The Early Reformation

The Reformation is a time of change and struggles for the early protestants. Many people were killed based on the conflicting beliefs that the catholic church deemed heretical. But even though it was a sad time, a major change happened for the better.

The basis of the Reformation was to reform the church from unbiblical doctrines. When several priests did research they found that the church had strayed from the word of God, and added its own rules and beliefs. One of the earliest reformers was John Wycliffe. He was an Englishman who studied at Oxford University for a degree in theology and finished in the year 1346. He was a strong teacher and preacher, and would often dispute practices of the church he found false, he preached against the pope, and indulgences, and desired the church to return to the poverty that the disciples had.

People of course heard of his teachings, and he was accused of heresy. He was called to London to hear the case brought against him, yet he was fairly popular, so the pope did not want to take too large a stance. Wycliffe was sent away with only a reprimand from the pope. He then decided to make the Bible accessible to everyone and began translating it from Latin into English. But many of the church leaders thought that it would make the bible vulgar and trodden underfoot if it was in English. But Wycliffe died before it was finished so his friend John Purvey was the one who finished the Wycliffe bible.

Though after his death, the Lollards [who were his followers] continued with his teachings. 31 years after his death, he was declared a heretic and his bones were dug up and burned. Because he was declared a heretic, his works were burned.

Jan Hun was the next major reformer, and he made his stand in the late 14th century. He was inspired by Wycliffe’s teachings and also made a stand against the heresies in the church. He was born in Bohemia which is now part of Czechia. He was poor but made it through school and earned a degree in theology. He began as a normal priest but soon started to teach much like Wycliffe. He lost support from both the king and pope but became bold when he lost permission to preach in his church in Prague. It was in 1414 that he was called to the Council of Constance to defend his beliefs. He was promised safety during his travels even if he was found guilty, but upon arrival, he was arrested and brought into confinement. Many people tried to make him recant his words, but he stood strong. He went through three trials in 1415 and he was punished with death. He was burned at the stake, and some of Wycliffe’s own writings were used to light the fire. In his pain, he loudly proclaimed one last speech.

“In the truth of the Gospel, which I have written taught and preached, I will die today in gladness. And in one hundred years God will raise a man whose call for reform can not be suppressed.

Gerhard Groote was a very important part of the early Reformation, as he raised schools which grew to be very influential. Almost every prominent reformer after Groote attended one of his schools.

Martin Luther was the tipping point for the Reformation. He became a monk and studied a great deal, though he struggled greatly with thoughts of God’s wrath towards sin, and punishment in hell. It was only in 1513 that he realized that it was by faith alone that he could be saved, and not by any of his good works. Four years after his realization, pope Leo wanted to build a new cathedral and needed money, so he started to sell indulgences, which were pretty much a free pass out of hell. Luther knew that this was false and spoke out against the pope. In retaliation, Luther compiled 95 theses [debate topics] and nailed them to the door of the church in Whittenburg, and said he would debate anyone on them. This was almost exactly one hundred years after Hus was burned at the stake. The pope called him to recant his writings, and when he did not, Luther was excommunicated and declared a heretic. He was “kidnapped” by his friends and was taken to Wartburg Castle where he could continue his work from a safe place. Once the outrage against him died down, he raised a family and started a church. He died in 1546 after translating the entire New Testament into German.

Martin Luther marked the change that the Reformation needed to continue and grow. He gave inspiration to many others throughout Europe who would continue in this fight often to the death.


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