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Reading the Reformation with Luther

I’ve been thinking about pursuing an experiment and today is perhaps a better day than any to announce it. I intend to read through the Reformation along with Luther. By this I mean that beginning this year I want to read through the major works of Luther’s along with him, roughly as he wrote them.

There are a few caveats to this plan.

First, I intend to read only those works that are easily available in English, primarily in Luther’s Works (I will likely be using Logos to create and execute a reading schedule). Next, I do want to read the works of other figures of this period along with them as well, but I will do so only as feasible and where necessary. There are likely to be some years (e.g. 1520/2020) that are pretty full, not only with trying to keep up with what Luther wrote himself but with other things (2020 is also the centennial of Kuyper’s death!). As we go perhaps I’ll add some of those kinds of works into an optional category or something. In some cases, no doubt, it will be necessary to read them to really understand Luther’s point, since so much of his work is controversial, apologetic, and so on. In addition, while I have read some of these works, at least in part, I do want to do these in roughly chronological order and in full, wherever possible. My hope is that doing so will give some new insight into how the Reformation developed, at least in Luther’s own thinking.

I’m sure many have done something like this on their own, perhaps in condensed form (e.g. the Luther Reading Challenge). Perhaps spreading it out a bit will not only make it a project that is more feasible but also that approximates the length and patience and controversy that marked this era. The pace of life today is much quicker, so that will be an obstacle, but this is not meant to be an ideal project, but aspirational.

In the coming days I’ll post something more of a schedule and you are welcome to join along. If there is enough interest perhaps we can find some way to make it more of a group experience. In any case, right now I’ll plan on posting some reading responses and so on in this venue. The approach will be more of a reading log or diary of sorts than anything more refined. Perhaps I can get the TCI editors to add a “Reading the Reformation” category!

Deo volente, I’ll live until 2046 and get to see this thing through. I’m older than Luther was 500 years ago this time, but life expectancy is longer today. Suggestions are welcome of course too, especially if there are resources or plans out there that others have found useful.

By Jordan Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012), and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous volumes. Jordan also serves as associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research of Calvin Theological Seminary.

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