Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Today’s fairy tale telling of the Reformation is that of grasping early liberty from religion, a chord that strikes deep in American sympathies. Of course people should not be forced to be Catholic. Of course the Pope was wrong. Of course these souls were heroes and revolutionists. And I don’t want to say that they weren’t very brave, or that they didn’t teach good things. But as I studied this movement, I was struck by two thoughts.

One: the Reformation was political. Remember that church and state were not separated in this era. Indeed, they remained closely related for centuries after. A push against Catholicism was similar to a push against the state, and which religion you professed served as a double declaration of political opinion. Hugh Latimer found initial favor in the English court because he sided with the divorce; he lost this political favor with The Act of the Six Articles and England’s return to Catholic doctrine (Act of the Six Articles). Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli led successful reformations because they gained the support of powerful men with enough clout to oppose the church. And as the Reformation gained momentum, it erupted into civil and international wars (TheReformers). This was not a simple introduction of new doctrine; it was a fundamental change in government.

The Battle of Rocroi, by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau.

Two: the doctrine hearkened back to Ad Fontes. Zwingli, Luther, Calvin and others largely took issue with papal authority. They preached a religion where Jesus saved, not a pope or other named saint. And they insisted on preaching straight from the scriptures – an original source (Zwingli).

The Reformation was both a product and a producer, I think, of everything else we’ve studied. Ad Fontes. Humanism. Brave New Worlds and – as we’ll study soon – public literature. It was complicated, nothing so simple as a liberation. It required them to change fundamental perspectives about themselves and the world – not only about God.

Works Cited

“The Reformers: Ulrich Zwingli.” Europe in the Age of the Reformation. Boise State University. N.d. Web. 15 Sep 2015.

Zwingli, Ulrich. “The Sixty-Seven Articles of Ulrich Zwingli.” Selected Works of Huldrich Zwingli. Ed.Samuel Macauley Jackson. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1901. Christian History Institute. Web. 15 Sep 2015.

Act of the Six Articles. Tudor Place. N.p. N.d. Web. 15 Sep 2015. 


  1. I love your connection between the reformation and Ad Fontes. Just like latin became warped over time and returning to the original gave them so much more freedom and power, they returned to Jesus and they returned to the Bible. For most, it was their first acquaintance with the fountain.

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  3. I'm interested by the political side of the Reformation, which you bring up briefly. In my research, I saw a number of articles talking about the economic side of the Reformation, and I wonder if our Western interpretation of those events as a man-against-machine, Bible-against-tyrant revolution really take into consideration the full set of factors and motivations. Something to think about, maybe.