Renaissance and Reformation

Renaissance and Reformation

Renaissance and Reformation

Renaissance and Reformation


Readable and informative, this major text in Reformation history is a detailed exploration of the many facets of the Reformation, especially its relationship to the Renaissance. Estep pays particular attention to key individuals of the period, including Wycliffe, Huss, Erasmus, Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. Illustrated with maps and pictures.


This book is primarily about reform reform of learning, reform of the church, and reform of society. It could be divided, although unevenly, into three parts: Renaissance, Reformation, and revolution. Admittedly, I give less attention to the Renaissance than to the Reformation and ostensibly still less to revolution. I say “ostensibly” because throughout the book I consider the revolutionary aspects of certain Reformation movements.

Although the attention I give to the Renaissance may appear somewhat sketchy, I have attempted to present the essential features of the movement and to examine its relationship to the Reformation. The perennial question of whether the Reformation could have occurred without the Renaissance may always go unanswered. That which is beyond question, however, is that the Renaissance made its own unique and indispensable contribution to the intellectual and religious development of the age. Not only did the Renaissance go a long way toward freeing medieval man from the shackles of ignorance and superstition, but it introduced him to new worlds of art and literature, inspiring him with the desire to learn from the ancient Greek and Latin sources and providing him the methodology with which to do it.

Without the Reformation of the sixteenth century, I believe that much of the progress achieved by the Renaissance would have been lost. This is a matter of debate, of course, because it appears to be a subjective evaluation that sees in the Reformation the fruition of some of the highest aspirations of Renaissance man. What saves such a judgment from being merely an expression of uninformed bias is the vast body of literature that supports it. Obviously, research does not free one from the presuppo sitions that undergird and flaw all human undertakings—hence I do not claim to be completely objective or impartial. But my longstanding interest in the Reformation has compelled me to seek to understand with a fresh openness the Renaissance and its humanism that is so much maligned these days. I encour age the reader to attempt to understand the thrust of this remarkable age and to recognize the debt that contemporary society owes to the bold pioneers of the new learning.

The Reformation—with its appeal to “the rabble” and its rejection of art forms in church worship—has frequently been represented as a repudiation of the Renaissance. Although there is evidence to support such a contention, the Reformation did not brusquely turn its back on . . .

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