religion

Readings: Martin Luther, Open Letter to the German Nobility (Moodle)

Preparation Questions

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Martin Luther was a 16th-century monk who became increasingly concerned about many of the beliefs and practices in the church of his day. As Luther’s attempt at reform within the church grew, he wrote an “Open Letter to the Christian Nobility” of Germany, urging his audience to action. In this letter, Luther identifies three “Walls of the Romanists” which he believes are central problems in the church. What are these three “walls”? Briefly summarize each.
While Luther also wrote to the religious leaders, his “Open Letter to the Christian Nobility” was written to the Ruling class, and not to his religious contemporaries. Why might Luther have done this? What could he hope to get from the ruling class that he couldn’t get from the religious leaders?

What is your assessment of Luther’s critiques of the church? Are they persuasive? Do you think they could become dangerous ideas if taken too far? Why or why not?

Preparation Questions: Protestant & Catholic Reformations

Readings: Schleitheim Confessions (Moodle)

Council of Trent Selections (Moodle)

Preparation Questions:

Schleitheim Confessions is a document representing the Anabaptist tradition (a more radical variety of the Protestant reformation). After reading this document, what strikes you as some of the most important values for this community?
The Council of Trent was a Roman Catholic response to the Protestant Reformation (held 1545-1563). They took up a variety of issues, from Scripture, to Justification, to Transubstantiation. What seems to be their understanding of the relationship between faith and works?
In the section on the Eucharist and Transubstantiation, what is their teaching about the sacrament?
What are your thoughts about these readings?

Preparation Questions: (you must answer all questions to receive credit)

1. Today’s readings center around reforms that took place in England, creating the Church of England (also known as Anglicanism). Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy (1534) was an important development for the future of the church in England. From your reading of this text, what does the Act of Supremacy claim for the King? What implications would this have for Christians in England?

2. The second reading is a selection from one of the most significant developments of Anglicanism: the Book of Common Prayer. In an act of originality and innovation, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, authored this book containing the main Christian services. What makes it so important is that it was the first of its kind which provided lay Christians the services of the church in the language of the common people (English rather than Latin). Today’s reading is a selection of Matins (Morning Prayer). What features of this reading make an impression on you? What impact on Christians do you think it would have that such prayer books were now made available in the language of the people?

3. The final reading comes from John Wesley, an 18th-century Anglican priest who would become responsible for starting the Methodist movement. These selections give a brief window into some important issues for Wesley. From your reading, what seems to be central to being a “Methodist”, both in terms of beliefs and in terms of practice?

4. What personal questions and/or reflections do you have from these readings?

Preparation Questions: Christianity in Colonial America

Christianity in Colonial America

Reading: “A Model of Christian Charity” by John Winthrop (Moodle)

Preparation Questions:

The reading for today is a treatise delivered in 1630 by the Puritan John Winthrop while sailing on the Arbella across the Atlantic to America. Winthrop would be instrumental in forming the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and he served as its governor for the first 12 years. This is Winthrop’s most famous treatise, in part, because in it he lays out his vision for the kind of community he imagines in the New World. How would you describe Winthrop’s general vision for this community?

In the first part of the treatise, Winthrop lays out specific practices related to charity and caring for the poor, but the second half of the work explores the ground (reasons) for such a life. According to Winthrop, what is the basis of this community of love? Is this something that can just be worked up by anyone, according to Winthrop, or is its source unique to Christians?

Toward the end of the treatise, Winthrop gives his most famous phrase: “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” What do you think Winthrop meant by calling this group to be “a city upon a hill”? Rather than a statement of arrogance, how might Winthrop have intended that word picture to be both a challenge and a caution to his fellow travelers?

Do you think such a community is possible? Do you think America today has followed the advice of John Winthrop? Why or why not?

Preparation Questions: Christian Varieties in Global Context
Preparation Questions:

1. Philip Jenkins is the Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University. He is well-known and well-respected for his research and writing on the global shape of Christianity today and the trajectory of Christianity’s future. Today’s reading is a chapter in one of Jenkins’ books: The Next Christendom. To begin, Jenkins suggests that Christianity in the modern world is “living through one of the transforming moments in the history of religion worldwide” (p. 1). What does he mean by this, and why does he say this?

2. Jenkins classifies contemporary Christianity into two broad groups—the liberal North/West and the global South. What are the distinguishing features of these two groups of Christians in the world today?

3. Jenkins charts the growth of modern-day Christianity. Where does he say Christianity is most vibrant and growing right now? What implications does Jenkins think this will have on the shape of Christianity in the 21st century? And what concerns does Jenkins warn about?

4. What personal questions and/or reflections do you have in light of Jenkins’ predictions for the future shape of Christianity? If Jenkins is right, do you consider this to be a positive or a negative development? Explain yourself.

Preparation Questions: Christian Varieties in Global Context
Preparation Questions:

Christianity in Colonial America

Reading: “A Model of Christian Charity” by John Winthrop (Moodle)

Preparation Questions:

The reading for today is a treatise delivered in 1630 by the Puritan John Winthrop while sailing on the Arbella across the Atlantic to America. Winthrop would be instrumental in forming the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and he served as its governor for the first 12 years. This is Winthrop’s most famous treatise, in part, because in it he lays out his vision for the kind of community he imagines in the New World. How would you describe Winthrop’s general vision for this community?

In the first part of the treatise, Winthrop lays out specific practices related to charity and caring for the poor, but the second half of the work explores the ground (reasons) for such a life. According to Winthrop, what is the basis of this community of love? Is this something that can just be worked up by anyone, according to Winthrop, or is its source unique to Christians?

Toward the end of the treatise, Winthrop gives his most famous phrase: “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” What do you think Winthrop meant by calling this group to be “a city upon a hill”? Rather than a statement of arrogance, how might Winthrop have intended that word picture to be both a challenge and a caution to his fellow travelers?

Do you think such a community is possible? Do you think America today has followed the advice of John Winthrop? Why or why not?

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