Reflection Essay on Protestant Reformation

Before his death at the Second Battle of Kappel (Capel) on October 1 1, 1531, at the age of 47, Zwingli had accomplished much in the way of developing the theology of the growing Protestant faith. While Zwingli and Luther may have agreed on many points of the faith one area of profound division was over the presence of Christ’s body in the Communion. Luther held to the belief that when one partook of the bread and wine that, while the bread and wine did not change into the body and blood of Christ, the body and blood were present with them to nourish the believer. Zwingli, on the other hand firmly believed that that bread and the wine and the actions accompanying them in the Communion were strictly symbolic of a more spiritual reality. 6 According to Lindsay, the Fourth thesis at the Bern Disputation of 1 528 states that, ” it cannot be proved from the Scripture that the Body and Blood of Christ are substantially and corporeally received in the Eucharist. 7 With this, Zwingli would agree. While Zwingli was not willing to part ways entirely with the Catholic Church in regards to infant baptism he was an ardent advocate of allowing the clergy to marry.
In a meeting in which Zwingli had composed sixty-seven theses to be presented and debated he said, ” I know of no greater nor graver scandal than that which forbids lawful marriage to priests, and yet permits them on payment of money to have concubines and harlots. Fie for shame! “8 There were many area of disagreement between the Reformers and the established Church, such as who should rule and ake laws governing botn church and state. Zwingli upheld the right ot the state to make laws and govern religion but also allowed the people to rise up and rebel against the ruling parties if necessary.
This was in great contrast to the stand taken by the Anabaptist in later years. Though changes were slow in coming and in many cases were hard won, major changes were taking place in regards to how the church was to be governed, who was to receive the cup and bread, whether or not priests were allowed to marry, as well as many other theological issues. One group that came about as a process of Zwingli’s teachings, though they did ot feel that Zwingli had carried scripture or the reform of the church to its logical conclusion, was the Anabaptists.

Though often referred to as “rebaptizers” due to their unwillingness to accept infant baptism or baptisms performed by the Catholic Church, they would “re-baptize” those individuals. The Anabaptists themselves did not believe they were re-baptizing people because they had not been scripturally baptized in the first place. 9 Wanting to restore the church to what they believed it was in the first century, adherents were more accurately “restorationists” than reformationists. Called Radical Reformers they were considered heretical and seditious by the Catholic Church as well as other Protestant groups for their rejection of the established churches. Believing that all other faiths had corrupted the Word of God and the practices established in Scripture Anabaptists broke from fellowship with other believers. One of the main forces of the Anabaptist movement was Thomas Muntzer.
He wrote several scathing attacks against Luther, in one tract calling Luther, ” the unspiritual soft-living flesh in Wittenberg, whose robbery and distortion of Scripture has so grievously polluted our wretched Christian Church. In he same tract he called Luther “Father Pussyfoot,” “Dr. Liar” and “the Pope of Wittenberg. “11 thus reinforcing the discontent and separation between the Anabaptists and other groups of Protestants. Change was occurring over many parts of Europe. Men like Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli were attempting to right what they believed were the wrongs and atrocities being forced on the people by a corrupt Church and nation. The Catholic Church and the Emperors or kings throughout the time of the Reformation continued to resist the teaching of reformed theology, even to the point of executing those who would not recant their “unacceptable” views.
Occasionally meetings (Diets) were called in an attempt to resolve many of the issues between the established church, the king , and the reformers. In response to Luther’s posting of his 95 theses, in which he publically challenged and condemn many of the practices of the Catholic Church, on the door of Wittenberg church, a papal bull was issued excommunicating Luther from the Catholic Church. Luther publically burned the papal bull on a bonfire, in essence defying the authority of the Pope himself. A diet was called by Emperor Charles V.
Held, April 16- May 25, 1521 in Worms, Germany it was intended to determine if Luther was a heretic. Luther was under the impression that it was a hearing to discuss or debate his beliefs, to his surprise he was presented some of his writings and command to recant. In Luther’s response that he could not unless he was convinced that he was wrong. One result of this Diet was the issuing of the Edict of Worms, which condemned Luther as a, “heretic and an outlaw,” and commanded that he be arrested and his books burned. 2 While Luther struggled in the tight tor the truth in Germany, Zwingli was having more success in Zurich. In the first of four meetings, known as the Zurich Disputation in 529, Zwingli presented his 67 theses which condemned many of limitations and practices of the clergy. He believed that the Bible was its own authority and the Church did not give it power and truth. Jesus was the one and only way to get to God the Father, the Pope did not possess ultimate power over all spiritual matters, and works cannot achieve merit, for salvation, through their good works. 3 His writings were well received and the Council would put into practices some of his recommendations. Other notable events, though there are many, would be the Augsburg Confession, and The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre on August 24, 1572. The first was written by Melanchthon, which laid out the fundamental beliefs of faith for the reformers. Presented at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 it was rejected by the Catholic emperor but adopted by the Lutheran church as their foundational document of faith. 14 St.
Bartholomew’s massacre was an attempt by Catherine de’ Medici to cover up an assassination of Admiral Coligny by Catherine and the Duke of Guise. Fearful that an investigation would reveal her part in the plan and that the Huguenots increasing violence, she ordered a massacre of the Huguenots gathered in Paris at the time. 15 Before the conflict was over thousands of Huguenots had been murdered or died from starvation. As has already been mentioned, some of the more well known writings of the reformation include the sixty-seven theses by Zwingli.

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