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Karlstadt, Müntzer and the reformation of the commoners, 1521–1525

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Chapter Summary

Dorothea Wendebourg, in a controversy about the unity and plurality of the German Reformation, argues that it was only through “the judgment of the Counterreformation” that the “whole development” became recognizable as the “Reformation.” Only within such a developmental framework can the conflicts, quarrels and uprisings that led to the renewal of Christendom be appropriately understood. Reformers grounded their arguments on the sole authority of Scriptures, but in so doing they loosed upon the world multiple possibilities for Biblical exegesis. They based their faith exclusively on working of the Holy Spirit, even as they discovered various ways of relating Spirit and Scripture, or human with the divine. In this way Karlstadt, Müntzer and the insurrectionary peasantry are all among the original building blocks of the Reformation. Anticlericalism prior to Reformation stressed the need for ecclesiastical reform, since contemporaries had not given up hope for a thoroughgoing reform of clerical hierarchy.

Keywords: Anticlericalism; Biblical exegesis; Christendom; German reformation; Holy Spirit; Thomas Müntzer; von Karlstadt



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