Tag Archives: Martin Luther

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.


Paper: The Reformation Recovery of the Wrath of God

This paper by Ralph Keen was presented on June 30 at the recent SSCS conference “Wondrous Fear and Holy Awe” at the University of Notre Dame.  SSCS members may contact the blog’s moderator for a copy of the paper.  Here is an excerpt:

“If the Scholastic understanding of the process of justification seemed to elevate the human capacity for merit, the early Evangelical challenge to it elevated the working of grace and denied the possibility of meriting salvation. In the theological anthropology of the Reformers, the loss of original righteousness and the inability to gain merit in the eyes of God is met with a divine anger that strikes terror into the believer and sends him or her to the consolation of the gospel. Embracing this consolation does not banish the fear of God’s wrath: it is a protection against being consumed by such fear. The experience of grace is incomplete without such fear.

“In the following discussion I would like to point out some features of divine wrath and the fear of it as they appear in the work of some Reformers, in the hope of clarifying the centrality of this adversarial experience in the Christian life. In recovering what they saw as the Pauline doctrine of justification, the Reformers retrieved a conception of divine wrath crafted during the centuries in which the church was under persecution and the course of history was the divine plan executed through flawed human instruments. As with their Pauline and Patristic predecessors, the Reformers gave material force to the biblical language of a wrathful deity, throwing it into relief as an experience genuinely threatening to the equanimity of the believer.”