The Protestant Reformation

First a Break, Then Splinters

Martin Luther

  • A Dominican friar was in Germany raising money for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. His “fundraiser” was the offering indulgences in exchange for alms (a bad idea).
  • Martin Luther, an Augustinian priest and later the author of On the Jews and Their Lies (1543), responded with his 95 Theses. These propositions for debate were only in part related to the actions of the Dominican friar. They challenged the foundational theology of Catholicism.
  • Refusing to recant his Theses, Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X in 1521.
  • Roman Emperor Charles V called for Luther’s execution, but German protected him. The Lutheran Church was born (Arnold).

Lutheran Theology

  • Stark contrast to Catholic theological of faith and reason (Fides et Ratio) and faith and understanding as asserted and upheld by such theologians as Anslem, Augustine, and John Paul II.
  • Lutheran theology asserts faith alone (Sola Fide) and scripture alone (Sola Scriptura). “Lutherans believe we draw closer to God (i.e. become justified) by grace through faith in Christ and not by our good works” (7 Core).
  • Though historically first, Lutheranism is the third largest Protestant movement (Carter).

Henry VIII

  • In 1517 King Henry VIII of England repudiated Luther’s 95 Theses, defending the Catholic Church. As a result the Pope granted Henry the title Defender of the Faith (Fidei DefeBarely a decade later, the very same Henry VIII would break decisively with the Catholic Church, accept the role of Supreme Head of the Church of England and dissolve the nation’s monasteries, absorbing and redistributing their massive property as he saw fit.
  • Barely a decade later, Henry VIII would break decisively with the Catholic Church, accept the role of Supreme Head of the Church of England and dissolve the nation’s monasteries.
  • 1527: Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon failed to produce a male heir. Henry asked Pope Clement VII for a divorce and annulment. He had also become infatuated with Anne Boleyn.

The Church of England

With the Pope unwilling to grant an annulment of Henry’s marriage, Henry—believing he should not be subject to papal authority—breaks from the Catholic Church and creates the Church of England, placing himself as its head.

The Anglican/Episcopal Church

The Church of England today is called the Anglican Church. In the United States it is referred to as the Episcopal Church. Its faithful consider themselves “a bridge between the Protestant and Catholic branches of Christianity” (Boyett).

The Reformation Illustrated


Works Cited

“7 Core Themes of Lutheran Theology” Immanuel Lutheran Chicago

Arnold, Michelle. “A Timeline of the Reformation.” Catholic Answers Magazine. 2017

Boyett, Jason. 12 Major World Religions.

Carter, Joe. “9 Things You Should Know About Lutheranism.” The Gospel Coalition. 2017

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