Pourquoi y a-t-il eu la Réforme ? Observations d’un historien

The question of why the Reformation took place is discussed by comparing the Empire of Charles V and the emerging states with their national churches. In this context, the characteristical Christian notion of decision received a new meaning during the Reformation – a decision that, notably in the case of Luther and in accordance with the gospels, could be directed against one’s own family and the generative transmission of faith. The Reformation era created an exceptional situation for Christianity, in which the communal Reformation – with its controversial religious dialogues – allowed laypeople to examine the Lutheran and Roman alternatives, which were quickly presented in a dichotomous way, and to choose what they felt was the most persuasive message of salvation, along with the associated personnel. In making this decision, the church authorities were displaced by the inner authority of the individual conscience. In the external world they were replaced by the temporal authorities, while the religious dialogue, which was based on the principle of sola scriptura for Roman Catholics as well, was supposed to show the way to salvation. Those who successfully asserted their status as ruler, council, knighthood or community in these dialogues were predestined to see the legitimacy of their temporal rule as protector of the church and thus their role as sovereign within the international sphere confirmed.