Nov 14, 2020 in History

The Renaissance in Northern Europe (the time of the Protestant Reformation and Protestant Iconoclasm)
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Protestant Reformation and Protestant Iconoclasm

Introduction

 

The sixteenth century is a significant historical period famous for the opposition of the Protestant Reformation to the Catholic artistic tradition in the Northern Europe. The proponents of the Protestant Reformation destroyed most of the Catholic artifacts in that period. The destruction of religious imagery referred to the wave of iconoclasm. Consequently, religious art was badly damaged or abandoned. The Protestants believed that religious symbols distracted worshippers and caused idolatry. The essay analyzes the spirit of the Protestant Reformation and focuses on its popular ideas, artistic styles, and beliefs. It also gives an insight into the impact of Humanism.

The Spirit of the Protestant Reformation Age

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During the Renaissance in Northern Europe, the Catholic Church tradition advocated for various artistic styles in worship, including painted images and sculptures. On the contrary, Protestant community believed that true worship should not include any images as they were blasphemous. In fact, the creation of images that portray God as a human being would be diminishing. Protestant reformists were not iconoclasts, although their teachings encouraged the destruction of religious art. Therefore, Protestant Reformation became an indirect cause of iconoclasm.

Catholic teachings declared that Christians were uncertain about Gods grace towards them. It made the Protestant reformists object the belief and indicate that ignorance of Gods grace towards a person would decrease the importance of Christ. Therefore, reformists believed that the papacy was a devaluation of awareness and belonged to the devils kingdom. True worship requires strong faith in Gods grace. The Catholic fraternity was certain that individuals could buy lifetime luxuries. Therefore, purchase of indulgences could prevent from afterlife penalties. Those who paid for their wrongdoings were guaranteed that their souls would be released from purgatory and directly enter heaven. The validity of the indulgence purchase belief implied that souls of the poor could not enter heaven because they could not buy their way.

The Catholic Church stated that faith alone could justify believers. The reformists were sure that good work and faith could lead to spiritual salvation, but through Gods mercy alone. Millenarian fever contributed to the Protestant Reformation as the Catholic Churchs grip on religious beliefs had begun to loosen. As a result, people were in an end-time panic since it was a time when people were undergoing complex, political, social, and intellectual changes (Kyle 29). Reformists realized that the Catholic Church had hidden the gospel truth for long and the world could be ending. Therefore, they had to abandon wrong rituals and embrace true worship.

Impact of Humanistic Ideals

Humanistic philosophy had a substantial effect on the worship tradition and culture during the period. For instance, it led to the discovery of the gospel truth which confirmed that some of the Catholic Church rituals, hierarchy, sacraments, organization structure, prayers, and services were supplementary. Humanistic questioning launched a revolt against payments for indulgences. People began to appreciate the personal choice. Humanistic philosophy enabled reformists to discover that true worship did not require the mediation of priests, doctrine, and religious tradition. Therefore, Christians were urged to worship God in daily life, rather than to develop a spiritual relationship with priests and religious principles. Contemporary Protestant churches do not include the Catholic Church traditions. For instance, Christians no longer need intercession from priests. They confess their sins independently.

 
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Thus, the urban and literate people adopted Protestant ideals because they were based on Humanism. Reformists wanted to return to the original sources and simplicity of the early church because they supported its philosophy. They questioned the genuineness of the Catholic Church practices in regard to the Scripture. According to Hankins, humanist philosophy revealed that some Catholic beliefs and practices emanated from the corruption of the Scripture (244). Reformists, led by Martin Luther, realized that the Catholics had applied wrong Greek interpretations. Therefore, Protestant churches adopted Scripture-relevant practices. For instance, modern Protestant churches embrace the spirit of helping the less fortunate in society.

The Portrait of Martin Luther and the Spirit of Protestant Reformation

The portrait of Martin Luther is the best expression of the spirit of the Protestant Reformation age. He was an icon of reformation a keen and serious man (see appendix). The Protestant Reformation era was a moment when people had to make landmark decisions and engage in the changes. Thus, reformists had to be sensitive and serious as depicted in the portrait. He represents the real picture of the events and circumstances of the entire period. The image shows a thoughtful Luther who was ready to fight. Luthers opposition efforts to the Catholic Churchs institutions, dogma, doctrine, and practices contributed to the reformation, religious piety, and independent thought. Fundamental changes in the worship patterns of many Northern European Christians were a result of Luthers Protestant Reformation and the Catholic responses to those assertions (Bermudez, p. 122). Therefore, the portrait of Luther represents vividly the spirit of the entire Protestant Reformation period as it shows a serious reformist who initiated a return of the church to the tradition of Jesus.

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Conclusion

The contemporary worship practices of the Catholic and Protestant Churches are based on the Protestant Reformation. The church became worldly as it exhibited greed and corruption of the Scripture. However, humanistic philosophy under Martin Luthers headship showed the inaccurate interpretations of the original sources from the Scripture. It proved the wrong use of imagery in worship. Thus, iconoclasm appeared as part of Protestant Reformation because they were willing to destroy blasphemous imagery. The work of art that clearly expresses the spirit of the age is Martin Luthers portrait. It depicts the seriousness, an independent thought, and the desire to reform the period.

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