The year 2017 marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the European Reformation, a time of incalculable significance for the history of Christianity. This was the decisive moment at which the Bible was translated into the leading European languages. The rise of printing vastly enhanced the significance of that change, for the first time placing the book in the hands of ordinary people. That movement began a cultural and religious revolution that remains very much alive today, after a half-millennium. In that sense, we still today live in the shadow of the Reformation, and arguably in its still flowing currents. As theologian Karl Barth famously declared, "Ecclesia semper reformanda" – the church is always to be reformed.
Such a momentous anniversary demands commemoration, but also calls for serious reflection about the wide impact of the Reformation and the role of the Bible. Since the earliest days, for instance, believers differed widely about the proper use, interpretation, and translation of the Bible, and its proper place in lived Christianity. Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, and Roman Catholics all had their own distinctive emphases and drew their conclusions about these matters. Where do those debates stand today?
Such an inquiry has special force at a time when Christianity's center of gravity worldwide is shifting so decisively to the global south, and we witness the emergence of countless new and emerging churches. In the global north, meanwhile, we witness a new media revolution just as far-reaching as the coming of print. How will the Bible be transformed in the coming age? In this context, the Reformation is no mere historical event from bygone days but an issue that is still urgent and immediate. What can history tell us that might guide or assist new generations of Christian thinkers and leaders? Always reformed, always reforming. . .
Beyond its obvious religious implications, the Reformation’s Bible must be credited as the source and origin of so many aspects of life that we too often take for granted: for the sense of individualism, for the development of language and education, for national as much as religious identity. Did the new Bible indeed, as some have claimed, grant tongues of fire to those who had been voiceless in older societies? To borrow the famous words of author John Buchan, just what was this new thing called the Gospel, which some called “a fetter to bind the poor and others a club to beat the rich”? How, in short, has it created the cultures we know today, both religious and secular? Above all, we must explore the issue of memory. How has the actual experience of the original Reformation been remembered in academic and popular culture? What are its legacies in literature and cinema, academic scholarship and fiction? Which of its great moments and characters have we ignored or underplayed? Which elements have fallen into undeserved oblivion? What remains to be rediscovered?
Join us as we explore these questions during the 2017 Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture, “The Bible and The Reformation,” on October 25-27.
Possible topics include:
Proposals for individual papers, panel discussions, and responses to current books are welcome. Abstracts of no more than 750 words should be submitted by April 1, 2017. Call 254-710-4805 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.