Recently, I came across a Roman convert, Thomas Howard, offering his thoughts on the upcoming anniversary: Protestant Reformation Approaching 500. He mentions he and Mark Noll (author of Is The Reformation Over?) received a grant to host a conference on the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation in November 2013. That to me comes across as somewhat of an irony: A Roman convert (someone who in essence should see the Reformation as a tragedy) and an evangelical (who thinks the Reformation is over) were given money to hold a conference to discuss "how best to commemorate the Reformation 500 years after the fact" "in anticipation of the upcoming milestone." Certainly no analogy is perfect, but it's kind of like giving money to two people who don't like you to plan your 50th birthday party. The first person belongs to family that should view your life as a tragic necessity, and the other thinks your life is over.
Mr. Howard states:
"...as the Reformation quincentennial approaches, Catholics ought to try to think about why so many, then and now, felt the necessity of the Reformation. Conversely, Protestants ought to consider why Catholics, then and now, have perceived it as tragic. That might not answer all questions, mend all divisions. But it might not be a bad place to start."These are loaded questions, and I'd like to suggest that Roman Catholics not think about these questions, but rather ask Rome to answer the questions for you. Why should anyone be interested in hearing a Roman Catholic give their personal interpretation of history? Wouldn't one rather have an official spokesperson from Rome explain why the Roman church anathematized the Gospel and separated herself from the Catholic church? Ask them as well why Rome never condemned Luther by name at Trent, and why no official judgment on Luther exists by which a loyal Catholic is bound. Tell them your tired of the confusion of opinions- how some Roman historians think Luther was the voice of Satan, while some Roman Catholic historians think he was a decent guy.
This little aside didn't fit with my sarcastic jabs above. I'd like to suggest that a good study in preparation of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation would be to explore earlier anniversaries of the Reformation, Particularly the 400th Anniversary. What was going on in Germany in 1917? Or 1817? Will the PCUSA do this again? Should this be reprinted? Mr. Howard, if you come across this blog entry, feel free to make this one of the points of discussion in your November 2013 conference. In fact, feel free to invite me to present the lecture.
Another fascinating study, and perhaps Thomas Howard would benefit from this one, is a study in Roman Catholic treatments of Luther between 1883-1917. There was quite a resurgence in the vilification of Luther from the pens of Rome's defenders, some of whom had a noted zeal to besmirch the memory of Luther forever as a way to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Reformation. I'll gladly give this lecture as well as the November 2013 conference.