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Reformation
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Reformation
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Definition:
The Reformation, traditionally described has having been begun by Martin Luther in 1517, was the movement which gave rise to Protestant churches and the decline of the power of Roman Catholicism. The Reformation sought to "reform" Christianity by returning it to original beliefs based solely on reference to the Bible, eliminating later additions which accumulated in tradition.

The term "Reformation" is deceptive, but it is not one which can be dispensed with. There were reform movements and ideas long before Martin Luther appeared on the scene, and the concepts of reform and renewal certainly existed as part of church beliefs and tradition. Indeed, Martin Luther was not aware that he had started anything which should be labeled the Reformation or a new religious tradition.

The causes of the Reformation cannot be located in any one event or in any one aspect of medieval society. It wasn't just a matter of religion or politics or social discontent. It was, rather, a combination of all of these things - it was a problem which extended through all aspects of society and how people lived. There was dissatisfaction, discontent and malaise everywhere.

Branches of the Reformation
Branch Denominations Leaders
Lutheran Lutheran Martin Luther
Philip Melanchthon
Reformed Tradition Reformed Church (Calvinist)
Presbyterian
Puritan
Congregational
United Church of Christ
Baptist
Ulrich Zwingli
John Calvin
John Knox
Anglican Church of England
Episcopal
Methodist
Henry VIII
Elizabeth I
Anabaptist Swiss Brethren
Mennonites
Amish
Hutterites
Quakers
Moravian Brethren
Conrad Grebel
Felix Manz
Menno Simons
Jacob Huter
George Fox
Count Zinzendorf

Two of the most important ideas developed by Martin Luther were that people are saved through faith alone (sola fides) rather than through works and that the only source of religious authority is the Scriptures (sola scriptura). The primacy of faith over works is made more significant when we remember that Luther included among "works" the Mass and other devotional activities which were common among Catholics. Once these were eliminated as necessary for salvation, the way was paved for a much simpler, more basic Christian faith.

The primacy of scriptures must also be understood in relation to Catholic tradition, something which has been rejected by Protestant churches. In the Roman Catholic Church, the community of believers produced the Biblical scriptures - as such, the community of believers is held to be authoritative over the scriptures. This means that the community can, over time, come to an understanding of God or salvation which differs from that described in the Bible. For the Protestants, however, this was exactly the opposite of what should be done. They argued that the scriptures were authoritative over the community and, as such, the community was remain obedient to whatever is stated in the Bible.

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Related Resources:

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