The Reformation was the single greatest dividing event in the history of the Christian faith. In the span of a few years, the entire Christian faith split into different warring camps of various allegiances. This sample history essay explores the impact of the reformation explores the circumstances surrounding it as well as the overall impact on society and religion as a whole.
The impact of the Reformation
The Reformation refers to a schism in Christianity that ensued after Martin Luther challenged the Catholic position and posting of the 95 Theses. The Reformation had far-reaching effects on the social, political, and religious institutions that governed Europe in the 16th Century. Each will be discussed below, in turn (Brady 12).
Social institutions born out of the movement
Before the Reformation, it was difficult to disseminate information on a widespread basis. However, the printing press was invented during the Reformation. As a result, books and pamphlets were made widely available to the masses. Additionally, religious and political zealots were able to use the printing press to spread propaganda and create the movement behind their messages. This changed the social hierarchy, as less educated individuals were able to obtain access to information and climb up the social ladder. Finally, the Reformation lead to an increased focus on developing science and technology (Deason 224).
Creation of political institutions after the Reformation of the Church
The Reformation resulted in various wars and culminated in one giant war known as the Thirty Years War. This was devastated much of Germany, killing nearly a quarter of its population. Additionally, at the end of the war, all participating countries signed the Peace of Westphalia. This early treaty gave individual states in the region the power to choose their own religions (from a list of three different religions: Roman Catholicism, Calvinism, and Lutheranism). Additionally, the Peace of Westphalia provided that Christians not within a state’s particular established religion would be able to practice in peace. This was a major step for religion in Europe in the 16th Century (Brady 16).
Religious beliefs expanded after the movement
The Reformation began when people began to question the legitimacy of the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. Corruption within the ranks caused individuals like Martin Luther and John Calvin to “branch out” and reform. These leaders quickly realized that there was very little adherence to traditional Christian ethics. Because of the Reformation, Christianity became fragmented and compartmentalized. Specifically, Roman Catholicism, Calvinism, and Lutheranism became recognized sects of Christianity. Additionally, Protestants and Presbyterians gained notoriety as well.
G. B. Deason, “The Protestant Reformation and the Rise of Modern Science.” Scottish Journal of Theology, 1 Dec. 1985. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=3370000. 6 Aug. 2013.
Thomas A. Brady, Jr., “The Protestant Reformation in German History.” The German Historical Institute. 1 Sept. 1998. http://www.ghi-dc.org/publications/ghipubs/op/op22.pdf. 6 Aug. 2013.