What are the main causes that lead to the Reformation?

Nick Lica


Outline of writing project:

  1. Declining of the church in teaching

  2. Declining of the church in practice

  3. Declining of the church in leadership

  4. Declining of the church in society



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In the 15th and 16th century Catholic Church experienced a big division inside itself that was bigger than separation from 1054 which divided the church in two parts: Eastern and Western Church. More than 1500 years, church has been moved from the original view of the New Testament church. Catholic Church became like Pharisees and Sadducees who added around the Bible their teaching, prescriptions, rules and traditions. In these 15 centuries, the church has become from:

  • Christ centered, man centered

  • The one who is sent to win the world to one, who is trying to rule the world,

  • The one who is supposed to give freely to one who became rich

  • The one who exist to help people to get saved to one who control and manipulate people.

In such a spiritual darkness when God’s word was neglected and willful interpreted, God called people like Wycliff, J. Huss, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, who devoted themselves to study and apply God’s word not only in their lives but to proclaim the truth to other people about: the Christian life, Church, Salvation, Justification, the proper meaning of the sacraments etc.

By the word Reformation we understand bringing back to the original shape. And the church in that time needed this most: to be brought back to the biblical teaching and obedience to the word of God. The are at least four areas where the church declined and these are the main causes that lead to the reformation.





1. Declining of the church in teaching

a) Tradition versus Bible

Teaching is to be one of the most important tasks of the church in this world. The last words of Jesus in Mathew 28:18-20 is that the church has to do disciples by baptizing and teaching them God’s word. The early church did a lot of teaching but with time the Catholic Church added to God’s word their ideas and improper interpretations who lead the people not to love and obey God but church tradition. Church was not anymore ruled by Christ. The pope and bishops were the head of the church that delivered forgiveness and required obedience to what he says. The church gave up obedience to Jesus Christ as its only Lord and head of the church. Beside God’s word the church accepted man’s provision and prescriptions given by the churches’ councils and popes. Tradition was often seen as more important than the Bible.

b) Teaching about sin, salvation and God’s grace

The church left healthy teaching about these issues and against the clear meaning of the Scripture, Catholic Church taught that man has to deserve God’s grace by doing good deeds, which church prescribes. The main concern of Luther was to have assurance of salvation. When he received this from Romans 1:17 he wrote in 1520 Speech about good deeds where he emphasize that justification of man before God is only by faith in Christ. He uses the example of Decalogue to show that is impossible for man to make provisions of faith for the whole life. Reformatories understood that salvation is God’s gift for everyone who believe in Jesus Christ and repent. That’s why their motto was: Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura, and Sola Fide. God’s grace, Bible interpretation and faith were the issues that reformatories wrote about it and on this basis truth they faith for correction of church teaching on these issues.


2. Declining of the church in practice (Christian life, worship service)

Catholic Church began to decide about faith and life of men because the church thought that God has given them His power to do so. In this way the church took in hands authority which belongs only to God. Because the Catholic Church had big gaps in teaching their practice of Christian life was awful. The church transformed faith that is a dedication and trust to Jesus Christ in mere intellectual receiving what the church was teaching. It was not tolerated doubting about this kind teaching and evaluate it by God’s word. If someone did this he was proclaimed as being heretic and such of people has to be punished or put to jail or death.

In the worship services instead of preaching God’s word came different ceremonials and sacramental which the church instituted. SO attention was turned outward things and conscience and heart of people was not challenged anymore. In the life of Christian was not emphasized obedience to God’ commands but to keep provision of the church. Piety was destroyed by selling indulgences. This was nothing but selling the forgiveness of God for money. This awful business destroyed the meaning of repentance and gravidity of sin in the life of the people. In such of circumstances, people sank in deeper superstition. In sacraments people saw only a miraculous resource for diverting God’s punishments, disasters and catastrophes. Knowledge of God’s word declined and ignorant people wanted to be lead by irreligious priests.

Corruption of the priests was also an issue that led the reformatories to speak against. The entire system of Catholic Church was based on corruption in financial spiritual and moral areas. Gaining money from everything and from everyone was the gold of every priest because he needed this in order to pay to the pope or bishops who helped him to became a priest. Faith remained just a matter of intellect not something to be lived in every day life.


3-4. Declining of the church in leadership and society

The consequences of departure of the church from God’s word have to be seen clearly in the life of the leaders. Popes proclaimed that are plenipotentiary of Christ on the earth and they built their statues on the same level with God’s word. Papacy lost humility and obedience to God. From that time when popes got worldly rule, they begun to concentrate more on worldly power than God’s glory. Often they were richer than leaders from the world. To be able to keep this power they needed money. They got this money often in dirty way like for example: selling spiritual decrees or ranks. So by doing this, the church had many wicked people who become priests with the motivation for becoming richer and have more power and authority over people. These leaders lived an unspiritual life in cities and country villages where influenced the people in a bad way. Life of such of priests became a big public scandal and the top of this was when in 1378 was voted two popes one with residence in Rome and other in Avignion (France). The word of Jesus: “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” was not anymore truth in the church. Against this understanding of leadership reformatories came with biblical point of view that: every believer is a priest – 1Peter 2:9-10. The society was in spiritual darkness because the church was in spiritual darkness.


I believe that God prepared the reformation movement and it came in the right time. From that time to the end of 20th century the church got other traditions and it seems that reformation was not finished. One Czech theologian said the: progress of the church is in coming back not going forward. The church of the new millenium needs again a spiritual reformation and a new commitment for reaching out the people with the gospel of Christ. We need to come back to the Bible and make it alive in our lives and apply it in such a way that our churches will grow and emphasize more teaching this will changed our Christian life, will empower leadership and influence and transform our society.

Bible, grace of God and faith are key words that the evangelical churches should focus and emphasize because they brought light in the spiritual darkness of 15th and 16th century and can bring hope transformation and growth also for the church in 21st century.


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