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Chapter 5. The Reformation

Andrew Bradstock

Subject Politics
Religion » Christianity

Key-Topics Reformation, The, theology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631223429.2003.00007.x


Reflection on the period we call the Reformation must lead one to doubt whether it is meaningful to categorize ideas as purely“religious” or“political,” or to attempt to study them in isolation from one another. Luther's rediscovery of the doctrine of justification through faith may well be understood as a“spiritual experience,” yet any appreciation of its impact will be at best partial if it takes no account of its political and ecclesiological repercussions. While preaching salvation as a consequence of God's grace (rather than a financial transaction with the church) may offer spiritual comfort to the individual, it has also enormous implications for the power and stability of the church, and for the status quo of which the church is a part. Little wonder, then, that a recent commentator can claim that Luther“contributed to the dismantling of the edifice of medieval Christendom with a more sweeping stroke than any of his reforming predecessors, Wyclif and Marsilius included” ( O'Donovan and O'Donovan 1999 : 581). Luther's journey toward a recovery of the Pauline and Augustinian understanding of the“justice of God” has been well documented: as he himself recounted, it turned him from hate of a God whose damnation he could not escape, to love for a God whose“grace and sheer mercy … justifies us through faith” ( Bainton 1978 : 65). What his discovery also did was challenge the power, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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