Is the Reformation Relevant for Luther’s Homeland?

Matthias Lohmann and Ryan Hoselton | March 21, 2017

Any observant tourist to Germany this year would notice that the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation means a great deal to the country. Scores of academic conferences, public lectures, publications, and museum exhibitions are devoted to rediscovering the fascinating world and figures of the Reformation era, as well as its cultural, religious, and political legacies in Europe and beyond.

The German Protestant church body, Evangelische Kirche Deutschland (EKD), has capitalized on the opportunity to draw newcomers through talks, concerts, exhibits, and even Luther poetry slams. It also produced a 2017 edition of the Luther Bible.

Irrelevant Reformation? 

Despite all this, however, few in Europe see the relevance of the Protestant Reformers’ theological and spiritual vision for today. Many dismiss their doctrinal and ecclesial agenda as a mask for furthering the political and economic interests of power-hungry royalty (or, unintentionally, of zealous peasants). Others blame the Reformation for leading Europe into divisive wars and struggles with disastrous and abiding social consequences. Most Europeans view the Reformers’ beliefs as intolerant, passé, and petty.  

With few exceptions, Europe’s churches more or less agree. To advance ecumenical relationships with Catholics, the EKD will officially commemorate the anniversary as a Christusfest (festival of Christ) rather than…

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