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The Reformation: Its History and Legacy (December 2017): Conclusion

By Matthew Hill

Closing Thoughts

The modern world is incomprehensible apart from understanding the Reformation. The theological split that Martin Luther triggered in Christendom created a domino effect that profoundly shaped the trajectory of European society. However, the impact was scattered rather than linear, as its effects were more often unplanned and unpredictable rather than structured and organized. The fact that the publication of Reformation studies has not abated speaks to its significance. Among the forthcoming works on the Reformation not available in time to be considered for this essay are the following ten titles, most of which are likely to be significant additions to the topic. Listed alphabetically by title here, publication details can be found in the Works Cited. These include 1517: Martin Luther and the Invention of the Reformation, by Peter Marshall; Between Wittenberg and Geneva: Lutheran and Reformed Theology in Conversation, edited by Robert Kolb and Carl Trueman; The Making of Martin Luther, by Richard Rex; Martin Luther: Rebel in an Age of Upheaval, by Heinz Schilling; Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, by Eric Metaxas; Martin Luther and the Seven Sacraments: A Contemporary Protestant Reappraisal, by Brian C. Brewer; Martin Luther’s Legacy: Reforming Reformation Theology for the 21st Century, by Mark Ellingsen; Martin Luther’s Theology of Beauty: A Reappraisal, by Mark C. Mattes; Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts That Continue to Shape Our World, by Brad S. Gregory; and The Whole Church Sings: Congregational Singing in Luther’s Wittenberg, by Robin A. Leaver.

Commemorative tours and festivals scheduled this year throughout Germany, Switzerland, England, and Scotland further speak to the Reformation’s enduring legacy. The nature of Reformation studies has moved beyond earlier religious treatments to explore social, political, and economic entanglements, but at its heart the Reformation remains a theological and intellectual dispute. In a world that today gives less credence to religious dogma and often frowns at doctrinal disputes as secondary rather than primary causes of motivation, it is important to contextualize the Reformation in its proper historical place, and to look at its events and people in its own context, rather than from a modern viewpoint. Only then can we begin to better understand the Reformation world and shed more light on our own world.