The Heritage of the Reformation – Martin Bucer

The Heritage of the Reformation

Martin Bucer

John Arnold
19 October 2017

The Reformation did not come at the Catholic Church from outside. On the contrary, all the early Reformers except Calvin were Catholic priests and humanists, devoted to the church to which they had dedicated their lives. Since ordination they had said Mass regularly in Latin and fulfilled all the obligations of their high calling. I would like to say something today about the one who in his own day had the widest European influence, from Strasbourg to Stockholm and even as far as Cambridge, Martin Bucer, Fellow of St John’s College and Regius Professor of Divinity. When he died in 1551, he was buried with honour in Great St Mary’s Church; but in 1556 his body was exhumed and burnt, together with his writings, in the marketplace. Devoted students gathered up handfuls of dust and ashes; and then, in 1560, his remains were reinterred just inside the chancel on the right hand side, with the noble and unique inscription ‘secundo funere honorante‘ (honouring with a second funeral). It is worth a visit, even a pilgrimage; and I would like to give him a five-fold salute.

First, Bucer was the best educated of the Reformers. As a boy at a Latin grammar school in Alsace, he imbibed the Christian humanism of Erasmus; he became a teenage Dominican, not from vocation to the religious life but for a good grounding in the broad and deep natural theology of Aquinas; and he retained the best of what he had gained from both these places of learning and took it with him to university in Heidelberg and into the rest of his ministry and his ceaseless pursuit of agreement and reconciliation.

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The Heritage of the Reformation – The Continuing Hope of the Reformation

The Heritage of the Reformation

The Continuing Hope of the Reformation

Keith Clements
19 October 2017

‘The depth of every present is its power to transform the past into a future.’ So declared one of the most eminent Protestant theologians of the twentieth century, Paul Tillich (1951, p.214). By the same token, we may say, the shallowness of any present is its inability to see anything in the past but itself, or reflections of its contemporary situation. So it is with the Reformation, and the way it is being talked about in some quarters today: a melee of competing fundamentalisms (an anachronistic term), forerunners of the Taliban. No matter that Luther taught people to sing more widely than ever before, and in music alone prompted one of the greatest cultural enrichments that Europe has ever known. Or that Calvin, arch-demon in the canon of secular liberalism, infamously burner of a heretic, was in fact a humanist of his time. Calvin believed strongly in education of the populace including – unlike the Taliban – education for women. Or, there are those who welcome the English Reformation as the prototype of Brexit. No matter that the English Reformation was part of a Europe-wide movement and greatly dependent on it; I once heard Professor Geoffrey Dickens saying there was evidence that within days of their appearance in Wittenberg, Luther’s 95 theses were being discussed by his Augustinian confrères here in Cambridge. William Tyndale’s English translation of the New Testament was indeed a cornerstone of the English Reformation. But it is highly likely that during his labours he went to see Luther at Wittenberg, and in the end his first edition could not be printed in England but only in Worms and then smuggled into London. Or let us think of that rolling seminar of reformational thinking that linked Basel, Strasbourg, Geneva and Frankfurt with Cambridge and Oxford, of which Martin Bucer – of whom John Arnold is reminding us today – was but one embodiment.

In a climate where theology and faith are public embarrassments, all such thinking fails to see what was central to the Reformation: an issue of faith and theology, which our contemporary secularist historiography (not to speak of journalism) is unable to take seriously. At heart was the question: how can we be saved? If that is not a question acceptable to today’s mind, perhaps Luther’s related question is nearer: how can we be righteous? Our contemporary culture is filled with discussion and debate on this.

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The Heritage of the Reformation – What Remains of the Reformation Today?

The Heritage of the Reformation

What Remains of the Reformation Today

John Morrill
19 October 2017

The Michaelhouse Centre, attached to Great St Mary’s Church, is a movingly appropriate place to discuss this subject. John Fisher was Master of Michaelhouse when it was a college (this was from 1497 to 1505); the Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) preached here; the great reformer Martin Bucer, an exile from Strasbourg and Professor in the University of Cambridge in the reign of Edward VI, is buried in Great St Mary’s next door. It is germane to our theme that under Mary I his coffin was dug up and his remains and his books burned in the market square, also adjacent to Michaelhouse. Yet Bucer is also important because Bucer was an irenic figure: from the start of the Reformation he pleaded with Protestant groups to stop quarrelling about details. Both the need for tolerance (not the same as toleration) and the legacies of distrust are the themes of this address. From the Roman Catholic perspective, of great importance is the Second Vatican Council decree on ecumenism, Unitatis redintegratio. Section 1 begins with the statement that

The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council.

Section 3 states that

…some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ. The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.

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Muslim writers in Germany Today

Muslim writers in Germany Today

Margaret Littler
20 July 2017

Islam in Germany

On 3 October 2010 the then President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Christian Wulff, gave a speech in Bremen as part of nationwide festivities marking 20 years since German unification in October 1990. His speech included the following statement:

First and foremost, we need to adopt a clear stance: an understanding that for Germany, belonging is not restricted to a passport, a family history, or a religion…Christianity doubtless belongs in Germany. Judaism doubtless belongs in Germany. That is our Judeo-Christian history. But by now, Islam also belongs in Germany.

Almost 50 years after the first Turkish ‘guest workers’ arrived in West Germany (1961) to fuel the post-war economic miracle, this was still a highly controversial statement.[1] In the same year German economist and politician Thilo Sarrazin published a polemical bestseller, Deutschland schafft sich ab (Germany is Doing Away with Itself), warning of the consequences of Muslim immigration, and predicting that if current rates of immigration continued Germans would eventually become a minority in their own country, the churches would become museums and German culture would be lost for ever. But, as many have pointed out, Sarrazin’s fantasy of a culturally homogeneous German nation is blind to centuries of German engagement with Islam, from the eighteenth-century philosopher Immanuel Kant to the Romantics, from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to the German philologists and linguists who opened up Oriental languages and cultures to the world (?enocak 2011, pp.32-33).

[1] For some detail on the debate see: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/ the-world-from-berlin-integration-is-the-second german- unification-a-721119.html.

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Germany, Brexit and the Future of the European Union

Germany, Brexit and the Future of the European Union

Charles Lees & Philip Walters
20 July 2017

Politics and Society in Germany

The Federal Republic of Germany comprises the eleven states of the former West Germany and the five states of the former East Germany. Its political system has two important features: parliamentary federalism and mixed-member proportional representation (MMP). A federal parliamentary republic is a federation of states with a government that is more or less dependent on the confidence of parliaments at both the national and subnational levels. MMP is a mixed electoral system in which voters have two votes: one to decide the representative for their single-seat constituency, and one for a political party’s ‘list’ of candidates. Seats in the legislature are filled firstly by the successful constituency candidates, and secondly by party candidates on the basis of the percentage of nationwide votes that each party receives. MMP differs from parallel voting in that the nationwide seats are allocated to political parties in a compensatory manner in order to achieve proportional election results. Under MMP, two parties that each receive 25% of the votes may both end up with 25% of the seats, even if one party wins more constituencies than the other.

The political system that developed in Germany after the Second World War was a three-party central-tending triangular dynamic involving the CDU/CSU, the SPD and the FDP, which were been more or less equal in political influence if not seats. This political system was somewhat upset after 1983 when the Greens became significant, and in 1990 with the emergence of the left-leaning PDS (the direct successor to the East German SED and later to become the Left Party) after the reincorporation of the GDR. Over the last 20 years Germany has become much more of a cosmopolitan and multicultural society. The 2011 census gave the population of Germany as 80.2 million. About 74 million (92.3%) were German citizens, of whom 9.9 million (12.3%) were of immigrant background. About 6 million (7.7%) were foreign nationals. The figures for religious belief were: none 33.5%; Roman Catholic 29.5%; Protestant 27.9%; Muslim 5%; other Christian 3.3%; other religion 0.8%. Social cleavages persist to differing degrees in Germany along ethnic, onfessional, class and geographical lines, accompanied by a cultural divide between citizens with libertarian or authoritarian value orientations. Nevertheless the German political culture is still basically consensual, as opposed to the UK’s adversarial political culture. A stable party system, a relatively consensual parliamentary culture, coalition government and multi-level governance, in the context of a social market economy, make up what has been called Germany’s ‘efficient secret’ (Smith 1994).

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2017, Latvia

Religion in the Baltic States: Past and Present Challenges – Latvia

Religion in the Baltic States: Past and Present Challenges


Eliza Zikmane

Thank you for inviting me to speak today on religion in a country on the other edge of Europe. I will focus on the Lutheran Church, but will start with a historic overview of Christianity in Latvia.

The origins of Christianity in Latvia

Lands on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea were among the last in Europe to be Christianised. Seen from the British perspective, these lands may seem to be a sluggish backwater of Europe, but in fact for millennia trading routes were active here, connecting East and West, North and South, through busy ports. The first sparse written records on the Baltic tribes can be found in Greek and Roman sources; later Vikings sailed up the rivers and established a trading route to Constantinople. Throughout subsequent centuries several powerful nations of Europe attempted to conquer or control these lands in order to gain full control of the Baltic Sea.

Living in a buffer-zone between big and powerful states and empires has shaped the mentality of the Baltic peoples, and has an impact on their attitude to religion and organised religion in particular.

The first sporadic influences of Christianity came to Latvia through short-lived Viking settlements in western Latvia and through Russian merchants travelling from the East along the river Daugava. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries Germans organised mission and conquest in order to Christianise the tribes in Latvia; this was part of the Northern or Baltic Crusades, a military campaign carried out largely by the Teutonic Knights. Local tribes were defeated; the local people were forced to get baptised, and the land ended up in the hands of Germans. The indigenous population were eventually forced into servitude.

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2017, Estonia

Religion in the Baltic States: Past and Present Challenges – Estonia

Religion in the Baltic States: Past and Present Challenges


Tiit Pädam


In 2016 the Parliament of Estonia elected a new President for the Republic, Kersti Kaljulaid. She was inaugurated on 10 October. The occasion gave rise to heated debate: not because for the first time in Estonian history a woman had become President, but because she broke with the tradition of her predecessors and did not take part in the celebratory thanksgiving service in the Lutheran cathedral in Tallinn.

She explained that she had never been a churchgoer, although she respected all religions and people of different confessions. As an example she described how as a member of the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg she had been on a delegation to the Vatican where she had been received by the Pope and participated in all the religious services in connection with the visit. She also said that her decision not to attend the service had been motivated by the fact that according to the Constitution of Estonia there is no state church. She has written that ‘A self-confident Estonian is free in their choices’ (quoted on the main page of her official website, https://www.president.ee/en/president/biography/index.html”).

Her decision provoked an extraordinary number of reactions and a heated debate broke out. Many felt insulted; others welcomed her decision. The leadership of the Lutheran Church tried to keep a good face, but they were mostly disappointed and critical. Arguments were pitted against arguments and there were emotional discussions.

Why I have begun my introduction to religion in Estonia with this incident? There are three reasons. First, the debate clearly expresses the controversial attitude to religion in Estonia. Second, it highlights the rather strange position of the Lutheran Church in Estonian society. Third, it sheds light on the position of all the churches in Estonia towards the secular state and church-state relations. In Estonia there is great confusion in religious matters; this is a confusion that characterises Estonian reality generally.

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