Tag Archives: Reformation Movement

The Reformation after 500 years

Five hundred years ago a monk by the name of Martin Luther (1483-1546) is said to have posted 95 Theses, propositions for discussion or debate, on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. From that time the Reformation grew and experienced many divisions.

Our little album of some of the leaders of the Reformation is just a reminder of the work done by these individuals. Many of them did not see clearly the teaching of the New Testament scriptures, but they knew that changes were necessary in the Roman Catholic Church which had dominated both the religious and political thinking of Europe for many centuries.

The first photo is of a statue of Luther in Wittenberg.

Statue of Marin Luther in the Wittenberg Church. It was here that Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Martin Luther in the Wittenberg, Germany, Church. It was here that Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) was a leader in the Reformation in eastern Switzerland. He took a more conservative stance than Luther on a number of issues.

Statue of Ulrich Zwingli, Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Ulrich Zwingli, Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

John Knox (c. 1514-1572) is known as a leader in the founding of the Presbyterian Church. In this statue Knox is portrayed as pointing to the Bible as the message of the Reformation.

Early leaders of the American Restoration Movement, such as Barton W. Stone, Thomas Campbell, and Alexander Campbell, were Presbyterians. Through their study of the Scripture they came to differ with Knox and other Reformers on the doctrine of Predestination, sprinkling as a mode of baptism, and the use of creeds.

Statue of John Knox in St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of John Knox in St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

I have seen the Reformation Wall in Geneva, Switzerland, but it has been many years ag0. The reformers who are shown on this monument are left to right: Guillaume Farel, Johannes Calvin, Theodore de Beze, and John Knox.

The Reformation Wall, Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by Ruth Nguyen.

The Reformation Wall, Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by Ruth Nguyen (Vietnamese Wikipedia)..

There were earlier leaders of what some call Forerunners of the Reformation. These include such men as Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, John Hus, and Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498). Savonarola was known as a Dominican scholar in Florence, Italy. His opposition seemed to be less doctrinal and more pointed at the moral failings of the Church. A marker indicated the place where he was burned at the stake in Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy.

Tourists in Florence, Italy, seem to walk around the plaque marking the site where Savonarola was martyred. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Tourists in Florence, Italy, seem to walk around the plaque marking the site where Savonarola was martyred. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Eye Witness Travel Guide of Italy (DK) says,

The piazza’s statues … commemorate the city’s historical events, but its most famous episode is celebrated by a simple pavement plaque near the loggia, the execution of the religious leader Girolamo Savonarola, who was burned at the stake.

Savonarola marker in Florence, Italy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Plaque marking the martyrdom of Savonarola in Florence, Italy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

One of the earliest Pre-Reformers was Jan Hus in Prague, now part of the Czech Republic.

The Hus Monument in the Town Square of Prague. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Hus Monument in the Town Square of Prague. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Martin Muller gives this little sketch about Hus and the movement associated with him.

The large monument in the middle of the Old Town Square in Prague is the statue of the reformer Jan Hus (John Huss), one of the most important personalities in Czech history. A hundred years before the Protestant Reformation was started by Martin Luther, Jan Hus was burnt as a heretic for reformist ideas.

Master Jan Hus (c. 1373-1415), the dean of the Charles University in Prague, criticized church practices such as selling indulgence. He used to preach in the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague and he was excommunicated by the pope for his ideas in 1410. Despite that, he continued in preaching and he had many followers in Prague, that´s why the pope interdicted the whole city of Prague in 1414. Finally, Jan Hus was invited to the Council in Constance and he was asked to renounce his ideas. He refused, and he was burnt at the stake as a heretic on 6 th July 1415.

The influence of these men is felt far and wide even by those who can not recite their names or locations.

Note: I intended this post to be several weeks earlier, but have had a computer drive failure. Who knows what the article would have been like had I been able to complete it earlier?

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Reformation Day

October 31 is known as Reformation Day because it was on this day in 1517 that Martin Luther posted Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The Ninety-Five Theses were issues that Luther thought should be debated by the theologians. These questions were brought about due to the sale of indulgences and general corruption within the Roman Catholic Church.

The term Protestant was not used to describe those who aligned themselves with Luther for another 12 years, but the Protestant movement can be dated the the event at Wittenberg.

There are many issues on which I would differ with Luther, but I admit that I admire the man and the stand that he took against practices of his day which were departures from the Apostolic doctrine.

This statue of Luther stands in the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The official name of the town is Lutherstadt Wittenberg.

Statue of Martin Luther in the Wittenberg Castle Church. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Martin Luther in the Wittenberg Castle Church. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The original door of the church was destroyed by fire in 1760. Doors covered with bronze plaques with the Ninety-Five Theses on them were installed in 1858. The door of the church is pictured below.

Door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Free Book. Those who use Logos Bible Software may download a copy of the Ninety-Five Theses under the title Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. For information click here.

Interested in the Reformation? If you have interest in Church History and the place of the Reformation within it, you might enjoy this post on “The background of the Protestant Reformation,” or posts on Zwingli, Tyndale and Knox (and here), Heinrich Bullinger, St. Andrews, and Savonarola.

HT: HMcK

Vatican City and the Vatican Museum

We had a busy day Saturday in Rome. In the morning we visited St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Vatican is an independent state within Italy. This is the largest church building in the world. Thousands of people visit it each day. There probably isn’t anyone who reads this blog who had not been here or seen photos or video of the building and its art treasures.

St. Peter's basilica in Vatican City. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

St. Peter's basilica in Vatican City. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

St. Peter’s is located on the site of Nero’s Circus. Nero’s persecution of Christians was in his circus, A.D. 64.  (Tacitus, Annales, XV, 44).

St. Peter’s was financed through the sale of indulgences in the 16th century. The reaction to this practice was an important factor in the Reformation Movement. Dr. Dan Petty explains a little about Martin Luther’s role.

Doctrinal Issues and Religious Authority. The immediate issue that prompted Martin Luther to post his 95 propositions for debate in 1517 was the abuse of the Roman Catholic system of indulgences. The doctrine of indulgences, first formulated in the thirteenth century, was associated with the sacrament of penance and the doctrine of purgatory. While the sacrament was believed to provide forgiveness of sin and eternal punishment, it was thought that there was a temporal satisfaction that the repentant sinner must fulfill in this life or in purgatory. The indulgence was a document that one could purchase for a sum of money that would free him from the temporal penalty of sin. The excess merits of Christ and the saints were believed to be stored up in a heavenly “treasury of merit” which the pope could draw from on behalf of the living.  In 1517 the Dominican Johann Tetzel was selling a special plenary indulgence (promising complete forgiveness of all sin) to raise money for the church. Half of the money was to be given to Archbishop Albert, to whom the pope had given a special dispensation to hold two offices. The rest would help finance the completion of Saint Peter’s cathedral in Rome. Luther’s protest initially was against what he saw as the abuse of the system of indulgence. It was also a challenge to the papal authority that made such abuses possible.

After the visit to St. Peter’s we went to the Vatican Museum. I broke away from the group to make some photos in the Roman section of the museum. Tremendous crowds visit this museum. I have been here several times since my first visit in 1967, and I have never seen the crowds worse than today.

In the afternoon the group went to the catacombs, I took leave to return to the hotel and continue work on my lesson for the Sunday service at La Chiesa di Christo, via Sannio 69 (Roma).

Be careful where you start a fire

Piazza della Signoria in Florence with Savonarola marker showing. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Piazza della Signoria in Florence with Savonarola marker showing. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Yesterday morning I visited the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy. I think many people walk through this Piazza to get to the Uffizi Gallery and never notice the plaque about Savonarola. Sometimes groups of people were standing on the plaque. When it was clear, one man walked up and said to his companions “Who’s that?” The group walked on without an answer.

Daniel M. Madden says,

In the lovely Piazza della Signoria, the political forum of Florence in all ages, Savonarola arranged a huge bonfire in 1497 so that penitents won over by his words could do away with their wigs, perfumes, lotions, powers and other accouterments of an easy way of life. He himself was burned to death in the same piazza a year later as a heretic. The spot where he died is marked with a plaque. It is not far from the copy of Michelangelo’s statue of “David.” (A Religious Guide to Europe)

One may say anything he wishes as long as he does not step on the toes of those in authority. Jesus faced this problem when He dealt with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.

“If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:48 ESV)

Here is a closeup of the plaque marking the spot where Savonarola died.

Plaque marking spot where Savonarola died. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Plaque marking spot where Savonarola died. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The background of the Protestant Reformation

Dr. Dan Petty, chair of Biblical Studies at Florida College, gave me permission to post some of his information about the Reformation Movement on the blog. Dan has some other material on church history at Lessons on Line. The following section, without indentation, is by Dr. Petty.

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The Protestant Reformation began in 1517, when Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses in Wittenberg, Germany. The background of the movement is complex. The movement was conditioned by political, social, economic, moral and intellectual factors. But it was above all a religious movement led by men interested in a genuine reform of Christianity.

The Decline of Papal Power
The rise of national monarchies in the thirteenth through the fifteenth centuries came at the expense of the power of the papacy. This fact is illustrated by Pope Boniface VIII’s struggle with the king of France, which resulted in the pope’s humiliation and untimely death in 1303. The papacy was subsequently located in Avignon, France for an approximately seventy-year period known in history as the Avignon Papacy or the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy (1303-77). During that time the papacy was dominated by the French monarchy. Efforts to restore the papacy to Rome at first only resulted in a division, known as the Great Schism. Rival popes claimed legitimacy until the situation was finally resolved in 1417.

Such scandalous affairs in the highest leadership of the Roman Catholic Church led to increasing corruption and a loss of confidence in the church. Many questioned the absolute authority claimed for the pope. Others increasingly called for a reform of the church in “head and members.”

Moral Corruption in the Leadership of the Church
The years leading up to the Protestant Reformation were also plagued by moral corruption and abuse of position in the Roman Catholic Church. The priesthood was guilty of several abuses of privilege and responsibility, including simony (using one’s wealth or influence to purchase an ecclesiastical office), pluralism (holding multiple offices simultaneously) and absenteeism (the failure to reside in the parish where they were supposed to minister). The practice of celibacy which was imposed by the church on  the priesthood was often abused or ignored, leading to immoral conduct on the part of the clergy. Secular-minded, ignorant priests corrupted their position by neglect or abuse of power.

During the fifteenth century the worldliness and corruption in the church reached its worst. The problem of corruption reached all the way to the papacy.

Among those who spoke out for a reform of the church was the Dominican Giralamo Savonarola (1452-1498) of Florence, Italy. This fiery preacher spoke out against the corrupt morals of the city’s leaders and the abuses of the papacy. The people were won over to Savonarola’s cause in Florence, but because of religious rivalries and political circumstances, the movement was short-lived. Savonarola was hanged and burned for heresy in 1498.

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Here is a photo of the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy. This is where Savonarola preached and died. In the next post we will show a photo of the plaque marking the place where Savonarola was martyred in 1498.

Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Heinrich Bullinger, successor to Zwingli

Upon the untimely death of Zwingli, Heinrich Bullinger (A.D. 1504- 1575)  became pastor of the Gossmunster in Zurich. He is not as well known as other leaders of the early Reformation, but was a significant thinker and writer.  This statue of Bullinger is attached on the wall of the Grossmunster to the right of the entry.

Heinrich Bullinger. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.Statue of Bullinger. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In the days of Zwingli the altars and images were removed from the Grossmunster in Zurich. The interior of the building has been restored to its orignal Romanesque appearance.

Interior of the Grossmunster in Zurich. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Interior of the Grossmunster in Zurich. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Take a look at Sacred Destinations if you would like to see some more information about the Grossmunster and good photos of sites in Zurich.

Third Man of the Reformation

Ulrich (or Huldrich) Zwingli was born January 1, 1484, about 50 days after the birth of Martin Luther. Zwingli is sometimes called the “third man of the Reformation” after Luther and Calvin (Jean Rilliet, Zwingli: Third Man of the Reformation).

Zwingli Statue in Zurich. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Zwingli Statue in Zurich. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Zwingli was born in a small town in eastern Switzerland. His family was able to provide a good education for him. He first attended the University of Vienna and then the University of Basel. Dr. Dan Petty describes one of the influences that led him away from Catholicism.

“His education brought him into contact with humanistic studies and he became an ardent admirer of Erasmus of Rotterdam. This emphasis tended to lead Zwingli away from the Scholastic theology of medieval Catholicism, and toward the study of the Bible.”

Church historians have described the difference between Zwingli and Luther in their respective attitude about the silence of the Scriptures.

“While Luther was disposed to leave untouched what the Bible did not prohibit, Zwingli was more inclined to reject what the Bible did not enjoin” (George P. Fisher, The Reformation, 145).

“Luther said we may do what the Bible does not forbid. Zwingli said what the Bible does not command we may not do, and on that account he gave up all images and crosses in the churches.  In this respect he was like the Iconoclasts.  Organs in church also were given up. The Lutherans loved to sing around the organ. The Zwinglians, if they sang at all, did so without any instrument” (Roland H. Bainton, The Church of Our Fathers, 143-144).

The Zurich city council called Zwingli to serve at the cathedral there. Darrell Turner, in a Religious News Service article commemorating Zwingli’s 500th birthday in 1984, said:

“His first Sunday in the pulpit of Zurich’s Grossmuenster Cathedral was also Zwingli’s 35th brithday. He shocked his listeners by announcing that instead of following the prescribed liturgy, he would preach through the Gospel of Matthew on a weekly basis.”

That was a simple. unique, and powerful things for Zwingli to do. Folks don’t like you messing with the order of service, as many a young minister has learned. But there was much more involved here. Zwingli was making a break from what Rome prescribed to be done. Going back to the Bible is always a noble thing.

Perhaps we can post more later about Heinrich Bullinger, the successor to Zwingli, in Zurich.