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Sister Reformations, Schwesterreformationen edited by Dorothea Wendebourg (Mohr Siebeck) The volume presents the papers given at a symposium in 2009 in Berlin which marked the 450th anniversary of the Elizabethan Settlement. They examine the history of the Reformation in the Holy Roman Empire and England side-by-side with an eye to their interdependence. It is the first endeavour of its kind to which specialists from Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, and the USA have joined hands. All contributions are in English or in German with an English translation.

Aspects of the theme considered here include the ways in which knowledge of and influence from the Reformation in the Empire reached England, theological and liturgical contributions, the political dimension of Reformations exchanges, and the manner in which the Reformation was consolidated on the one side by the peace of Augsburg and on the other by the Elizabethan Settlement.

The question of whether there was one Reformation or several Reformations is a subject which is hotly debated by historians of the Reformation and early modern history and to which varying answers have been given. It usually refers to the various Reformation centers and currents on the European continent. It is however nowhere as urgent as when the religious revolution in 16th-century England is also taken into consideration. The historical conditions, courses of events, religious motives, theological influences etc. in England deviated so strongly from those on the European continent that it not only seems imperative to talk of several Reformations but even to pose the question of whether or not it is appropriate at all to use the same term to summarize the events here and there. And yet there are reasons that for centuries the same term has been used for all these events, and that this term, "Reformation," is even used in the singular. In spite of all the differences, there are definite similarities and parallels. There are suggestions and influences. And the ultimate result is the same every-where: Western Christianity separated into several individual and oppositional institutions, each of which was certain that it contained the constituent elements of the church of Jesus Christ.

This volume, which is based on a symposium held in Berlin in September 2009 on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the Elizabethan Settlement, deals with the relationship between the Reformation in the Holy Roman Empire, in particular the Wittenberg Reformation, and the Reformation in England. Its equivocal title, "Sister Reformations — Schwesterreformationen. The Reformation in Germany and in England," reflects the dual findings of commonality and autonomy of the events in both countries. What the term "Sister Reformations" does not express, though, is the aspect of the impulses and influences which the English Reformation received from the Reformation in the Empire. This would have suggested using the terms "mother" and "daughter" instead of "sisters," but then the aspect of dependence would have come to emerge in a manner that would not have done justice to the specific dynamics of the events in England. However, the word "Sister Reformations" is not meant to be a definition of the elusive relationship between the occurrences on both sides of the North Sea. In fact, its intention is to indicate a direction of questions in which all the contributions to this volume as well as the symposium on which it is based are integrated.

Scholars from Germany and various countries of the Anglo-Saxon world participated in the symposium on "Sister Reformations — Schwesterreformationen". For its objective was not only to establish the relationship between the events, structures, piety, theologies etc. in two different countries but also to initiate a discussion between different academic cultures in the historiography of the Reformation, which usually live in parallel worlds. In doing so, the symposium in Berlin broke new ground. The organizers and the participants were aware of the fact that this was just a beginning and that they had only dealt with a small section of the viewpoints to be considered when it comes to the Sister Reformations in Germany and in England. They all hope that this will provide the impetus for further work.

The Berlin symposium, which was organized by the Chair of Medieval and Modern Church History/History of the Reformation of the Faculty of Theology at the Humboldt University, began on 23 September 2009 with a public lecture by Diarmaid MacCulloch — the first contribution to this volume — and ended on 26 September with a public lecture by Christoph Schwoebel on "German Protestantism and the Church of England Today," which is not part of this volume. It contained lectures given in German and in English. The preponderance of English over German contributions, as it turned out, was not part of the original plans, but rather the result of external circumstances. This volume presents all the contributions in their original language, and in addition an English translation of the German articles. The format of the footnotes is in accordance with the academic tradition of each author and has not been adapted in either direction.

Getting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings by James R. Payton (IVP Academic)

Most students of history know that Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the Wittenberg Church door and that John Calvin penned the Institutes of the Christian Religion. However, the Reformation did not unfold in the straightforward, monolithic fashion some may think. It was, in fact, a messy affair.
Using the most current Reformation scholarship, James R. Payton, professor of history at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario, in Getting the Reformation Wrong exposes, challenges and corrects some common misrepresentations of the Reformation, including:

  • The medieval Catholic Church was monolithic and moribund.
  • The Renaissance was strictly a human-centered movement.
  • The Reformation progressed rapidly and smoothly.
  • The Reformers were in agreement about most theological issues.
  • Sola scriptura means Scripture is our only religious authority.
  • Protestant scholasticism was a return to doctrinal faithfulness.
  • The Reformation was a uniform success.

Payton, Reformation historian and Christian scholar, says he has encountered enough misinformation and half-truth regarding the Reformation to suggest that the Reformers themselves would be surprised and disappointed to hear their life's work misapplied to the situation of the twenty-first-century church. He offers students, pastors and lay leaders a resource for apprehending the Reformation for themselves, and for rightly applying to today's church lessons learned in the sixteenth century.

Since the Reformation succeeded in rescuing the gospel message from the clutter which had piled up to obscure it, we have readily idealized the Reformation and, unaware of its history, treated it almost mythically. Idealizing the development of the Reformation and how the Reformers related to each other ends up distancing them from what goes on among us in the hurly-burly of life in the twenty-first century. Payton says that too often we have seized on these principles of the Reformation and isolated them from the questions the Reformers were dealing with, complicated questions about religious authority and about the basis for our justification which had been wrestled with in medieval Christianity for more than two centuries.

He concludes Getting the Reformation Wrong by labeling the Reformation as both a triumph and a tragedy. In reclaiming the apostolic message and proclaiming it anew, the Reformation sought to purify the church but ended up splitting it. The Reformation set the pattern: Protestants split not only from Rome but also from each other Lutherans versus Reformed with each segment going on to split into further rival bodies, which then split again and again. By our day, this has resulted in multiplied thousands of Protestant denominations. This is a tragic legacy of the Reformation, since it undermines the credibility of the apostolic message.

Getting the Reformation Wrong gets the Reformation right. All students of the Reformation, whether academic or just interested, must read this book. Roger Olson, Truett Theological Seminary

Dr. Payton's new book, Getting the Reformation Wrong, is a refreshing and stimulating look at the events of the sixteenth century and their implications. He combines a solid understanding of the scholarship with a sensitivity to the faith issues involved. Helen Vreugdenhil, Redeemer University College

The book proves to be a lively narrative that tells the story of the most important epoch in the history of the church in a clear, understandable, unfussy manner, yet one rich in detail. I appreciate especially Payton's sober conclusion on the tragic elements of what the sixteenth century wrought. Walter Sundberg, Luther Seminary

Getting the Reformation Wrong presents a responsible, up-to-date, accessible, appreciative assessment of the sixteenth-century Reformation and should prove insightful for readers whether or not they are members of any of the religious bodies that arose out of that movement. It builds on the wealth of careful Reformation scholarship of the last few generations. Each of the chapters in the book draws on the wide-ranging and insightful investigations that have shaped contemporary scholarly assessments of and perspectives on the Reformation. What this volume offers is a presentation of their assessments on a variety of basic questions and topics, which are so widely held that they seem unlikely to be challenged or changed through further research.

Getting the Reformation Wrong is intended for readers from Christian backgrounds who recognize their roots in and look positively on the Reformation of the sixteenth century. It is written for use in Christian university or college upper-level courses on the Reformation in departments of history or religion and theology, as well as for more introductory courses on the history of Western civilization or religion courses that deal with the Reformation. The book is also for church pastors whose preaching or other teaching refers or appeals to the Reformation, as well as teachers in church settings who offer catechetical or other instruction in church history or the Reformation. Many in the larger Lutheran, Reformed/Calvinistic, Free Church and other Protestant communities, as well as interested Roman Catholics, will find the book of interest.

Jean Gerson And the Last Medieval Reformation by Brian Patrick McGuire (Hardcover) (Pennsylvania State University Press) One of the problems of dividing our history into epochs, such as ancient, medieval, Renaissance and Reformation; is that these great divisions of time cast a shadow on transitional people who belong to their place in history without the prescience of future history's flow. Jean Gerson, the major French religious reformer, educator, and theologian who lived between the 14th and 15th century is such a transitional figure.  McGuire's intensive biography and study of Gerson, the first since 1929, provides a rich overview of the life and times of this visionary scholar by giving a summary account of his writings that were very influential on Luther and to a lesser extent, Calvin in the generation after Gerson’s death.  Gerson played an important role in attempts to heal the Great Schism which culminated in the Council of Constance (1414 – 1418)

Born to a peasant father and mother in the county of Champagne, Gerson (1363–1429) was the first of twelve children. He overcame his modest beginnings to become a scholastic and vernacular theologian, a university intellectual, and a church reformer.

McGuire shows us the turning points in Gerson’s life, including his crisis of faith after becoming chancellor of the University of Paris in 1395. Through these key moments, we see the deeper undercurrents of his mystical writings. With their rich display of spiritual and emotional life, these writings were to earn Gerson the appellation "doctor christianissimus." In turn, they would influence many later thinkers, including Nicholas of Cusa, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis de Sales, and even Martin Luther.

Gerson is a man perhaps easier to admire than to love: conscientious to a fault, at once a pragmatist and an idealist in church politics, a university intellectual who both fostered and distrusted the religious aspirations of the laity, a powerful prelate who moved among the great yet never forgot his peasant origins, a self-revealing yet intensely private man who yearned for intimacy almost as much as he feared it.

McGuire ably situates Gerson in the context of his age, an age replete with doctrinal controversies and the politics of papal schism on the eve of the Protestant Reformation. Gerson emerges as a proponent of dialogue and discussion, committed to reforming the church from within. His courageous effort to renew the unity of a unique civilization bears examination in our own time.

Gerson's philosophical position was different from that of any of the main schools of his time. Although he had been brought up under the influence of nominalism, he made liberal use of Platonist ideas derived from Pseudo­-Dionysius and Bonaventure, and he appears to have been sympathetic to Thomism, which became popular again during his period as a reforming chancellor at the univer­sity. He made use of nominalistic criticisms of Scotist theologians, who employed an array of technical terminol­ogy in constructing theories about the divine nature and whom Gerson held chiefly responsible for the existing state of aridity in theology. Nevertheless, he was dissat­isfied with the divorce between revelation and metaphys­ical reasoning implied by nominalism. Thus, his chief concern was to provide the framework for a theology that would express personal piety and, at the same time, con­tain intellectual checks upon that piety. Part of his origi­nality was that he lectured at Paris on the theory and practice of contemplation, instead of treating theology in a merely speculative fashion. Gerson's eclecticism was thus a consequence of his religious and reforming interests.

In theology Gerson criticized Jan van Ruysbroeck for some of his language in the third part of The Spiritual Marriage, which seemed to imply that in the beatific state the soul becomes essentially united with the divine Being. Gerson regarded Ruysbroeck's way of expressing himself as dangerous and unorthodox, since the transcendence of God requires that no finite being can be identified with him. John of Schoonhoven, from Ruysbroeck's monastery at Groenendaal, replied that Ruysbroeck had been misin­terpreted and that it was unsuitable to discuss mystical doctrines in the atmosphere of the schools. This led to a counterreply from Gerson, because Schoonhoven's posi­tion was opposed to the rationale of the very reforms which Gerson was trying to effect, according to which theology would be more than a merely academic disci­pline.

Not surprisingly, Gerson's most important writings—for example, "The Mountain of Contemplation" and "Mystical Theology"--are centrally concerned with bringing practi­cal religion into the schools. According to Gerson, the highest aspects of the soul are the pure intelligence and the synderesis, or that which inclines the soul toward the good. The cognitive and affective aspects of the soul are closely related; thus, the knowledge of an object involves a feeling toward it, and feeling involves an element of intel­lectual knowledge. This psychology provided a rationale for Gerson's strictures upon merely theoretical theology. His account of mystical theology likewise incorporated the thesis that the intellect and the synderesis attain their respective perfections through mutual cooperation.

Mystical theology, for Gerson, was not so much the study of mysticism as it was the way of contemplation itself. In the highest stage the soul attains union with God, but this union is a union of love, in which the human will is in total conformity with the divine will. Gerson resisted those interpretations which implied that there was a sub­stantial identity with God or that the love uniting the soul and God could be identified with the Holy Spirit. Thus, Gerson stated a view of mysticism that was sympathetic, practical, and orthodox; and for this reason he was widely influential in the fifteenth century. Moreover, his other main concern, the healing of the Great Schism, expressed the nature of the reforms he wished to promote. He held that on the one hand, the external and institutional aspects of religion must be in good order; but on the other hand, theology and religion must be liberated from formalism. Gerson had some influence on Luther. 

Reformation Theologians: An Introduction to Theology in the Early Modern Period edited by Carter Lindberg (The Great Theologians: Blackwell) is the ideal introduction to the study of the sixteenth-century Reformations. It introduces the theological context, thought, and contributions of theologians from this period, offering students and scholars an essential resource and insight. This comprehensive and lively book discusses all the major strands of Reformation thought and explores the work of a range of influential figures, including theologians and non‑theologians, humanists, clergy and laity, men and women.

The contributors to this volume are leading scholars in the field of historical and systematic theology. Accessibly structured, it covers the Humanist, Lutheran, Reformed, Roman Catholic, and "Radical" Theologians. An introductory chapter explores the interpretations of the Reformation and a concluding chapter explains the influence of Reformation theologies on the modern period. The text also includes useful bibliographies and a glossary of theological terms.

Reformation Theologians will be an invaluable resource for students of church history, the history of Christianity, and Reformation studies in history and theology departments

Carter Lindberg is Professor of Church History in the School of Theology at Boston University. His recent publications include The European Reformations (1995) and accompanying European Reformations Sourcebook (1999), both published by Blackwell. 

Editor introduction: “It is through living, indeed through dying and being damned that one becomes a theologian, not through understanding, reading, or speculation.” -- Martin Luther.

The purpose of Reformation Theologians is to introduce the theologies of selected theologians of the sixteenth­century Reformations to students of historical theology, church history, and the history of Christianity as well as to all persons interested in "how we got this way." In addition to this historical goal, there is also a contemporary interest. In the words of Bernd Moeller: "We need the spiritual and intellectual energies that the Reformation has to offer. Moreover, the Christian life, the church, and contemporary theology have so many ties to the Reformation that for our own self‑knowledge we should always be aware of this relationship, and should continually examine it and test its relevancy for today."

The selection provides as inclusive a range of theologians as possible within the limitations of a single book of reasonable length. The cast of characters includes professors of theology and persons without formal theological education, clergy and laity, men and women, and advocates of nearly all the reforming options of the "long" sixteenth century (1400‑1600). The "usual suspects," of course, are here. In the words of Heinz Schilling, "In the beginning were Luther, Loyola, and Calvin."'

BBut, of course, these Reformers were not "the beginning" in the sense of being sui generis. They and their contemporaries did not drop full‑blown from heaven but rather were nurtured in the context of late medieval theology and piety, and stimulated by the contributions of humanism. Space, however, precludes more than a bow in the direction of these influences by the inclusion of Lefevre and Erasmus.

Many others besides medieval theologians and humanists were regretfully excluded. Some of the "excluded" have at least cameo roles in the following essays; others remain in the wings. There will always be "Reformers in the wings," as David Steinmetz so aptly titled his effort to expand our horizon of reformers. Indeed, there were so many Reformation theologians that a series of studies devoted only to Reformation dissidents recently published its twentieth volume.' Much has been accomplished in recent years to provide a long overdue public stage for, or at least to shine more light upon, those "in the wings" who preached and wrote and legislated for reform, including women.

Yet even a cursory scan of the recently published Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, let alone the magisterial German ncoloyische Realenzyklopddie, still in process, reveals the limitations of the present selection. Other Reformers ‑ lumped under the rubric of the "common man" ‑ who were clearly more than just a Greek chorus on the Reformation stage also remain beyond the scope of this text.'

The stage itself was also of great significance for both the roles of the Reformers and how they played them. Our focus is on the theologies of the Reformers, but we dare not forget, as Luther himself so vividly stated, that these theologies developed in the midst of life.

Very little in the Reformation was stable. Not only did the formulation of religious ideas take place amidst wars, persecution and plague, but the very language which the evangelical groups conscripted to their cause formed a brilliant prism, whose diverse colours transformed as it was manipulated. Terms such as church, authority, nation and even reformation itself were variously and often in contradictory ways used in the sixteenth century.'

The keen awareness that theologies cannot be abstracted from their historical contexts was already expressed by Bernd Moeller's 1965 warning that the Reformation is too important to be left to the systematic theologians. Without sensitivity to "the Reformation as history," Reformation theology itself may be oversimplified. "After all, this theology had such a great impact in history precisely because it was intricately interwoven into history." Richard A. Muller has more recently made the same point with regard to Calvin. "A clever theologian can accommodate Calvin to nearly any agenda; a faithful theologian ‑ and a good historian ‑ will seek to listen to Calvin, not to use him." The following chapters therefore should be read in conjunction with historical surveys and studies."/p>

Moeller's call for a historical view of the Reformation continues to find a receptive audience, especially among English­speaking scholarship where social history has been ascendant for nearly a generation now. The social historical approach to the Reformation emphasizes the centrality of communal, political, economic, and social goals that stimulated collective behavior. Thus a leading social historian of the Reformation, Thomas A. Brady, Jr., suggests that "perhaps the time has come for a new approach . . . the Reformation as an adaptation of Christianity to the social evolution of Europe." The proposals for this are legion: the Reformation as "urban event," "anticlerical event," "ritual event," "communal event," "confessional and social disciplining event," and even "pyschological event." Without gainsaying these and similar approaches, our motif is the Reformation as theological event. John O'Malley's comments about Francois de Sales, Filippo Neri, and Teresa of Avila may be applied to the Reformation theologians as a whole: "These individuals and phenomena can be studied from many perspectives, but is it not incumbent upon us to study them for what they head‑on purported to be about, the sacred?"

Thus it is time to affirm once again, with due appreciation for historical contexts, and not just driven by them. To think otherwise is an anachronistic "Alice in Wonderland" view of the Reformation in which theology is only the linguistic cloak for the Reformers' "real" motivations. Indeed, it was precisely theology that enabled the reform impulse effectively to cross social and political polarizations." As recently as 1989, Steven Ozment wrote: "The study of the Reformation still awaits a Moses who can lead it through the sea of contemporary polemics between social and intellectual historians and into a historiography both mindful and tolerant of all the forces that shape historical experience.

More words of caution are in order. Our title is not as straightforward as it seems. It should be clear by now that the definite article, "The," does not mean that only those in our volume are Reformation theologians. Also, recent scholarship raises questions about both "Reformation" and "theologians." "Reformation" ‑ how is this word defined and used? "Theologians" ‑ what criteria delineate a theologian? Let us begin with the last and work back to the first, at the same time being aware that these terms are also intimately related.


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