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Showing posts from 2017

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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…or, Something to keep you busy over the weekend…

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

The last link post was actually three weeks ago, for any of you keeping score at home. Since then we’ve had an exciting #Refo500atDET series (links to individual posts below) and not much else. That series was a lot of fun to put together, though, and I hope you enjoyed it. If you have not yet enjoyed it, now’s your chance to catch up!

Those of you who are tuned in to the professional theology / biblical studies / religious studies scene know that I’m posting this quite literally on the eve of the year’s main professional event: #AARSBL17, otherwise known as the 2017 annual national concurrent conference of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature. So it’s pretty safe to say that there won’t be many folks reading blogs for the next few days. Also, right after that those of us in the USA have Thanksgiving, then those of us on the academic calendar have finals, t…

Susan Vincent's Amazon Review of "Our God Loves Justice" (#OGLJ)

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So, my book on Helmut Gollwitzer is out!

W. Travis McMaken, Our God Loves Justice: An Introduction to Helmut Gollwitzer (Fortress, 2017).
I've mentioned this once or twice indirectly here at DET, but this is the first time that I've posted about it specifically. But I definitely want to, because I definitely think that you should order the book. And the price-point is definitely reasonable, even if I definitely say so myself, which I definitely do. Definitely.

But rather than continue to type excited gibberish, I want to share with you the Amazon review of OGLJ that Susan Vincent wrote. Susan is a lawyer who does what sounds like very interesting work in community development both in the US and abroad. I've gotten to interact with her some on Twitter (@susanv) and she seems like good people. Plus, she likes my book, so she's definitely good people. Definitely.

The thing that makes this review so meaningful to me is that Susan is someone who spends her life on the fron…

Calvin as Luther’s Disciple: #Refo500atDET

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Not a bad title, I think, but not entirely honest either. You see, I tend to think that Calvin is not only properly understood as Luther’s disciple, but as Luther’s chief disciple. But that’s a whole other claim that I don’t want to get into today, so the title stays as it is.

In case you don’t like that engaging little introduction to the post, here’s another. Free of charge! Best 2-for-1 deal in the theoblogosphere today!

Hang around DET long enough, as long-time readers know, and eventually I’ll write yet another post about Calvin and Luther. I’ve included a little index of those posts at the bottom of this post, for your browsing convenience. Today is a little different, however, because I want to talk about how Spijker (Calvin: A Brief Guide to His Life and Thought [WJK, 2009])—correctly, in my humble opinion—understands Calvin as a student or disciple of Luther.


Understanding Calvin’s character as Luther’s disciple depends on recognizing the deeply soteriological core of Calvi…

Reckoning with John Calvin’s Brain: #Refo500atDET

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Calvin is one of those figures who accomplished such an incredible amount of intellectual work that from time to time one just has to take a step or ten back, get a good view of the lot, and stand in awe. And that awe is only increased when you consider how powerful the content of that work has proven through the centuries. Spijker’s book Calvin: A Brief Guide to His Life and Thought (WJK, 2009) provides some insight into the production of this oeuvre and the brain that produced it. Won’t you join me in getting to know this side of Calvin a bit better? As always, bold is mine.


The first selection from Spijker that I want to share today pertains to some of the first stirrings of Calvin’s brain as a student:
As a student, Calvin was known not only for his sternness; he attracted attention especially because of his intellectual abilities and overall dedication to his studies. His memory was well trained. Not only later at the University of Orléans but already now at Montaigu he must hav…

Reformer Roundup (Zwingli, Melanchthon, Vermigli): #Refo500atDET

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I’m sad to say, gentle readers, that your intrepid theological bloggers here at DET found themselves unable to give adequate attention to all the major figures from the Reformation. But then again, savvy readers that you are, you probably aren’t surprised. But there are a number of folks that I want to include even if I lack the necessary resources to give them their own posts.

Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531)

Zwingli, much more than Calvin, is the father of Reformed theology. He developed a reputation while a priest as a public intellectual and fierce Swiss patriot due to his opposition to the mercenary (literally) economy that pumped cash into the country but ultimately – in Zwingli’s view – corrupted Switzerland’s young men and spent them needlessly in foreign wars. His tenure as a priest in Einsiedeln (1516–19) brought him into proximity with the pilgrim economy of that time thanks to the town’s revered stature of Mary, which was a regional religious tourism draw. Zwingli would later bo…

Thomas Cranmer - Know When to Hold 'Em, Know When to Fold 'Em: #Refo500atDET

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Remember that old Kenny Rogers song where Kenny (I presume) meets a gambler on a train bound to nowhere? After bumming a ciggy and Kenny’s last swig of whiskey, the gambler shares an important life lesson he’s learned in plying his trade.

He says:
You’ve gotta know when to hold ‘em,
Know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away,
Know when to run.Yeah, if you didn’t before, now you know the song I’m talking about. And if for some odd reason you still don’t, or you just need a refresher, check out the 1978 music video. It’ll enrich your life, and it’ll help you understand Thomas Cranmer.


I begin with this because the career of Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), the great “architect of English Protestantism,” can be seen, among other things, as a proleptic anticipation of Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler.” To make any real progress in the tumultuous political environment of 16th century England, the Reformation needed someone like Cranmer — someone who knew how to play the game.

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Martin Bucer - The Reformation’s Referee, by Kaitlyn Centini: #Refo500atDET

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Martin Bucer was the referee of the Protestant Reformation. He worked to solve conflicts between figures like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Philipp Melanchthon, and John Calvin. Bucer was born on November 11, 1491 in Schlettstadt, Alsace, and died in England on February 28, 1551. That means he not only lived through the dawn of the Reformation, but—unlike Luther—he also lived to see the Reformation’s darkest hour during the Interim(s), but not the decisive Peace of Augsburg in 1555.

During the 59 years and more of his life, Bucer played a crucial role in Lutheran as well as Reformed Christian thought. He entered the Dominican order in Heidelberg, Germany in 1506, which is where he first encountered reforming ideas from Erasmus, Luther, and other thinkers. These influences lead Bucer to his own questions and criticisms of the Roman church, sparking development of his own ideas. Then Bucer’s ideas influenced both the Lutheran and Reformed Protestant traditions as he tried to serve as a …

Ad Fontes - Tyndale and the English Reformation: #Refo500atDET

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#Refo500atDET introduction & schedule available here.

"And God said, Let there be light, and there was light" (Genesis 1)
"And God shall wipe away all tears from there eyes" (Revelation 7)
"With God all things are possible" (Matthew 19)
"Be not weary in well doing" (2 Thessalonians 3)
"Am I my brother’s keeper" (Genesis 4)
"Ye are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5)
"The signs of the times" (Matthew 16)
"They made light of it" (Matthew 22)
"Eat, drink, and be merry" (Luke 12)
"The powers that be" (Romans 13)
"Filthy lucre" (1 Timothy 3)
"The patience of Job" (James 5)


Such phrases from the Authorized version – and countless others – are woven into our cultural and literary DNA (or at least they used to be). Many such quotes will be familiar to people who've never opened a Bible. But very few people, indeed, could trace them to their original source and few woul…

Martin Luther, Reformation, and Justification - by Lauren Larkin: #Refo500atDET

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#Refo500atDET introduction and schedule available here.

A Little Historical Context

Justification by faith in medieval Catholic piety was the means by which the initial distribution of grace was imparted to the sinner. This distribution of grace was the beginning of the person’s further acquisition of grace and righteousness. The process then, for the believer, was to do works to acquire more grace and righteousness and be sure of eternal life. These works aren’t to be confused with our modern romantic sense of the idea of work: an artist at work, sculpting and molding the self. Rather they were meritorious works, aimed at the perfection of the person in order to gain eternal life. These meritorious works (including works of supererogation) functioned as demands on God: I’ve done what was expected, so I deserve blessedness. God is then the one who is to be grateful; we are the giver, God the recipient.

In light of this emphasis on works, a misconception is that the medieval Catholic Ch…

Reformation Women (part 2: writers): #Refo500atDET

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Welcome back for the second of my post discussing the contributions of women to the Protestant Reformation (#Refo500atDET introduction and schedule here). I focused in part 1 on some of the women who provided important material support for the Reformation by marrying key reformers. Today, however, we're talking about some women who contributed to the Reformation movement through teaching and writing.

Argula von Grumbach

Von Grumbach was the Reformation’s first female writer. She became active in the 1520s, publishing poetry and defenses of figures like Luther and Melanchthon. Von Grumbach also corresponded with Luther and met him in person in 1530. She attracted the most attention, however, when she wrote in protest to the University of Ingolstadt in Bavaria. This is an interesting story. Protestant preaching was forbidden in Bavaria, and the University arrested a student – Arsacius Seehofer – for breaking this ordinance. They forced him to recant and then exiled him. This sort of …