Tuesday, May 14, 2013

2017 Reformation Rumblings

I know it should not come as a surprise that people are already thinking about the 500th anniversary of Luther's posting of the 95 Theses (the traditional date of the birth of the Protestant Reformation). Contrary to what many of you may think, I don't really think about it. I don't have a calender in which I'm putting "x's" over the passing dates with a gleeful anticipation.  I am surprised though at the few people I've come across that are already thinking about it. Perhaps it's because I read more Roman Catholic blogs and websites than Protestant Internet offerings. A few years back, I pointed out that Mitch Pacwa was working on a Reformation video series to be released in 2017. From a quick search, it doesn't appear there's been a lot of action from Ignatius Productions, but, they do still have a few years to go. Back when he first announced it, Pacwa was perpetuating the myth that Luther "apparently had killed somebody in a duel." I'd be curious to know how Pacwa's research  is going, and if it's gotten better.

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.


James Dean said...

"...explain why the Roman church anathematized the Gospel and separated herself from the Catholic church..."

LMAO, i'm starting to think you don't even believe half of the things you write.

James Swan said...

"James Dean"-

I had to actually look up your pop-culture slang to see what it stood for.

Please go elsewhere with your comments.