The Protestant Reformation and the Birth of a Modernized Perception

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Change is inevitable and does not occur without a form of resistance from an individual, a community or even a nation. Traditions are forms of security when it is threatened, people deep-rooted in these traditions will fight to keep it. In 1500, little did European society know the major changes that would occur. It meant changes in the nation, changes in the church but also change in perception. Due to the revolutions that took place, traditions evolved. This evolution gave birth to modernized perception which paved the way for change in Europe.

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When reading The Prince, Institutes of the Christian Religion, In Praise of Folly, and The Two New Sciences, the changes that occurred in terms of religion and church were drastic. Martin Luther a former Catholic monk had a spiritual awakening and argued: “that it is faith alone which, because of the pure mercy of God through Christ and in his Word, worthily and sufficiently justifies and saves a person” (Nystrom 271). By making such claims, he started to view things that were wrong about the Catholic church which resulted in Martin Luther writing the Ninety-Five Theses. The Ninety-Five Theses was a dispute on the power of indulgences followed by a list of propositions. Martin Luther viewed indulgences as signs of deception perpetrated by the church to the unwary public. He believed that these church authorities “arrogated to themselves powers that belonged properly to God alone” (Bentley 493). By Martin Luther questioning the authorities within the Catholic Church and indulgences, this resulted in his excommunication and was a start to the Protestant Reformation. With this groundbreaking reformation, this opened doors to different views on religion thus forming new denominations in Christianity (i.e. Calvinism, Lutheranism). With new denominations formed, members of the Roman Catholic Church broke away which started to weaken the church. Fewer members meant fewer indulgences, which meant less revenue for the church. In addition to the start of this reformation, individuals such as Desiderius Erasmus who wrote In Praise of Folly spoke about the hypocrisy of both Christians and the Church. He claimed, “they think to satisfy that Master they pretend to serve, our Lord and Saviour…” (Nystrom 267). His document further supported Martin Luther’s view on money greedy monks or Christians who claimed it was for the Lord yet it was for their gain. Furthermore, The Two New Sciences by Galileo Galilei also challenged the Catholic Church. His document supported the idea of heliocentrism (planets revolving around the sun), whereas the church believed in geocentrism (earth at the center). The church charged Galileo Galilei with heresy as his findings were unorthodox, went against the church and contradicted biblical passages thus making him a threat.

As the church was undergoing change and facing its own challenges, so was the nation. In The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, he indicated as a ruler “it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with” (Nystrom 301). Machiavelli asserts that a prince should always try to be exemplary, but at times by doing so it can prove to be detrimental. The document was a guide on how to run politics, discusses the art of war, the blame of a Prince and friends. Finally, when reading the Declarations of the Rights of a Man and the Declarations of the Rights of Women, we see further change within the people. The declaration was influenced by the English Bill of Rights, the declaration served as a reminder to the nation of their rights and duties. As France, no longer was a monarchy the list talks about rights, freedom of religion, speech, assembly and separation of powers. In addition to this declaration, the rights of women were attempted to aim at women’s sexual equality. These where the changes taking place after the 1500’s. The protestant reformation as well as the nation fighting for rights.

Given these points, the change was inevitable and many members who were deeply rooted in tradition resisted. Again, Europe was unaware of the changes that would occur after 1500. With Martin Luther who challenged and criticized the Catholic Church by calling them out on indulgences, this started the Protestant Reformation. Additionally, people would start to see the church differently, people would break away and new denominations would be formed. Other Europeans such as France would fight for their rights and women would also try to fight for sexual equality. With these changes in perception, all of these events helped modernized Europe.     

24 May 2022

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