The Radical Reformation

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  • Created by: Kate H
  • Created on: 19-04-15 11:56

Was Luther a radical?

  • Luther's attack on the church was very radical. He condemned Church doctrines, they way that Church tradition had controlled and interpreted the Bible, the leadership of the Pope, and the sacredness and specialness of the clergy. He was definitely a religious radical, and his ideas were similar in some ways to those of earlier heretics like Hus. However, he did not start out intending the split the church. In 1522 he left Wartburg in order to calm down the radical direction that reform was taking in Wittenburg under his colleague Carlstadt and the Zwickau prophets. There had been disorderly destruction of church images-iconoclasm- for instance).
  • He was much less of a radical socially and politically. In 1520 he called on the lead princes to reform. He was soon alarmed by the way his ideas spun out of control , and threatened to encourage uprisings and popular disturbances. The Peasants' War greatly alarmed him, and he was blamed by some for encouraging it. Although he agreed that the peasants were treated badly by the lords, politically he had to side with the princes who put the rebellions down. From this point on Luther was a firm ally of the reforming princes. Only those in authority, city magistrate or Prince, had the right to organise a reformation. The new Churches should be firmly subordinated to the authority of the state.

Who was more radical than Luther?

  • In Zurich in the Swiss Confederation there was another reformer, Zwingli, who was more radical than Luther in matters of doctrine. In 1519 he started to condemn the papacy in sermons. He started to reform Zurich in 1522. He placed great emphasis on the authority of the Bible. Like Luther he believed in faith alone, baptism and Eucharist as the only sacraments, services in the vernacular, married clergy and the closure of monastries.
  • He went further than Luther in ordering all images to be stripped from Churches, and put forward a radical interpretation of the Eucharist. The physical body of Jesus did not enter the bread and wine. It remained in heaven, while the bread and the wine served as symbols. The congregation came together in a symbolic communal meal at a table placed in the centre of the chuch (and not at an altar). Luther and Zwingli, and other reformers, met in 1529 at the Colloquy of Marburg. They could not agree what happened at the Eucharist; Luther adopted the position of consubstantiation (the bread and wine remained bread and wine but also took on the essence of Jesus' body and blood) and argued stubbornly with Zwingli.
  • However, like Luther, Zwingli feared a loss of authority and social disorder. He was alarmed by radical Anabaptist ideas that soon emerged in Zurich. He wanted a very controlled reformation in Zurich. The city magistrates had authority over the Church, and should use it to control immoral public behaviour and keep public order, as well as hand out poor relief. Citizens of Zurich who…


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