Recent Articles

18 Aug 2015

Momentous vows

by Beth Kreitzer | Issue 115

On June 13, 1525, 41-year-old Martin Luther and Katharine von Bora, 15 years his junior, married in Wittenberg after a brief engagement of less than a day. It was a union that shocked a nation—not because of their age difference, but because the couple was, in the eyes of the medieval church, committing incest.

As a former monk and a former nun, the two had been “brother” and “sister,” even if only in a spiritual...

Read More
18 Aug 2015

Christ present everywhere

by David C. Steinmetz | Issue 115

Who was Jesus, and what could he have meant to imply about himself when, as the Gospel of Matthew reports, he broke bread and told his disciples to “take, eat, this is my body”? Early Protestants were fairly certain they knew what Jesus did not mean: to suggest that bread and wine had been miraculously “transubstantiated” into his physical body and blood. The word “transubstantiation,” the medieval Catholic...

Read More
18 Aug 2015

“Contemplate Christ”

by Timothy George | Issue 115

One day in 1511, Luther and his monastic mentor, Johannes Staupitz, sat under a pear tree in a garden near their cloister at Wittenberg.

The vicar-general of the Augustinian order told young Luther he should become a professor of theology and a preacher. Luther was taken aback. “It will be the death of me!” he objected. “Quite all right,” said Staupitz. “God has plenty of work for clever men like you to do in...

Read More
18 Aug 2015

Course corrections

by Patricia Janzen Loewen | Issue 115

The Pardoner in Geoffrey Chaucer’s fourteenth-century Canterbury Tales explains the wares he’s peddling thus:

Then show I forth my hollow crystal-stones,
Which are crammed full of rags, aye, and of bones;
Relics are these, as they think, every one.
Then I’ve in latten [metal] box a shoulder bone
Which came out of a holy Hebrew’s sheep.

After showing his beautiful relic containers, the Pardoner then describes his...

Read More
18 Aug 2015

The accidental revolutionary

by James M. Kittleson | Issue 115

AN ADVISER TO SIXTEENTH-CENTURY tourists remarked that people who returned from their travels without having seen Martin Luther and the pope “have seen nothing.” Another man read Luther’s works and declared, “The Church has never seen a greater heretic!” But upon reflection he exclaimed, “He alone is right!”

How could one person evoke such conflicting reactions echoing through the centuries? Luther himself said,...

Read More
26 May 2015

Doing “more beyond”

by Priscilla Pope-Levison | Issue 114

It all began with a fall into a well. At the age of two-and-a-half, Jennie Fowler Willing (1834–1916) tumbled into a well on her family’s Illinois farm property, struck her head against the side, and sustained severe nerve damage. That injury spurred on chronic health problems that eventually affected her ability to attend school after age nine. For years, she yearned for an education. Finally, at age 28, she...

Read More