The Reformation was quite possibly the biggest epoch in Christian history. As the name of the movement suggests, the Reformation was an effort to reform the Catholic Church. Though most view this as a mere attempt to rid the Church of corruption within the hierarchy, it was also a serious theological, philosophical, and sociological turning point in Europe—the effects of which are still being felt today in the West.
The Reformation, most specifically Martin’s Luther theology, fundamentally changed the Christian world. The common theme, philosophically, theologically and sociologically is one of individualism. There is a significant shift in emphasis from community and inter-personal dependency to a heightened individualism and sense autonomy that occurs, in part, due to the Reformation.
Perhaps the most intriguing and controversial doctrine to spring forth from the Reformation is Luther’s Sola Scriptura, Latin for “scripture alone.” Luther believed that the only authority needed to guide the church, doctrinally and morally, was that of Sacred Scripture. In many ways this was a warranted reaction against the rampant clericalism that dominated Western Europe during the sixteenth century. However, it had very interesting ramifications. For starters, prior to the dawn of Sola Scriptura, now the dominant doctrinal position in contemporary Protestantism, the scriptures did uphold an especial authority in the Church; it was simply not the only authority. As far as Catholic understanding is/was concerned, the Tradition and Scripture shared a co-dependent and equal authority. In other words, the Tradition could not be trusted without Scripture and Scripture could not be properly interpreted without the Tradition, specifically the divine revelation entrusted to the Magisterium (the teaching office of the Church). This remains the Catholic understanding to this day.
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