Advancing Toward the Protestant Reformation

     Too often, people assume that the Protestant Reformation started with Martin Luther, when in reality it was a developing movement that started long before Luther hammered his Ninety-Five Theses to the door at Wittenburg.  I'm not going to get into too many details, but here is a very brief overview of the other developments that contributed to the Reformation. 

      Paul wrote to the Galatians that, “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”[1]  What Paul probably did not understand without the advent of the microscope is that the yeast actually grows and reproduces itself as it consumes the sugars in the dough.  Eventually there are no more sugars and the dough is cooked.  The events leading up to the Protestant Reformation were much like a batch of dough full of bad yeast.  The papacy was declining and corruption among the church leadership was rampant.[2]  The Great Schism had split Europe, followed by a new crop of religious leaders more interested in the Renaissance than the gospel.[3]  The church was no longer viewed as the defender of the poor.[4]  And there were wars.

      Working against this bad yeast—but growing in the same fashion—were men and movements who felt the church had lost its way, such as Wycliffe and Huss and their followers.[5]  In addition, education was on the rise and more people were learning Greek, “who could now compare the Greek text of the New Testament with the commonly used Latin Vulgate.”[6]  Erasmus and the humanist reformers were long working to see a reformation of the church.[7]  The feudal system was crumbling, as was the economy of the masses.[8]  Given these conditions, the sugar was nearly consumed and the dough was about to feel the heat of the coming Protestant Reformation.

González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day, Vol II. San
Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985.

     [1] Gal 5:9, NIV.
     [2] Justo L. González, The Story of Christianity: The Reformation to the Present Day, Vol II (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 6.
     [3] Ibid, 6.
     [4] Ibid, 9.
     [5] Ibid, 7-8.
     [6] Ibid, 7. 
     [7] Ibid, 10.
     [8] Ibid, 8-9.  

*This post was, in its entirety or in part, originally written in seminary in partial fulfillment of a M.Div. It may have been redacted or modified for this website.