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Module Forum: Germany in the Age of the Reformation (HI242)

Module Forum: Germany in the Age of the Reformation (HI242) Reformation Impact

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  1. In your view, what was the most significant effect of the German Reformation? Please post c.100 words by replying to this thread.

  2. The biggest impact of the Reformation was the official acceptance of the new faith in Germany through the Peace of Augsburg. The efforts of Luther, which were challenged by the powerful Catholic Church and Emperor Charles V, were successful through the securing of peace and wide acceptance of Lutheranism in Germany. The Catholic Church and clergy no longer had such a tight grip on society. Vernacular scripture and teachings such as ‘the priesthood of all believers’, allowed churchgoers to take personal responsibility for their faith which reduced the authority of priests and the laity’s dependence on them. The Reformation established religious co-existence. 

  3. The most important impact of the reformation was the political overhaul that took hold of the empire. The rejection of papal authority and rampant anti-clericalism freed up many secular rulers and imperial free city councils to extend their influence and power over social and religious matters. The German princes also welcomed a more German oriented politics not governed by Rome, these actors in particular saw their sovereignty grow in relation to the church and the overarching imperial structures. German nationalism was felt through Luther’s preaching and contributed to the move towards a much more German dominated and concerned empire.

  4. The most significant effect of the Reformation was the increase in secular power of the German Princes. The power of the Catholic Church was severely diminished and this allowed the secular princes to secure much higher levels of control over their lands. The Princes became the highest authorities over and above the Church and even in regions that retained Catholicism the Princes significantly increased their power and wealth at the expense of the Church. The reason that this was such a significant development is that it ultimately led to the formation of the modern nation state which is one of the most important developments of the early modern era.

  5. The most significant aspect of the German Reformation was the focus on personal worship with God and a movement away from collective worship. Not only did this allow for greater understanding of the bible through translated copies in the vernacular, it allowed for reinterpretation greater understanding of the bible which could dissolve religious dogma which existed within the Catholic church (e.g. indulgences). This vernacular teaching of the bible both orally and visually allowed for reflection and greater lay participation in religious activities, like hymn singing and participation in the Eucharist. I believe this to be the most significant impact of the reformation as it allowed Catholicism to be fundamentally challenged and allowed a wider understanding of vernacular religion which has had a long lasting impact.

  6. The most significant effect of the Reformation is the the rise of the territorial state. The latter triggered by conflict between civil and ecclesiastical authorities in 16th and 17th century Europe. It follows then that the so-called European 'Wars of Religion' were in fact wars of state formation. Yet the popular narrative depicts these events as resulting over religious schism. This makes sense when you consider the myth of historical progression from medieval barbarism to Enlightenment dialogue promulgated by Voltaire and Rousseau among others. The establishment of the secular liberal state was justified upon the myth of religion as irrational and violent. This is the most significant effect of the German Reformation; a tragedy for mankind. 

  7. The most important impact of the reformation in my view was the political changes to the structure of the empire that occurred as a result of the rejection of papal authority and the weakening of the localised power held by clergymen in towns and cities. This allowed the secular princes and to greatly increase their power and wealth at the expense of the declining church. Furthermore, the reformation further affected the political structure of the empire as the events of the peasants war demonstrated the effect that an organised popular movement could have, possibly leading to the adoption by the secular princes of a more German oriented strategy. 

  8. The most significant effect of the German Reformation was the spread of literacy through the acceptance of Lutheranism. Luther, after the Diet of Worms went into exile where he translated the New Testament from Latin into German. He made excellent use of the printing press to disseminate his translation and Lutheran ideas which greatly helped establish Lutheranism in Germany and around the world. The translation of the Bible created a single German vernacular for people to learn and follow. Luther encouraged people to read the Bible on their own, believing by reading the Bible they would become closer to God and this led to more people engaging with reading.

  9. The most significant impact of the German Reformation was the influence and power it gave to the secular authorities. The reformation led to the decrease in influence of the Catholic Church. By taking away the strong grip that the Pope and Catholicism had on the empire, it not only allowed new religious ideas to spread, but led to secular princes having much more freedom and more say in the ruling of their lands. This is a significant impact of the reformation because in weakening church authority, the princes were able to engage more with local politics, as opposed to being governed by Rome. 

  10. The most significant effect of the Reformation was the religious impact, including a newfound Christian self-consciousness. The Reformation, as Hillerbrand suggests, was the defining event of Protestants' self-understanding. The shift away from Catholicism and collective religious experience to a more individual and internalised one represented a distinct deviation from the previous orthodoxy. The Reformation was experienced as a time of dramatic change for many contemporaries; Dollimore acknowledges that this was more than superficial religious change. Dixon and Schutte's claim that the Reformation aimed to secularise the sacral fails to encapsulate the pervasive and enthusiastic religious fervour of the time. Although this is not to say that other consequences, such as the political and socio-economic changes, were not important but the religious change was perhaps more visible and energetic. 

  11. Significant among the impacts of the Reformation (not to rule out others) is the influence it had in developing national identity and sentiments. The focus of the Reformers on the use of scripture alone created a need for scripture in vernacular. How translations turned out in the vernacular had an influence in developing new national languages. German is a prominent example, strongly influenced by Luther’s translation. The development of new languages was assisted by the growth of the territorial state and the justifications found for it in Reformation thought. These two Reformation-linked factors can thus be seen to have had a notable impact on the development of nations and states in Europe.

  12. Not just ‘Reformation’ but ‘German Reformation’. Others - and even the Catholic Church - had their own Reformations, but the period ending with the Peace of Augsburg transformed both the religious and the political scene in the German-speaking lands, moving from apparent unity cloaked in Catholicism to officially recognised religious schism. This had been a schism waiting to happen, with the rulers of the different regions unsatisfied with the ~1500 edition of the Holy Roman Empire. Without the Reformation and Luther as catalyst, the change might have been less manageable and more destructive. The balance of power(s) was more stable after the Reformation than before.

  13. Benefitting from the technological innovation in the form of the printing press, the reformation revolutionised the ways in which ideas were disseminated. Luther took full advantage of the press in several ways. Firstly, the production of often visual propaganda, such as Lucas Cranach’s 'Contrasting Protestant and Catholic Christianity’ (1545), allowed for reformation ideas to spread quickly and efficiently through a highly diverse empire. Furthermore, Luther utilised this technology to distribute his German translation of the bible, which contained 117 woodcuts, among institutions such as churches and schools. The legacy of this revolution in communication is visible in our media today.

  14. In terms of Lutheran theology, the Reformation transformed popular perceptions of scriptural authority. The ‘priesthood of all believers’ had undermined the importance of saints and clergymen as intercessors, instead emphasising the individual’s personal relationship with God. This was facilitated by Luther’s vernacular translations of the Bible as, in theory, the laity no longer required their local clergyman to interpret the Scripture for them. The Reformers also disseminated these translations across the Empire in different forms, which often had the potential to transcend social and cultural boundaries. The German Reformation therefore contributed significantly to the ‘democratisation’ of God’s word.

  15. The greatest change effectuated by the German Reformation is arguably in relation to popular engagement with religion. Christianity became a more individual entity, although traditions of communal hymn singing, for instance, ensued. There was an emphasis on the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, whose Reformation-led translation has significantly impacted European languages in particular. No longer was the clerical system man's mediator between man and God, but the person of Jesus Christ. Such an impact is still clearly visible today in Reformed Christian circles around the globe.

  16. There are so many significant effects resulting from the German Reformation. Luther had created a revolutionary religion inspired by Humanism which ensured openness between God and believer, a focus on the pure scripture rather than manipulated word. Furthermore, the effects of the German Reformation rippled out to inspire new religious revolutions and disciplines (Anabaptism, Calvinism) while also affecting spheres such as politics, social life and economics. Martin Luther was a key figure for significant change in all aspects of German life, however it should be highlighted that certain groups (like Women and Peasants) did not benefit as exceptionally and therefore allows us to question how successful this period was. Despite this, the German Reformation changed religious behaviour, leading to greater acceptance – as highlighted within the Peace of Augsburg – and multiplicity of religions, it lay the foundations for modern European society.

  17. The most significant effect of the German reformation was how the reformation spread the word of God to the peasantry and German population at mass. Whether these ideas were new or not, what was new was the populations relationship with religion. Being told a relationship with God was personal and that to reach heaven one did not need to give indulgences or perform works but be faithful and a ‘true’ to God, was a major revelation. This directly threatened the elitist hierarchical Catholic Church because the Lutheran reformation successful aligned itself with the common ‘German’ man.

  18. The most significant effect of the German Reformation has to be the global consequences that it has led to. Through Luther, Zwingli and later Calvin, Christianity as it was known in the middle ages ceased to be, splitting into various denominations, many of which are still present today and form a large part of many people’s lives. The ideas of the Reformation also reinvigorated Catholicism as they demanded a response from the old religion, which led to reforms here also as well as a race between new and old to spread their versions of Christianity across the world before the other.

  19. The most significant impact of the Reformation was the shift of power towards the secular Princes in the Holy Roman Empire (of the German Nation). The territorial power of the Catholic church was greatly reduced by the Reformation. The secular Princes in Germany made the most of this shift away from Papal and clerical authority to gain greater power and authority in their territories. It is through the turmoil of religious conflict of the Reformation that Princes were able to forge the way and lay the ground stones of the modern nation state.

  20. The most significant effect of the Reformation was its disruption of the hegemony of Catholicism in the West. Lutheran doctrines which centralised the notion of the “the priesthood of all believers” was instrumental in transferring religious authority and responsibility from the clergy to the laypeople, thereby, subverting the religious dominion of the Catholic Church. In addition, the development of various Protestant denominations contributed to undermining the monopoly of Catholicism. With the challenges to religious power and the re-assessment of the role of the clergy, secular princes were able to wield increased political power without clerical interference, contributing to the ‘secularisation’ of the states.