Teacher Notes The northern European humanists laid the foundation for the Reformation, a religious movement that changed the thinkers in the society of the day. An important leader of the movement was a German monk called Martin Luther.
Corruption was rampant in the Catholic Church with priests, monks, and nuns often breaking their vows; many church leaders lived in extreme luxury and in ways contrary to Christian teachings. A system of repentance where one could by redemption was called Indulgences. An indulgence was a release from punishment for one’s sins. (Catholics believed that people are punished after they die for bad things they do while living.) The church sold indulgences for money, so that people could use wealth, and not good behavior, to escape trouble in the afterlife.
Martin Luther was a German monk who also sought to reform the church. Through studying the Bible, he concluded that Church teachings were corrupt and false to the meaning of Christianity. He argued that people could avoid punishment in the afterlife not by doing good works (and certainly not by purchasing indulgences) but through strong belief, or “faith.” Luther began his own religion (although he saw it as a return to a more pure Christianity), translated the bible into German, developed a mass, and even got married. His ideas started a religious revolution across Europe in which people challenged the power of the Church.
Lutheranism: People perform good works to obey God, not to earn a reward in the afterlife. Faith leads to reward in the afterlife, and going to heaven is God’s gift, not something that can be earned. The Bible is the source of authority on Christian beliefs. People get together in churches and celebrate masses (very similar to Catholic ones), where they participate Holy Communion, and baptism, but none of the other Catholic sacraments, arguing that these were the only two sacraments mentioned in the Bible. Masses also include bible readings, and singing. Mass is in German, or whatever the native language is. Priests can marry.
Calvinism: Founded on the beliefs of John Calvin, a French humanist. Calvinists believe that God chooses an “elect” group of people to go to Heaven. Everyone else is doomed to an eternity in hell no matter what they do. God knows in advance who will end up where…a belief called “predestination.” We know the elect by their good works, but they are not doing the works to earn salvation, they are doing them through the grace of God (a potentially confusing distinction…it makes sense if you start with Luther’s attack on works.) Calvinism has a strict code of personal conduct; no singing, dancing, card playing, strong drink or fancy clothes. The Bible is the source of all authority, and the state needs to reflect Biblical law in its laws.
Anglicanism. Founded when Henry VIII broke away from Rome to marry Anne Boleyn. In some ways, Henry simply took the existing Catholic Church in England and replaced it with a homegrown leader, keeping the hierarchical structure of church leadership and, of course, the buildings. Like Catholics, Anglicans believe that Baptism erases original sin, but like Protestants they believe that people need to have faith, and do not have to do good works. Anglicans also believe in each family making choices about its private religious life. While they believe that the Bible is the ultimate authority, they also believe that the monarch and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leading religious figure, are in charge of interpreting it.