So, today was the day… 31 October 1517, Martin Luther challenged the tyrannical religo-political system of the Catholic Church. As I considered why I celebrated the fact that God raised a man up like Luther, I thought of the far reaching effects of the reformation on everyday life and modern civilization… Ideas have consequences and the recapturing of the Gospel as it is found in the Holy Bible had far reaching effects in our world.
To name a few…
The Reformation became one of the roots of Democracy, though Luther or Calvin did not see this at the time, many historians today attribute, as least in part, the Reformation for democracy. Some seeds can be seen in Calvin’s dislike for a monarchy, where too much power is placed in one mans hands.
Public education also came to the fore. Luther wanted there to be public schools in Germany where children had to attend and learn more then just the fundamentals of the Faith, but also literature and culture. Knox and Calvin made the move to have educated clergy in churches. Edward VI of England, the Protestant King, set up 30 grammar schools, a movement which continued after his rule.
The influence on literature was remarkable, Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Luther’s German translation of the Bible and King Henry’s King James Bible (which is sill the best selling book of all time), where all milestones in the French, German and English languages respectively. I could go one naming many other books that arose out of the Reformation which impacted and made language what it is today.
The Reformation influenced Art even more then it did language and literature; architecture, sculpting, painting etc. all were significantly advanced by the Reformation
Men like Pascal, who was a noted mathematician, physicist and inventor, and is considered one of the great religious thinkers of Western civilization. He believed that one should come to faith in God through Faith alone in Jesus Christ. We could name many other men like John Locke, Oliver Cromwell etc.
The protestant Reformation helped along many philosophies as well as the advancement of science, because it stressed individual thought and personal Faith. Ironically the advancement it allowed eventually led to rationalism which often tries to deny the God and Gospel which led to its development.
The Reformation led to woman’s Suffiridge (although this was instilled in the New Testament, it was again realized by men who were influenced the Reformers, however many still tried to suppress women using unbiblical and inconsistent theology). Ironically when women received this freedom, they sometimes took it too far to the point of confusing roles with equality with regard to function in the Church.
Other effects were the ‘Protestant Work Ethic’ which caused the prosperity of modern Europe and America. Emancipation Acts, started by William Wilberforce, the Calvinist politician from Britain. The abolishment of Child labor… I could go on and on.
Today in South Africa we are talking about moral renewal, and the truth is, we can not have moral renewal without the foundation on which to build it… and before you start talking about tolerance, remember the whole idea of ‘Tolerance’ is a child of the Reformation, particularly the Baptists… The truthful Gospel of Jesus Christ proved to be amazing in it’s impact on society, but as the Enlightenment hit, and people started becoming post-Christian we have noticed the beginning of the fall of society.
The greatest effect of the Reformation, besides all these other wonderful things, was the discovery that one can know that they are going to heaven, and that by Faith alone, in Christ alone, because of His grace and not your ability to be good, as we read in the Scripture, all of this to the Glory of God alone. I would forgo all other benefits if It was only this beautiful, liberating, courage-producing, love-creating truth-Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin, that I may be the Righteousness of God in Him, because the just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17).