Radicalizing Reformation- Provoked by the Bible and Today's Crises

Reformation radikal- provoziert durch Bibel und Krise
Reforma em sua radicalidade - suscitada pela Bíblia e pela crise da atualidade 

A critical research and action project towards 2017

"Serious reflection on the Gospel and sharp eyes on the present reality are the forces through which the living church is born anew. The church of the future will not be 'bourgeois'." Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sanctorum Communio (DBW 1, 292)

In 2017 there will be the quincentenary of the Reformation, 500 years after Martin Luther's 95 Theses in Wittenberg. In view of the present crises it is insufficient just to celebrate this event. Therefore an interdisciplinary group of scholars has formed an alliance to use the occasion of the quincentenary to raise critical questions about how the Reformation contributed to the development of modernity and these subsequent crises, and how re-envisioned Reformation understandings and practices can contribute to addressing these crises today. This calls for deep conversion and transformation, growing out of the roots of this legacy, i.e., “radicalizing” it. About thirty participants in the project met in Nürnberg/Germany from February 19 to 23, 2012 in order to design a research and action program to engage this challenge between now and 2017.

The 2nd International Conference took place August 3-7, 2014 in Halle. 94 Theses  were formulated. They will be published together with 5 volumes of research findings and also be placed on this website.


The Series asks: from which perspective should we look at the Reformation today? We choose a double perspective: “Radicalizing Reformation – provoked by the Bible and Today's Crises”. Our starting point is the general crisis of life today. We look at this crisis and the Reformation, including its impact on modernity, from the perspective of contextual Bible research, i.e. from the perspective of liberation for life in just relationships. According to Luther, all traditions have to be judged on the basis of Scripture. The following publications each contain the 94 Theses which were distilled from the material of the the 5 volumes.


Volume 1: Liberation towards Justice
Here we are dealing with the centerpiece of the Reformation: justification – law – gospel. Key is the new interpretation of Paul – against an individualistic understanding, reducing God's justice and liberation to the western Ego, thus preparing the way for calculating capitalism; against the identification of the Torah with the “killing law” instead of with the law of the Roman Empire; against the sharp antithesis of law and gospel leading to the separation of the New and Old Testament, to anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism.


Volume 2: Liberation from Mammon
This issue connects the Bible, Reformation and today's crisis: money in religious, political, economic and mental perspective. In the Old and New Testaments the imperial rule of money is understood as structural sin, making all people into co-perpetrators. God's liberation happens as the formation of Torah led to new messianic communities, which practice solidarity instead of egocentric individualism. This corresponds to Luther's rejection of purchasable salvation and his systemic critique of individualism and early capitalism.


Volume 3: Politics and Economy of Liberation
Luther systemically criticizes early capitalism. He is aware of the religious character of capitalism on the basis of the first commandment. His writings on trade and usury (finance) only marginally effected later Protestantism (e.g. Winstanley in the 17th century) but mainline Lutheranism did not follow this critical line. Only recently the potential of Luther's position for the theological critique of neoliberalism and for a political ethics of partisanship and reconciliation were rediscovered.


Volume 4: Liberation from Violence for Living in Peace
The Latin American term, buen vivir, serves as a marker for a new, life-affirming culture. This approach can assist us in overcoming several wrong developments generated through the Reformation—reclaiming a political interpretation of the Bible, affirmation of the materiality of the natural world as the foundation for faith and ecclesial existence, and overcoming the violent, “religious identity” politics of Luther against peasants, Anabaptists, Muslims, and Jews. This volume calls for a post-colonial reading of Luther and a radical turn toward active non-violent engagement. The authors advocate a “new Reformation” in the trajectory of Bonhoeffer and Soelle.


Volume 5: Church – Liberated for Resistance and Transformation
The cross is a sign of evil, of consolation for all those tortured and suffering, a sign of hope, of liberation. Christ takes on the socio-political, cultural and economic conditions of those who have been deprived of their rights. The church needs to risk its sustainability by being with and for the poor. Whereas in sin we are disconnected, through the Spirit we are re-connected. The Spirit works freely in people and the world, therefore also in other religions besides Christianity. Rather than being only focused on the person or individual, resistance and transformation should have a more communal ecclesial focus.