Teaching the Reformations

My last month of summer research has largely been spent summarizing everything I did for the first two months. For each reformation movement, from Martin Luther to Vatican II, I have written comprehensive lecture notes that will guide Dr. Angelov’s lectures in our class. This process has not only allowed me to review all of the books I’ve read, but also to engage with the primary sources from each reformer. Reviewing each movement in a briefer time frame than I initially engaged with primary and secondary sources has allowed me to draw greater connections between them. As I stated in my last blog post, each reformation objectively seems so similar to the others, but when you get into the nitty-gritty details, like how the key reformer viewed the Eucharist or free will, disputes arise. Sometimes these disputes even occurred in person, like when Prince Philip of Hesse organized the Marburg Colloquy in 1529 as an attempt to get Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli to resolve their differences. These in-person disputes often went unresolved, like the Marburg Colloquy, but sometimes they did lead to compromises, like the Augsburg Confession.

The greatest benefit of using this month to review each movement side-by-side is that it is helping me form the first section of my Honors thesis. As of right now, I have decided to focus my research on the modern ecumenical movement, a movement for a more unified Christian community. The first section will be an analysis of the actual differences the two reformers had. The second section will explain the history and current progress of the ecumenical movement. The last section will then analyze how Martin Luther and John Calvin would have reacted to ecumenism. Because both of these men were pretty hot-headed and firmly convinced that they had found the absolute truth and everyone else was wrong on some front, I expect the final section to conclude that they would have disapproved of the way ecumenism attempts to dissolve theological differences between movements. However, I currently know very little about the ecumenical movement, so maybe I will discover that it has developed in a way that would have satisfied both reformers. I’m looking forward to learning more about Luther, Calvin, and ecumenism, and keeping everyone posted on what I find out!


  1. I find the intersection between religion and political-type compromise very compelling. For instance, the Luther/Zwingli accord seems like a deal brokered in the spirit of a modern agreement between legislators. To what extent do you analyze the Reformations with an eye towards when they may have sacrificed ostensibly foundational principles for pragmatic gain?

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