The Reformation at 500


This course is a reflection on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and the legacies of that Reformation as they reverberate into the present.

Traditionally, the Protestant Reformation is dated to the moment Martin Luther dramatically nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, which is usually dated to October 31st, 1517. Of course, that was only one moment in a much longer arc of history that began long before Luther's lifetime and continued afterwards. But reckoning by that very consequential act, the Protestant Reformation turns 502 years old this fall.

This course is a consideration of some of the themes and moments of the Protestant Reformation, broadly construed. It draws on the multiple disciplines represented in theological education as it is done at Iliff, and it considers the impact of the Reformation across many different aspects of the Christian tradition. Geographically, we will follow the Reformation from Luther's Germany to Geneva, Italy, Spain, and even the Americas. Chronologically, we will consider ramifications up to the present.

Course Objectives


There is only one textbook required for this course: Sunshine, Glenn S. A Brief Introduction to the Reformation. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2017.

The remainder of readings will be provided for you as PDFs or web links on the Canvas site.


Each week will feature a theme. These themes are not usually sequential, and they don't build on each other. Nor do they together constitute anything like a complete history of the Reformation. Rather, each is a stand-alone consideration of some particular aspect, consequence, or legacy of the Protestant movement.

There will be three main components of each week. The first is a conversation between the professor and the guest of the week. This videoed conversation will set the agenda for the week, covering major questions and issues to be addressed. A discussion forum will accompany this videoed conversation. The second component is a secondary text, usually assigned by the person from the video conversation, which we will discuss in a forum on Canvas. The third is a primary text, usually to be annotated in a group setting using on Canvas.

In this way we will revisit the same material three times--in a video conversation, in a secondary text, and in a primary text. This is the main work of the course--encountering and reacting to these materials.

Each of these assignments is "low-stakes," in that what is being required is simply engaged participation. A paragraph or so of writing, in the case of discussions, or a few annotations of the text, in the case of the primary text annotations, is sufficient to receive credit. You can always do more if you like, but the idea is to generate conversation with each other. You can either start your own conversation or join someone else's by responding to what they wrote; both are equally valid ways of engaging. You will get credit for doing the assignment, and you will receive no credit if you don't do it--simple as that.


The bulk of credit for the course can be earned through the discussions and annotations mentioned in the section above. Each of the three components--the video discussion, the secondary text discussion, and the primary text annotation--will be worth two points each, for a total of six points a week, or sixty points over the quarter's ten weeks.

The remaining forty points will come from reaction papers. These are two five-page papers reacting to one of the themes or readings from the course in a more engaged way than is possible in class discussions. The format of these papers is otherwise open; you could choose to do a close reading and analysis of a text from class, for instance, or you could choose to do research on an interesting question that the week's work raised for you. You might interrogate one week's material in light of your social location or ecclesiological setting, or you might offer an alternative interpretation of a primary source. The point of these papers is that they should be useful to you at the place where you are in your journey , so you can mold them to fit your interests. They are opportunities to dig deeper into some aspect of the course. The only requirements are that they be five pages long, and that one be turned in near the midpoint of the quarter (week 6) and the other at the end of the quarter. Of course, proper citation and standards of academic integrity should be observed at all times, but there are no restrictions on number or kind of sources you could or should use.

A Word About Civility

The Protestant Reformation was a contentious time, and it remains a divisive moment in the history of Christianity. Iliff is home to people from a broad spectrum of religious traditions, including Catholic, Protestant, non-Christian, and non-religious people. In a course that is explicitly about a period of conflict and disagreement, then, it is even more important than usual that we all refrain from polemic, stereotype, criticism, and attack as we cover this material. The purpose of this course is not to arrive at some definitive wrong/right dichotomy in the interpretation of the Protestant Reformation, but rather to understand the history of a movement and a period, and to do so in a diverse and generous community.

Sep 10, 2019TueSay Hello! due by 05:58AM
Sep 10, 2019TueWeek 1: Introduction to the Protestant Reformation and to the Colloquiumdue by 05:59AM
Sep 12, 2019ThuWeek 1: Secondary Textsdue by 05:59AM
Sep 14, 2019SatWeek 1: Primary Textsdue by 05:59AM
Sep 17, 2019TueWeek 2: Lutheran Biblical Interpretation and Biblical Theology (with Pamela Eisenbaum)due by 05:59AM
Sep 19, 2019ThuWeek 2: Secondary Textsdue by 05:59AM
Sep 21, 2019SatWeek 2: Primary Textsdue by 05:59AM
Sep 24, 2019TueWeek 3: Reformation, Ritual, and Sacrament (with Ted Vial)due by 05:59AM
Sep 26, 2019ThuWeek 3: Secondary Textsdue by 05:59AM
Sep 28, 2019SatWeek 3: Primary Textsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 01, 2019TueWeek 4: Reading, Media, and Mediation (with Jeffrey Mahan)due by 05:59AM
Oct 03, 2019ThuWeek 4: Secondary Textsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 05, 2019SatWeek 4: Primary Textsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 08, 2019TueWeek 5: Formation and Education (with Katherine Turpin)due by 05:59AM
Oct 10, 2019ThuWeek 5: Secondary Textsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 12, 2019SatWeek 5: Primary Textsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 15, 2019TueWeek 6: The Spanish Reformation (with Albert Hernández)due by 05:59AM
Oct 17, 2019ThuReaction Paper #1due by 05:58AM
Oct 17, 2019ThuWeek 6: Secondary Textsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 19, 2019SatWeek 6: Primary Textdue by 05:59AM
Oct 22, 2019TueWeek 7: Theology and Politics of Translation (with Michael Hemenway and Tim Beal)due by 05:59AM
Oct 24, 2019ThuWeek 7: Secondary Textsdue by 05:59AM
Oct 26, 2019SatWeek 7: Primary Textdue by 05:59AM
Oct 29, 2019TueWeek 8: The Roots of Methodism (with Boyung Lee)due by 05:59AM
Oct 31, 2019ThuWeek 8: Secondary Textsdue by 05:59AM
Nov 02, 2019SatWeek 8: Primary Textdue by 05:59AM
Nov 05, 2019TueWeek 9: Decolonizing the Reformation (with Tink Tinker)due by 06:59AM
Nov 07, 2019ThuWeek 9: Secondary Textsdue by 06:59AM
Nov 09, 2019SatWeek 9: Primary Textsdue by 06:59AM
Nov 12, 2019TueWeek 10: Reappraisals and Conclusionsdue by 06:59AM
Nov 14, 2019ThuWeek 10: Secondary Textsdue by 06:59AM
Nov 21, 2019ThuReaction Paper #2due by 06:59AM