How did the Northern Renaissance lead to the Protestant Reformation?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are at least two ways in which the Northern Renaissance led to the Reformation.

First of all, the Renaissance spread ideas of humanism.  These ideas, put forward by such people as Erasmus, held that people were capable of a great deal of understanding and intelligence.  They were, for example, capable of understanding a great deal about God and religion.  This sort of idea led to a questioning of the Catholic Church since the Church taught that people had to simply do as they were told by those (the clergy) who were actually capable of understanding God.  Humanism, then, set the stage for the Protestant idea that people could interact with and understand God by themselves.

Second, the technological advances of the Renaissance helped lead to the invention of the printing press.  This invention allowed works of humanism and, very importantly, Bibles in the vernacular, to become relatively widely available.  When this happened, people were able to read and think more about religion and God.  This, too, turned them towards Protestant ideas.

In these ways, both the ideas and the technology of the Renaissance helped lead to the Reformation.

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