Reformed and Always Reforming… Even 499 Years Later

Luther bust in Eisleben
Bust of Martin Luther at the Luther birth house in Lutherstadt Eisleben – Creative Commons (Con2tto)

By the end of this week, Mark and I will have submitted the manuscript for our book on Pietism and the future of Christianity. As it happens, this stage concludes as churches like ours prepare to celebrate Reformation Sunday, and our book will come out in 2017 — the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Indeed, Martin Luther is currently mentioned or quoted 14 times in our working draft.

So I dedicated this morning’s Anxious Bench post to thinking through the legacy of Luther and the other reformers to Pietists. I took some inspiration here from theologian Dale Coulter, who wrote recently for First Thoughts: “Within the evangelical world, the legacy of the Reformation unfolds in different ways depending on whether one identifies primarily with the confessional or the pietistic wing.”

While Coulter focused on Wesleyan interpretations of the Reformation, I argued that Pietists saw “the Protestant Reformation [as] both an inspiring and cautionary tale: a religious awakening that never fulfilled its early potential.” So it occurred to me that the slogan “Reformed and always reforming” worked as well as anything to sum up Pietist feelings about Protestantism. In particular, I focused on how Mark and I had reinterpreted Philipp Spener’s proposals for “a more extensive use of the Word of God” and the “establishment and diligent exercise of the spiritual [or common] priesthood” — since they both hewed most closely to Reformation principles and contained the seeds for radical rethinking of Protestant tradition.

So if you’d like one more chance to get a preview of our book before it enters the copy-editing stage — or you want to know why I didn’t want “to sound more progressive than I am” while still sounding “as radical as I think Protestants should be” — click here for the full post.

For more on the legacies of the Reformation, check out the two books my AB colleague Tal Howard has out this year.


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