The Radical Reformation

Wladyslaw Roczniak

in Renaissance and Reformation

ISBN: 9780195399301
Published online July 2011 | | DOI:
The Radical Reformation

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)
  • Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy



The reformation of the 16th century challenged the core of traditional Christian theological concepts. Within the myriad small and large changes, one alteration soon came to symbolize and define the newness of the moment: the insistence on the Bible’s availability to and approachability by the individual reader. Since one of the major unintended consequences of such an allowance saw the turning of individual reading into individual interpretation, the Reformation soon splintered into a plethora of competing ideologies, doctrines, and beliefs. Behind the “mainstream” Lutherans, Calvinists, and Zwinglians stood a legion of more radical prophets whose often millenarian, sometime violent, sometime irenic stands propelled their adherents to action and placed them in the crosshairs of both Catholic and Protestant reaction. Popular dissatisfaction with the affairs of the Roman Catholic Church and with the progress and aims of the magisterial-driven Reformations of mainstream Protestant denominations gave voice to these emerging theological strands whose interpretations of the Bible differed quite markedly from standard and accepted models and offered new, often socially revolutionary conclusions. These voices eventually included such disparate groups as the Anabaptists, Mennonites, Hutterites, Spirituals in general, and the Müntzerites, among others, in Continental Europe, and Puritans, Quakers, and Dissenters in England (the English Dissenter groups are collectively dealt with in the separate bibliography “English Reformation”). Called collectively “The Radical Reformation,” after a term coined by George Huntston Williams, these sects displayed a marked variety of religious and social approaches and altered the religious history of Europe and the rest of the world.

Article.  11248 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy

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