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Luther | 500 Years Reformation

The 500th anniversary of Luther announcing his 95 theses in Wittenberg gave UCSIA a reason to gauge the importance of his thinking and working from different angles in a series of master classes and lectures that took place on 9, 10, 23 and 24 November and 14 and 15 December. On 12 October 2017 the Antwerp Protestant community opened the series with a panel debate in the church of the Brabantse Olijfberg.

With an open-hearted historical reconstruction, Thomas Kaufmann contributed to a correct understanding of the Lutheran attitude towards the Jews. When extracted from the context of his time and from the Lutheran theological framework, his ideas sound alienating: he called for setting synagogues on fire, for instance, but Luther aspired to a theologically homogeneous Germany, not to an Aryan state. Perhaps he cultivated popular existing forms of anti-Semitism in order to better define his own theological beliefs and new position as church leader.

Read the summary in Dutch.

Andrew Pettegree made it clear that the new and innovative medium of printing allowed Luther to spread his ideas as widely and quickly as a contemporary new brand name. Conversely, Luther helped the new industry progress by delivering to a new and buoyant market a solid and accessible product, complete with illustrations and texts in the vernacular. Antwerp publishers/printers also played an important role in this endeavour.

Read the summary in Dutch.

Heinz Schilling pointed to other reformers within the Church such as Charles V and Cisneros of Toledo. Just like Luther, they professed a piety based on the figure of Christ and interpreted the Bible in the accessible spoken languages of their time and location. Luther’s strong position forced the moderates to close the ranks around the Pope. Unlike Erasmus, who regretted the loss of unity, Luther strengthened the disagreement by proclaiming the truth. This, together with political and dynastic ambitions, ultimately led to the Thirty Years’ War. The Habsburg dynasty was established, Spain and Portugal started their expansion to Central and Latin America, Africa and the Far East. At the same time, after the annexation of Cairo, the Ottoman Empire threatened the southeastern flank of Europe. The Protestant reformation was thus not the only world-class event of that time; it was part of a broader culture of change.

Read the summary in Dutch.

In a panel debate with Jan De Volder, Geert Van Istendael and Joke Van Leeuwen, ideas were exchanged about a range of current issues and tensions with deep roots in the time period outlined above: freedom of conscience and freedom of expression, tolerance, religious freedom and ideological pluralism, secularism, the right to offend, the imposition of religious beliefs and signs, intolerance or religious extremism. One panel member wondered whether freedom of expression may lead to a cacophonous fragmentation of truths.