Remembering the Reformation: 500 Years of History

by Rebekah Bruckner ’18

This October marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and its lasting global impact on the Church, culture, art, and politics. At Azusa Pacific, a Special Collections library exhibit and a cross-discplinary conference commemorate this momentous event.

“In the 16 th century, the spirit of the Reformation was described as 'reformed, and always reforming,'” said Don Thorsen, Ph.D., professor of theology. “The Reformation created positive change in the Church, but it also caused division and tension. It introduced a new emphasis upon salvation by grace through faith, rather than by the mediation of churches; primacy of scriptural authority; distinction between the visible church and invisible church; and a priesthood of all believers. The Reformation also encouraged an emphasis upon personal faith and individual biblical interpretation, which brought separation within the faith.” Thorsen said that the Church continues to reap impacts of the Reformation and he encourages Christians to seek ecumenical ways to work together and serve.

The Reformation 1517–1648: Igniting and Inspiring Change, an exhibit in the Hugh and Hazel Darling Library, promotes conversation and reflection. Featured items include the first Bibles printed in English, Martin Luther’s commentary on the Psalms, John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, and a letter signed by King James I of England.

“This exhibit provides the APU community with the unique opportunity to interact with objects from the time of the Reformation,” said Roger White, Ed.D., University Libraries curator of special collections and rare books. White emphasized the importance of recognizing how key historical events, like the Reformation, precipitate great change.“When you can look at a book and imagine the author martyred for writing it, you can better understand the gravity of the object and its significance.”

The Reformation Reverberations conference, held October 12-14, designed for students, faculty, and staff, features keynote speakers Brad Gregory, Ph.D., of Notre Dame University and Lori Anne Ferrell, Ph.D., of Claremont Graduate University. The day includes panels on the Reformation’s influence on art, culture, and faith around the world.

“The panels incorporate historical perspective on the Reformation, while also analyzing its effect on a variety of disciplines and approaches to life,” said Bradley Hale, Ph.D. “We are bringing in speakers with differing opinions and backgrounds in hopes to facilitate important conversations where there is freedom for discourse. We seek to engage respectfully about the Reformation and its lasting significance.” Hale hopes that conference participants will think more deeply about their own faith and understanding of doctrine.

“Most Christians today--Catholic and Protestant--recognize the importance of emphasizing salvation by grace through faith, which is a gift, and not a work or merit that people achieve,” said Thorsen. “This affirmation is perhaps the greatest theological legacy of the Reformation. Christians today need to focus more upon how they may unite rather than divide, cooperate rather than undermine, and in all instances love.”

  • Rebekah Bruckner ’18 is a public relations intern in the Office of University Relations. She is a English major and a graphic design minor.

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