The Reformation as an Evangelical Movement

  • R. W. Scribner
  • C. Scott Dixon
Part of the Studies in European History book series (SEURH)


For some time now it has been common for scholars of the Reformation to speak of it as an ‘evangelical movement’. The term captures the tone of the upsurge of religious enthusiasm that swept through Germany in the early 1520s. In its broadest manifestations, it was a movement of biblical renewal. Many felt that the genuine Christian message, the ‘pure Word of God’ as it was recorded in the Bible, had been rediscovered after it had lain hidden or obscured for many generations. Religious fervour was certainly the dominant characteristic of this movement. For those involved, the biblical revival offered a new meaning to many areas of life, a changed perspective of their relationship to God and the world. An important feature of the movement was the conviction that religious revival was not just the work of mere human beings, but the result of a direct intervention of God into human history, the work of the Holy Spirit. Many, including Luther, saw this as a decisive sign of the imminence of the Last Days. The catchword of this movement was ‘the Gospel’ or ‘the Word of God’: one was either for the Gospel or against it, one agreed to ‘stand by the Gospel’ and to ‘uphold the pure Word of God’.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Select Bibliography

  1. [36]
    P. Blickle, The Revolution of 1525 (Baltimore, 1981). Sees the Peasants’ War as the ‘revolution of the common man’. See also [5], [9], [10], [11].Google Scholar
  2. [37]
    M. U. Chrisman, ‘Lay Response to the Protestant Reformation in Germany, 1520–1528’, in [126]. Examines lay pamphlets in support of Reformation.Google Scholar
  3. [38]
    H. J. Cohn, ‘Anticlericalism in the German Peasants’ War’, Past and Present, 83 (1979), 3–31. Argues importance of socioeconomic hostility to clergy.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. [39]
    R. G. Cole, ‘The Reformation Pamphlet and Communication Processes’, in [129]. Argues for importance of printing in communicating Reformation ideas.Google Scholar
  5. [40]
    R. G. Cole, ‘Reformation Printers: Unsung Heroes’, Sixteenth Century Journal, XV (1984), 327–39. Emphasises the importance of printers as supporters of the Reformation.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. [41]
    E. M. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (Cambridge, 1979). Perceptive if rather over-argued case for cultural impact of printing.Google Scholar
  7. [42]
    J. M. Kittelson, ‘Humanism and the Reformation in Germany’, Central European History, IX (1976), 303–22. Points out continuing importance of humanism for Reformation.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. [43]
    S. E. Ozment, ‘The Social History of the Reformation: What can we learn from Pamphlets?’, in [129]. Argues for importance of pamphlets as a historical source. See [30], [113] for examples, [46], [127] for criticism of this approach.Google Scholar
  9. [44]
    R. W. Scribner, ‘The Reformation as a Social Movement’, in [127]. Tries to define meaning of ‘social movement’, using central German examples.Google Scholar
  10. [45]
    R. W. Scribner, For the Sake of Simple Folk. Popular Propaganda for the German Reformation (Cambridge, 1981). Study of broadsheet propaganda as a means of spreading evangelical ideas to the illiterate and semi-illiterate.Google Scholar
  11. [46]
    R. W. Scribner, ‘Oral Culture and the Diffusion of Reformation Ideas’, History of European Ideas, V (1984). Argues that role of printing has been overestimated and that oral communication should be given more attention in spread of Reformation.Google Scholar
  12. [47]
    R. W. Scribner, ‘Practice and Principle in the German Towns: Preachers and People’, in [124]. Analysis of role and social profile of leading Reformation preachers.Google Scholar
  13. [48]
    H. J. Cohn, ‘Reformatorische Bewegung und Anticlericalismus in Deutschland und England’, in [127]. Illuminating comparison of anticlerical feeling in German and English Reformations.Google Scholar
  14. [49]
    H. Fast, ‘Reformation durch Provokation. Predigtstörungen in den ersten Jahren der Reformation in der Schweiz’, in [102]. Discusses use of public provocation to further reform.Google Scholar
  15. [50]
    B. Moeller, ‘Einige Bemerkungen zum Thema: Predigten in reformatorischen Flugschriften’, in [129]. Points out importance of sermon for dissemination of Reformation.Google Scholar
  16. [51]
    B. Moeller, ‘Stadt und Buch. Bemerkungen zur Struktur der reformatorischen Bewegung in Deutschland’, in [127]. Argues importance of printing for spread of Reformation, though position qualified by [50].Google Scholar
  17. [52]
    B. Moeller, ‘Was wurde in der Frühzeit der Reformation in den deutschen Städten gepredigt?’, Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, LXXV (1984), 176–93. Studies collections of printed sermons to discover what was preached in the towns during the early years of the evangelical movement.Google Scholar
  18. [53]
    H. J. Goertz, ‘Aufstand gegen den Priester. Antiklerikalismus und reformatorische Bewegung’, in P. Blickle (ed.), Bauer, Reich und Reformation (Stuttgart, 1982), 182–209. Argues importance of anticlericalism for reform movements, especially for radical tradition.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© R. W. Scribner 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. W. Scribner
  • C. Scott Dixon

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations