The Protestant Reformation

By: Lauren Lee and Stephanie Smith

Essential Question:
How do belief systems divide or unite people?

The Protestant Reformation took place in the 16th century centered around Europe. The cultural turmoil splintered Catholic Europe in religious, intellectual, and political aspects. In the modern era, this set in place beliefs and structures that define the continent. Martin Luther, Henry VIII, and John Calvin (all reformers) challenged the authority of the Catholic Church, which was the government at the time. They didn't believe the church had the ability to define all Christian practice. The disruption of the arguments for political and religious redistribution of power triggered wars and a forceful response to the Protestants.

Challenge to the sale of indulgences:

The Roman Catholic church was very powerful spiritually and politically. The Pope is the head of the church and is an example of God on earth, which gives him the majority of the power. The church was the government of the people, and the Pope made the decisions for the government styles. The Pope began to accept bribes from sinners to “pay their way” into heaven and into salvation to receive their sale of indulgences, which true and faithful believers would understand from reading the bible is wrong, so Martin Luther King took a stand. The sale of indulgences was a practice where the church acknowledged a donation or other charitable work with a piece of paper (an indulgence), that certified that your soul would enter heaven more quickly by reducing your time in purgatory, which Martin Luther King wrote 95 theses to challenge the Pope’s sale of indulgences and put it on the church door for everyone to see, which sparked the revolution of the Protestant Reformation.


The Counter-Reformation was the response of the Catholic church to the “rise of protestant views”, or was their excuse to justify their ways. The Council of Trent was a group of men who met on and off for 18 years to create answers for the claims against the church, and worked hard to respond to Martin Luther King.

  1. The Council denied the Lutheran idea of justification by faith. They affirmed, in other words, their Doctrine of Merit, which allows human beings to redeem themselves through Good Works, and through the sacraments.
  2. They affirmed the existence of Purgatory and the usefulness of prayer and indulgences in shortening a person's stay in purgatory.
  3. They reaffirmed the belief in transubstantiation and the importance of all seven sacraments
  4. They reaffirmed the authority of both scripture the teachings and traditions of the Church
  5. They reaffirmed the necessity and correctness of religious art

Henry VIII and Anglican church:

Henry VIII is distinctly known for his role in the separation of The Church of England from The Roman Catholic Church. During his position as king, Henry VIII married and divorced six times for various reasons. However, the Roman Catholic Church believed in marriage for life and did not support divorce. As a Catholic, this put him in a very difficult position. If he announced that he was allowing himself a divorce, the pope had the right to excommunicate him. Under Catholic means, it meant he would not be allowed into the gates of Heaven. The pope did not allow Henry VIII the right to divorce under any means, which drove the separation of the Church of England. He made himself head of the church and under his rule, divorce was legal.

Critical Thinking:

How did the credibility of the Catholic church change after the reformation?


Sources Sited:

"Khan Academy." Khan Academy. Academy, n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2014.

"The Reformation." A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.

"Protestant Reformation - Anglicanism and Henry VIII." Protestant Reformation - Anglicanism and Henry VIII. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

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