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THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION
(Early 1500s to Mid 1600s)
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AN OVERVIEW OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION
Religious purists in the agrarian hinterland of the West objected strongly to the new secular or materialist spirit growing up with the Renaissance. One of these was the German professor-priest Martin Luther who in 1517 issued a challenge the church over this new interest in worldly affairs. He wanted the church to return to the pure (spiritual) ways of the early church--and back away from all this recent interest in power and wealth--which was rapidly corrupting it.  Also, he wanted faith initiatives to be returned to the individual believer. Priesthood belonged to the believer--not to the religious hierarchy. To press home this challenge, Luther translated the Bible into German--to give the common people access to all priestly authority: the Word of God.
Irritated, the church told him to cease his challenge. But he refused to yield. When princely political interests came to his aid--his rebellion exploded. The "Lutheran" movement began spreading across the north of Germany.  It would soon overtake Scandinavia.  Medieval Europe, or what was left of it, began rapidly to fall into a state of civil war.
But the challenge to the church came from another direction as well: from the newly rising European urban middle class. This was a prosperous, free-thinking and literate group. Eventually their position seemed to be galvanized around the teachings of the Genevan reformer, Calvin. Taking essentially the same position as Luther, Calvin began to assemble protestant scholars and teachers who would take the movement back to their home provinces. During the second half of the 1500s his "