformation were led by different leaders and ruled with different disciplines, they both changed the previous status of Catholic church which had combined with some secular purposes. Reformation brought Christians back to their original belief in god and reinforced the importance of true faith, real deeds, and Jesus’ words recorded in the Bible.

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