Renaissance and Reformation

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Student Question

Was the Protestant Reformation a revolution, a reform of the Catholic religion, or could it be both?

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The Protestant Reformation started out merely as an attempt to reform the Catholic Church and its people.  However, it then grew into a full-fledged revolution.

When Martin Luther first published his 95 Theses, he did not contemplate breaking with the Catholic Church.  Instead, he wanted to reform it.  He was publishing the theses as an invitation for others to debate with him on those ideas.  He felt that the Church was getting away from what it really should be and he wanted to move it back in what he thought was the right direction.

When the Church pushed back hard against Luther, though, things changed.  Luther was forced to become more overtly opposed to the Church itself.  Finally, he had to set up his own new faith.  This was truly revolutionary, regardless of what he had intended at the beginning.

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