by Jessica Jervis-Viville
University of West Georgia commemorated the upcoming anniversary of the Reformation with an event, The Reformation at 500: Five Perspectives. It was sponsored by the Department of History and the College of Arts and Humanities as part of the annual Dean’s Signature Series, whose theme this year is truth. The event included five different speakers, who spoke on the Reformation and its profound influence on the world.
Historian Perspective: Dr. Charles Lipp
Lipp, an associate professor of history at UWG, teaches and writes about the early modern European History. Lipp opened his lecture with an admission that he is not a theologian. He then went into great detail about the history of the Reformation and Martin Luther’s life. Lipp explained how historians view the Reformation and the events surrounding that historical time.
“One of things that historians have come to appreciate about the Reformation is unexpected results,” Lipp said. “The reformation began as a search for God’s pure truth, and inadvertently to doubt skepticism. Christianity was supposed to be one unified church, but by the 1600s that just wasn’t happening.”
As Lipp concluded his presentation, he left the audience with three things he would like them to remember.
“For historians the Reformation was profound in its impact,” explained Lipp. “It moved in unexpected directions and above all was a movement of its place and time.”
Theologian Methodist Perspective: Rev. Karen M. Kagiyama
Kagiyama, an associate pastor at the Carrollton First United Methodist Church in , chose to explain the Reformation in reference to women pastors and began by giving historical background on the Methodist leader, John Wesley. She explained that Wesley was one of the first religious leaders to accept women pastors. These women pastors were reformers in their own right. Kagiyama explained that there is a long history of reformers, that all started with the Reformation. She detailed the similar actions that Luther and Wesley took to bring change to the church.
“These reforming movements after Luther included a variety of religious expression,” said Kagiyama. “I think the 18th century Methodist revival was one of the most vibrant. Like Luther, Wesley sought this reformation of the church he was ordained in.”
Kagiyama ended her talk with the words of Wesley.
“Best of all, God is with us, and I pray that it might be so.”
Political Scientist Perspective: Dr. Robert Schaefer
Schaefer, a professor of political science at UWG who is a specialist in American government and political theory, offered a more political perspective on the Reformation. He explained that the Puritans are the true founders of America, and how their actions affected the operation of modern America.
Schaefer believes there is a direct link between what Martin Luther accomplished and the founding of the United States of America. Throughout his lecture he made several reference to writer, Alexis de Tocqueville. He used Tocqueville to build a case for his belief on the Reformation and America.
“What Tocqueville said is that for any particular regime or country to survive we have to share opinions about right and wrong,” stated Schaefer. “One of the interesting things about Christianity and its effect on America is that it allowed shared pools of opinions of right and wrong.”
Schaefer concluded with profound words and America, Christianity and the Reformation.
“If we decided that we were all here by accident things would fall apart tomorrow,” said Schaefer. “This hasn’t and won’t happen, so we celebrate not only the Reformation, but America.”
American Religion Specialist Perspective: Dr. Daniel K. Williams
Williams, a professor who specializes in the history of American religion, explained how America is grounded in Christianity. Despite the claims that church and state are separate entities, we still find Christianity in several aspects of American life.
“The United States is a product of the Reformation,” began Williams. “I would argue that to a great degree than perhaps any other nation.”
Williams went on to explain how the United States relates back the Reformation. He discussed topics like our presidents being Protestant, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. He ended with a bold and rather telling statement.
“Regardless if you’re a Protestant or even if you’re not Christian at all. If you live in the United States your thinking has been shaped by the Reformation,” concluded Williams. “It might not be too much to say, in fact, that as 21st century Americans we are all in some sense children of Martin Luther.”
Theologian Presbyterian Perspective: Pastor Andrew Hendley
Hendley, senior pastor at King’s Chapel Presbyterian Church in Carrollton, began his talk with a personal anecdote about growing up in a fundamentalist church. In his religion, they did not celebrate Halloween but rather had a Reformation party. He used this as a basis to explain that through his perspective the reformation is largely associated with justification by faith alone.
“The reformed position was that justification was not something one worked towards,” stated Hendley. “It was merited once one had changed from unrighteousness to righteousness.”
Hendley continued his talk by explaining the two different positions on justification. He explained that Roman Catholics believed that justification could only be received after many years of hard work whereas the reformers believed that justification was received when one became right with God.
“In summary, the reformed position is that we are declared right with God,” explained Hendley. “Not because of anything we have done, but simply by saying we trust in the act of Jesus, whose righteousness was given to us and took of our bad sins. God declared we are now called sons and daughters. We are right before him.”Posted on