Tag Archives: Reformation

Prague Postcard: Jan Hus Memorial


Prague is an amazing city. Mostly, look at the two photos. What follows is a newbie’s expression of a few things he’s just learned while here in Prague.

Apparently, the Jan Hus Memorial, pictured above and below, is famous for more than just its namesake. Built in 1915, the memorial counts as a work of Art Nouveau sculpture.

The funny thing about the above angle: The reformer Hus (1369-1415) appears to be looking at the Church of Our Lady before Týn, which is the church he wrestled away from the Roman Catholic Church, and some time after Hus’s death (burned at the stake), Rome wrestled back from his followers, the Hussites.

Between the two spires, you can see a lower cross, and beneath that, what looks like a gold light or plate. It’s an image of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus. It wasn’t always there. Just underneath that image, there’s an empty space that used to hold a golden cup, symbolizing Hus’s and the Hussite’s belief that the layperson can receive the wine at Holy Communion, not just the bread, which at the time was the practice. When Rome regained control of the church, Catholic authorities had the golden cup melted and pressed into the image of the Virgin and baby Jesus. (I’m only repeating what I’ve heard on a Rick Steves audio guide or briefly read online—just quick postcard here! I’m probably missing nuances.)

One thing I didn’t know about Jan Hus is his impact on the Czech language: he was a professor who added the diacritical marks—like ý and š—that allow Czech to be written so the letters can represent Czech sounds that differ from sounds in the Latin alphabet.

Soon, I’ll be back in the States. Here’s Hus with a bird on his head:




Catholic Cardinal helps plant trees in memory of the Reformation

From a Nov. 2 Ecumenical News International article:

A top Vatican official has joined other global Christian leaders in the eastern German town where Martin Luther broke with the papacy, at a tree-planting ceremony that looks to closer ties on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

The ceremony took place in Wittenberg, the German town known as “Lutherstadt”, 492 years after Luther nailed his epoch-changing 95 theses to a church door there, leading to the breach with the 16th-century papacy

“It is possible for us today to together learn from Martin Luther,” said Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity as he planted the first of 500 trees on 1 November in a landscaped Luther Garden, forming part of the celebrations for 2017.

Churches worldwide are being encouraged to adopt one of the trees planned for the Luther Garden and also to plant a tree themselves, to denote a link with the birthplace of the Reformation. Kasper said a tree would be planted at the Vatican in Rome.

Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox and Reformed leaders gathered alongside Kasper in the Luther Garden in sunny autumn weather.

“This newly planted tree reminds us that Martin Luther’s call for reform in the Church was a call of penitence that also affects us today,” said Kasper at the ceremony, which followed the anniversary of Luther’s action on 31 October 1517 that led to often bitter quarrels between Protestants and Catholics.

Read the rest here. I found it on Kendall Harmon’s blog.

Two reasons why Martin Luther would go to Oktoberfest, and you should, too

October should be considered a German month. In Myrtle Beach, we have the opportunity to celebrate it in German fashion tomorrow.


Somewhere along the way, All Hallow’s Eve became Halloween — and that became commercialized into the second largest holiday in the United States.

However, October 31 is also known as Reformation Day.

Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517. That act is generally considered to be the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

So why not celebrate the Reformation all month?

After all, CVS has been celebrating Halloween since something like the fifth of July.


Luther was German, and he liked a good theological conversation with a good beer.

September and October have been special months in Germany for centuries, and oddly enough, that’s because of the importance of March.

Before the refrigeration, brewing in Germany started around September or October and ended in March, or Märzen in the German language. With April arrived warmer weather, which raised problems for brewing. So beer brewed in March was placed in cold storage until September or October, when it had properly aged. That’s the origin of the märzen beer that eventually became associated with Oktoberfest. (You can read about the history of Oktoberfest here.)

What better way to celebrate the harvest season, the Reformation, and Protestantism’s German heritage than an Oktoberfest?

WHAT | Second annual Oktoberfest, featuring live performance by The Rheingold Band, German cuisine and beer, contests and kids activities

WHEN | 3-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3

WHERE | Valor Park, off of Farrow Parkway, in The Market Common, on former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, between U.S. 17 Business and U.S. 17 Bypass, Myrtle Beach

HOW MUCH | Admission is free; beers and food for sale

MORE INFORMATION | Visit The Market Common’s Oktoberfest page

Barth, Luther, and Kierkegaard: Does Kierkegaard deserve a place among Reformed thinkers?

Food for thought from Julia Watkin’s book Kierkegaard (1997):

“In the 1921 second edition of his commentary, The Epistle to the Romans, Barth (who first encountered Kierkegaard in 1909 in a German translation of Kierkegaards’ The Instant) acknowledges his debt to Kierkegaard and places him among the really great ones: Abraham, Jeremiah, Socrates, Grunewald, Luther and Dostoevsky. In a lecture from the following year, 1922, Kierkegaard appears in a list of Barth’s spiritual ancestors, of whom the others are Luther, Calvin, St Paul and Jeremiah.”

On one hand, in Kierkegaard and the Existential Philosophy (1969), Lev Shestov wrote, “Kierkegaard had, by his own admission, read little of Luther, and, as we will recall, did not particularly like him.”

On the other hand, Shestov went on, in his chapter entitled “Kierkegaard and Luther,” to write: “The true meaning of Kierkegaardian philosophy is revealed in the words by Luther … [which indicate that] … existential philosophy is the great and final struggle of man with the enigmatic and mysterious monster which has managed to convince him that his bliss, both temporal and eternal, depend exclusively upon his readiness to bow before truths emancipated from God….”

For many of the Christian thinkers who were lumped in with the existentialists, a key human problem, from Greek philosophy to the modern era, was the elevation of “truths emancipated from God.”

Imagine, today, the “steps” and “principles” and techniques that appear in the sermons at trendy churches. But the Gospel is the truth in the context of a loving Personality.


Halloween is also Reformation Day, on which we note that Wittenberg is not so Protestant

I am not among the anti-Halloween scaremongers and killjoys, yet I wish more people also knew the last day of October as Reformation Day.

This is a bit obligatory: On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his not-so-anti-papal Ninety-Five Theses on an important door in Wittenberg, Germany, and that act more or less marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

These days, however, Wittenberg is only 10 percent Protestant.

The German news outlet Spiegel Online reports:

Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation in the German city of Wittenberg 500 years ago. But, today, only 10 percent of its population is Protestant. Church leaders have launched a major drive to change that — but have come up against the city’s communist past.

It’s impossible to walk through Wittenberg, also known as “Luther City,” without stumbling across reminders of Martin Luther. There’s the “Luther oak,” then Luther Street, which leads to the Luther House. Along the way are restaurants offering a “Luther menu” (choice of meat or fish) and a travel agency touting a tour boat named after the city, which couples can book for their weddings. The bars serve Luther beer; the bakery has Luther bread. There’s a huge memorial to Luther in the main marketplace. And the city is crawling with guides decked out in long frocks à la Luther. The city has been completely Lutherized.

Wittenberg, in fact, is as important to the history of Protestantism as Rome is for the Catholic Church. But there’s an essential difference: While Rome is full of Catholics, less than 10 percent of Wittenberg’s 46,000 citizens are Protestants.

Read the rest of the article here.

Conservative revolution, radical revolution: there’s a difference

There is a difference between a conservative revolution and a radical revolution.

A conservative revolution seeks to preserve and reinvigorate good old things.

A radical revolution can seek to tear down institutions and established ways; but, sometimes a radical revolution merely wants to pursue a new vision of Utopia. The former version of radical revolution is anarchic; the latter is misguided.


“Our evidence shows that Reformers considered the patristic tradition as second only to biblical authority, and used it as a critical source in vindication of their views. The Tradition of the church was not the same as the traditions which they opposed; in fact the former helped to expose the nature of the latter,” Daniel H. Williams wrote in Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism: A Primer for Suspicious Protestants. (That is why it has been difficult to hear some speak of recent “revivals” as similar events to the Reformation.)


In the old days, I was once told, school children had copybooks, and across the tops of these pages were written wise, time-tested sayings. As G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis often noted in their times, old points of view frequently were mocked and belittled as things of the past, yet the mocking and the belittling had more to do with fashionable thinking than serious thinking.

If you’ll forgive Rudyard Kipling much of who he was, and if you’ll endure his old style of poetry, you will find a brilliant expression of radical revolution (in conflict with wise old ways) in his poem “The Gods of the Copybook Headings.”

Tip Jar

Reformation Polka!

Hey folks, it’s Reformation Day!

That’s right — Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenburg church door on Oct. 31, 1517.

Long before Hallmark and Hersheys turned subsequent October Thirty-Firsts into something about black cats and pumpkins.

Long after it was acceptable to sacrifice people in celebration of Samhain.

Why not celebrate with this polka: