Martin Luther initiated the Protestant Reformation by publishing his 95 theses in 1517. They revealed unorthodox ideologies concerning religion, catholicism, the church, and state in Europe during the 1500s. The State condemned them as heresy because of their opposition to Catholicism. In the wake of the Protestant Reformation and the widespread spread of religions in conflict with the Catholic churches, which resulted ultimately in the births of many religions now known as Christianity, a number of consequences were felt by the Catholic Church as well the State. These implications included those relating to social, cultural, political, economic, geographical and historical factors. The Protestant Reformation sheds light on the changes in values and morals that occurred in Europe after the Protestant Reformation.
The Protestant Reformation had many implications for church and government. One of them is the social element. Martin Luther’s ninety-five thesis, specifically thesis number forty-six, is the most important source for the social impact of the church and state. It states, “Christians will be taught not to spend money on indulgences unless it exceeds their needs.”
Luther’s efforts were also credited with a positive impact on Protestants. They became associated as both a means for social reform and religious reform. In contrast, the Catholic church was seen to be more focused on money than personal growth and spirituality. John Locke’s ‘Two Treatises of Government,’ his primary source, highlights the importance of freedom for a society to function. Locke emphasizes this in his passage: To understand political power and derive its original from, we need to consider what natural state all men exist in. That is, a perfect state of freedom. Locke was a writer in the 17th century who was heavily influenced and shaped by the Protestant Reformation. His work provides an insight into how the Reformation had a positive impact on society. After the Protestant Reformation many citizens began to hold different beliefs. Therefore, it became widely accepted that catholic church and government should be separate. Since the church was no longer the majority’s belief, they should no influence the political, judicial, or other aspects of state.
Reformation has had major implications on Church-State relations. One was the impact of political factors, which resulted in a separation, and a system of government free from catholic or religious influence. This stratification was emphasized in many primary and second sources that were written before the Reformation. Mark Goldie, who edited Locke’s political essays, declared in a secondary resource titled ‘Religion, Literature, and Politics: Post-Reformation England, that Locke believes that the civil authorities have no right to enforce religious conformity.’ This is consistent with Martin Luther’s ‘Two Kingdoms Doctrine,’ which argues that separation of state and church is needed to ensure both religious freedom and a political order throughout Europe. In order to keep the church dominant in Europe and negate the reformation ideologies, the Council of Trent was established during the Reformation. However, influential figures, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin who furthered the ideas of Luther, led to a continual development of these thoughts. John Calvin’s ideology is most evident in the book ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’ where he discusses the theology of Protestantism. The best passage to highlight this is “All guilty by revolting against God, corrupting pure religious, either following general customs, or the impious approval of antiquity”. It can also be used to describe politics before the Reformation. Political and economic concerns had taken precedence over the growth and development of catholicism. Martin Luther’s Ninety Five Theses were published in Germany in 1517 and essentially started the Reformation. However, today, there are still political implications that affect the church and the state.
To understand the Reformation and its impact on both church and government, the geographic location is crucial. Martin Luther was often referred to as the person who started the Reformation because he used his writings to criticize the church’s actions and how the catholic religion, and therefore the state, were now driven by the money instead of the will God. Martin Luther’s 32nd Thesis, which states “Those who think they are certain of salvation because they possess indulgence letters, will be eternally condemned, along with their teachers”, is a prime example of this. It highlights that the Catholic Church is driven by money, not scripture or apostolic teachings. This idea was further emphasized by R.N Swanson in his secondary source titled Indulgences for Late Medieval England. More specifically, the excerpt titled “The power to pardon made these indulgences more popular than other associations” reveals the fact that European state and church would rather sell-out catholicism and teach the act repentance.
Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses first spread in Wittenberg when the printing press was invented. Luther taught there at the time. Due to the basic structure of Europe at the time, Luther’s teachings and reformed ideas were easily spread across Europe. The geographical structure of Europe and its impact on the spread of Luther’s teachings would have prevented his influence from spreading so quickly. Instead, restless citizens were forced to accept the Catholic Church dominating Europe out fearing public backlash, as well as the harsh, archaic legal system in place during that time period. Due to the large acceptance of Ninety-Five thesis, the geographic location of Europe provides insight to the idea that reformist ideas were already developing. All it took was a powerful figure like Luther to help develop them into an actual movement.
The Reformation had a significant impact on church and state due to the historical aspect. This was more specifically the length of time that the Catholic Church had been united with the state, and its impact on citizens. Catholicism being the religion of the state, anyone who preached another religion or followed one was condemned as a heretic and often punished with death. As the state’s religion, Catholicism was the dominant religion in Europe. Those who followed or preached any other religion were condemned as heretics and often executed. Martin Luther’s 37th thesis is the best example of the historical fear of God that was the basis for the reasoning. This was amplified by the unification church and government. The passage reads: “Any Christian, living or deceased, can participate in all of the blessings Christ and the church have to offer; this is done by God. Even without indulgences”. Carter Lindberg also emphasizes the importance of this historical implication, and tries to uncover devout cats fear of change as well as the wrath of God. This idea best highlights in the excerpt
In secular penal practice, a punishment could be’redemptioned’ for money. In religious practice, this could mean that a meal could replace a fast or the pilgrimage the cost.
Indulgences were sold to fund both church and government. However, it had a cost. It essentially undermined the legitimacy of the catholic Church and the State. The Protestant Reformation brought about new religious freedom and political systems as a result.
The last factor that affected the church and the state in the 1500s-1700s was the economic impact. The political impact was the final cause of the huge economic effect on the church and the state. This is because their causes and effects were in close proximity. Martin Luther criticized the selling of indulgences as a way to raise funds prior to Reformation for the then unified state and church. Luther’s 28th Indulgence, in which he states, “It can be said that greed and avarice are increased when money is placed in a money box, but when the Church intercedes the result is entirely in God’s hand”. Luther’s criticism of the catholic Church’s indulgence sale is highlighted in Volker Leppin & Timothy Wengert’s secondary sources ‘Sources against and for the Posting the Ninety Five Theses’, specifically the passage.
I was a young doctor of theology, and a preacher at the time. So, when indulgences began to be sold in 1517, for a most shameful profit, I started to discourage the people.
It is clear that as time passes, he has gained more insight. He still opposes the sale and purchase of indulgences.
So, it is clear that the Protestant Reformation in Europe and its consequences had a profound impact on both the church as well the state between the years 1500 and 1700. Their effects were most pronounced when it came to the historical, social, geographical, economic, and political aspects of European culture. Reformation brought about a shift in morals among Europeans and their government. The separation of church from state was a result of this.