Modernization refers to the processes and ideas which give rise to the evolution of newer and more refined concepts and thoughts. It brings changes to the perspective from which people see things and causes them to re-evaluate their beliefs. Modernization in Europe was characterized by expansions in trade and industry, urbanization; which contributed to the development of new thoughts and thinking processes, the rise of new questions and the need for answers and finally, the idea of centralization in government.
Cardinal Richelieu and Martin Luther are among the many historical figures who played important roles in the modernization process. Their thought processes and philosophies contributed specifically to the aspects of centralized government and urbanization in terms of revolutionary thought processes. Richelieu and Luther were both pioneers of two important concepts today, Richelieu pioneering absolutism, and Luther pioneering the reformation and development of Protestantism.
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These ideas are specifically considered a contribution to the transition to modernization because they represent a new way of thinking and system of beliefs which both Luther and Richelieu brought to the table. During the middle ages, it was common for people to adhere to what they were taught or brought up to know. Luther and Richelieu helped change this rigid and inflexible way of thinking. By this, they led the way for similar establishments around different parts of the world. The Reformation of Martin Luther is among one of the most important events in history.
In Luther’s time, there was a lot of corruption in the Catholic Church and he believed that the people had the wrong idea about Jesus Christ, the bible, salvation and the essence of Christianity. His reformation was necessitated to purge the corruption in the church and bring a new sense of enlightenment to the people in order to enable them understand what Christianity was all about. By his actions, writings and teachings, he was able to redirect people’s thought processes and religious beliefs.
As the founder of the protestant movement, he led way to the creation of a different denomination of Christianity in which people who were not staunch Catholics, or who did not necessarily share the beliefs of the Catholic Church, but believed in God and Jesus Christ, could channel their own faith. Although there were various movements for reformation during the middle ages, Luther’s contribution stands out because in addition to the promoting the need for a remodeled church, Luther’s works gave rise to new ideas such as the authority of the church and the Pope on religious issues.
He disagreed with the extent of the Pope’s power and authority and believed that the Pope could not remit sins but could only confirm that God had forgiven sins. In his Ninety Five Theses, he says ‘The Pope does excellently when he grants remission to the souls ??? not by the power of the keys (for he has none) but through intercession. ( Luther, Ninety-five Theses, October 1517: and the manifestoes of 1520, pg 20). This idea was contrary to what the people had learned to believe. In addition, Luther’s contribution to modernization can be seen in his translation of the bible into German.
Not only did this translation offer the Germans a better understanding and appreciation for the bible, but it led way for the translation of his protestant version of the bible into various other languages such as French, Dutch and English. (Schaff, History of the Christian Church) Each of Luther’s writings portrays his views, which where different from the general views of the people, and shows how he transformed their ways of thinking. In the Ninety-Five Theses, Luther advocates against indulgences, which were becoming increasingly popular among people seeking salvation and hoping to free their family members from purgatory.
Luther, through his words in the ninety-five theses convinced people that buying indulgences was not the key to salvation, but that salvation could only be achieved through faith in God. ‘All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation because of letters of pardon, will be eternally damned together with their teachers’ (Luther, Ninety-five Theses, October 1517: and the manifestoes of 1520 , p21). He also relayed to the people the importance of one’s actions on earth in gaining salvation. ‘Luther argued to treat works as contributing to one’s eternal salvation, something only an almighty God could bestow. (Western Heritage p358) In his Address to the christian nobility of the German nation, Luther instills a power in the nobles and the common people: those considered of the temporal estate, authority it was unthought of for them to posseess. At the time, all spiritual dealings were handled by the spiritual estate;the pope, bishops, and other religious officers. Luther incites those who are not of this estate, to participate in the spiritual affairs of the state and make amends for the shortcomings of the spiritual estate.
He said ‘I have put together some few points concerning the reformation of the Christian estate with the intent of placing the same before the Christian nobility of the German nation, in case it may please God to help his church by means of the laity, inasmuch as the clergy, whom this task rather befitted, have become quite careless.. ‘(Luther, pg 42) Luther also conceptualized freedom in a new way. By his words “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to no one. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all. (Luther, Concerning Christian Liberty),Luther gave the people a new understanding of the meaning of the freedom of a Christian. Richelieu was a bishop in France who later became the Chief Minister of King Louis XIII. He is considered the world’s first prime minister and thus, can be said to have paved the way for centralization in government. Richelieu’s unique contribution lay in the single-minded devotion he gave to the task of increasing royal authority at home and abroad. He is most noted for his development of the concept of absolutism.
Absolutism is a term which is used to describe a form of monarchical power that is unrestrained by any other institutions, such as churches, legislatures, or social elites. His belief was that France should be an absolute monarchy, ruled solely by Louis XIII, and not in conjunction with the nobles, the church, or any other religious institutions. He advocated the unification of the church and the state, as he believed they should not be considered individual entities. According to him, the church should only be a means towards the strengthening and solidification of the affairs of the state.
Before his rise to his position of authority, the political state of France was in disarray. Various problems arose from the nobles, the king’s household. In his general statement to the royal program, he said, ‘When your majesty resolved to admit me both to your council and to an important place in your confidence for the direction of your affairs, I may say that the Huguenots shared the state with you; that the nobles conducted themselves as if they were not your subjects and that the most powerful governors of the provinces as if they were sovereign in their offices. (Richelieu pg 9). Richelieu’s aim was to resolve all the problems in the ailing state. This, he believed would be possible by the existence of an absolute monarchy in France. His contribution is important not only because of the success he achieved in realizing what he believed to be the ideal principles of a state, but because of his success in transforming the people’s views of what a well-functioning state should be. Countries such as Sweden and Austria adopted absolutism prior to the reign of Louis XIII (r. 610-1643) as is evident in the reigns of Charles XI of Sweden (1655-1697) and Leopold I of Austria (r. 1655-1702). (Birn, pg 41). Although we cannot assume that the adoption of absolutism in France is directly responsible for its adoption in other countries, we can suggest a possible correlation between these events. The depth and significance of Richelieu’s pioneering absolutism is consolidated by the fact that absolute monarchies still exist in modern day in countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Herb, All in the Family) In their contribution to modernization, we can identify an issue which is prominent in the thought processes of both Richelieu and Luther. From their writings, it is evident that both believed in the importance of reason in human activity, be it political or religious, but in different ways. As such, they helped to shape the people’s views and thoughts, prompting them to take reason into account in their decisions. In Richelieu, he highlights the importance of the King’s ruling being governed by reason, as opposed to emotions or sentiments.
He said, ‘If man is sovereignly reasonable he ought to make reason sovereign, which requires not only that he do nothing not in conformity with it, but also that he make all those who are under his authority reverence it and follow it religiously’ (Richelieu pg 72). On the contrary, we see Luther’s rejection of reason, as a necessity for Christians, in order to be truly faithful. In two of his writings he says ‘All the articles of our Christian faith, which God has revealed to us in His Word, are in presence of reason sheerly impossible, absurd, and false. ” (Luther, Werke, VII)) and, “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has. (Luther, Table Talk). From this, we see both Richeliu and Luther’s attempts to incite the people to think for themselves and not just go along with what they have been taught to believe or what were the societal norms at that time. Based on their achievements, it is clear that both Richelieu and Luther, in their own ways made significant contributions to the transition of the world into modernization. With their charisma and independent-mindedness, they were able to change and revolutionize people’s beliefs and ways of thinking, into more reformed and more structured patterns which is the basis on which modernization stands.
Bibliography France. ” Encyclop? dia Britannica. 2007. Encyclop? dia Britannica Online. 27 Nov. 2007 ;http://www. britannica. com/eb/article-40361;. Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910. MICHAEL HERB, All in the Family: Absolutism, Revolution, and Democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies, SUNY Series in Middle Eastern Studies (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999). Pp. 381.
Birn, Raymond. Crisis, Absolutism, Revolution: Europe and the World, 1648-1789 Hill, Henry Bertram. The Political Testament of Cardinal Richelieu. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1961. Luther, Martin. Ninety-five Theses, October 1517f: and the manifestoes of 1520. St Martin’s Press Inc. , 1970. ???. Table Talk. n. d. ???. Werke, VII. n. d. Kagan, Donald. Ozment Steven. Turner Frank M. The Western Heritage Ninth Edition. Pearson Education, Inc. , 2007