What the Protestant Reformation Was

And Why it Should Matter to You

O give thanks unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works. Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth; O ye seed of Abraham his servant, ye children of Jacob his chosen. He is the LORD our God: his judgments are in all the earth. (Psalm 105:1-7)

The Protestant Reformation was an unparalleled religious and social revolution that swept through Europe in the sixteenth century. It changed the face of European civilization in many striking ways; but its most significant and lasting effect was to give the world the Scriptures, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a revival of living Christianity on a scale not seen since the first century.

This reformation of religion was necessary because of the deep and pervasive corruption of doctrine and morals in the recognized church of the time — an institution dominated by the Roman papacy, which claimed the exclusive right to interpret and apply holy scripture. The Roman church had become — instead of a blessing to the world — a curse, and an unbearable burden composed of armies of wicked and idle men who sucked up all the wealth of the nations over which they effectively ruled and wasted it in luxurious living. Bishops and Cardinals were richer and more powerful than the princes of many nations.

Most of the Popes were war-mongers; and like the Muslims Mullahs, sought to destroy anyone who would not accept and conform to the system of extortion and slavery that they had devised for themselves. Their tortures and executions were as savage, vicious, and atrociously inhuman as those of any pagan Monarch! The worst feature of the Papacy was (and is to this day) the claim that the Pope is the representative of Christ on earth; and that anyone who does not acknowledge this and submit to His rule is liable to damnation.

By this summing up of Christianity as obedience to the Pope and the Roman church, the essence of Christianity is buried under a mountain of ceremonies, rituals, superstitions, traditions, and exactions that not only have no basis in Scripture; but that in many cases are contradictory to its teaching. The Pope has become a substitute for Christ, assuming all His authority, and exchanging the doctrine of Christ for the Roman heresies; which makes him an Anti-Christ!

In the sixteenth century, the Pope reigned over more territory and more people than the ancient Romans. As the representative of Christ, he claimed the religious and political dominion over the whole world. He exerted his power over other princes and kings through the confessional, where priests would gather intelligence and the most personal information under the promise of confidentiality, and then pass it on to their superiors, to be used for blackmail. Moreover, the prince’s confessor would have authority to forgive the sins of the prince or to condemn him to hell. He thus was able to exercise a terrible power over the prince.

And should he rebel against Rome in any matter, he risked being laid under a formal curse by the Pope, which would entitle — nay, obligate — other Christian princes to make war against him in the Pope’s name. His own people would be loosed by this “interdiction” of the Pope from all obedience to their lawful sovereign, and would be incited to violently attack him and remove him from his throne! No Eastern despot would claim as much authority, or exercise as absolute power.

Rome’s only rival in the world was Islam — a continual threat, lying on its Eastern and Southern borders. While there had been internal pockets of resistance from time to time, they never became a serious threat to the gravy train of the priests and monks, or to the power of bishops, cardinals and popes. It was unthinkable that any of the nations of Europe might successfully challenge that power.

England, it’s true, caused some serious economic damage to Rome under the influence of Wycliff. The Hussite rebellion was a minor inconvenience, effectively weakened by the murder of John Huss, and finally solved by applying plenty of Roman gold to pay the armies required to suppress it. The peaceful Christians of the Alps and the Piedmont, who had lived according to the Scriptures since time out of mind were ruthlessly ground under the Roman heel when they began spreading the pure doctrine of Christ among their neighbors. But these were, none of them, large countries. Rome was apparently unconquerable. But this was about to change.

Howard Douglas King

July 23, 2016