The Reformation at Five Hundred

From the November 2014 Print Edition

On October 25, many churches will once again observe “Reformation Sunday,” commemorating the day in 1517 when Martin Luther is said to have nailed his Ninety-Five Theses concerning theological reform on the door of the Castle church in Wittenberg, Saxony. This event continues to be regarded as the birth of Protestantism. We now stand just three years out from the five-hundredth anniversary, which will be marked worldwide in 2017. Churches, institutions, and individuals shaped by what began so many centuries ago face a daunting question: How in fact ought one to commemorate the Reformation five hundred years after the fact?It’s not an easy question to answer. Protestantism, it should be remembered, has not only been credited for restoring Christian truth (or, on the other hand, blamed for church divisions) but has been invoked as the cause of modern liberalism, capitalism, religious wars, tolerance, democracy, individualism, subjectivism, nationalism, pluralism, freedom of conscience, modern science, secularism, and so much else. How, in fact, does one remember a historical juggernaut of such immense influence and so many contested interpretations—one that, to quote one ­nineteenth-century historian, “impelled the human mind to new courses”? Continue Reading »

Protestant Reformation Approaching 500

From First Thoughts

On October 31, 2017, the Protestant Reformation will turn 500. How ought one commemorate such an epochal, complex, and influential historical development? While the date is still a while off, I have been thinking about the question a lot lately. In part, because my colleague Mark Noll at Notre Dame . . . . Continue Reading »

Two Deaths

From the May 2012 Print Edition

As I write these paragraphs, a friend of mine is treading through his last twenty-four hours of life on this earth. Tomorrow morning he will be executed, after thirty years in solitary confinement in one of our state prison complexes. I have never met him. But somehow, perhaps ten years ago, he got . . . . Continue Reading »

Maritain’s America

From the January 2007 Print Edition

Since its founding, the United States has elicited much curiosity and commentary from European intellectuals. Oscillating between paternal interest and fraternal rivalry, Europe’s ambitious scribes have braved the Atlantic, written sprawling books, instructed us in manners and morals, and . . . . Continue Reading »