New to Living Word?  Learn More

The Mindset of the People Around the Time of the Reformation (Part 2)

Written By Wade Mobley on 01/28/2014 | Posted in Christian History

Yesterday I wrote about why it's so important to understand the why behind how things have progressed philosophically and mentioned that I would share my notes from a recent adult Sunday School class led by John Eidsmoe. I give a reproduction of my notes from that morning. Enjoy!

The Mindset of People Around the Time of the Reformation (c. AD 1517)

Luther and Calvin never met, but they corresponded. Luther was 25 years older.
There was a lot of light in the "dark ages." If it was dark, it was a womb. Foundational ideas:

  • Rule by consent of the governed- feudalism was consensual, as opposed to imperialism
  • Trial by jury

The Enlightenment (18th century AD Europe)

  • Absolute power of kind, state and divine right were all challenged
  • But this led to a diminished freedom, not increased freedom

Around the Reformation people tended to believe certain things:

  • The Bible is the Word (Roman Catholicism held this, but added tradition, too)
  • The existence of heaven and hell- like we "believe" in Antarctica (indirectly)
  • The concept of faith was valid, acceptable and commonly held

Saxony- Luther's region of northern Germany

  • Known for the love of freedom and decentralized government for multiple centuries
  • AD 9- Southern Germany was conquered by Rome
  • Law was centralized Roman law with German trappings, not Visigoth or Gallic
  • Herman the Liberator united northern German tribes against three Roman legions and won
  • Northern Germany and Scandinavia were freed from Roman Law
  • Even today some of those same areas are ruled by Common Law
  • Saxon law spread to England- the basis for Blackstone's law
  • Luther had studied law

Luther talks a lot about law and government

  • Loved Teutonic (German) common law
  • Hated Roman Law- imposed by the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor
  • Frederick, the Elector of Saxony, protected Luther
  • Frederick's brother "John" came to be known as "John the Steadfast"

Printing greatly influenced the Reformation

  • Made science possible by circulating ideas- A Biblical worldview made science possible
  • Absolute, unchanging, God-ordained laws make science possible
  • The first book printed on Guttenberg's press was a Bible
  • Literacy was the result of emphasizing God's Word
  • Desire to make scripture available to people in their own language
  • Luther didn't disregard science or other teachers- just demanded that Scripture reign supreme
  • Luther's burden was "How can I be right with God?"

Priesthood of all believers, printing, literacy- all were key to the Reformation

  • Literacy greatly influenced government
  • Literacy led to a congregational or regional church government
  • Practice of leadership in the church prepared future government leaders
  • All vocations were considered holy by Luther- not just priest/nun
  • The "Protestant work ethic" comes from this- if we shed it, it will be replaced by something else.


  • Most went along with the Roman Catholic Church
  • Mixture of Scripture and tradition
  • Mixture of grace, faith and works
  • One concern that led to corruption was the "treasury of merits" -who gets access to them?
  • Man was considered problematic, but not totally depraved
  • If man is totally depraved (and they are), they need a strong civil government to control them
  • But governors are totally depraved, too.
  • Thus, government must be limited to ensure the freedom of the governed
  • Peasants
  • Luther backed the peasants, urging nobility to make changes
  • Then, when the peasants turned ugly, urged nobility to put down rebellion

Two kingdoms

  • Left- state
  • Right- church
  • Roman Catholic church said that the Church was superior (God eternal, people temporal)
  • The pope crowned kings (notably Charlamagne, Christmas Day, AD 800)
  • Luther- both exist, but are parallel, and have different functions (Church- preach the gospel, teach morality; State- preserve order, protect rights)
  • But they work together by doing their jobs (Good church makes for easy state rule; Good state makes for easy church ministry)

The Turk

  • Seen as the "evil empire-" an 800-year-old cold war
  • 732 Battle of Tours (central France)- Charles "The Hammer" Martel, Charlamagne's grandfather- won, turned back Islam in Europe
  • 1453- Constantinople (aka Istanbul, Byzantium) falls to Ottoman Empire (Turks, Islam)
  • Luther hymn- "Lord, Keep Us Steadfast In Thy Word" (Includes the line "Foil Pope and Turk and barbarous horde") You can't separate Luther from the Medieval mentality- they were under attack

1550- Magdeburg Confession

  • Charles V attempted to put down the protestant reformation
  • The pastors of Magdeburg (Germany) wrote as the city was under siege
  • Asserted the right of people to resist tyranny
  • Afterward, Calvinists like John Knox also wrote on the need to stand against tyrants

1600's Germany

  • Prussian state (Northern Germany) became supreme
  • Today's image of the "unyielding German ruler" is Prussian

By the 1930's in Germany

  • Very little Biblical Lutheranism remained in Germany- state-controlled and Biblically liberal
  • The same country that brought us Luther and Bach also brought us Hitler

Takeaway- A heritage is not something to be rested upon, but to be built upon.

Enjoy this content? Share it!

Thankful to the Living God for life, redemption and His many blessings. Doing my best to reflect His character in all I do.

Posted on
Worship: Sundays at 9:00 AM | Christian Education: 10:30 AM