Luther and the Second Reformation”

AHA Session 268
American Society of Church History 39
Saturday, January 7, 2017: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Mile High Ballroom 4B (Colorado Convention Center, Ballroom Level)
Jared S. Burkholder, Grace College
Peter James Yoder, Berry College

Session Abstract

In light of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, this session examines the way Luther, as both a historical and imagined figure, functioned in Pietism and other renewal movements of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As such, papers in this session focus on Luther’s life and theology as interpreted and constructed by these later reforming movements. Unified by their central focus on Luther, the three papers in this session address this topic within three different contexts. This session will likely capture attendees from a variety of research interests including those interested in Puritan studies, early modern Eruope, Pietism studies, Luther scholars and those interested evangelicalism in the atlantic world. 

Tom Schwanda traces the reception and use of Luther within Puritan devotional works. Schwanda argues that Luther’s theology of the cross, his teachings on justification, and his focus on spiritual disciplines were often embraced by such key representatives of the Puritan tradition as Bishop Joseph Hall, Richard Sibbes, George Swinnock, Thomas Watson, Isaac Ambrose, Richard Baxter and John Bunyan. Next, Mark Olson surveys John Wesley’s appropriation of Luther, especially as it relates to Wesley’s “Aldersgate experience.” Although it has traditionally been understood that Wesley’s view of Luther was mediated through the Moravians, Luther’s doctrine of justification by faith was also passed on to Wesley through his Oxford education, other streams of pietism, and his own reading of Luther. Thus, Olson argues, by examining this broader context, we are better able to assess the degree to which Wesley appropriated Luther’s doctrine of justification for his own evangelical message. Finally, Tine Reeh draws our attention to the political scene in Scandinavia, where Pietists had a profound impact in the 18th century. The Reformation had originally resulted in the abolition of canon law and later Pietists pushed for radical religious individualism and arguments in favor of the secularization of the legal system. For these Pietists, Luther’s life and teachings provided a powerful heritage of protest against authority. This paper will examine this Pietist appropriation of Luther by showcasing the debates between the absolute Kings of Denmark-Norway, the theological faculty, and the faculty of law at the University of Copenhagen.

This session is organized by the leadership of H-Pietism (Pietism Studies Group) in cooperation with the American Society of Church History.

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