The Second Reformation: International Calvinism 1536–1619


Map Code: Ax02411

The reformed tradition began in 1519 in Zürich under Huldrych Zwingli. He led a group of Swiss theologians who joined Luther in teaching salvation by faith and the exclusive authority of Scripture, advocating purification of the Church and Christian life, and rejecting Christ’s bodily presence in the Eucharist, which led to a breach with Luther by 1529. The French reformer John Calvin (1509–64) belonged to a second generation of Reformed thinkers, who settled in the city of Geneva, where he forged a model Reformed Protestant Republic. His model church abandoned the traditional hierarchy of bishops for a collective form of Church government, with strict moral discipline applied without regard to social status. This rigorous, flexible structure began to spread rapidly across Europe from the 1550s, in a so-called ‘Second Reformation’. A series of German territories, and the island kingdoms of England and Scotland, adopted variants of Calvinism and substantial Calvinist minorities sprang up in Poland, Hungary, the Netherlands and France – in the latter two cases, helping to trigger devastating religious civil wars from the 1560s onwards.

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