Francis Schaeffer argued that “at its core, the Reformation was the removing of the humanistic distortions which had entered the church.” Schaeffer explains:
…The Christianity of the Reformation, therefore, stood in rich contrast to the basic weakness and final poverty of the humanism which existed in that day and the humanism which has existed since.
It is important that the Bible sets forth true knowledge about mankind. The biblical teaching gives meaning to all particulars, but this is especially so in regard to that particular which is the most important to man, namely, the individual himself or herself. It gives a reason for the individual being great. The ironic fact here is that humanism, which began with Man’s being central, eventually had no real meaning for people. On the other hand, if one begins with the Bible’s position that a person is created by God and created in the image of God, there is a basis for that person’s dignity. People, the Bible teaches, are made in the image of God — they are nonprogrammed. Each is thus Man with dignity.
That Man is made in the image of God gives many important answers intellectually, but it also has had vast practical results, both in the Reformation days and in our own age. For example, in the time of the Reformation it meant that all the vocations of life came to have dignity. The vocation of honest merchant or housewife had as much dignity as king. This was strengthened further by the emphasis on the biblical teaching of the priesthood of all believers — that is, that all Christians are priests. Thus, in a very real sense, all people are equal as persons. Moreover, the government of the church by lay elders created the potential for democratic emphasis.
The Bible, however, also says that man is fallen; he has revolted against God. At the historic space-time Fall, man refused to stand in the proper relationship with this infinite reference point which is the personal God. Therefore, people are now abnormal. The Reformation saw all people as equal in this way, too — all are guilty before God. This is as true of the king and queen as the peasant. So, in contrast to the humanism of the Renaissance, which never gave an answer to explain that which is observable in people, the Bible enabled people to solve the dilemma facing them as they look at themselves: they could understand both their greatness and their cruelty.