Protestantism: Was it revolutionary and mmodern?

Protestantism began to come about during the Reformation in the Sixteenth century. Before the Reformation the predominant religion was Catholicism. The Reformation was a time period in which the people went against the church and decided to change their beliefs. Martin Luther broke away form the church in 1517 and started the Protestantism movement1 , this gradually began to spread through Europe and not before long there was many more religions around. Protestantism was said to be revolutionary and modern.

The Catholic religion had been basically the only religion people knew and practised for the longest time. When Protestantism started it was considered revolutionary because it was not Catholicism. Protestant leaders like Luther and Calvin did not conceive themselves as rebels or founders of new churches but as teachers trying to return the faithful to the one true church from which they felt the church in Rome had long since deviated.2 But in fact they were revolutionaries, by themselves they started new religions by going against the Catholic church. Doing that may not have been their goal, but they did. Protestantism came around because some people disagreed or thought that the ways of the catholic church were corrupt and wrong. Martin Luther published his 95 thesis because of the selling of indulgences. Martin Luther did not think that wealthy people should automatically be forgiven for their sins because they can pay the church. The selling of indulgences was far too abused and Luther was revolting. The head of the catholic church is the pope, he is said to be the closest one to god on earth. Protestantism also is revolutionary because it does not recognise the pope.3 Catholicism had been around so long prior to the reformation and Protestantism that its practices seemed to be traditional and ritualistic, men like Luther and Calvin were breaking these traditions and rituals, therefore they were revolutionaries.

Protestantism is said also to be modern. However that was said by most protestants. For the protestants to have been modern back then, today we would still have to have the same views. Protestantism in the sixteenth century was in many ways quite different from Protestantism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.4 At the time period in which all this was taking place it was so unusual for someone to go against the church. People did not go against the church because they were far too superstitious. Today people are not nearly as superstitious as they were back then. Many of the Protestant teachings are the same today as they were back then, however many other things have changed. For instance the protestant church was very involved with politics back then, today there is separation between church and state. Overall Protestantism was not modern, it had some modern ideas but it is considered not to be modern. The Protestant Reformation did not create a modern society.5

Protestantism was part of the Reformation, during that time many things in the religion of Europe changed. Many new religions came about and Protestantism was responsible for that. Protestantism was a new thing so it is revolutionary but it was not modern because it is not the same today.


Comptons Encyclopaedia Online;'fastweb?getdoc+viewcomptons+A+6204+0++Protestantism'

Robin W. Winks; A History of Civilization; Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07632; 1992

R. R. Palmer; A History of the Modern World; McGraw -Hill, Inc. ; 1995

Protestantism: Was it revolutionary and modern?

Kenneth Joyce

AP European History

October 12, 2000

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