The Protestant Reformation: impact and values

The sixteenth century is the time of the Protestant Reformation, historically the beginning of this religious revolution occurs on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther, an Augustinian friar, professor of theology in Wittenberg, hung the 95 Theses on the door of the castle of Wittenberg denounced the corruption and doctrinal deviations of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church. He attacked the preaching of the church and the sale of indulgences as a mechanism to free souls from purgatory and thus obtain economic benefits for the reconstruction of Saint Peter’s Basilica.

The corruption of the sale of indulgences was the trigger to start a controversy against the church at the time, but this reforming spirit of changing the church did not come only from Martin Luther, but centuries ago there were many historical figures and religious groups that tried to change the church. church from within, such as: Cluny (10th century), Cîteaux (11th century), the Cathars/Albigensians (11th century), the Waldensians (12th century), etc.

Apart from these people with a reforming spirit, it is essential to comment on the importance of the emergence of Humanism and the Renaissance, these philosophical currents paved the way for the Reformation. Great humanists such as John Colet (1467-1519), Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536) and Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522) contributed to lay the foundations for the emergence of the Reformation, where the study of the Holy Scriptures in the original language was encouraged, as well as the history of the early Christians. This last fact led these humanists to negatively assess the deviation of the medieval church with respect to the time of the apostles.1.

Martin Luther did not want to create a new church, but to reform the church of the time, eliminating all the corruption that has been accumulating for centuries. In April 1521, the definitive rupture of the Reformation took place through the Diet of Worms, where Luther was excommunicated by the pope. The reformer’s words in response to the pope’s decision were as follows:

I am submitted to my conscience and bound to the word of God. That is why I cannot and do not want to retract anything, because doing something against conscience is not safe or healthy. (God help me. Amen!).two

After these events, the Protestant Reformation is officially established, which was not the only reforming focus in Europe, it was followed by other great reformers such as the case of John Calvin3the Geneva reformer who started Calvinist thought.

The Reformation developed various values, but there are two that are extremely important for Protestant thought:

  1. a new spirituality. Go back to the foundations of the Early Church of the first century. And the 5 Solas of the Reformation are essential in this regard: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christo and Soli Deo Gloria. These declarations put a before and after in the history of Christianity, thanks to this contribution, the Protestant churches were born that differ markedly from the Roman Catholic Church. Manuel Díaz Pineda expresses it this way:

The 16th century is therefore the century of evangelical spirituality, the return to the texts of the Old and New Testaments and to an adoration in spirit, interior and not external. Such spirituality was centered on the knowledge, the practice of the Gospel and the return to the Holy Scriptures and antiquity. Ancient languages ​​and texts were studied, returning to the primitive sources of science and spirituality. A ruptured spirituality opening up to modernity that did not reside in bringing new liturgical forms, new ways of seeking the face of God, but in returning to the primitive Gospel.4

  1. The education: During the Medieval Era and much of the Modern Era, the simplest and humblest sectors of society did not have access to a decent education. Therefore, the literacy rate was very high. One of the great challenges of the Reformation was the translation of the Bible in the language of the people. Luther did an excellent job translating the Bible into German and from then on they were translated into the different vernacular languages ​​of Europe.5. For people to know the Word of God, it was necessary for them to know how to read and write, which is why illiteracy had to be fought in some way. The Protestant reformers were one of the great promoters of the educational system of the 16th century in Europe. For example, Calvin founded different colleges in Geneva for the purpose of training good citizens. Finally, Luther considered home education fundamental and parents as the most responsible, thus highlighting the importance of each believer in front of his family and society.6

In short, as Jesús Logroño said: “The Reform sought a purification of religion and a return to freedom of conscience.”7 The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century changed the history of Christianity and humanity. Thanks to a man who did not conform to his century, but was able to rise up to defend the truth and freedom of conscience. Without realizing it, he transformed Europe and started a religious revolution that greatly blessed Christians past, present and future.


The Protestant Reformation: impact and values