The origins of the Renaissance and the Reformation were largely the same. New cultural demands were met by the humanistic movement and the flourishing of Renaissance art. But such issues as the liberation of the peoples of Europe from the spiritual dictates of Rome and the subordination of the Church to state power arose on the agenda. Humanistic education could not become a banner of political struggle; these functions were taken over by the religious movement for the renewal of the Christian Church.
Its leaders, Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, reconsidered the foundations of Catholicism; they essentially denied the need for the Church as a public institution and its help to believers in the salvation of the soul. The reformers, who were called Protestants, argued that justification by faith, in fact, inner conviction, was sufficient for salvation. In the social sense, this was expressed in the denial of a special kind of power – the power of intermediaries between God and people, the establishment of a new kind of democracy.
The founders of the new theology encroached on the supreme authority of the Church and the pope, and they argued that every believer has the right and must himself study and interpret the Holy Scriptures. The publication of the Bible in national languages contributed to its criticism and in-depth study of the history of religion. At the same time, Protestantism, like any creed, claimed to know the absolute truth. Rejecting the external splendor inherent in the Catholic cult, the Protestants were supporters of a modest, poor church devoid of former medieval riches.
This justified the policy of secularization of church property pursued by Protestant sovereigns. Germany became the classical country of the Reformation, and the man who undermined the power of the clergy was the Augustinian monk Martin Luther. He published 95 theses directed against indulgences, that is, exemptions sold for money from punishments imposed by the church for sins. Luther’s speech aroused active support in different sections of German society.
One of the prominent figures and authorities of Protestantism was John Foxe. He wrote a testimony about the persecution of the Church of Christ by pagans and those who were called Christians but were not such in The Book of Martyrs. This is a book about God’s grace and Christian faithfulness. This is a spiritual book of the highest importance, and the historical information is contained in it only to indicate the time, place, people, and circumstances.
The Catholic Church began an active struggle against the Reformation while at the same time carrying out church reform. This was supported by the secular authorities of a number of states. The system of measures aimed at suppressing and eradicating reform ideas and movements: the creation of the Supreme Inquisition Tribunal. It included the introduction of strict censorship, the intervention of the papacy in state affairs, and the involvement of monarchs in the fight against Protestantism – which is known in history as the Counter-Reformation. The Catholic reform provided for the organizational renewal of the Catholic Church and the ordering of certain aspects of its doctrine in accordance with the spirit of the times.
With the help of the influence of the new monasticism, the veneration of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, is intensified. It was the cult of purity, piety, and holiness, and at the same time, the cult of the Mother, who sacrificed the Son to atone for human sins. The cult of the Mother of God was especially understandable and close to believers; this explains its popularity. The Church represented the Mother of God as an intercessor before God, knowing the needs of people, especially women.
The Catholic Church actively disseminated the methods of the Inquisition. Alonso de Salazar de Frias is known for his role in establishing the condemnation in Spain that accusations against alleged witches are more often rooted in dreams than in reality. He was involved in changing the Inquisitorial policy that accusations and confessions of witches should only be given where there is solid, independent, self-serving evidence. He was the most influential figure in ensuring that those accused of witchcraft were not put to death at all.
Thus, in response to the demands of the Catholic Church, as the only denomination, the Protestant movement was created. The Catholic Church claims to be the only true universal church headed by the Pope. Protestants do not have a single church. There are many directions and churches that are recognized as equivalent. Catholics revere each pope as supreme pontiff, sovereign of the holy throne, the successor of the apostle Peter, and vicar of Jesus Christ on earth. Protestants, on the contrary, are sure that such an interpretation is contrary to biblical covenants. In a Protestant or Evangelical church, there is no such strict hierarchy as in the Catholic one.