What Really Caused the Reformation?


Perhaps this is the wrong place to ask this question, but…

WHO is ultimately responsible for the split of Catholics and Protestants? Yes, the protestants left the catholic church, but WHY? Wasn’t it that they utterly disagreed with how the church was discharging it’s “duties”?

How is this wrong? Did not Paul baldly correct Peter re: Peter’s error when that error was potentially leading other Jewish Christians (the church at that time) astray? (“How is it that you being a Jew live like a gentile, compell the gentiles to live like Jews” etc. etc.)

What if Peter had answered Paul, “to hell with your correction! I’m the leader of the Church, not you! I’ll do as I please!”…Would Paul have been right in “splitting” from Peter?

What about the split between Paul and Barnabas, both Christians? Was this not contained in the will of God and did it not achieve His ultimate purpose; the desemination of the Word of God to the gentiles?

What I’m getting at, is there are a number of shameful things in our mutual Church history that I do not agree with, and if the Catholic church did not address those things, did not deal with those things, did not repent of those things, then I’m glad of the split.

HOWEVER, I would rather be unified with my family than continue in separation from them…So long as we are in a place of agreement, by all means let us rejoin with one another. If we still disagree, let us dialog until we can reach agreement, or agree to disagree… (“In essentials, unity…”)

tiptoes out

–D <><


Dulcimer, yes, this question would be better in a thread of its own.

The problem with the reformation was that, to borrow an expression you used in another thread, Luther threw out the baby with the bath water. Admittedly, abuses had crept into the Church which needed to be addressed and corrected, but Luther erred when he changed the theology which had been taught for 1,500 years, even going so far as to challenge the canon of the Bible. Had he stopped with correcting the abuses and left the theology alone, there’s a good chance that Christianity would be united today, excluding, of course, the fringe groups that every generation seems to have.


I am currently reading Alister McGrath’s “The Intellectual Origins of the European Reformation” Second Edition, 2004. He discusses the intellectual currents at play at the time of and prior to the Reformation, including the rise of humanism, the decline of scholastic theology, and the basic intellectual heterogenity of the Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation. From the Council of Orange until Trent, the Church had not ruled on justification, a period of over a thousand years. At the time of the Reformation the Church was still smarting from the after effects of the Great Schism and the question of whether Church authority was invested in the pope, the Council, or universities was still in play.

I haven’t read the whole book yet, but it is very interesting. There was not, says McGrath, one Reformation but a number of them. Had Luther not done his thing, the Swiss reformation would still have occured. Most if not almost all Catholic apologetic firepower has been directed at Luther as if he were the sole exponent of the Reformation. He wasn’t.

The Reformation was due to a number of things: corruption in the church, weak and sluggish response to challenge on the part of the Church, the rise of nationalism, the Renaissance and the rise of personal piety, anticlericalism, the rediscovery of ancient texts that had laid buried under centuries of scholastic theology, for some. It probably is the most complex historical event in the history of the West.

Those are some of the ideas brought out in this book.


when discussion the origin of the reformation one must start at the beginning. the Beginning of the reformation was not martin Luther but Guttenberg and the invention of the printing press.
For the first time the public had access to the holy bible and and could compare the teaching of the CC to the bible , and Luther and others could clearly see the two did not jive.


There is nothing in the teaching of the Catholic Church that contradicts Holy Scripture.


Are you not aware that the Bible that Gutenberg printed was a Latin translation? The public has ALWAYS had access to the Bible. The problem was illiteracy. Illiteracy did not immediately go away just because the printing press had been invented. In fact by the time of Luther there were a great many people who were still illiterate.


The underlying impulse of the Reformation in Germany was to a large extent nationalistic,and a desire to throw off Roman (Italian) authority. But underlying that,there is also the factor of the heathen ancestry of the Germanic peoples. The heathen ancestors of the Germans,Scandinavians, Anglo-Saxons and lowland Scots were for the most part very patriarchal in their religion,with no prominent goddesses. The heathen ancestors of the Italians,French,Spanish,Portugese,Bohemians,Poles,and the Celts of Ireland, the highlands of Scotland and Wales were more matriachally inclined,with important mother-goddesses and many lesser gods and goddesses. The southern Germans were also more matriarchally inclined. The hostility that Germans and Anglo-Saxons had for the Catholic Church was also hostility toward the veneration of Mary and the saints,as if Mary was a pagan goddess and the saints were minor deities and were being worshipped as such by Catholics. The Germans and Anglo-Saxons had themselves been venerating Mary and the saints throughout the Middle Ages.


May I suggest a book by Hilaire Belloc written before 1950 but still available from Amazon and Tan Books. The title is “How the Reformation Happened.” Its relatively easy reading and illustrates well many of the currents of the time that made it happen. Price is under 20 bucks. Seems Luther was basically the fuse that set off the “bomb.” At another time in History the Reformation would probably not have happened.


Nailing the 95 theses was not the start of the Protestant Revolt. Nailing statements to the door was a common practice for engaging in a debate. The start was when Luther burned the papal Bull.

Slightly off topic: Would Luther be pleased with the state of Christianity today?


*]Those who could read had access to the holy bible.
*]Those who could afford bibles which were, if not as expensive as the handwritten varieties available before Guttenburg, still beyond the means of the poor.
*]Those who had the leisure time to read could access the holy bible.[/LIST]The teaching of the Catholic Church did not jibe with Luther’s rewriting of the Bible.


This is wishful thinking at best and specious propaganda at worst.

Better have a look at this chapter from Where We Got the Bible on the vernacular translations before Wycliff. The allegation is historical bunkum.

You also need to get the Beginning Apologetics Series especially # 7 and have a look on page 38.

“Before Gutenberg printed the first Bible around 1455 (A Catholic version in Latin with 73 books) there were already popular translations of the Bible and the Gospels in English, Spanish, Italian, Danish, French, Norwegian, Polish, Bohemiam, and Hungarian.”

"There were nine editions of the Bible in German by the time Martin Luther was born in 1493 and twenty-seven editions in German before Luther published his own in 1520.

Before the first Protestant Bible was printed, more than 600 editions of the Catholic Bible had been printed in Europe, of which 198 were in the languages of the people."

(Where We Got the Bible, pages 69,74,& 75)

For the first time the public had access to the holy bible and and could compare the teaching of the CC to the bible , and Luther and others could clearly see the two did not jive.

This is really just more wishful thinking on your part, and patently untrue.

As you will readily see if you post here and pay any attention to the responses that you get from me and my Catholic brothers and sisters, we can provide abundant scriptural support for Catholic teaching, and that has been the case from the days of the reformation.

Furthermore…there is more than ample documentation that “Luther and others” did not find any such thing as this post will clearly show.

Of course that is not the only Catholic teaching that they did not reject, though perhaps you wish


Ultimately, eschatologically…I think it was that Satan was “unchained” sometime in the 14th or 15th centuries.

The “Millenium,” the golden Church Age that had started somewhere in the 300’s or 400’s with the liberation of the Church…ended roughly a thousand years later in the 1300’s and 1400’s.

The Little Ice Age came, the plague came, Humanism came and reintroduced Classical (ie, pagan) ideas and undermined the Medieval (ie, Christendom) ideas. The East finally and definitively broke off after the council of Florence (though it had been simmering for centuries, I would consider it essentially one church, and most of their Saints thus publically venerable, up until 1453). The Great Schism happened, the Hundred Years War…and then the Protestant Reformation, and it has been downhill ever since.

1000 years were allotted for Christian society to fully bloom, for the ideal manifestation of the social kingship of jesus christ to shine forth. After that…it’s been a slow decay. Who knows when the end will come.

Which is why I am inclined to take any talk of “three days darkness,” “great monarchs” and “angelic pastors” allegorically and not truly prophetically…applying not to the future, but allegorically to the first Three Centuries of Christianity, and Charlemagne, and perhaps Gregory the Great. Because I think the golden age for the Church…has passed. The millenium is up. Satan was unchained in dramatic fashion.

As part of the End Times, there may be some “echo” of the whole history of the Church replayed…spread out over a few years, not decades or centuries…but I think generally…that was for the Medieval times…and we are already past that.


I agree, to find the root of schisms of the Church including the Reformation, we we need to go back to The Beginning. As Genesis explains, in the beginning God created man and man listened to our enemy instead of God. This borough in original sin and a proclivity to sin.

The cause of the reformation is Satan and man’s tendency to listen to him.


The Protestant schism (I’d love to see anyone try to prove that the communities Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli formed were “reformed” in any sense of the word) was caused by Martin Luther, who exchanged the spiritual power of the Pope for the temporal power of the German princes.

Case in point: Luther’s sudden support for polygamy when Philip of Hesse decided he wanted another wife without the inconvenience of divorcing the first.


“Come my brothers, let us reason together…”

Okay, let’s say it all started with Luther. WHAT were his 95 theses? WHAT were his stated complaints (or request for debate, if you will) against the church? Please list the top 10…

“Anyone? Anyone?”

P.S. PLEASE…Let’s leave accusations and ad hominem attacks at the door. I hope we are above such petty tactics–which really are admissions of inferior rhetorical skills–and they are in violation of the stated TOS of CAF anyway. (I’m speaking to “that’s a specious lie” and similar remarks.) Thanks, everyone!


I do not believe the 95 theses started or caused the Reformation. The Church addressed the 95 theses and corrected the abuses. But the Reformation – like the Mississipi – just keeps on rollin’ aloooong.


It should be noted that despite the claims of Protestants, the 95 theses were not a “shot heard round the world” but a very normal invitation to debate. The “revolutionary” thing about Luther was that he utterly refused Church correction on his errors, which were detailed in a respectful response, and that he stirred the German princes to renounce the Church and seize her property for their own. If anything, it was this theft of property and refusal to return it to its rightful owner which made schism inevitable.

These are the facts. Any attack imputed is a function of the very ugly and unChristian actions propagated by Luther and the “Reformers”.

Read up on the Peasants’ Revolt Luther incited and then had quashed at the cost of 100,000 German lives.

The 95 theses have been romanticized by those who rely on ignorance of history to promote their mythology. Anyone can read Luther’s profane and scatalogical correspondence and see how poorly the man reflects the modern myth.

So again, the answer to the question is, “Because Luther wanted to be Pope.”


Solus Luterus.


Here ya go:

As for their irenic and non-hierarchical goals: right from the very start, the Reformers used tactics of force.

one of the chief means employed in promoting the spread of the Reformation was the use of violence by the princes and the municipal authorities. Priests who remained Catholic were expelled and replaced by adherents of the new doctrine, and the people were compelled to attend the new services.

The faithful adherents of the Church were variously persecuted, and the civil authorities saw to it that the faith of the descendants of those who had strongly opposed the Reformation was gradually sapped. In many places the people were severed from the Church by brutal violence…

Of real freedom of belief among the Reformers of the sixteenth century there was not a trace; on the contrary, the greatest tyranny in matters of conscience was displayed by the representatives of the Reformation. The most baneful Caesaropapism

was meanwhile fostered, since the Reformation recognized the secular authorities as supreme also in religious matters…

In this way the Reformation was a chief factor in the evolution of royal absolutism. In every land in which it found ingress, the Reformation was the cause of indescribable suffering among the people; it occasioned civil warswhich lasted decades with all their horrors and devastations…

Germany in particular, the original home of the Reformation, was reduced to a state of piteous distress by the Thirty Years’ War, and the German Empire was thereby dislodged from the leading position which it had for centuries occupied in Europe.



Oh and the little matter of the Peasant Massacre:

[Luther] “dipped his pen in blood” and "calls upon the princes to slaughter the offending peasants like mad dogs, to stab, strangle and slay as best one can… His advice was literally followed. The process of repression was frightful. The encounters were more in the character of massacres than battles. The undisciplined peasants with their rude farming implements as weapons, were slaughtered like cattle in the shambles.

More than 1000 monasteries and castles were levelled to the ground, hundreds of villages were laid in ashes, the harvests of the nation were destroyed, and 100,000 killed. The fact that one commander alone boasted that “he hanged 40 evangelical preachers and executed 11,000 revolutionists and heretics”, and that history with hardly a dissenting voice fastens the origin of this war on Luther, fully shows where its source and responsibility lay.


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