Reformation and Religious Wars: A Reflection Essay Sample on Church Freedom

Published: 2022-03-03
Reformation and Religious Wars: A Reflection Essay Sample on Church Freedom
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  War Church
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1199 words
10 min read

Different times of the church come along with diverse conditions for its followers due to strictness and permissiveness that characterize various times. From the times of Martin Luther and John Calvin up to date, freedom of the church has been a divisive concept due to the numerous interpretations and understanding that people have towards the issue. Apparently, it is a case of conforming to the needs of varied times while trying to integrate the essential role of the law and appropriate doctrines in a way to empower religion and give it a meaning. However, as Martin Luther affirms, the purpose of leadership in the church is critical and must exercise its duty with care to limit freedoms which can be harmful. On the other hand, John Calvin expounds on the issue of politics in the church such that even if the church has a two-fold government, both spiritual and civil aspects are still under God's providential rule.

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As Martin Luther illustrates in his letter to Pope Leo X, any activity that abuses the religious value of the church needs an immediate indulgence. Precisely, the need for reforms starts when there is a deviation from the natural religious prescriptions or when the leaders and congregation grossly fail in their mandate. Martin Luther is of the opinion that it is essential to protest sharply against "impious doctrines," and showcases this crucial call by censuring his adversaries due to their "impiety."

In the same way, John Calvin concurs with Martin Luther on the importance of reformation mainly when the prevailing condition of the religion is openly against the expectations. For instance, Calvin identifies the case of Rome overstepping its boundaries by allowing too much politics in the church. In a way to promote the purity and corrective aspects of religion, Calvin observes the need not to mix the spiritual and civil kingdoms since the spiritual part requires a conscience that is "free from any human constraints."

The Role of leadership in Church Freedom

As an essential tool in influencing the freedom of the church, the role of religious leaders comes in a very descriptive way in Martin Luther and John Calvin's accounts. Both note that despite the church's critical objective to observe morals and promoting dignity, the leaders' various responsibilities and commitment dictate to a significant extent the shape of the religious community. Regarding that, the way the church will conduct itself, the evils that will get a chance into it, and the values that it will promote depend on the type of leaders. Therefore, everything that happens or fails to take place depends on the rules in place and how the ones at the core observe them.

In his case, Martin Luther addresses Pope Leo X with a lot of concern since he believes that all the iniquities and observed deviation from the expected conduct depend on the way the leaders exercise their role. This way, in as much they have significant responsibilities such as spreading the word and promoting dignity, they should never overlook their function as administrators. In this respect, the promotion or success of both religious and evil elements in religion relies on how the leaders exercise their power. Thus, if they are vigilant in their duty, the aspects that Martin describes as "church failure" cannot get their way into ruining the significance of the church or damaging the reputation of those at the helm.

On the other hand, John Calvin perceives the role of the church in a somewhat different angle in that the practices that are dominant in religion depend on the law and structures in place irrespective of their nature. In particular, he notes about the function of magistrates in Rome and the position they stand as far as protection of truth and promotion of dignity and right values is concerned. In particular, Calvin observes that the magistrates have almost the same power as God due to the earthly titles and control that they assume.

Of critical value is the power conferred upon the religious leaders as advocates who need to define the principles that the church should uphold at all times. In this way, it is the roles of the leaders to approve what the priestly needs to revere, promote, and protect irrespective of time and circumstances. For instance, considering that those who bear the office of the magistrate in Rome would even assume the title "god," it is no doubt that their position wasn't just ordinary and no one should believe that such appellation had little weight. Thus, it was of high significance hence the need of the leaders to remain firm, focused, and committed to ensuring that it is only the values and morals that the religious world upheld stood a chance to feature in the church.

As an essential note, John Calvin observes that church leaders are under a commission from God. In this respect, God has invested them with divine authority; thus, they represent God. As a result, "they substitute him in the manner that they act." From this important observation, the leaders have to define how to set the boundary as they interact with the congregation which Calvin typifies as "rude people." Therefore, while admitting that the church features both spiritual and civil governments, a two-fold government must be vigilant of the conduct of both aspects to prevent the unruly (political) one from taking over the divine that should be dominant at all times.

Martin Luther on the Court of Rome

Apparently, Martin Luther's letter is a critique of the conduct at the Court of Rome which was supposed to be a behavior modeling unit. Indeed, he is concerned that there is nothing under the heavens that is "more hateful" than this court. As such, instead of acting as a gate to heaven, the place has abandoned its former duty to assume as a "mouth of hell." In response, such damage and deviation from the usual mandate pave the way to misconduct in the church hence attracting the wrath of God.

From this concern, Martin has no other obligation apart from addressing Pope Leo since he is the one to define the purpose and on what principle the church should establish and maintain its current position. In fact, he describes anything that is contrary at Court of Rome as Pope's enemy since it contradicts with the precepts of the true religion that the divine ones should promote at all times. Importantly, everyone harming the court was disrespecting the Pope. Regarding that, everything depended on his position as a representative of the deity.

In summation, different times in history may translate a particular concept in diverse ways due to a change in time, values, understanding, and social factors among other elements. As John Calvin and Martin Luther illustrate, freedom of the church is an important element that takes numerous shapes with time variations. However, its position depends on the values that religious leaders revere and allow to get their way into religion.


Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion, Trans. Henry Beveridge, 1536.Dulles, Avery, and Geoffrey Wainwright. "A Church to Believe in: Discipleship and the Dynamics of Freedom." (1983): 200-204.

Luther, Martin. Concerning Christian Liberty. Trans. R.S. Grignon, 1520.

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