How Should We Then Live? Chapter 4: The Reformation
Disclaimer: The Reformation was not a Golden Age. The Reformers weren't perfect. Schaeffer is very positive (me too) about the Reformation due to the effect the movement had on theology and intellectual thought. However, when you look at the history, there was societal upheaval and injustice which the Reformers were associated with. Schaeffer only mentions it briefly. The only thing he says about politics is that the seeds of democracy were sown, which he also portrayed as a positive. However, with the breakdown of the unified church in Europe political freedom certainly suffered. You can read more about that at https://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/.
It is important we don't idolize Reformers and assign them a type of infallibility which has been attributed to Popes. These were men who sought to understand the Bible and obey God's commands in it. In some ways they gloriously succeeded. In others they shamefully failed. A further disclaimer is that many critics of the Reformation have been misguided in their criticism.
The disclaimer also alerts us to fact that things weren't going well in the Church in late Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. Destructive heresy had entered the Church. It was harming society. It needed to be removed. That was the purpose of the Reformation.
Concurrent Contrast To The Renaissance
In terms of when The Reformation occurred it was like the Renaissance's younger brother. The Renaissance was born first but both grew up side by side. As a part of the same family, both searched for meaning and purpose for mankind and where we fit in the universe. Where they looked for their answers and the answers they discovered were miles apart.
Another difference was the geographical center of the two movements. The Renaissance primarily took part in Southern Europe in places like Italy and France. The Reformation primarily happened in the North in countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and England.
Reformation ideas started in the late Renaissance with men like Jan Huss in the Czech Republic and John Wycliffe in England. To put their lives in perspective, John Wycliffe's life (1320-1384) overlapped with Renaissance figures Dante and Bocaccio. Jan Huss's life (1369-1415) overlapped with Masaccio's and van Eyck's. These ideas gained steam and the Reformation started in Germany.
"Martin Luther (1483-1546) nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the church door in
Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. To put this into historical perspective, we should
remember that Leonardo da Vinci lived from 1452-1519... the year Leonardo
died Luther has his disputation in Leipzig, with Dr. Eck."
They taught that the Bible was the final authority for theological truth, that Jesus' work on the cross was all that was required for salvation, that every believer has a direct relationship to God, and that the Pope was guilty of error.
"One must understand that these two things were happening almost simultaneously;
First in the south, much of the High Renaissance was based on a humanistic ideal
of man's being the center of all things, of man's being autonomous; second, in the
north of Europe, the Reformation was giving an opposite answer."
The Five Solas: Scriptura, Gratia, Fide, Christus, Deo Gloria
The Reformation started as an internal movement calling for the Roman Catholic church to repent from sin. But it ended in Protestantism and separation. Zurich, Switzerland left the Catholic church in 1523. England left in 1534. Calvin wrote out his version of Reformed theology in 1536.
Thought in the Renaissance was based on Aquinas's teaching that man did not fall completely. He taught that man's will had fallen into sin, but that man's mind had not. Therefore, those who followed him believed that people could answer the great questions of life on their own through reason.
We saw this already in the chapter on the Renaissance. Raphael painted in the Vatican Greek philosophers on one wall and just opposite to it a depiction of the church, equating the two. Michelangelo did the same thing putting pagan prophetesses on an equal level with Old Testament prophets.
The Reformers taught that all aspects of humanity had fallen into sin: mind, body, and soul. That meant reason wasn't sufficient. They knew we have to rely on revelation from God to determine truth. They still utilized logic and reason to think through issues and analyze preexisting traditions, but they admitted its limitations.
"they refused to accept the autonomy of human reason...they took seriously the
Bible's own claim for itself - that it is the only final authority."
Spiritual authority was in the Bible alone, the slogan of the day which communicated this truth was Sola Scriptura. It wasn't found in church hierarchy or in the Pope but in what was written in the Canon. They opposed the humanistic distortion which glorified the works of mankind and debased the works of God.
Bible. Second, a strong element of human work was added to the work
of Christ for salvation. Third, after Thomas Aquinas there had come an
increasing synthesis between Biblical teaching and pagan thought."
"the problem of meaning for individual things, including man, was so completely
answered that the problem - as a problem- did not exist. The reason for this
is that the Bible gives a unity to the universal and the particulars....the Bible
tells men and women true things about God... the Bible tells us true things about
people and about nature."
"the ironic fact here is that humanism, which began with Man's being central,
The fact that each person has dignity, as God's image, gives dignity to all vocations and all social positions. In the Bible, church elders are appointed based on the example of their service and character. They already were priests. People don't have to be elevated to the level of priest and rise in a complex church hierarchy in order to be in church leadership. We are also all equal in our guilt before God. Every slave, king, plumber, and professor was an enemy of God at one point in their lives. Our Western liberal idea of equality was generated from this intellectual soil.