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American Society of Church History

Rerooting the Faith: The Reformation as Re-Christianization

Author(s): Scott Hendrix
Source: Church History, Vol. 69, No. 3 (Sep., 2000), pp. 558-577
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Society of Church
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Rerooting the Faith: The Reformation
as Re-Christianization


Over the last twenty-five years it has become common to speak of

reformation in the plural instead of the singular. Historians isolate and
write about the communal reformation, the urban reformation, the
people's or the princes' reformations, and the national reformations of
Europe. Some scholars doubt whether these different movements had
enough in common to warrant speaking of the Reformation of the
sixteenth century. A recent textbook, entitled The European Reforma-
tions, justifies its title with the following statement: "In more recent
scholarship this 'conventional sense' of the Reformation [the tradi-
tional unified view] has given way to recognition that there was a
plurality of Reformations which interacted with each other: Lutheran,
Catholic, Reformed, and dissident movements."1
This plurality has been the subject of debate among sixteenth-
century historians on both sides of the Atlantic. In a real debate staged
in Germany among church historians,2 Dorothea Wendebourg argued
that the unity of the Reformation was first created by the verdict of the
Counter Reformation, a term that she still found useful precisely in
this regard. According to Wendebourg, the rejection of all Protestants
by the Counter Reformation made the Reformation a single phenom-
enon, namely, a decisive and lasting break in Western Christianity.

This article is a revised version of "Rerooting the Faith: The Coherance and Significance of
the Reformation" which appeared in the Princeton Seminary Bulletin 21 (2000): 63-80.
1. Carter Lindberg, The European Reformations (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), 9. The following
abbreviations are used: CO = Ioannis Calvini opera quae supersunt omnia, 59 vols.
(Brunswick: C. A. Schwetschke, 1863-1900); LW = Luther's Works, American Edition, 55
vols. (St. Louis and Philadelphia: Concordia and Fortress, 1955-86); OS = Calvini Opera
Selecta, 5 vols., rev. ed. (Munich: Christian Kaiser, 1952-62); WA = D. Martin Luthers
Werke, Kritische Gesamtausgabe, 60 vols. (Weimar: H. Bohlau, 1883-1980); WABr = D.
Martin Luthers Werke, Briefwechsel, 17 vols. (Weimar: H. Bohlau, 1930-83); ZW = Huldreich
Zwinglis samtliche Werke (Leipzig: M. Heinsius Nachfolger, 1904-90).
2. Reformationstheorien: Ein kirchenhistorischer Disput iiber Einheit und Vielfalt der Reformation
(Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1995).

Scott H. Hendrix is the James Hastings Nichols Professor of Reformation History and
Doctrine at Princeton Theological Seminary.

? 2000, The American Society of Church History

Church History 69:3 (September 2000)


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Without that verdict the Reformation would have remained a series of

widely divergent attempts to reform the Western church. Against this
argument, both Berd Moeller and Berndt Hamm claimed that a
common Protestant agenda, directed against the medieval system of
works righteousness, existed prior to its rejection by the Roman
hierarchy and remained a coherent basis of the Reformation even after
reformers went their separate ways.
While Moeller and Hamm are correct in principle, their definition of
a common agenda is too narrowly confined to mainline Protestants for
it to serve the Reformation as a whole. A broader definition of the
Reformation's agenda is needed in order to establish its coherence and
to address the current challenges to its significance.3 In European
history, the designation "early moder studies" is replacing the trad
tional combination of Renaissance and Reformation. The very param
eters of the Handbook of European History, 1400-1600 were chosen in
order to raise "a significant barrier to the confessional canonization of
one isolated phase, privileging either the late Middle Ages, the Renais-
sance, or the Reformation."4 In the history of Christianity, one can n
longer take for granted that the Reformation will be recognized as
discrete and important period. In his rendition of Christianity in t
West, John Bossy wrote: "[Reformation] may be a necessary concept in
the history of the Church as an institution; but it does not seem much
use in the history of Christianity, since it is too high-flown to cope wit
actual social behavior, and not high-flown enough to deal sensitivel
with thought, feeling, or culture."5 Bossy's distinction between church
history and the history of Christianity is questionable and his criterio
"high-flown" is ambiguous, but his main contention is clear-the term
"Reformation" is useful for designating the restructuring of the church
but inadequate for handling almost everything else that Christia
felt, thought, and did during the sixteenth century.
Even the Reformation as a restructuring of the Western churc
languishes under the assertion that reformers did not want such
restructuring at all and that the Protestant Reformation should b
understood as catholic. Scholars who argue this way emphasize tha

3. In 1990, Hans-Christoph Rublack reminded Reformation historians that it was qui

possible to interpret the course of European history without paying much attention t
their favorite topic; see Rublack, "Reformation und Modeme: Soziologische, theo
logische und historische Ansichten," in The Reformation in Germany and Europe: Interpret
tion and Issues, Hans Guggisberg, Gottfried Krodel, and Hans Fuglister, eds. (Giitersloh
Gutersloher Verlagshaus, 1993), 19.
4. Thomas A Brady Jr., Heiko A. Oberman, James D. Tracy, eds., Handbook of European
History, 1400-1600, vol. 2, Visions, Programs, and Outcomes (Grand Rapids: Eerdman
1995), xix.
5. John Bossy, Christianity in the West, 1400-1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 91.

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Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others did not want to start
church but to reform the old one. A recent book by the Ge
theologian Gunther Wenz exemplifies this claim. Wenz disav
portrayal of the Reformation (1569) by Lukas Cranach the Yo
that shows the reformers as workers in the vineyard of the Lor
one side of the picture the vineyard is flourishing under Lut
cultivation, while on the other side the vineyard has withered
papal devastation. For Wenz, Cranach's picture implies the fo
of a new church by the Wittenbergers. He therefore rejects it in f
a concept of Reformation as reform of the one, holy, catholic chu
will come back to this picture and to what I think it means f
intention of the reformers.
The Reformation also seems to be marginalized by recent arguments
that medieval piety remained popular and hard to uproot in areas that
officially became Protestant. A good example of this argument is the
book by Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars, which depicts the
Reformation in England as a concerted attack on traditional religion,
his term for medieval piety, which remained vital and popular across
all segments of the population.7 After mentioning Duffy's book, one
reviewer of another book on medieval devotion made the following
comment about the author's perspective: "His chronological param-
eters ironically propagate older discussions of Church history as
distinct medieval and Reformation eras."8 In my view, such a report of
the Reformation's demise is premature. Although there was definite
continuity between medieval and Reformation Christianity, a continu-
ity that is also important for this essay, it is too early to argue that
scholarship has abolished every distinction between them. The argu-
ment that it took a long time to suppress traditional Christianity, far
from marginalizing the Reformation, actually gives it a sharp historical
profile.9 However gradual it might have been, a distinct movement
called the Reformation did make fundamental changes in the tradi-
tional Christianity of Europe. By the late sixteenth century, not only
England was Protestant but most of northern Europe as well.

6. Gunther Wenz, Theologie der Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 2 vols.

(Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1996, 1998), 1:65-66.
7. Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c. 1400-c. 1580
(New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992), 2-5.
8. Christopher Belitto, review of R. N. Swanson, Religion and Devotion in Europe, c.
1215-1515 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), in Sixteenth Century Journal
28 (1997): 893.
9. Even Keith Thomas, who depicted the Reformation as the eradication of magical
elements in the medieval church, admitted that Protestantism in England did not win an
immediate or a complete victory; Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular
Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England (New York: Oxford University Press,
1997 [lst ed. 1971]), 70-74.

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Still, to some historians, this clear-cut result is not adequate to d

the Reformation or to affirm its historical importance. The reason
confusion about the agenda of the Reformation and excessive attent
to its diversity.10 The Reformation is often evaluated as if it w
series of conflicting reform movements that ought to have adva
modem agendas like ecumenism, social and gender equality, ratio
ization of social services, or democratic government. The result of
evaluations is often disappointing, not least because the Reform
did not have these modern agendas. If, instead, we define the Refor
tion in its own terms and can discern in those terms a coherent
movement, then we gain a more realistic appreciation of its historical
profile and significance.
Defining the Reformation in its own terms means to rethink it in
terms of its own culture, the Christendom of late medieval and early
modern Europe. Initiators of the Reformation were late medieval
Christians whose agenda grew out of the ongoing medieval project to
make European culture Christian. On this basis I will first describe
what I think was the common Reformation agenda of the early
sixteenth century. Second, I will discuss some challenges to this
conception. And, finally, I will explore the implications of this view for
the historical treatment of the Reformation.


The Reformation of the sixteenth century was the attempt by theolo-

gians, preachers, and political leaders to make European culture more
Christian than it had been. It was, if you will, an attempt to reroot the
faith, to rechristianize Europe. This Reformation program wielded a
two-edged sword. First, the reformers sharply denounced the tradi-
tional religion in which they were raised as something less than
Christian. Indeed, reformers often called it paganism and idolatry, and
sometimes, especially when they were criticizing what they rejected as
the legalism of late medieval religion, they also labeled it pharisaic.
Second, the reformers cast the message of the Reformation in mission-
ary terms. They went about their task with zeal, planting a new and
truer religion and denouncing the obstacles that stood in their way.
That true religion was, in their eyes, a purer form of Christianity, and

10. See, for instance, Bob Scribner's conclusion in "A Comparative Overview," in Bob
Scribner, Roy Porter, and Mikulas Teich, eds., The Reformation in National Context
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 225: "If it is possible to summarise a
movement as internationally and locally complex as the essays here have shown the
Reformation to be, we must concede that diversity is a leitmotif."

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its propagation led to intense polemic against non-Christian

particular, against Jews who refused to be converted.
This twofold agenda fits both radical dissenters, as historians read
admit, and magisterial reformers, who are less frequently described
this fashion. All of them wanted to uproot the old idolatrous religi
and to replant authentic Christianity, which was in their eyes
ancient biblical faith. Cranach the Younger's depiction of the Refor
tion as recultivating the vineyard of the Lord is a fitting portrayal
this program to rechristianize Europe. As seen by the reformers, th
medieval church had planted the faith in the soil of pagan Europe a
the faith had germinated to a certain point before the field w
corrupted and neglected by the bad husbandry of the papal chu
Christianity had withered almost beyond recognition, and now
faith, in its genuine evangelical form, had to be planted and cultiva
once again. Reformers disagreed about the rate at which the n
growth would appear, and some of them suspected that the re
might come at any time. But, whenever the harvest was gathered, t
expected God would find, if not a perfect crop, a much more bount
Christendom than ever before, full of healthy vines bearing ripe fr
Despite his own conviction that the end was near, Luther sounded li
a contented vintner himself, three years before his death, as he
ported on the result of Christian recultivation in Saxony: "I do
leave our churches in poor shape; they flourish in pure and so
teaching, and they grow day by day through many excellent a
sincere pastors."11
When reformers described the Christianity they attacked as p
or idolatrous, they were not concerned about the exact nature
paganism or whether they were using the term fairly or accurately.
point was not to identify with precision a real alternative to Christ
ity but to emphasize that the religion they were attacking, the trad
tional religion of Europe in the early sixteenth century, was in
grave manner less than genuinely Christian. A statement by Ma
Luther from the year 1522 provides a good example. Proposing
people stay away from the Lord's Supper unless they showed love fo
their neighbors as evidence of repentance, Luther exclaimed: "H
ens, if this idea were really put across, it would mean that wh
thousands come to the sacrament now, scarcely hundreds w
come.... and so we would at last become again a group of rea

11. Letter to Wenceslas Link (20 June 1543), in LW 50:242; cf. WABr 10:335.14-17.

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Christians, whereas at present we are almost completely paga

only Christian in name."12
Luther's language was hyperbolic, to be sure. People flocking to t
sacrament were baptized believers, not pagans, and Luther wo
have admitted as much.13 Luther was attacking excessive concern w
the form of the sacrament without equal or greater attention
substance and effect. This criticism indicates that he understood the
religion around him not as outright paganism, but as a religion that
could still transmit the symbols of Christianity but did not instill the
substance of the faith in many of its adherents. "Everyone wants to be
called Christian," said Luther begrudgingly, "and we have to permit it;
but then they do not want to exercise faith and love."14
Other reformers were also convinced that medieval Europe was not
Christian enough; their conviction about the shallowness of Christian-
ity and its kinship to idolatry and paganism was expressed in vivid
and telling phrases.15 Beginning with his criticism of fasting regula-
tions in 1522, Ulrich Zwingli denounced compulsory forms of piety as
human inventions that led to idolatry.16 Those who advocated icono-
clasm, destroying images and the cult of the saints, also saw them-
selves engaged in a "war against idols." This very campaign, equating
the pictures and statues of venerable Christians with idols, indicates
how unchristian many Protestants thought their opponents to be.17 In

12. Luther, Receiving Both Kinds in the Sacrament (1522), in LW 36:264; cf. WA 10,2:39.6-11. The
context of this remark is Luther's criticism of the decree of the Fourth Lateran Council
(1215), which required confession and reception of the sacrament at least once a year.
13. Later, against the Anabaptists, Luther affirmed that he and the movement that took his
name received the true forms of Christian faith through the medieval church: Concerning
Rebaptism, in LW 40:231-32; cf. WA 26:147.13-26.
14. Luther, Receiving Both Kinds, in LW 36:264; cf. WA 10,2:39.15-17.
15. Many such statements by Luther and Calvin have been collected and analyzed by Jean
Delumeau, "Les Reformateurs et la superstition," in Un Chemin d'histoire: Chretiente et
christianisation (Paris: Fayard, 1981), 51-79.
16. Bemdt Hamm, Zwinglis Reformation der Freiheit (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Ver-
lag, 1988), 5. Zwingli spoke more frequently of idolatry in connection with the venera-
tion of saints and images. See, for instance, Commentary on True and False Religion (1525),
ed. Samuel Macauley Jackson (Durham, N.C.: Labyrinth, 1981), 332-33; ZW 3:901.33-36:
"Hac enim ratione distinguuntur unius ac veri dei cultores ab idololatris, quod nos deum
colimus, qui invisibilis est, quique vetat, ne se ulla visibili figura exprimamus; isti autem
deos suos qualibet specie induunt." Cf. Eine Antwort Valentin Compar gegeben (1525), ZW
4:89.12-14: "Daruss yetz volget, dass, welche by einer creatur, wer joch dieselb sye,
suchend, das sy by dem einigen gott sol gesucht werden, nit ware gloubigen noch
Christen sind." See also G. R. Potter, Zwingli (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1976), 92-95.
17. Carlos M. N. Eire, War against The Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986). For a refined interpretation of this
attack as the desire for a truer Christian community which expressed love for the poor,
see Lee Palmer Wandel, "The Reform of the Images: New Visualizations of the Christian
Community at Zurich," Archivefor Reformation History 80 (1989): 105-24.

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Geneva itself, the use of certain saints' names, like Claude, was
prohibited at baptisms because they were the "names of idols."18
Describing the death of Madame de Normandie in 1549, Calvin
reported that this pious woman, on the day before her death, exhorted
her attendant never to return to the place where he had polluted
himself with idolatry [the Roman Church] but instead to lead a holy
life in the Christian [!] church to which he had been led by God.19
How is it possible that Protestant reformers believed their culture
was not Christian enough, practicing idolatry in ways that were not far
from paganism? After all, scholarship has long since established that
large numbers of late medieval people were enthusiastic about reli-
gion.20 The obvious answer, suggested by historians, is that religious
enthusiasm did not necessarily entail intentional commitments to the
faith in its orthodox form. John Van Engen argues that the Middle Ages
were certainly Christian in the sense of a dominant cultic practice.
People who lived in Christian parishes understood time, space, and
ritual observance essentially in terms of the Christian liturgical year,
but beyond those forms it is difficult to ascertain the exact nature or
depth of people's beliefs.21 In order to account for the reality that
within Christendom many of the faithful were unable to articulate
their faith or to put it ethically into practice, medieval theologians and
jurists developed distinctions between formed and unformed faith
and between explicit and implicit faith.22 Instead of calling the late

18. CO 10.1:49-50 (1546). Commenting in 1550 on the community of Christians portrayed in

Acts 4:32-37, Calvin wrote: "If we compare our situation with what has been told by
Saint Luke, we will see how far we are from Christianity"; Sermones in Acta Apostolorum,
in Supplementa calviniana, vol. 8 (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1994), 116.3-4.
19. Calvin, letter to Madame de Cany (29 April 1549), in CO 13:246. I thank Austra Reinis, a
doctoral student at Princeton Seminary, for alerting me to this text. Examination of local
Calvinist communities in France led Raymond Mentzer to remark that "Calvin and his
followers even linked 'papist superstition and idolatry' to paganism, Satanism, and the
demonic"; Mentzer, "The Persistence of 'Superstition and Idolatry' among Rural French
Calvinists," Church History 65 (1996): 220.
20. See Berd Moeller, "Piety in Germany around 1500," in Steven Ozment, ed., The
Reformation in Medieval Perspective (Chicago: Quadrangle, 1971), 50-75. Moeller's judge-
ment was extended to more of Europe by William Monter, "Popular Piety in Late
Medieval Europe," in Ritual, Myth and Magic in Early Modern Europe (Athens: Ohio
University Press, 1983), 6-22. See also Steven Ozment, The Reformation in the Cities (New
Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1975), 15-22.
21. John Van Engen, "The Christian Middle Ages as an Historiographical Problem," Ameri-
can Historical Review 91 (1986): 519-52.
22. John Van Engen, "Faith As A Concept of Order in Medieval Christendom," in Thomas
Kselman, Belief in History: Innovative Approaches to European and American Religion (Notre
Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991), 19-67.

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Middle Ages Christian in a qualitative sense, Hartmut Boock

believes it is formally more accurate to call them churchly.23
While such careful modem evaluations are wise, William Mo
summary of late medieval piety explains why sixteenth-century
ers nevertheless did make judgments about the authenticity of
tian belief. Although late medieval Christians across Eur
served a common core of religious practices as best they
fifteenth-century religion was still "deformed in various wa
appeared superstitious by sixteenth-century standards.24 Con
the piety around them with biblical precedents and models, ref
concluded that Christian cultic practices, such as privately e
masses or compulsory fasting or veneration of the saints, were
selves at fault for the slide into idolatry and paganism. And wh
added to biblical precedents evidence from the early church, ref
concluded that much of what passed for Christian piety w
Christian. They were convinced that a new planting of the
Europe was necessary.
Consequently, the Reformation also understood itself as a m
ary movement. Once he was seized by a sense of urgency, Luthe
the apostolic mission recounted in Acts as an early Christian par
for the Wittenberg movement. From his exile at the Wartburg
1521, Luther wrote to Philip Melanchthon, comparing Witte
Antioch and his colleagues to early Christian missionarie
lecture, Amsdorf lectures; Jonas will lecture; do you want the k
of God to be proclaimed only in your town? Do not others a
the gospel? Will your Antioch not release a Silas or a Pa
Barnabas for some other work of the Spirit?"25 Not only L
thought this way. As Bemd Moeller found, the earliest Refo
pamphleteers addressed the towns in which they had formerly
exactly as the apostle Paul had addressed his epistles.26 These
ers echoed Luther's notion of the 1520s as a kairos for the rebirth of
Christianity; he described this kairos as the coming of the gospel to

23. Boockmann, Einfiihrung in die Geschichte des Mittelalters, 6th ed. (Munich: C. H. Beck,
1996), 118. R. N. Swanson cautions, however, that the practice and devotion of medieval
Christians varied widely across Europe and changed from century to century; see
Swanson, Religion and Devotion in Europe, 314-18.
24. Monter, "Popular Piety in Late Medieval Europe," 20.
25. Letter to Melanchthon (13 July 1521), in LW 48:262; cf. WABr 2:359.112-15.
26. Bemd Moeller, "Was wurde in der Friihzeit der Reformation in den deutschen Stadten
gepredigt?" Archive for Reformation History 75 (1984): 176-93, specifically 185. For a
challenge to Moeller's article, see Susan Karant-Nunn, "What Was Preached in German
Cities in the Early Years of the Reformation? Wildwuchs Versus Lutheran Unity," in The
Process of Change in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honor of Miriam Usher Chrisman, ed.
Phillip N. Bebb and Sherrin Marshall (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1988), 81-96.

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Germany like a passing shower of rain that would not return wh

once had been.27
This missionary awareness shaped much of Reformation theology,
giving it a more christocentric focus than one might expect for a
culture already Christianized. According to the reformers, late medi-
eval piety smacked of paganism and idolatry not just because supersti-
tion and magic were present, but because the church had failed to
uphold Christ as the exclusive object of veneration. Rerooting Chris-
tianity, therefore, required the recovery of the teaching and work of
Jesus, which was often abbreviated in phrases like "preaching the
gospel" or "justification by faith." For Luther and his followers,
"justification by faith alone" was biblical code language for "salvation
for the sake of Christ alone." Zwingli's definition of the gospel was
that "sins are remitted in the name of Christ, and no heart," he said,
"ever received tidings more glad."28 For Calvin, Scripture teaches that
"Christ, through whom we return into favor with God, has been set
before us as an example, whose pattern we ought to express in our
life."29 Reformers certainly differed on how it was best done, but they
were united, even most of the radicals, in the conviction that piety had
to be refocused on Jesus as the way of salvation.
Like most theses, this argument for re-Christianization as the agenda
of the Reformation is not completely original. It began to form as I
realized how frequently Luther used the word Christian and repeat-
edly called upon his readers and hearers to act in a specifically
Christian way. On the one hand, what else should one expect from a
Christian reformer? But, on the other, why would a reformer harp on
the need to act like a true Christian if that reformer already lived in a
Christian culture, which he generally endorsed? Indeed, Luther did
not accept his context as authentically Christian with only minor
deformities; otherwise he would not allude to baptized people as
pagan or exclaim in 1521 that there was more idolatry in the world
than ever before.30 Instead, as the portrayal of reformers in the vine-
yard indicates, once the evangelical movement was underway, he and
other reformers set out to overhaul the Christian piety of their time.
This realization was abetted by the work of the French historian Jean

27. Moeller, "Was wurde ... gepredigt?" 184. Luther's observation was made in his 1524
plea for Christian schools addressed to the city councils of Germany, in LW 40:55; cf. WA
28. Commentary on True and False Religion, 119; cf. ZW 3:691.33-35.
29. Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.6.3, ed. John T. McNeill and trans. Ford Lewis Battles
vols., Library of Christian Classics 20-21 (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1977), 20:686; cf. OS
30. Luther expresses this fear in the context of criticizing people who approached Mary for
help as if she were divine; The Magnificat, in LW 21:323-24; cf. WA 7:570.5-7.

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Delumeau, whose book on the Catholic reformation as a pr

Christianization was published in 1971.31 For Delumeau, the
Reformation attempted to bring, for the first time, genuine Ch
to rural France. What the rural missionaries found, accord
Delumeau, was that "the intellectual and psychological clima
people was characterized by a profound unfamiliarity with t
of Christianity, and by a persistent pagan mentality with
sional vestiges of pre-Christian ceremonial."32 Catholic miss
therefore, relied on better-trained clergy, who no longer i
closely with the populace, to teach it orthodox Christianity for
In 1971 Delumeau had also included the Protestant Reformation in
his thesis: "the two Reformations, Luther's and Rome's, were two
processes, which apparently competed but which in fact converged, by
which the masses were christianized and religion spiritualized."33
Delumeau did not develop his thesis for the Protestant Reformation
and his picture of the Middle Ages has been criticized as much to
negative because it contrasts popular religion unfairly with a literat
and enlightened Christianity presumably preferred by Delumeau.34
My argument does not in fact depend on the accuracy of Delumeau'
portrayal of late medieval religion or, for that matter, on the parallel
that he sees between the Protestant and Catholic reformations. Protes-
tant reformers were not bringing orthodox Christianity into areas
where it had scarcely existed before. Instead, they were treating the
towns and the countryside, which were surely Christian by the stan-
dard of Van Engen, as if they were scarcely better than pagan. They
were not Christianizing but re-Christianizing the culture, not planting
the faith for the first time but rerooting it. Still, Delumeau's notion of
the Reformation as Christianization is useful for redirecting attention
away from an exclusively theological or social conception of its agenda.
For historians the critical question is not whether reformers correctly
evaluated late medieval religion as bordering on paganism or full of
idolatry, but why in the early sixteenth century they rendered this
collective judgment in such a way that it set the agenda for a new
movement that in fact reshaped the structure and devotion of Euro-

31. Jean Delumeau, Le Catholicisme entre Luther et Voltaire (Paris: Presses Universitaires de
France, 1971); Eng. trans.: Catholicism between Luther and Voltaire (London: Burns and
Oates, 1977); 6th French ed.: Jean Delumeau and Monique Cottret, Le Catholicisme entre
Luther et Voltaire (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1996).
32. Delumeau, Catholicism between Luther and Voltaire, 176.
33. Delumeau, Catholicism between Luther and Voltaire, 161.
34. See, for example, the critical appraisals by Michel Despland in Religious Studies Review 9
(1983): 24-33, and by John Bossy in the introduction to Catholicism between Luther and
Voltaire, xiii-xviii.

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pean Christianity.35 The answer to this question lies in the context

reform that was created by biblical humanism. This movemen
which almost all of the early reformers were indebted, elevated
Bible and the writings of the church fathers to a standard ag
which the humanists unfavorably compared not only scholastic the
ogy but also the practice of clerical and lay piety in their day. Era
of Rotterdam's program of reform, based on the recovery of ancie
texts and on the accessibility of the New Testament to all who w
be Christians, was supported by all those who sought to "Christ
the Christians."36 Contrasted with those early standards, the preva
ing devotion looked sub-Christian to the preachers and teachers
became reformers, and they set out to infuse their culture w
deeper and more authentic Christian piety.


Given all the disagreements that emerged among Protestants as well

as the disputes that continued between Protestants and Catholics, is it
possible to speak meaningfully of one Reformation with a common
agenda? I believe one can do this if the agenda-rerooting the faith in
Europe-is seen as the common goal of the Reformation and the
disagreements are understood to be different conceptions of how this
rerooting could best be accomplished. Protestants and Catholics agreed
that the abuses of medieval piety should be abolished, but they
disagreed, as did Protestants among themselves, about the extent of
that abolition. In order to make this argument, however, some issues
and traditional ideas about the Reformation have to be reformulated.
First, Martin Luther's own vision of reform has to be reconceived as
the creation of a more Christian society. The tendency to identify
Luther's reform as secular can be traced to a misunderstanding of his
model of two kingdoms. Because Luther affirmed a divinely autho-
rized temporal kingdom alongside the spiritual kingdom of Christ,
some interpreters have argued that Luther replaced an intensely
religious piety with a more secular piety in which people concentrated
on their daily life and worldly occupations. Luther did indeed want to
replace a misguided religious piety with a new way of being Christian,
but that did not mean that the new piety was less religious or more
worldly. Luther never says that Christians belong to the world to the

35. This question is also suggested by Despland, review of Delumeau, 30.

36. Erasmus, Paraclesis ad lectorem pium, in Erasmus von Rotterdam, Ausgewihlte Schriften,
ed. Werner Welzig, vol. 3 (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1967), 18-36;
Leif Grane, Martinus Noster: Luther in The German Reform Movement, 1518-1521 (Mainz:
Verlag Philipp von Zaber, 1994), 35.

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same degree that they belong to the spiritual kingdom.37 Inste

says that true Christians, who strive to live by the Sermon o
Mount, belong to the spiritual kingdom without having to with
from the world.38 Believers should consider their daily life and ca
holy in God's eyes, and they should exercise that calling in Chr
faith and in love directed toward others.
In his treatise on Christian freedom, Luther sketches the portrait of
these believers alongside a resounding lament over the demise of
Christian faith and life in late medieval Europe. That lament is set
against the "glory of the Christian life," which Luther wants to recover
for his culture: "Who then can comprehend the riches and glory of the
Christian life? It can do all things and has all things and lacks nothing.
It is lord over sin, death, and hell, and yet at the same time it serves,
ministers to, and benefits everyone. But alas in our day this life is
unknown throughout the world; it is neither preached about nor
sought after; we are altogether ignorant of our own name and do not
know why we are Christian or bear the name of Christians. Surely we
are named after Christ, not because he is absent from us, but because
we believe in him and are Christs one to another and do to our
neighbors as Christ does to us."39 At the heart of Luther's vision
recovery of a religion that will mark his society with a vigo
christocentric piety.
Second, this vision is fundamentally the same as that held by th
well-known architects of the Christian city, Ulrich Zwingli (Z
Martin Bucer (Strasbourg), and John Calvin (Geneva). The issue
divided them from Luther have to be understood as differences in
strategy and not as competing interpretations of Christianity. Between
Zwingli and Luther, the most critical difference concerned the theory
of how Christ was present in the Lord's Supper. Most interpretation
make this difference between the two reformers a theological one and
base it either on their prior education or on their Christologies
Theological differences were certainly elaborated, but the basic motiva-
tion underlying these differences was a common one: having rejecte
the sacrifice of the mass as idolatrous, both reformers were trying to
position Christ, in a nonidolatrous way, at the center of eucharisti
piety. Zwingli refused to accept a bodily presence of Christ in th
elements because he was afraid that it supported the traditional fals

37. Even the best recent treatment of Luther's theology argues in the traditional vein that fo
Luther Christians are citizens of both kingdoms and subjects of two masters; see
Bernhard Lohse, Luthers Theologie in ihrer historischen Entwicklung und in ihrem systemat
ischen Zusammenhang (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1995), 340-42.
38. Luther, Temporal Authority (1523), in LW 45:87-93; cf. WA 11:248.32-253.16.
39. LW 31:368; cf. WA 7:66.29-36.

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piety which led people to venerate material objects: "We worship wi

embraces and kisses wood, stones, earth, dust, shoes, vestments, rin
hats, swords, belts .. ."40 Instead, Zwingli wanted to focus the gaze
the eucharistic community on the cross as the genuine source
redemption and as the object of remembrance and thanksgiving
Luther fiercely defended a bodily presence in the Supper, not becau
he was more medieval than Zwingli or a strictly literal interpreter
Scripture, but because he believed that the sacrament mediated forg
ness most concretely by bringing the believer into direct contact w
both natures of Christ. Both reformers wanted to avoid idolatry; th
disagreed on which theology and practice of the Lord's Supper pl
Christ most effectively at the center of the meal.
Heiko Oberman has argued that Calvin's agenda for the Reform
tion was different from that of city reformers like Zwingli and Bu
but it was more a difference of scope than of substance. According
Oberman,42 Calvin's target was the reform of Europe and not ju
Geneva, and his reformation is best described as a reformation o
refugees, namely, of Protestants from France and other countries w
found refuge in Geneva but whose mission was to return true Ch
tianity to France and to the rest of Europe. It is difficult to fin
substantial difference between this program and the agendas of Zw
and Bucer, or, for that matter, of Luther. Calvin's targeted area
larger-he wanted to convert large Catholic areas like France, and
followers wanted to improve the Lutheran reformation in some plac
that had already become Protestant. One should recall, however,
Bucer's vision of the limits of the kingdom of Christ expan
considerably when he moved from Strasbourg to England,43 a
Luther's own reformation horizon extended well beyond Germa

40. Commentary on True and False Religion, 199; cf. ZW 3:774.32-775.1.

41. On the Lord's Supper (1526), in Zwingli and Bullinger, trans. and ed. G. W. Bromiley, Li
of Christian Classics 24 (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1953), 234: " [Christ] himself in
tuted a remembrance of that deliverance by which he redeemed the whole world,
we might never forget that for our sakes he exposed his body to the ignominy of dea
and not merely that we might not forget it in our hearts, but that we might publicly a
it with praise and thanksgiving, joining together for the greater magnifying
proclaiming of the matter in the eating and drinking of the sacrament of his sac
passion, which is a representation of Christ's giving of his body and shedding of
blood for our sakes." Cf. ZW 4:857.17-858.1.
42. Oberman, "Europa afflicta: The Reformation of the Refugees," Archive for Reformatio
History 83 (1992): 91-111. Calvin's lectures on particular prophetic books between 1557
and 1564, which were heard by a number of future preachers in France, express fully his
theology of mission and of the kingdom of Christ. See Peter Wilcox, "The Lectures of
John Calvin and the Nature of his Audience, 1555-1564," Archivefor Reformation History
87 (1996): 136-48.
43. Martin Bucer, De Regno Christi (1550), preface to book 1 in Melanchthon and Bucer, ed
Wilhelm Pauck, Library of Christian Classics 19 (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1969),

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Calvin began his work later in the process of re-Christianization. H

mentality remained a missionary one-to make Geneva, France, an
the rest of Europe more Christian than they had been.
Third, the line between the magisterial and the radical reformation
has to be drawn less boldly. The vision of a renewed Christian culture
also inspired the radical reformation. The radicals have so often bee
cast in the role of separatists and spiritualists that a common vision is
hard to discern.44 The following words of Menno Simons, however
could be taken straight from the works of Martin Luther: "Not all are
Christians of whom it is boasted. But those who have the Spirit o
Christ are true Christians, though I do not know where one might fin
very many."45 There were differences, to be sure, not the least of whic
was the rejection of infant baptism. Even that rejection was mad
necessary, in radical eyes, because the agenda of rerooting genuin
Christianity, which they shared with mainline reformers, was impos-
sible to accomplish so long as infants, without explicit biblical warrant
were being routinely baptized.
The best common denominator of all radicals was their claim to
produce a Christianity superior to that of both Catholics and Protes-
tants. The radical element in these movements was not simply their
refusal to obey civil authority or their rebellion against it, but their
determination to infuse their communities with a more authentic
Christianity than most civil and religious authorities could tolerate.
Whether bringing in this superior Christianity by force or waiting for it
patiently in covert conventicles, the radicals thought they were reroot-
ing it even if the growing season was short. Hans Hut, one of those
who expected only a few to be saved, said that faith had to precede
baptism because "this order must be maintained if a true Christendom
is to be established, even if the whole world is destroyed because of

175-76; cf. Martini Buceri opera latina, vol. 15.1-2, ed. Francois Wendel (Paris: Presses
Universitaires de France, 1955), 15.1:2-3.
44. Hans-Jurgen Goertz has argued that the number of so-called radical reformers, like the
Hutterites, who attempted to implant their movements with the help of civil authorities,
belies the meaning of radical as separatist; Religiose Bewegungen in der friihen Neuzeit
(Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 1993), 62-63.
45. "Foundation of Christian Doctrine," in The Complete Writings of Menno Simons c. 1496-
1561, ed. J. C. Wenger and trans. Leonard Verduin (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald, 1956), 121.
Other reformers would also have agreed with Menno's indictment of medieval piety as
"consisting only in an outward appearance and human righteousness, such as hypocriti-
cal fastings, pilgrimages, praying and reading lots of Pater Nosters and Ave Marias,
hearing frequent masses, going to confessionals and like hypocrisies" (Complete Writings,
46. Hans Hut, "On the Mystery of Baptism" (1527), in The Radical Reformation, ed. Michael G.
Baylor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 156. See Gottfried Seebass, "Das

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Fourth, the Catholic reformation also participated in this gene

Reformation program of trying to re-Christianize Europe. The aim o
deepening the faith was at work not only in rural France but als
those efforts that have been regarded as primarily defensive. T
Society of Jesus offers a good example. John O'Malley has propo
two terms to capture the essence of their mission: reformatio
christianitas. The first term describes the process of conversion
change of heart that the Jesuits regarded as the object of their teach
The second term (christianitas) describes the goal of that convers
the making of a Christian, which consisted of "introducing the i
vidual to the essential and traditional practices of the Christian r
gion and to the social responsibilities and opportunities of the believ
especially through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy."47
linkage of reformatio and christianitas informed Jesuit ministry at h
as well as abroad.48 Consequently, their ministry at home was
intensive form of missionary work in which the Society of Je
attempted to plant a deeper Christianity in Europe. If O'Malley
right, the agenda of the Jesuits was quite similar to that of Protest
and radical movements-to make their culture more Christian.
Still, one important difference should be noted: instead of abolishing
the traditional piety, the Catholic reformation left much more of it
intact than Protestants and radicals did. The Spiritual Exercises contain
a forceful reassertion of late medieval piety; among other things, they
uphold prayer to the saints and the veneration of their relics, pilgrim-
ages, indulgences for jubilees and crusades, and precepts of fasting
and abstinence.49 Teaching Christianity was obviously not held to be
incompatible with this traditional piety.50 Catholic reformers did not,
however, consider the practice of traditional piety business as usual
but tried to focus it on the essence of Christianity. The Council of Trent
vigorously denied that veneration of the saints amounted to idolatry

Zeichen der Erwahlten: Zum Verstandnis der Taufe bei Hans Hut," in Irene Dingel, ed.,
Die Reformation und die Aussenseiter: Gesammelte Aufsatze und Vortrdge (Gottingen: Vanden-
hoeck & Ruprecht, 1997), 203-26.
47. John W. O'Malley, "Was Ignatius Loyola A Church Reformer? How To Look at Early
Modem Catholicism," in Religious Culture in the Sixteenth Century: Preaching, Rhetoric,
Spirituality, and Reform (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 1993), 182.
48. O'Malley, "Was Ignatius Loyola A Church Reformer?" 185-89; cf. O'Malley, The First
Jesuits (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993), 84-90, 115-127.
49. Ignatius of Loyola: The Spiritual Exercises and Selected Works, ed. George E. Ganss, SJ (New
York: Paulist, 1991), 211-12; O'Malley, The First Jesuits, 49-50, 264-72.
50. Plantings of the cross, which became popular in the seventeenth century, raised Christ to
the center of devotion, but they could also become objects of veneration and superstition;
Louis Chatellier, The Religion of the Poor: Rural Missions in Europe and the Formation of
Modern Catholicism, c.1500-c.1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997),

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or that it was inconsistent with the honor of Christ as sole mediator

Nevertheless, the retention of traditional piety by the Roman Chur
clearly separated Catholic from Protestant reform and demonst
how differently the Reformation agenda could be implemente
reformers who shared similar hopes for a deeper Christianizatio
their culture.
Fifth, what about the lasting structural differences that did eme
among Christian groups? Intended or not, new forms of Christi
did come into being as a result of the Reformation; in recent years t
have been studied more intensively than ever under the rubri
confessionalization.52 Surely this diverse confessional outcome
lenges the position that the Reformation was a coherent sixtee
century movement to rechristianize Europe.53 The rise of diff
confessions, however, does not have to be construed as a decline fro
the original vision of the Reformation as if that vision projec
unified ecclesiastical or cultural embodiment of the early evang
movement. Instead, the rise of confessions can be seen as the struc
outcome of the Reformation agenda, which anchored new way
being Christian in the culture. The faith could only be rerooted
turned out, in diverse patterns of theology and piety and in differ
sociopolitical contexts, which we call the confessional groupin
early modem Europe. They become the forms in which that reroot
of the faith was preserved for generations and even centuries to co
Sixth, a two-edged challenge is suggested by the proposition
the Reformation failed. Even if the Reformation had a common ag
of rerooting the faith, it failed, either because a process of secular
tion set in,54 or because magic and superstition continued
widespread in post-Reformation Europe. The argument for secul

51. Session 25, "On the Invocation, Veneration, and Relics of Saints, and on Sacred Im
in Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, ed. H. J. Schroeder (St. Louis: Herder, 1
52. Heinz Schilling, "Confessional Europe," in Brady, Handbook, 2:641-681; cf. Schillin
Konfessionalisierung von Kirche, Staat und Gesellschaft-Profil, Leistung, Defizit
Perspektiven eines geschichtswissenschaftlichen Paradigmas," in Die katholische Ko
sionalisierung, ed. Wolfgang Reinhard and Heinz Schilling (Gutersloh: Giiters
Verlagshaus, 1995), 1-49.
53. The bibliography of confessionalization in Germany now includes separate volum
each of the major groups: Heinz Schilling, ed., Die reformierte Konfessionalisieru
Deutschland-Das Problem der "Zweiten Reformation"; Hans-Christoph Rublack, Die lu
ische Konfessionalisierung in Deutschland; Wolfgang Reinhard and Heinz Schillin
katholische Konfessionalisierung. All three volumes originated in symposia and app
in the series Schriften des Vereins fur Reformationsgeschichte (195, 197-198) pub
by Giitersloher Verlagshaus in Gutersloh, 1986, 1992, and 1995.
54. A mild version of this view was offered by James Hastings Nichols, History of Christ
1650-1950: Secularization of the West (New York: Ronald, 1956), 460: "The mo
Christian churches inherited the great new enterprise of medieval and Reform

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tion goes something like this: the Reformation showered Europe

a new kind of Christianity, namely Protestantism, which spiritu
religion and made it congruous with secular forces like the
capitalism and the autonomy of the territorial state. The argume
the persistence of magic and superstition challenges the clai
secularization, but it implies that the campaign to reroot a
authentic Christian faith was also a failure. Bob Scribner argu
the Protestant Reformation by no means led to a "disenchantmen
the world," as Max Weber claimed, but shared with Catholics a sa
view of the universe.55 If this sacred view and the supersti
supported were included in a fuller portrayal of Protestantism
the Reformation, he argued, would look much less like the begin
of the modern world. In the opinion of other historians like
Strauss,56 superstitious Protestants also looked a lot less lik
devoutly orthodox Christians envisioned by the reformers.
Since the goal of the Reformation was not a more secular cu
however, it can hardly be judged a failure on the grounds that a
view of the universe persisted and prevented a more rational
from emerging. Nor should it be judged a failure because superst
persisted and prevented a perfectly orthodox and devout Ch
society from coming into being. A more devout society was the g
reformers, however, and by that criterion the Reformation can
be deemed a complete success either.
A realistic assessment of the Reformation lies somewhere in the
middle. In its confessionalized outcome, the Reformation put in plac
forms of Christianity that replanted historically orthodox teaching,
worship, and piety in regional subcultures of Europe. By restoring and
enforcing these ancient norms of Christian faith and practice, the
Reformation confessions resisted the influence of superstition and the
progress of secularizing forces.57 During and after the Reformation
European society was still Christendom, a civil society that publicly
privileged Christianity as the true faith. That did not change until the

Christianity, the endeavor to penetrate and 'Christianize' civilization. For three hundred
years they continued this attempt, yet, on the whole, with ever less success."
55. Robert W. Scribner, "The Reformation, Popular Magic, and the 'Disenchantment of the
World,'" Journal of Interdisciplinary History 23 (1993): 475-94. Cf. Max Weber, The
Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (1930; reprint, Los
Angeles: Roxbury, 1996), 105.
56. Gerald Strauss, Luther's House of Learning: Indoctrination of the Young in the German
Reformation (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 307.
57. According to Patrick Collinson, one can also imagine the Reformation to be an "episode
of re-Christianization or even primary Christianization," which decelerated or arrested
"a process of secularization with much deeper roots"; The Religion of Protestants: The
Church in English Society, 1559-1625 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1982), 199.

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eighteenth century when explicit Christian content began to

public stature and to be privatized.58 Confessional Christianity pla
by the Reformation, however, survived both the demise of Chr
dom and the tenacity of superstition.


Emphasizing a common agenda of re-Christianization has impor-

tant implications for the place of the Reformation in historical study. In
the first place, it clarifies the role of the Reformation in the history of
Christianity and in European history in general. The Reformation was
the widespread sixteenth-century attempt to reroot Christian faith in
European culture so that it would thrive in continuity with its earliest
standards. In the story of Christianity, therefore, the Reformation was
not only the restructuring of the Western church that gave rise to
modern confessions and denominations. It was also the continuation
of the medieval effort to plant the faith more authentically and firmly
in one place-Europe. For church historians, the Reformation is a
potent reminder that Christianity is a historical religion not wedded to
any particular culture, and that consequently no Christendom will last
forever. Instead, Christianity has to be rooted and rerooted in every
society it enters.
For European history in general, the Reformation was both late
medieval and early modern, a genuine and crucial transitional period.
It was late medieval because it was the last stage of European Christen-
dom, trying to complete the medieval project of Christianizing Euro-
pean culture. But it was also early modern because it introduced,
unintentionally, the regional and confessional subcultures that antici-
pated the diverging and absolutizing tendencies of modern Europe. To
be sure, the Reformation left a significant imprint on European culture.
Christian belief and practice, in historically based orthodox forms,
persisted and even flourished in the confessional cultures that domi-
nated early modem Europe. At the same time, Christendom did
gradually erode. But the more Christendom eroded, the more relevant
the agenda of the Reformation became, as one sees in the renewal
movements-pietism, Methodist reform, and evangelicalism-that suc-
ceeded it.
Second, the Reformation agenda of re-Christianization implies that
the social impact of the Reformation should be judged with nuance.
The Reformation certainly had social consequences both for the
churches and for their cultural contexts. It was a public and political

58. Rublack, "Reformation und Modeme," 32-33.

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attempt to apply Christianity more effectively to social instit

Consider, for example, the institution of marriage. Protestant re
ers advocated important changes that are still under discussio
necessity of public consent and ceremony, the rejection of comp
clerical celibacy, the allowance of divorce under certain cond
Because they desacramentalized marriage, however, it would
mistake to argue that Protestants wanted to secularize it. Even Lu
who called marriage "an outward, bodily thing," devoted most
treatise on married life to a discussion of how a Christian should live
in marriage, especially in a time when, in his words, "many pagan
books ... treat of nothing but the depravity of womankind and the
unhappiness of marriage."59 In this case, the primary impact of the
Reformation should not be sought in the degree of long-range secular-
ization that it may have brought to marriage but in how well the public
reforms of marriage assisted believers, as the reformers intended, in
applying their faith to the married estate.
Third, a common Reformation agenda of re-Christianization helps
to explain more clearly the patterns of intolerance in sixteenth-century
Europe. More than reform of the church was at stake; the survival of
genuine Christianity itself was in question. Differences among main-
line reformers about how best to reroot Christianity in the culture were
therefore seen as more than alternate policies subject to friendly
debate. Instead, they were evaluated in light of their potential to save
Christianity or to hasten its demise. Proposals for rerooting the faith
that threatened the existence of Christendom itself, such as the separat-
ist and communal initiatives of the Anabaptists, were quick to be
judged as not only seditious but also blasphemous and, therefore, as
unchristian.60 The judgment on non-Christians was even harsher. The
Reformation arose in a culture that was already restricting and expel-
ling Jews, and both Catholic and Protestant reformers-Martin Luther
is a notorious example but not the only one-eventually assumed a
hostile stance toward contemporary Judaism. This hostility was exac-
erbated by the Reformation campaign to make Europe more Christian

59. Luther, The Estate of Marriage (1522), in LW 45:25 and 36; cf. WA 10,2:283.8-9; 10,2:
60. The resistance of many radicals to the re-Christianization of the entire society helps
explain further, as Hans Hillerbrand argues, why mainline theologians were vitall
involved in the suppression of Anabaptists. Even though they wanted to deep
Christianity in their own way, Anabaptists refused to endorse the primary religiou
agenda of the early reformers. See Hans J. Hillerbrand, "The 'Other' in the Age of th
Reformation: Reflections on Social Control and Deviance in the Sixteenth Century,"
Infinite Boundaries: Order, Disorder, and Reorder in Early Modern German Culture, ed. M
Reinhart, Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies 40 (Kirksville, Mo.: SCJ Publisher
1998), 245-69, here 256-57.

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and by the disappointment of evangelical hopes that Jews wo

convert in large numbers to the faith. The Reformation not only
common vision but also added to the common burden of its medieval
Finally, as a crucial chapter in the Christianization of Europe the
Reformation was embedded in the spread of Christianity around the
world. Reservations that historians have about the impact of the
Reformation often betray a Eurocentric or a Western narrowness. In
fact, the Reformation has an extra-European history; it went around
the world with European culture as its host. Where the latter was
planted, Christianity in one or more of its Reformation forms was
often planted as well, and, in hindsight, that transplantation was not
always benign. Some of those forms, connected to colonial hegemony,
have withered; others survived their colonial hosts and thrived in new
environments. The writing of church history in a global context more
often than not includes analyzing the relationship between a European
Christian legacy that can be traced to the sixteenth century and local or
indigenous Christianity, which is more recent. It is easy for historians
to forget that the Reformation itself was a process of indigenization: a
deeper rooting of the faith in the vernacular and local cultures of
sixteenth-century Europe. Viewing the Reformation agenda in this
way, however, will make the Reformation seem less foreign to the
globalization of Christianity and early modern Europe a richer source
for the study of global cultures.

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