The term “Reformation” is used in a number of senses, and it is helpful to distinguish them. As used in the historical literature, the term “Reformation” generally refers to reform movements in different areas, each of which had different roots:
- Lutheranism: This is probably the earliest and best known among the Reformation movements; sparked publicly by Martin Luther when he posted his “95 Theses” for discussion at Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, this “reformation” spread quickly and even provided cover for the other “reformations”.
- The Reformed movement: (often referred to as “Calvinism”) Had its origin in Ulrich Zwingli, the near contemporary of Martin Luther, in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1518. Zwingli was a priest who became enamored with the Scriptures, and from 1519 onward, he began preaching regularly from the Scriptures and pointing out discrepancies with Roman Catholic doctrine.
- The English Reformation: This particular reform movement did have its roots in the political dispute between Henry VIII and “Pope Clement VII” over an annulment; nevertheless, some of the finest (primarily Reformed in their persuasion) theologians came out of the English Reformation.
- The “Radical Reformation”: Still referred to as “Anabaptism”. Anabaptism literally means “re-baptism.” Oddly, the heirs of this movement are not today’s Baptists, but rather are seen in the Amish and Mennonite movements.
- The Counter Reformation: There were Reform movements even within Roman Catholicism that worked to correct abuses and defend “traditional” Roman doctrines.
Adapted from Alister McGrath, “Reformation Thought: An Introduction” (p. 5). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
Throughout this work, McGrath makes the point, then, that what we know now as “The Reformation” was actually a loosely connected set of distinct reforming movements, rather than a single coherent movement with local adaptations.
As the illustration above shows, all of them had one thing in common, and that was, Rome is corrupt, and we need to do something about it. For the four branches of the Protestant Reformation, that meant leaving.
We’ll go into more detail regarding each of these movements.