The Men of the Reformation

Proto-Reformers: St. Francis, St. Dominic, Jan Hus (ca. 1372-1415), John Wyclif (ca. 1325-1384)


  1. Desiderius Erasmus (ca. 1466-1536); internal reformer
    1. Professional tutor–liberal arts, language and rhetoric, manners
    2. stunned by corruption within the church–wanted to reform it from the ground up, but from within
    3. author–Colloquies (dialogues on the liberal arts); Adages–a book of proverbs found in ancient stories (often made fun of clergy); edited early Christian authors (saw them as more pure)
    4. Goal 1–to unite classical ideals of humanity and civic virtue (res publica). Of the Medieval Christiana Res Publica: “I saw monarchy without tyranny, aristocracy without factions, democracy without tumult, wealth without luxury. . . Would that it had been your lot, divine Plato, to come upon such a republic.”
    5. Goal 2—to promote Christian charity and piety. Philosophia Christi: “imitation of Christ.”
    6. Rejected doctrine (Catholic and Protestant) in favor of piety
    7. Tied closely to Sir/St. Thomas More


  1. Martin Luther (1483-1546); external reformer
  2. Well educated–received a B.A. and M.A. (1505) from the University of Erfurt; earned his Ph.D. in 1512
  3. Rejected his parents wishes, become a priest in the Order of the Hermits of St. Augustine in 1507. Had made his promise during a lightening storm, when he prayed to St. Anne (mother of Mary).
  4. Frequently visited the Vatican where he witnessed extreme corruption
  5. Obsessed with his own sinfulness–between 1512 and 1517, worked on the doctrine of “Justification by Faith Alone.” Almost completely rejected Good Works as important
  6. Especially rejected the doctrines of indulgences and purgatory: a new indulgence was issued in 1517 by Pope Julius II; John Tetzel: “As soon as gold in the basin rings, right then the soul to heaven springs”
  7. 1517: Posted “95 Theses” on the Cathedral Door at Wittenburg. In Latin–meant only as discussion points.  Quickly translated in vernacular and printed as “attacks on the Roman Church.”  Not Luther’s intention.
  8. 1520–Authored three attacks on the church
  • Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation–argued for the German princes to halt the power of the church
  • The Babylonian Captivity of the Church–argued that there were only two sacraments—baptism and the Eucharist
  • On Christian Liberty–argued that faith alone provided salvation
    1. Translated Bible into German (often considered first real work in German)
    2. Church condemned Luther as a heretic in 1521. Some Belgian scholars said he was: “pestilential fart of Satan whose stench reaches to Heaven”
    3. Much to Luther’s horror, peasants throughout Germany rose against their lords in 1524 and 1525, in Luther’s name; Protected from the Church and the peasants by German nobles


Lutheranism today: mostly Germanic and Scandinavian today (in those areas in the United States settled by Germans and Scandinavians).  Essentially Catholic in form, if not in substance.


  1. Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531); external reformer
  • Swiss priest—had been priest for the Swiss Guard, protecting the Pope—who began criticizing the Church in 1520. Wanted a married clergy; abolition of the mass; destruction of the monasteries; and a white-washing of the Churches.
  • Most importantly, he rejected the idea of the “real presence” in Communion. Almighty God could not be humbled to a mere piece of bread, he argued.
  • Believed in a complete alliance of Church and State.
  • Wanted an alliance with Luther. Luther called him “Satan” because of his beliefs on Communion.
  • Started a war in Switzerland with the Catholics. Catholics lost, but Zwingli killed as well.


Many Baptists and fundamentalists today take Zwingli’s teachings on Communion (as memorial and only a memorial) and follow his practice of a plain church.


  1. Anabaptists: John of Leiden, Menno Simons, and Conrad Grebel “The Father of Anabapists”); external reformers
  • Rejected first three reformers as non-scriptural; claimed to remake the Primitive Church.
  • Anabaptism means “to re-baptize.” Since Jesus baptized as an adult, all must be.  Grebel’s first adult baptism—the first of the Reformation—was of George Blaurock, a former Roman Catholic priest who had recently married.  The baptism was on January 21, 1525—regarded as the founding date of the Anabaptist movement.
  • Originally aligned with Zwingli, but alliance began to crumble as early as 1523.
  • Communitarian/collectivist to the point of abolishing private property
  • Pacificists; extremely antinomian—argued for intellectual, individual interpretation of scripture; demanded an outward moral transformation of Christians.
  • Grebel died Summer 1526 of the Plague.


Anabaptists today:

  • Amish
  • Mennonites
  • Brethren


  1. John Calvin (1509-1564); external reformer
  • Born July 10, 1509, to a wealthy French family; father a secretary to a bishop
  • Brilliant; went to university with a Catholic scholarship at the age of 12; received degree in law
  • Father died in May 1531—Calvin turned from law to classics (his real love)
  • 1532: Calvin publishes first book, a Stoic meditation: COMMENTARY ON SENECA.
  • 1533: Calvin befriends a Reformer, Nicholas Cop. By the end of 1533, Calvin embraced Christianity and Protestantism.
  • May 1534, rejected Roman Catholicism; moved to center of the Reformation: Geneva
  • 1537: one of the main leaders of the city state, main advisor to government on moral law
  • 1555: in charge of Geneva; draconian rule
  • Author: INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION (first edition: March 1536; final edition: 1559)
  1. Only a few are Elect; predestined to either salvation or damnation prior to birth: “Both life and death are acts of God’s will, rather than his foreknowledge.  If God simply foresaw the fates of men, and did not also dispose and fix them by his determination, there would be room to agitate the question, whether his providence or foresight rendered them at all necessary.  But since he foresees future events only in consequence of his decree that they shall happen, it is useless to contend about foreknowledge, while it is evident that all things come to pass rather by ordination and decree.” (Calvin, INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, Book 3, Chapter 23).  This is known as Double Predestination.
  2. Signs of salvation: outward adherence to God’s commandments; participation in the two sacraments


Calvinist short hand

  • T — total depravity.
  • U — unconditional election.
  • L — limited atonement.
  • I — irresistible grace.
  • P — perseverance of the saints.


Calvinists today:

  • Presbyterians (Scottish Calvinists)
  • German and Dutch/Christian Reformed Churches
  • Puritan movement within the Church of England
  • Huguenots in France


Off-shoots of Calvinism and Anabaptists: Baptists (certainly more democratic in church government)

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