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In 2017, the world will mark the five-hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, an event that tradition tells us began on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. At the center of this movement stands Luther’s rediscovery of the Gospel message: human beings do not earn their salvation by doing good works, but rather God freely offers salvation to all who believe. For Luther, this message liberated humanity to engage in all kinds of new undertakings and activities, chief among them lives of service to others. Meanwhile, across Europe the impulses coming out of Wittenberg inspired others to interpret the Bible in new ways, thereby calling into being many of the Protestant denominations that exist to this day. The Catholic Church responded too, introducing its own reforms that would change the face of that institution.
This watershed event in Western history also bequeathed to the world a variety of concepts that are still deeply relevant today: plurality in society, freedom of conscience, toleration, individualism, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, the idea of the equality of all humans, institutionalized poor relief, literacy and universal education, and the importance of public discourse. And its impact on music and art find expression across Luther College’s choral and artistic traditions. Certainly the Reformation had a dark side, one that fostered suspicion and conflict between confessions, but out of this crucible, the modern Western world was born.
For all of these reasons Luther College will spend 2017 exploring the Reformation, its impact and legacy, and its continuing relevance today. Information on various events, performances, and exhibitions that make up Luther College’s Reformation commemoration may be found below.
*Top image, "Dream of Frederick the Wise," courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
Luther College Professor Jim Martin-Schramm recently co-edited a volume entitled Eco-Reformation: Grace and Hope for a Planet in Peril (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2016). The book explores how a gospel call for ecological justice belongs at the heart of the five hundredth anniversary observance of the Reformation in 2017. The volume brings together critical biblical, pastoral, theological, historical, and ethical perspectives that constructively advance the vision of a socially and ecologically flourishing Earth. Professor Wanda Deifelt also has an article in the volume.