An old adage says, “To the victors belong the spoils.” In no place does this prove truer than in the writing of history. History has most often been written from the point of view of the winners, not the losers. For this reason the writing of the history of the reformation era has always caused difficulty.

Indeed, until the beginning of this century there were few studies of the Reformation not written either from the point of view of the victorious Catholics in the south and east of Europe, or from that of the Lutheran and Reformed church Protestants in the north. And for both these groups, those reformers such as Schwenckfeld, now referred to as Radical Reformers, were represented negatively. Designated as Schwaermer (German for “swarmers”) they were considered to be foolish, impatient revolutionaries with erratic theologies of little interest to anyone. They rightly deserved to be forgotten. If their memories were maintained at all, it was to secure images of what was not to be thought or done.

As Reformation studies have progressed, however, it has become clear that such a designation is far too simplistic. The Reformation of the early sixteenth century was not a single unified movement that clearly ascertained the evils of a corrupt institution, determined the best approaches to eradicate them, and moved resolutely in one direction to do so. It was a period not of one reformation, but of many.

At least 25 years before Luther posted his 95 theses, loyal adherents of the traditional faith were working to reform the Church from within. They deliberately chose to work under the episcopal system. The Reformation they inaugurated is today referred to as the Catholic, or Counter Reformation.

With Luther and the Reformed Church ...

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