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The Relationship Between the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation

John Calvin, Printing Press, Protestant Reformation, The Renaissance

In history books, the Renaissance is discussed primarily to note a period where art flourished, the study of classics prospered, and the invention of the printing press was a major technological advance. However, the Renaissance made a greater impact on the world than just in art, education, and technological advances; the renaissance was a rebirth that was encouraged by the studying of classical texts that helped changed personal views of oneself and the world. The Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation can be tied together because the Renaissance triggered a new flow of ideas, and with the printing press facilitating the spread of these ideas, people began to question their faith in the Catholic Church ultimately leading to the Protestant Reformation.

The Renaissance raised questions about the path to salvation by instigating new ideas, particularly the belief in individualism, which was the conviction that there is human ability to choose between right and wrong. The Catholic church, vehemently pushed the idea that salvation would only be found within the church, but when a Christian monk named Martin Luther interpreted a bible passage stating “just shall live by his faith” to mean that faith alone would save their souls he began to challenge the church.

Luther was incredibly distressed over the issue of indulgences, (which were penances that cost money), so he wrote his list of arguments called the Ninety-Five Theses as an attempt to merely discuss the subject. However, due to the Renaissance’s invention of the printing press, Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses became a widespread document and was very appealing to intellectuals who also criticized the church, and to Germans who were tired of their money going to Italy. The Renaissance also helped the Protestant Reformation because Luther credited his study of the Bible to his complete understanding of religion, so he translated the Bible into German so more people could have access to it. Once again, the printing press which was invented during the Renaissance helped make the Bible more available, and also produced pamphlets and flyers that helped many come to follow Luther’s teaching and other branches of Protestantism.

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The Renaissance essentially was a time where new ideas were accepted, and after it ended people were still very receptive to new beliefs. This openness to ideas allowed for Luther’s beliefs to catch on, along with many other branches of Protestantism to take root. John Calvin, a French scholar, followed Luther’s teaching but rather than focus on salvation he urged people to recognize the majesty, power and justice of God. The printing press once again proved beneficial in the printing of Calvin’s master work, The Institutes of the Christian Religion.

The Renaissance is directly linked to the Protestant Reformation. The Renaissance helped spread ideas and theses ideas led to new ways of thinking. Calvin and Luther began to question their belief in the Catholic Church which led to the formation of the Protestant religion. Their ideas were spread, and caught on due to the printing press that was invented during the Renaissance. Individualism which also began during the Renaissance played a role in the Protestant Reformation because it started the belief that people could chose between right and wrong without religion telling them so. This helped people break away from the Catholic Church to find religions that made more sense to the beliefs that took form, because of the Renaissance.