Christianity in the Medieval Catholic Church
hierarchy: priests recipients of a special grace, they only could perform
through good works and pious acts
unified under the papacy: feudal structure of the church. Landowners =
powerful local lords
needed money to support the church bureaucracy, negotiate with princes,
High offices filled with people rumored to have accepted bribes –
disregard for moral virtues, corruption, neglect of parishes
parishioners were illiterate so barely able to understand the mass, even
what they recited. Unaware of Christian teaching, practiced an odd mixture
of pagan traditions and Xn rites
for moral and doctrinal reform
Luther (16th century)
pastor and professor of scripture at University of Wittenberg.
when parishioners began buying indulgences that promised complete
forgiveness of sins without need for repentance, free souls from
a list of propositions to the chapel door, requesting academic
debate. Ninety-five theses.
by grace alone through faith alone
Luther’s dissatisfaction with the late medieval
understanding of salvation and grace: God wouldn’t deny salvation to anyone who
did the best they could, according to a scrupulous conscience.
Luther’s dread of God’s wrath – felt unsure that his
confessions secured salvation. Pondered
the notion of a righteous God.. What did this mean?
Breakthrough: God’s righteousness in what he gives to worshippers that makes them just in God’s eyes. You don’t have to earn grace through good
works and pious actions; you need only have faith in God’s mercy, given in
Jesus Christ. Justification by grace
alone, through faith alone = the guiding principle of the Reformation.
then is the relationship between faith and good works?
2. The Freedom of the Christian (1522):
Human beings can do nothing at all to merit salvation, which is the utterly
free gift of a merciful God, but are freed from the law and its demands through
faith in Christ. At the same time,
however, Christians respond to God’s love by loving in return and by serving
their neighbor in need.
of Scripture: Luther translated
the Bible into German, thus opened the scriptures for people to read for
Catholic church placed it on
list of forbidden books. Only people
trained in theology can interpret the scriptures properly; plus the unwritten
tradition (Catholic) is equally authoritative.
Luther responds: only the gospel has final authority,
because it reveals the Word of God, Jesus Christ. All Christians guided by the holy spirit ought to be able to read and interpret the
Not a literalist.
Luther accepted some aspects of the Bible – Paul – and rejected others,
such as the letter of James.
of All Believers
All occupations are blessed by God,
all can be used for the service of God. Vocation (“calling”)
Priests and monks are no holier than lay people, the monastic life offers no greater promise of
salvation than life in the world. All
Christians are kings and priests before God.
Nevertheless, need leaders for the sake of order in
worship, in the church. The community should
choose promising leaders to be ministers of the word and sacrament for the
Gulf between clergy and laity would no longer be one of
quality – the idea that ordination conveyed a special grace, just one of
training and vocation
Closing of the monasteries, monks and nuns returned to secular life.
of Luther’s ideas:
was encroaching on more than he had bargained for. He was effectively
attacking the financial underpinnings of the church by calling for the
abolishment of the sale of indulgences.
Leo X had sold the position of archbishop of Mainz to Albert of Brandenberg, giving
him the right to
sell papal indulgences with the understanding that he and the pope would
split the earnings.
order of the emperor, Luther called to appear before the Diet of Worms (1521),
ordered to recant his writings.
Refused, excommunicated, declared an outlaw by the Charles V.
- 1509-1564. French lawyer,
became most influential reformer in Switzerland. Interested in Luther’s writings,
disagreed about the nature of the wine and bread in the Eucharist.
the absolute sovereignty of God.
God’s providence directs the world. Asked questions about election
and how people are saved.
doctrine of predestination. God chooses
to save some people and to damn others. God does so not to cause fear but
reassurance – “blessed assurance” -- to allow people (who are chosen) to
live a life of joyful obedience to God.
God is the true Lord, no institution or individual should have absolute
authority over others.
Reform in England
reform, issuing form the monarch. Dynastic concerns of King Henry VIII
(1509-1547) – desperately desired a male heir. Asked the Pope for permission to divorce
Catherine of Aragon, refused. Henry
turned to English Parliament to pass a series of acts that separated England from Rome.
Monarch is head of the church.
church in England
became the Anglican church, the Church of
dissolved monasteries and seized their property (used for his own
wealth). Ruined abbeys in the
countryside of England,
lead roofs used to make cannons.