Monthly Archives: June 2017

Book: Mysticism in the Reformation (1500-1650), by Bernard McGinn

The first of two volumes focusing on the Reformation, this title is the latest in Bernard McGinn’s multi-volume history of Christian mysticism in the West called The Presence of God.  Here’s the publisher’s summary:

Mysticism in the Reformation, Part I of Volume 6 of The Presence of God Series, is the first full account of the role of the mystical element of Christianity in the Reformers who broke with Rome in the period 1500-1650. Although some modern Protestant theologians tried to distance the Reformation from any contact with mysticism, recent scholarship, by both Protestants and Catholics, has shown that Protestant mysticism is an important part of the heritage of the Reformation. After an “Introduction” surveying modern disputes about the nature of the Reformation and the Catholic reaction to it (both Catholic Reform and Counter-Reformation), Chapter One deals with how the pioneering Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin reacted to the heritage of Christian mysticism, concentrating on Luther’s complicated relation to mystical traditions. Chapter Two turns to the role of mysticism in select “Radical Reformers” of the sixteenth century, who created models of interior mystical religion that continued to have an effect over the centuries. Chapter Three analyzes the writings of the two most famous Lutheran mystics of the early seventeenth century, Johann Arndt and Jacob Boehme, whose impact in later Western religious traditions has been both powerful and controversial. Finally, Chapter Four considers the significance of mysticism in the English Reformation, both among those who accepted the Elizabethan Settlement that established the Anglican Church, as well as with the dissident Puritans who rejected it.

Here is the full citation for this work:
McGinn, Bernard. 2016. Mysticism in the Reformation (1500-1650). The Presence of God, V. 6, Pt. 1. New York: Crossroad Pub.

A review of the book appears in the latest issue of Spiritus.

Burrows, M. S. “The Presence of God. A History of Western Christian Mysticism, vol. VI:1: Mysticism in the Reformation (1500–1650) by Bernard McGinn (review).” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, vol. 17 no. 1, 2017, pp. 117-121. Available to SSCS members.


Article: Two Ways of Seeing: The Challenge of Julian of Norwich’s Parable of a Lord and a Servant, by Philip Sheldrake

In an article appearing in the latest edition of Spiritus, Philip Sheldrake explores one of the central passages in Julian of Norwich’s Revelations, the parable of a lord and a servant. Sheldrake argues that Julian is using the parable as a an exemplum as a way of showing how she can hold two contrasting beliefs, her often quoted “Every kind of thing will be well” with a central belief of the Church: “one article of our faith . . . that many creatures will be damned.” Here are the article’s opening paragraphs:

In what is described conventionally as the Long Text of Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love, or A Revelation of Love, Chapter 51 is the longest chapter. In important ways it is also the heart of the text and a key to Julian’s major theological insights and teachings. The chapter outlines a parable of a lord and a servant and then reflects upon this narrative in challenging ways. The parable is presented as God’s answer to Julian’s various anxieties about how to understand her own experience of daily sinfulness in the light of her growing sense of God’s lack of blame.

In Chapter 45 of the Long Text, Julian outlines her background problem that is a result of her visionary experience. How is she to reconcile the “judgment of Holy Church” that “sinners sometimes deserve blame and wrath” with the fact that “I could not see these two in God”? However, “to all this I never had any other answer than a wonderful example of a lord and a servant, as I shall tell later, and that was very mysteriously revealed.” By “example,” Julian means an exemplum of the kind that medieval preachers used to illustrate their message.

Here is the article’s citation data:

Philip Sheldrake. “Two Ways of Seeing: The Challenge of Julian of Norwich’s Parable of a Lord and a Servant.” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 17, no. 1 (2017).