The English reformist John Wycliffe (c. 1320-1384) was an important precursor to the Reformation movement, headed by Martin Luther (c. 1483-1546). Wycliffe attempted to rid England of many of the same problems in the Roman Catholic Church that Luther would target in Germany over a century later. However, due to a few key differences in motivation, theology, dissemination of ideas and external factors, Wycliffe's movement did not significantly alter the way religion was practiced in Europe. The purpose of this essay is to examine the similarities and differences between Wycliffe's late 14th century movement and Luther's early 16th century movement and their respective impacts on the Roman Catholic Church in Britain and Germany. Luther and Wycliffe had similar upbringings. Luther, the son of a miner, was taught early the dignity and godliness of a life of poverty and hard work. Wycliffe also came from meager beginnings. Both received university educations and afterward they became harsh critics of the scholastic methods they were taught.
[...] Wycliffe was absentee and a negligent pluralist [warning] us to expect a certain amount of inconsistency between profession and practice throughout his life.” These differences in Wycliffe's and Luther's faith and religious practice would have a large impact on their motivations for reforming the Church. Luther began formulating his theology long before he began to actively seek to reform the Church. His theology came from an internal crisis of what he as a Christian needed to do in order to reach salvation. [...]
[...] Both preached and taught their beliefs to all who would listen, even giving sermons on the streets. Luther made it a policy to accept all challengers to his ideas, as seen in a letter accompanying his Ninety-five Theses: “Therefore I published a set of theses, inviting only the more learned to dispute with me if they wished; as should be evident, even to my adversaries.” He attended many public events to defend his ideology, such as the Heidelberg Disputations (1518), the Trial at Augsburg (1518), the Leipzig Disputations (1519) and the Diet of Worms (1521). Luther also wrote accounts of these debates in German and distributed them so laymen could be informed of the issues. By using these public venues, Luther spread his beliefs far faster than Wycliffe had. [...]
[...] McFarlane., p Ibid., p Lohse, pp. 9-15. Atkinson, p Hall, Louis. The Perilous Vision of John Wyclif. (Chicago: Nelson- Hall, 1983), p Lohse, p Atkinson, pp. 143-5. Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et Al. Works of Martin Luther. (Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915), Vol.1, pp. 29-38. Kenny, p. V. Kenny, pp. 59-63. Atkinson, p Lohse, p Kenny, p Lohse, pp. 69-73. Ibid., p Atkinson, p Ibid., p Nevin, Alfred et [...]
[...] Had Wycliffe been motivated to start a movement in the 16th century, he would have likely been unable to gather this same following and protection that Luther gained because Wycliffe lacked the internal fortitude to stand up to the Papacy alone and often did not practice what he taught. Bibliography Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et Al. Works of Martin Luther, Volume 1. (Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915) Atkinson, James. Martin Luther and the Birth of Protestantism. [...]
[...] Wycliffe wanted to ensure that the clergy did not contradict, add to, or change the Scripture, only interpret it because it was the law of God. Luther, during one of his public defenses against the Church, stated “unless I am proved wrong on the basis of scriptures and sound reason, for popes and councils had erred and might err again, I am bound fast by my conscience to the Word of God.” The Church agreed that the Scripture was the Word of God, but they refused to admit that some of their traditions and practices were considered abuses and sins in the Scripture. Luther and Wycliffe published works with similar opinions on predestination (that man was predestined to reach salvation and grace from God). [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee