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종교 탐방

The continental Reformation


1. The context of the late medieval church


The Protestant Reformation occurred against the background of long developments and rich ferment in the Roman Catholic Church and the world of the late Middle Ages. For two reasons it has been difficult to gain perspective on those times. Catholic historians had an interest in showing how much reform was occurring before and apart from the radical disrupters of the 16th century, the Protestant reformers. Protestant historians, on the other hand, portrayed the late medieval church in the most negative terms to show the necessity of the Reformation, which consequently came to look like a complete break with a corrupt past.

The other reason for difficulty in understanding stems from the fact that the 15th-century agents of change were not "Pre-Reformers"; they neither anticipated Protestantism nor acquired their importance only from the subsequent Reformation. The events of that period were also not "Pre-Reformation" happenings but had an identity and meaning of their own.

There has always been agreement on the fact that there were reform developments and ferment in the 15th-century church all the way from Spain and Italy northward through Germany, France, and England. Some of these were directed against abuses by the papacy, the clergy, and monks and nuns. The pious, for example, abhorred Innocent VIII (1484-92), who performed marriage ceremonies for his own illegitimate children in the Vatican, and Alexander VI (1492-1503), who was and was seen to be depraved. The public was also increasingly aware of and angered by luxurious papal projects, for which funds were exacted.

The distaste for the papacy increased at a time of rising nationalist spirits. The popes, who had long intervened in the politics of Germany, France, and England, faced setbacks when the monarchies in each country acquired new power. The sovereigns found a need to assert this power against the papacy and, in most cases, against local clerical representatives of the church.

At this time of rising national consciousness there appeared a generation of theologians who remained entirely within the context of medieval Roman Catholicism but who engaged in fundamental criticisms of it. Thus William of Ockham (d. 1349?) spoke up as a reformer within the Franciscan order. He wished to return this religious order to the ideal of poverty, which it had in large part abandoned. As part of his reform he maintained that Pope John XXII was heretical. Ockham saw the papacy and empire as independent but related governments or realms. When the church was in danger of heresy, lay people--princes and commoners alike--must come to its rescue. This meant, in the present case, reform. (see also Index: theology)

In England, John Wycliffe engaged in similar struggles, which weakened papal power and the hold of the medieval church. Wycliffe also traded on national consciousness, which he directed toward reform of the church. His instrument was the moral law of the Bible. Wycliffe gave impetus to its translation, and in 1380 he helped make it available to rulers and ruled alike, though he always granted uncommon spiritual authority to the king.

In Bohemia, Jan Hus, who became rector of the University of Prague, used that school as his base to criticize a luxury-minded clergy. He also exploited national feelings and came to argue that the pope had no right to use the temporal sword. Hus's bold accusations led to his death by burning at the Council of Constance in 1415.

Alongside a piety that combined moral revulsion with national feelings, Christian humanism was a further sign of stirring in the late medieval church. In Italy, Lorenzo Valla (1407-57) used his sophisticated techniques of historical inquiry to expose a number of forgeries that had given the papacy many of its powers and much of its domain. In Germany, Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522) studied Greek and Hebrew, the biblical languages, and fought for the rights of scholars to question traditional claims of the church. In Holland, Desiderius Erasmus (1466/69-1536), who remained a Roman Catholic, used his vast learning and his satiric pen to question the practices of the church.

Still another factor that disturbed a complacent late medieval church was a flowering of mysticism in the spirit of Meister Eckehart (d. 1327/28) or Johann Tauler (d. 1361). These people of profound devotion gained followers who sought and claimed to have a direct access to God, bypassing many of the church's rites and practices. Reformers like Martin Luther were to speak well of some of these devotionalists and to translate their writings.

While the Reformers attacked people in high places, they also regarded the Catholicism of ordinary people as being in need of reform. Devotion to the Virgin Mary had come to look superstitious to them as well as to occur at the expense of devotion to Christ. Such practices as pilgrims visiting shrines or parishioners regarding relics of saints with awe seemed to perpetuate a kind of paganism under a Christian veneer. The pestilences and plagues of the 14th century had bred an inordinate fear of death, which led to the exploitation of simple people by a church that was, in effect, offering salvation for sale. By the turn of the 16th century much of Europe was ripe for reforms that Catholicism could neither open itself up to nor contain.


2. The continental Reformation: Germany, Switzerland, and France


Luther said that what differentiated him from previous reformers was that they attacked the life, he the doctrine of the church. Whereas they denounced the sins of churchmen, he was disillusioned by the whole scholastic scheme of redemption. The assumption was that man could erase his sins one by one through confession and absolution in the sacrament of penance. Luther discovered that he could not remember or even recognize all of his sins, and the attempt to dispose of them one by one was like trying to cure smallpox by picking off the scabs. Indeed, he believed that the whole man was sick. The church, however, held that the individual was not too sick to make up for bad deeds by some good deeds. God gave to all a measure of grace. If human beings lay hold of it and did the best they could, God would reward them with a further gift of grace with which they could perform deeds of genuine merit, which would give them credit before God. Human beings might even die with more than enough credits for salvation. These extra credits constituted a treasury of the merits of the saints, from which the pope could make transfers to those whose accounts were in arrears. The transfer was called an indulgence and for this, in Luther's day, the grateful recipient made a contribution to the church. (see also Index: Roman Catholicism)

i) The indulgence system.

This arrangement proved to be a popular way of raising money particularly because, unlike tithes, it was voluntary and could provoke no resentment. By this means crusades, cathedrals, hospitals, and even bridges were financed. At first the indulgence, according to the Germanic law of commutation of a physical punishment to a fine, applied only to penalties imposed by the church on earth. Then it was extended to penalties imposed by God in purgatory. In Luther's day immediate release from purgatory was being offered, and the remission not only of penalties but even of sins was assured. Thus the indulgence encroached upon the sacrament of penance.

Luther was desperately in earnest about his standing before God and Christ. The woodcuts of Christ the Judge on a rainbow consigning the damned to hell filled him with terror. He believed the monastic life to be the way par excellence to acquire those extra merits that would more than balance his account. He became a monk and subjected himself to rigorous asceticism, but he could never reach the assurance that a sinful pygmy like himself could ever stand before the inexorable justice and majesty of God. Continual recourse to the confessional simply convinced him of the fundamental sickness of the whole man. He began then to question the goodness of a God who would make human beings so weak and then damn them for what they could not help. Relief came through the study of the Psalms. Luther found the 22nd Psalm particularly revealing because it contains the words quoted by Christ upon the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Evidently then, Christ, being without sin, so identified himself with sinful humanity as to feel himself estranged from God. Christ the Judge seated upon the rainbow had become Christ the Derelict upon the cross, and here the wrath and the mercy of God could find their point of meeting so that God was able to forgive those utterly devoid of merit. He could justify the unjust, and this required of man only that he accept the gift of God in faith. This was the doctrine of justification by faith, which became the watchword of the Reformation.

What this insight meant for the doctrine of indulgences is at once apparent. The great offense was not the financial aspect but rather the very notion that human beings dared to engage in bookkeeping with God. Luther by now had become a professor at the University of Wittenberg and also a pastor. His parishioners were obtaining the indulgences issued by Albert, the new archbishop of Mainz, half of the proceeds to be retained by him as reimbursement for his installation fee as archbishop, the other half to go to the pope for the building of the Basilica of St. Peter's at Rome. For this indulgence Albert made unprecedented claims. If the indulgence were on behalf of the donor himself, he would receive preferential treatment in case of future sin, if for someone else already in purgatory, he need not be contrite for his own sin. Remission was promised not only of penalties but also of sins, and the vendor of the indulgences offered immediate release from purgatory.

ii) Ninety-five Theses.

Against these instructions Luther launched his Ninety-five Theses on All Saints' Day of the year 1517. In the theses he presented three main points. The first concerned financial abuses; for example, if the pope realized the poverty of the German people, he would rather that St. Peter's lay in ashes than that it should be built out of the blood and hide of his sheep. The second focused attention on doctrinal abuses; for example, the pope had no jurisdiction over purgatory and if he did, he should empty the place free of charge. The third attacked religious abuses; for example, the treasury of the merits of the saints was denied by implication in the assertion that the treasury of the church was the gospel. This was the crucial point. When the papacy pronounced Luther's position heretical, he countered by denying the infallibility of popes and for good measure of councils also. Scripture was declared to be the only basis of authority.

Luther found support in many quarters. Already a widespread liberal Catholic evangelical reform sought to correct the moral abuses such as clerical concubinage, financial extortion, and pluralism (i.e., the holding of several benefices by one man) and ridiculed the popular superstitions associated with the cult of the saints and their relics, religious pilgrimages, and the like. This movement had representatives in all lands, notably John Colet in England, Jacques Lefèvre in France, Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros in Spain, Juan de Valdés in Naples, and, above all, Erasmus of Rotterdam. Erasmus found nothing amiss in Luther's theses except that he had been too tart as to purgatory, and when the cry of heresy was raised against Luther, he wrote to the elector Frederick III the Wise, Luther's prince, telling him that as a Christian ruler he was obligated to see to it that his subject should have a fair hearing.

Another party that rallied to Luther was that of the German nationalists led by Ulrich von Hutten, who aspired to convert the Holy Roman Empire into a German national state. This program would entail the suppression of the whole system of prince-bishops and could never be achieved without a war with the papacy. Luther was hailed because of his attack on the papacy, though he would not condone the program of violence.

Yet despite the support from these parties, Luther would have been speedily crushed had Pope Leo X taken seriously the religious side of his office. The secularization of the papacy saved Luther, and he destroyed the secularization of the papacy. At the moment when Luther appeared to be foredoomed, an election for the office of Holy Roman emperor was pending. It was elective and any European prince was eligible, including Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, Charles I of Spain. The Pope wished none of them because the position entailed control over Germany, and the augmentation of power to one of the three would destroy the balance of power. His preference was for a minor prince, and none fitted the role better than Luther's protector, Frederick the Wise of Saxony. In consequence the Pope dallied in the case of Luther and even after Charles was elected, the Pope was willing to play Frederick against him. Not until June 1520, nearly three years after the Ninety-five Theses, was Luther summoned to submit within 60 days. The time was reckoned from the date of the actual delivery of the bull to the person named. So great was the obstruction to Rome on the part even of German bishops that the bull was not handed to Luther until October 10.

iii) Luther's manifesto.

He employed the summer of 1520 to bring out some of the great manifestos of the Reformation. The Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation called upon the ruling class in Germany, including the emperor, in whom Luther had not yet lost confidence, to reform the church in externals by returning to apostolic poverty and simplicity. This appeal to the civil power to reform the church was a return to the earlier practice of the Middle Ages when emperors more than once had deposed and replaced unworthy popes. Luther argued that the papacy of his day was only 400 years old, meaning that it was the Gregorian reform that had given the church its lead in matters political, encroaching thereby on the sphere of the magistrate on the ground that the lowliest priest did more for mankind than the loftiest king. Luther countered with the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, including Christian magistrates. Any layman was spiritually a priest, though not vocationally a parson. The Christian ruler, then, being himself a priest, could reform the church in externals, as the church might excommunicate him in spirituals. The liberal Catholic reformers could sympathize with this program except for the identification of the papacy with Antichrist. This savoured of the medieval sects.

Another tract dealt with the sacraments. The title was The Babylonian Captivitymeaning that the sacraments themselves had been taken captive by the church. Luther reduced the number of the sacraments from seven to practically two. The seven were baptism, the Eucharist or mass, penance, confirmation, ordination, marriage, and extreme unction. Luther defined a sacrament as rite instituted by Christ himself. By this token only baptism and the Eucharist were strictly sacraments and penance only as confession. Extreme unction, that is anointing with oil those on the verge of death, was dropped entirely. Confirmation went out for a time but was later restored. Ordination continued as a rite of the church. Penance included contrition, confession, and satisfaction. Luther felt that none could be sure of genuine contrition, none could make satisfaction. Confession was wholesome but should be voluntary and could be made to any fellow Christian. Marriage was not a Christian sacrament, because it was not instituted by Christ but by God in the garden of Eden, and valid not only for Christians but also for Turks and Jews. Baptism was to be administered but once only and to babies on the ground of their dormant faith.

This left the mass, and at this point Luther gave the greatest offense. The wine, he asserted, should be given to the laity as well as the bread, as in the Hussite practice. No masses should be said for the dead by the priest alone without communicants, because the Eucharist involved fellowship not only with Christ but also with believers. The most drastic change was that Luther denied the doctrine of transubstantiation, according to which, at the pronouncement of the words of institution, the elements of bread and wine, though retaining their accidents of colour, shape, and taste, nevertheless lost their substance, which was replaced by the substance of the body of Christ as God. This Luther denied, saying that no change was wrought by the words of Christ. (see also Index: religious symbolism)

Luther, nevertheless, believed that the body of Christ was physically present upon the altar because Christ said, "This is my body." Therefore, in some inexplicable manner, his body must be "with, in, and under" the elements. But if no change was wrought, how did his body come to be on the altar? Because his body was everywhere. But if everywhere, why especially there? Because in view of human limitations God had decreed two modes of self-disclosure, the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacrament. There the eyes of the believer were opened. This view undercut sacerdotalism, since the words of the priest did not bring the body of Christ to the altar. The undercutting of sacerdotalism destroyed the hierarchical structure of society culminating in the papacy. (see also Index: Real Presence)

iv) Diet of worms.

But what was to be done with Luther? On December 10, instead of submitting, he defiantly burned the papal bull together with a copy of the canon law. The normal course would then have been to excommunicate him outright, but Frederick the Wise insisted that he be given a fair hearing. The natural body to pass judgment would have been a council of the church. But the popes were the greatest obstructionists when it came to calling a council because they feared the revival of conciliarism, which in the previous century bade fair to convert the church into a constitutional monarchy. There would have been no Council of Trent save for Luther. Only after another 20 years, when the spread of his teaching left no other expedients, was a council convened. Consequently, his hearing had to be before a secular tribunal, the Diet of the empire meeting at Worms in the winter and spring of 1521. Since this was a secular tribunal the attempt was made to prove that he was not simply a heretic but also a rebel whose views were more subversive of the civil than of the ecclesiastical order, because he was undermining the very principle of authority. Luther was brought before the Diet and given an opportunity to repudiate his books. Had he disclaimed the one on the sacraments, the other points might have been negotiated. He acknowledged them all. Would he then disclaim some of their teaching? Who was he to reject the teaching of the ages? Let him give an answer without horns, to which he replied: "I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason--I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other--my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen." The Emperor then placed Luther under the imperial ban. The bull of excommunication by the church was formally released only later. Frederick the Wise at this point intervened and wafted Luther away to a place of hiding.

Luther was concealed for a year at the castle of the Wartburg. During this enforced withdrawal he made perhaps his greatest contribution in that he translated the whole of the New Testament from the Greek text of Erasmus into an idiomatic, pungent, powerful German. In many respects his German helped to create the idiomatic. Nothing did so much to win popular adherence to his teaching as the dissemination of this translation. (see also Index: biblical translation, German language)

But some were not so convinced. Many of the liberal Catholic reformers, like Erasmus, recoiled from Luther's paradoxes, from his confidence that his interpretation of Scripture was correct, from his acceptance of the doctrine of predestination, which makes of God a tyrant when he elects some and damns others regardless of their behaviour. The German national movement collapsed. Then in Luther's own circle variant forms of Protestantism arose, which in the aggregate are variously described as the left wing of the Reformation or as the radical Reformation. The terminology does not matter so much as the recognition that no neat classification is possible.


Two figures emerging in Luther's circle are significant by way of anticipation. One was Karlstadt (c. 1477/81-1541), who drew the radical inference from the dualism of flesh and spirit that art and music should be abolished as external aids to religion and the Presence of Christ's body on the altar should be interpreted in a spiritual sense. His program issued in iconoclastic riots. He extended Luther's doctrine of the priesthood of all believers to mean that all laymen were pastors. If one person was assigned the tasks of a parson, he should dress like others and, like others, should work with his hands. The clergy not only might but must marry. The sabbath should be strictly observed. This program anticipated the Puritan movement. It entailed a blending of spiritualism and legalism. The sensory aids to religion were to be discarded by those advanced in the spiritual life and then snatched away by laws from those still weak.

A much more disquieting figure than Karlstadt was Thomas Müntzer (c. 1490-1525), a man of learning and a creative firebrand, who may be regarded not as the progenitor but as the first formulator of the concept of the Protestant Holy Commonwealth. He believed that the elect, those predestined by God for salvation, could be sufficiently identified to compose a definite group. Luther denied the possibility of distinguishing the elect from the nonelect. Müntzer's test was the new birth in the spirit. The test was not for him an absolute mark, and he recognized that among the wheat there might be some weeds, yet he accepted it as an adequate test for the formation of a community bound together by a covenant. The mission of this group was to set up the Kingdom of God on Earth, the Holy Commonwealth, by wiping out the ungodly. In the attempt they would have to endure suffering, and here Müntzer drew from German mysticism the theme of walking in Christ's steps toward the cross. But the trial would end in triumph, for the Lord Jesus would speedily come to vindicate his saints and erect his Kingdom. There are obviously incompatibles here, the way of suffering and the infliction of suffering, the feverish activity of man to achieve that which will be established by God. But logical incompatibles fuse at high emotional temperatures. Müntzer appealed to the Saxon princes to implement his program, but they banished him. He found a hearing among the revolting peasants and led them at the Battle of Frankenhausen, where they were butchered and he captured and beheaded. Luther execrated his memory because he seized the sword in defense of the gospel. The Marxists have exalted him as the prophet of social revolution because he was the only one of the Reformers who had a deep feeling for the sufferings of the socially oppressed. In grasping the sword he did not essentially differ from Huldrych Zwingli, Gaspard de Coligny, or Oliver Cromwell.


Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531), the great figure in Swiss Protestantism, was in fact if anything more committed to military action than Müntzer because he fell as a combatant with sword and helmet on the field of battle. He became a Reformer independently of Luther, with whom he was entirely in accord as to justification by faith and predestination. At certain points Zwingli drew from Erasmus and Karlstadt, notably with respect to the disparagement of the sensory aids to religion. Zwingli, though an accomplished musician, considered that the function of music was to put the babies to sleep rather than to worship God. The organ was dismantled and the images removed from the cathedral at Zürich. The Lord's Supper was understood by Zwingli in his most extreme period simply as a memorial of Christ's death and, on the part of the recipient, as a public declaration of faith with more significance for the members of the congregation who saw him take his stand than for his own spiritual life. Zwingli could the more readily retain the baptism of infants because it was simply a recognition that the child belongs to the people of God as the child in the Old Testament belonged by circumcision to Israel. The analogy with Judaism applied at many points, for Zwingli regarded the Christian congregation as the new Israel of God, an elect people, reasonably identifiable, not as with Müntzer by the new birth but by adherence to the faith. This company could be called theocratic in the sense that it was under the rule of God, whom church and state should alike serve in close collaboration. The identification of the whole populace of Zürich with this elect people was the more tenable because those not in accord with the ideal were disposed to leave. Zwingli approved of even an aggressive war to forestall interference from the Roman Catholic cantons. In the second war of Kappel he fell in 1531. (see also Index: Switzerland, theocracy)

In Zwingli's circle arose the group who formed the mainstay of the radical Reformation. They shared with Zwingli, and with all the reformers to a degree, the desire to restore the church to the primitive pattern, but they were more drastic in their restitution. Manifestly the early church had not been allied with the state. Luther, Zwingli, and other Reformers saw no sense in forcing the church back into the period when the state was hostile and the Christians were persecuted. After the state became Christian, there could very well be a close alliance, as indeed there had been in ancient Israel. (see also Index: church and state)

i) The Anabaptists.

The radicals restricted their biblicism to the New Testament and espoused three tenets therefrom that have come to be axiomatic in the United States: the separation of church and state, the voluntary church, and religious liberty. They were called Anabaptists on the ground that, having rejected infant baptism, they rebaptized adults previously baptized. But they called themselves simply Baptists, denying that they repeated baptism since the dipping of babies was no baptism at all. Baptism, they held, did not itself regenerate but was only the outward sign of an inner experience, the rebirth in the spirit, of which only an adult was capable. The Anabaptists, so-called, also believed in the possibility of a Christian society whose members were marked both by the conversion experience and also by a highly disciplined deportment. In obedience to the New Testament they repudiated swearing oaths and recourse to violence, whether in war or at the hands of the magistrate. The saints should withdraw from the wicked world.

This whole program obviously had political and social aspects and was a threat to that society or any other, for no society, save that of a small sect, has ever renounced the use of the sword. The Anabaptists were marked for extermination by Catholics and Protestants alike. One of their first leaders, Felix Manz, was drowned in Zürich in 1527. The Diet of Speyer in 1529, at which the Lutherans protested, subjected the Anabaptists to the penalty of death with the concurrence of the Lutherans. Persecution in the first decade eliminated the leaders, most of them educated and moderate men. Less temperate spirits came to the fore, sustaining their courage by setting dates for the speedy coming of the Lord. One band, composed mainly of Anabaptists, took over the town of Münster in Westphalia in 1534 and, contrary to the tenets of their fellows, seized the sword and, in accord with Old Testament practice, restored polygamy. The town was captured by Catholics and Lutherans conjoined and the leaders were executed. Persecution everywhere intensified. (see also Index: polygyny)

ii) Other groups.

In Holland Menno Simons (c. 1496-1561), the founder of the Mennonites, repudiated violence, polygamy, and the setting of dates for the coming of the Lord and returned to the teaching of the early founders. The Mennonites survived partly by reason of accommodation to military service in Holland, partly by migration first to eastern Europe and then to the Americas. Another group, named Hutterites from Jakob Hutter (died 1536), was allowed to form communal colonies in Moravia on the estates of tolerant feudal nobles who were willing to drop the demand for military service in return for excellent craftsmanship in field and shop. Because of subsequent persecution these groups also migrated to the New World. The Swiss branch, which survives in the United States, is called the Amish. The entire pattern of ideas has reappeared in various combinations in subsequent history, not only among the Church of the Brethren and the Quakers but among all of the free churches disclaiming a state connection.


Another form of Protestantism was Calvinism, named for John Calvin (1509-64), a Frenchman educated in humanist and legal studies, who in consequence of a conversion to the Protestant reform had to flee France. In Basel, at the age of 27, he brought out the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religionwhich in successive expansions became for centuries the manual of Protestant theology. Calvin was in basic agreement with Luther as to justification by faith and the sole authority of Scripture. On the sacrament of the Lord's Supper he took a mediating position between the radical Swiss and the Lutheran view. Thus he believed that the body of Christ was not everywhere present, but that his spirit was universal and there was a genuine communion with the risen Lord. Calvin took a middle view likewise with respect to music and art. He favoured congregational singing of the Psalms, and this became a characteristic mark of the Huguenots in France and the Presbyterians in Scotland and the New World. As to art, he rejected the images of saints and the crucifix (that is, the body of Christ upon the cross), but allowed a plain cross. These modifications do not refute the generalization that Calvinism was alien to art and music in the service of religion but not in the secular sphere.

As over against Luther, there was a shift of emphasis in Calvin, whose Institutes did not begin with justification by faith but with the knowledge of God. Luther found refuge from the terror of God's dispensations in the mercy of Christ. Calvin could the more calmly contemplate the frightfulness of God's judgments because they would not descend upon the elect. Luther, as noted, saw no way of knowing who were the elect. He could not be sure of himself and throughout his life had a continual struggle for faith and assurance. Calvin had certain approximate and attainable tests. He did not require the experience of the new birth, which is so inward and intangible, though to be sure later Calvinism moved away from him on this point and agonized over the marks of election. For Calvin there were three tests: the profession of faith, as with Zwingli; a rigorously disciplined Christian deportment, as with the Anabaptists; and a love of the sacraments, which meant the Lord's Supper since infant baptism was not to be repeated. If a person could meet these three tests let him assume his election and stop worrying.

If one could achieve such assurance, what an enormous release of energy to be directed to the glory of God and the erection on Earth of some semblance of a holy commonwealth! The term became common in New England. Calvin's own statement was that "the Church reformed is the kingdom of God." Calvin saw more of a possibility of its realization through the efforts of the elect because he muted the expectation of the imminent return of the Lord. The service of the Kingdom did not require a particular vocation. Any worthy occupation is a divine calling demanding unremitting zeal. Luther had emphasized the secular callings as over against the monastic, which in the Middle Ages alone had been called a vocation. With Calvin the point was not so much that one should accept one's lot and rejoice in the assigned task, however menial, as that the work would contribute to the larger realization of the Christian society.

Calvin had a concrete opportunity for the realization of his ideal, albeit at first only on a small scale. The city of Geneva had recently thrown off the authority of the bishop and of the duke of Savoy and had not yet joined the Protestant Swiss Confederation, though aided in the fight for liberation by the Protestant city of Bern. Through the Bernese, Protestant preachers began to evangelize Geneva. The city was threatened by civil war. The bellicose preacher Guillaume Farel, unable himself to contain the violence he had helped to unleash, laid hold of Calvin merely passing through the city and impressed him into the unwelcome task of leadership. After turbulent years, a banishment and a recall, he was able for the last two decades of his life to direct the city that John Knox considered "the most godly since the days of the apostles." There was actually scarcely a feature of Thomas More's Utopia that Geneva did not seek to realize.

The program, despite all the turbulence, was the more attainable because of a selective process with respect to the population. At the outset all the Catholics who would not submit to the new regime had to leave. Among those who remained, excommunication from the church, if not removed within six months, meant banishment from the city. Control over excommunication, after a long struggle, came to be entirely in the hands of the church. The state, having long suffered from the abuse of excommunication for political purposes, was loath to concede to the church exclusive control. Abortive attempts to achieve independence had been made by the Protestant churches at Basel and Strassburg. Calvin succeeded, with the result that one who was not in the graces of the church could not for long be a member of the community. A further factor ensuring a select constituency was the influx of 6,000 refugees from France, Italy, Spain, and, for a time, from England into a city of 13,000. Thus in Geneva, church, state, and community came to be one. The ministers and the magistrates with differentiated functions were alike the servants of God in the erection of this new Israel; and the comparison with ancient Israel was the more striking and the inner cohesion the more intensified because Geneva also was begirt by foes, the duke of Savoy and the duke of Alba, like the old Canaanites and Philistines.


The situation in France with respect to the Reformation was not altogether dissimilar to that in Germany because, although the decentralization of government was not as great, some of the French provinces enjoyed a considerable autonomy, particularly in the south, and it was in the Midi and French Navarre that the Protestant movement had its initial strength. Then, too, noble houses were continually conspiring to manipulate or eviscerate the monarchy. The religious issues came to be intertwined with the political ambitions. The ruling houses, first the Valois from Francis I through Henry III and then the Bourbon, beginning with Henry IV, sought to secure the stability of the land and the throne by quelling religious strife either by the extermination or toleration of minorities.

The ground was better prepared for the reform of the church in France than in Germany because of the efforts of liberal Catholics such as the scholar Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples and the bishop of Meaux, Guillaume Briçonnet. King Francis I and his sister Margaret of Angoulême not infrequently intervened to save humanist reformers from the menaces of the obscurantists, and Margaret's daughter, Jeanne d'Albret, the queen of Navarre, a feudatory of France, provided an asylum for the persecuted in her domain, though she did not herself espouse the Huguenot cause until 1560. When Lutheran teaching first began to infiltrate France, Francis I, who would not abet heresy, fluctuated in his policy of repression, depending on whether he desired a political alliance with the pope, the Turk, or the German Lutherans. The year 1534 precipitated a crisis when placards were posted in Paris savagely attacking the mass. Severe repression followed. Bishop Briçonnet made his submission. Farel fled to Geneva, Lefèvre to Strassburg, Calvin to Basel. Under Henry II, the son of Francis, repression was intensified, particularly when in 1559 France and Spain made peace and thus each was free to devote attention to the suppression of heresy at home. The persecution of the Huguenots, as the Protestants came to be called in France, would have been intense save for the death of the King in a tournament.

At this point the rivalry of the noble houses injected itself more overtly into the religious struggle. The crown, with its alternating policy of eradication or recognition, was flanked by two extreme houses for whom the religious issue was of intense concern. The House of Guise was so Catholic as to be willing to call in Spanish aid, and the family of Admiral Coligny so Huguenot as to be willing to court help from England and even from Germany. Under Francis II the Guises were in the ascendant because the queen, later queen of Scots, was of that house. Some of the Huguenots, foreseeing the suppression in store, hatched the Conspiracy of Amboise, an attempted assassination of the leaders of the Guise party and transferral of power to the House of Bourbon.

This was plainly rebellion and acutely raised a problem with which the Protestants had long been wrestling. The Lutherans had had to face it earlier when the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 gave them a year in which to submit on pain of war. The Lutheran princes then had formed the Schmalkaldic League to resist arms with arms. Luther was loath to condone any use of the sword in defense of the Gospel and absolutely forbade any recourse to violence on the part of a private citizen against the magistrates. This was his reason for disapproval of the Peasants' War. But now the jurists pointed out to Luther that the emperor was an elected ruler and that if he transgressed against the true religion he might be brought to book by the electors, who also were magistrates. Thus arose the doctrine of the right of resistance of the lower magistrate against the higher. The concept lost its pertinence in Germany after the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, which granted toleration to the Lutherans in the territories where they were predominant. Minorities in Lutheran and Catholic lands were granted the right of migration without loss of goods.

But the Calvinists were not included in the peace, and the problem of armed resistance again became acute in France. Calvin would not condone the Conspiracy of Amboise because it was not led by a lower magistrate. The term was now applied to the princes of the blood in line for succession to the throne. This meant the House of Bourbon. The Conspiracy of Amboise failed. Francis II died, and was succeeded by his brother, the young Charles IX. The queen mother, Catherine de Médicis, took the lead and sought to avert religious war by granting the Huguenots limited toleration in restricted areas in the edict of 1562. When François, duc de Guise, discovered the Huguenots worshiping outside the prescribed limits, as he claimed, he opened fire. The Massacre of Vassy set off the wars. The Huguenots now were led by a prince of the blood, Louis I, 1st prince de Condé, of the House of Bourbon. Calvin approved. There followed three inconclusive wars. Condé was killed in the first and François, duc de Guise, was assassinated. His son, now Henri, duc de Guise, believed in the complicity of Coligny, the new leader of the Huguenots. At the end of 10 years of indecisive conflict, Catherine made another effort at a settlement to be cemented by the marriage of Henry of Navarre, a Bourbon, the son of Jeanne d'Albret and the hope of the Huguenots, and her own daughter Margaret (Marguerite de Valois), a Catholic. The leaders of all parties came to Paris for the wedding. The Duke of Guise made an attempt on the life of Coligny, which failed. Then the Guise, with the connivance of Catherine and her son Charles, who panicked, tried to wipe out all of the leaders of the Huguenot party in the Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day in August 1572. Other massacres followed in the provinces. (see also Index: Religion, Wars of, Saint Bartholomew's Day, Massacre of)

Charles IX was succeeded by his brother, Henry III, two years later (1574). Such was the revulsion against the massacre that the King could rule only by forming an alliance with the Huguenot Henry of Navarre. A fanatical Catholic was thereby so outraged that he assassinated the King. Both sides had abandoned the fiction of the inferior magistrate and had gone in unabashedly for popular revolution. Henry of Navarre then became Henry IV, but he was unable to take Paris and rule France so long as he was a Protestant. In order to pacify the land he made his submission to Rome and promulgated an edict of toleration for the Huguenots, the Edict of Nantes, in 1598. It gave them liberty of worship again in limited areas but full rights of participation in public life. The edict remained in force until the revocation in 1685.


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