Recent scholarly trends have called into question the view of the Reformation as a singular, epoch-making event; many scholars prefer to speak of sixteenth-century “reformations,” while others regard the Reformation as a chapter within longer-running and more significant historical processes. This essay proposes viewing the Reformation as a complex, epoch-making event that was initiated and sustained by both Protestant and Catholic actors. The Reformation created an enduring reality of division that was experienced and engaged differently by Christians depending upon their ecclesial, social, and geographic location, among other factors. By relating the disciplinary motives and endeavors of the era to contestation regarding truth and falsehood, the divine and the demonic, this essay argues for taking a broader view of religious discipline and for seeking to understand the Reformation era on its own terms, rather than as a late-medieval or an early-modern event.
Hans J. Hillerbrand“Was There a Reformation in the Sixteenth Century?”Church History72 no. 3 (Sept. 2003) 525–552; see also idem The Division of Christendom: Christianity in the Sixteenth Century (Louisville 2007).
See Thomas A. Brady Jr.“Confessionalization: The Career of a Concept,” in Confessionalization in Europe 1550–1700: Essays in Honor and Memory of Bodo Nischaned. John M. Headley Hans J. Hillerbrand and Anthony J. Papalas (Burlington VT 2004): 1–20; Ute Lotz-Heumann “Imposing Church and Social Discipline” in The Cambridge History of Christianity: Volume 6 Reform and Expansion 1500–1660 ed. R. Po-Chia Hsia (Cambridge 2007): 244–260; R. Po-Chia Hsia Social Discipline in the Reformation: Central Europe 1550–1750 (London 1989).