Andrew Bradstock

Reflection on the period we call the Reformation must lead one to doubt whether it is meaningful to categorize ideas as purely "religious" or "political," or to attempt to study them in isolation from one another. Luther's rediscovery of the doctrine of justification through faith may well be understood as a "spiritual experience," yet any appreciation of its impact will be at best partial if it takes no account of its political and ecclesiological repercussions. While preaching salvation as a consequence of God's grace (rather than a financial transaction with the church) may offer spiritual comfort to the individual, it has also enormous implications for the power and stability of the church, and for the status quo of which the church is a part. Little wonder, then, that a recent commentator can claim that Luther "contributed to the dismantling of the edifice of medieval Christendom with a more sweeping stroke than any of his reforming predecessors, Wyclif and Marsilius included" (O'Donovan and O'Donovan 1999: 581).

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