The Newberry Library in Chicago is currently running the Religious Change 1450-1700  project. In addition to over a hundred objects from their collection on display, the program is hosting a series of lectures on the impact religion and print, had on society. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend two such talks on the Reformation.

Martin E. Marty’s lecture, “Luther and the Reformation: 500 Years of Book-Burning and Book-Learning,” addressed the catalyst of Luther’s posting of the ninety-five theses, the impact of the Reformation, and the paradoxical nature of book burning. Though Marty is best known for his work in American religion, his most recent work is October 31, 1517: Martin Luther and the Day that Changed the World. He covered the issues of how the Reformation challenged authority, upended society, and progressed the medieval age into the modern world.

The audio can be found here.

The second talk was a conversation between Mark A. Noll and Brad S. Gregory. At the center of the discussion was Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society. Drawing from The Unintended Reformation, Gregory argued that the Reformation laid the groundwork for the unintended secularization of western society. The trajectory of the Reformation resulted in a modern age antithetical to the sixteenth-century reformers’ intentions. Perhaps drawing from his previous work Is the Reformation Over?: An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism, and more recent interactions with Gregory’s thesis, Noll provided a critical assessment after Gregory’s initial statement.

If you have not taken a look at Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation, or his most recent and condensed work Rebel in the Ranks, I recommend that you do.

While in agreement with Gregory’s main argument, Noll contends that Gregory fails to consider other factors leading up to the Reformation and certain outcomes of the Reformation. To Gregory’s argument, Noll responded with three points. First, Gregory does not acknowledge the pre-existing fragmentary nature of secular society that would have challenged the authority of the Catholic Church if the Reformation had never occurred. Second, though Reformation appeals to the conscious can be seen as an unintentional factor to the secularization of society, the Reformation also resulted in a reform within the Catholic Church. Third, despite the negative effects of the Reformation, it initiated a movement spreading the Gospel worldwide.

The audio can be found here.

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