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Reformation of the Keys: David M. Wilson Reviews Ronald K. Rittgers’ Book

[As shown in the copyright notice at the end of this quoted review, permission has been granted for this redistribution of this review. This review is the work of David M. Whitford.]

Whitford on Rittgers, ‘The Reformation of the Keys: Confession, Conscience, and Authority in Sixteenth-Century Germany’

Author: Ronald K. Rittgers
Reviewer: David M. Whitford
Ronald K. Rittgers. The Reformation of the Keys: Confession, Conscience, and Authority in Sixteenth-Century Germany. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004. xii + 318 pp. $49.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-674-01176-2.

Reviewed by David M. Whitford (Department of Philosophy and Religion, Claflin University)

Published on H-German (January, 2005)

In Matthew 16, Jesus promises to give the keys of heaven to the Apostle Peter. Along with the promise of the keys, Jesus asserts that Peter will have authority on earth to bind or to loose sins. The historian of Christianity cannot underestimate the importance and influence of these two promises on the history of the church and the societies shaped by it. Almost immediately the two promises were combined. Originally, their power extended only to the spiritual life of Christians as they related to their local congregations. Over time (and especially after the Constantinian settlement), their power began to creep into other aspects of life. By 1302, in the bull Unam sanctam, Pope Boniface VIII (d. 1303) could claim that the power of the keys gave him authority over all living creatures (including kings and emperors). Needless to say, not everyone agreed with Boniface’s interpretation of Matthew, and the authority of the church over the spiritual and temporal lives of people continued to be a point of contention well into the era of the Reformation.Ronald K. Rittgers, assistant professor of the history of Christianity at Yale, offers a thorough and thoughtful examination of the Power of the Keys during the Reformation in this revision of a dissertation written at Harvard under the direction of Steven Ozment. The book begins with a short introduction to the history of the Office of the Keys in the Western church. Rittgers then turns his attention to the city of Nuremberg and uses that city as a case study for his examination. Nuremberg is an excellent choice of cities for a number of reasons. While its size, history, and importance in the life of the Empire are key factors, more importantly Nuremberg adopted the Reformation of Martin Luther fairly early and became a model for the evangelical city as a consequence.

In chapter 2, Rittgers turns to examine the theology and practice of penance in the theology of the church. Penance was the process by which one paid the penalty for breaking the laws of God and of the church. This very detailed chapter highlights the religious milieu of the late medieval world. Chapter three examines the early critiques of late medieval penance by Luther and other early reformers. Rittgers highlights how the religious critique of penance and the Office of the Keys were welcomed by cities like Nuremberg who saw an opportunity to forward their social and political aims while reforming religion. This chapter, perhaps more so than the others, highlights Rittgers’s ability to weave theological insights and historical narrative together.

Chapter 4 examines how the reformers and city magistrates dealt with the repercussions of their critique. It is one thing to call for dismantling a system; it is another thing entirely to try to put something new in its place, and Rittgers explains this difficulty well. Chapter 5, then, turns to look at the new system of the keys and authority (both spiritual and temporal) built by the reformers. The clergy and the civil magistrates had to struggle to find a balance between order in the church and the community and freedom to proclaim the new Gospel. Given the history of the Peasants’ War, the Knights’ Rebellion, and the Edict of Worms, finding this balance was both essential and rather difficult. Chapters 6 through 8 present vignettes that highlight the struggles and successes of the Nurembergers as they tried to walk this fine line.

The last chapter is perhaps the most interesting because it turns to assess the relative success or failure of Nuremberg to create a Lutheran city both in doctrine and life. The degree to which the Reformation was successful in this regard has been a heated debate in Reformation studies since at least Gerald Strauss’s important Luther’s House of Learning: Indoctrination of the Young in the German Reformation (1978). In that book, Strauss argued that this endeavor was largely unsuccessful. Rittgers offers a breathtaking critique. On point after point, Rittgers points out that Strauss’s critique is overstated and at times says more about the author than it does about early modern Lutherans.

In the first chapter, Rittgers notes that the Power of the Keys has been largely ignored in the scholarship of the Reformation. As I read that, I thought that such a claim must surely be impossible. It is like ignoring the proverbial elephant in the middle of the room. And yet, Rittgers is absolutely correct. This book is a welcome remedy to such a striking deficiency.

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=10109

Citation: David M. Whitford. Review of Rittgers, Ronald K., The Reformation of the Keys: Confession, Conscience, and Authority in Sixteenth-Century Germany. H-German, H-Net Reviews. January, 2005.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=10109

Copyright © 2005 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at hbooks@mail.h-net.msu.edu.

Six More Distributors for Catechetical Evangelism in the Newspapers

Six more book distributors are distributing the new, free eBook, Catechetical Evangelism in the Newspaper, by T. R. Halvorson. The new distributors are:

The book is published through Smashwords and is available there in several formats. The PDF version is available for free download at LutheranCatechism.com.

Description

Evangelism springs from Luther’s Small Catechism into the newspaper. This book shares from the author’s experiences in writing religion articles published in his local newspaper. It presents ideas about the Catechism and evangelism, and about newspaper evangelism. It explains an approach to writing catechetical newspaper articles and includes three dozen of the author’s published articles as examples of the approach.

Contents

Introduction

Evangelism and the Small Catechism
– Reformation of the Catechism
– Evangelical Even Where Not Expected
– Throbbing with Genius; Ready to Give an Answer

Newspaper Evangelism
– Fountain of Ideas
– Have Something to Say
– Welcome Your New Friend: the Word Limit
– Wisdom Cries Out in the Street
– Interest and Illustration
– Inspiration and Perspiration
– Confessional Fidelity

Example Newspaper Articles
– Christ’s State of Humiliation
– Christ’s State of Exaltation
– Trinity
– Baptism

About the Author

T. R. Halvorson was born in Sidney, Montana on July 14, 1953, baptized at Pella Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sidney, Montana on November 8, 1953, and confirmed at First Lutheran Church in Williston, North Dakota in 1968. He and his wife, Marilyn, are members of Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Sidney, Montana. They have three sons and six grandchildren. T. R. farms at Wildrose, North Dakota, and is Deputy County Attorney in Sidney, Montana. He has been a computer programmer; and an author, conference speaker, instructor, and consultant to industry in online legal information. He is among the authors of the religion column in the Sidney Herald at Sidney, Montana. He is the Editor of LutheranCatechism.com, a regular contributor at Brothers of John the Steadfast (SteadfastLutherans.org,)

It always brings something fresh

No pious heart can find it tiresome and superfluous if they read [the catechism] through each day and take part of it and say it aloud and meditate on it. When they do that with serious, diligent consideration, it will always bring fresh teaching, fresh warnings, fresh admonition, and fresh comfort. Thus the dear catechism is like a bountiful fresh spring; as often as a person comes to it so often will he find a rejuvenating drink.

C. Spangenberg as quoted in Robert Kolb, Martin Luther and the Enduring Word of God, 411-12.

HT:  John T. Pless who quoted this in his Didache group on Facebook.

 

Parents, your children are your primary disciples

Parents, you have disciples. Primary and secondary ones. Your children are your primary disciples. Here are some excerpts from an article by Pastor James Uglum that crystalize these truths.

The kids that God has entrusted to you are your primary disciples. As Christian parents we have the privilege of not simply making disciples, but raising them. And that is both a joyous task and a heavy one. Simply “going to church” each week for one hour won’t cut it. Having your kids baptized and then never darkening the doors of a church, or speaking to them of Jesus again won’t cut it. Jesus didn’t just meet up with his disciples once a week for an hour. He lived with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for three years.

The kids that God has entrusted to you are your primary disciples. And as their mom and dad you have the privilege, joy and responsibility to lead them. This has to be intentional on your part. There are literally a million different things that vie for your family’s attention. …

But as disciples ourselves, we are called to live with Jesus as the center of our lives. And this starts at home. Like the original twelve; discipleship isn’t just a one day a week for an hour commitment. Being a disciple of Jesus is a 24 hour a day, seven day a week gig. And our kids need to be able to see that and hear that from us through the noise and commotion of whatever else is happening at any given moment.

Pastors Who Teach the Catechism: Trouble, Labor, Danger, & Trials

Doctor Martin Luther describing the lot of pastors who teach the truth in the Catechism, from his preface to the Small Catechism.

Therefore look to it, ye pastors and preachers! Our ministry is a different thing now from what it was under the pope; it has now become earnest and wholesome. Hence it involves much more trouble and labor, danger and trials, and has but little reward and gratitude in the world. But Christ Himself will be our Reward if we labor faithfully. To this end may the Father of all grace help us; and to Him be praise and thanks forever, through Christ, our Lord!  Amen.

Dr. Martin Luther, Preface, Small Catechism, 1956 WELS-NPH “Gausewitz” translation.

Enhanced Style of NPH-WELS Small Catechism Memory Cards — Kris Brown Designs

Previously, LutheranCatechism.com released Small Catechism Memory Cards in eight different translations. The translations are:

Today, LutheranCatechism.com releases another style of the NPH-WELS cards.

This style has:

The previously released 1979 NPH-WELS cards were standard size 3″ x 5″ index cards with both the question and the answer for each portion of the Catechism on one side.

  • post card size
  • graphical design enhancements
  • questions on one side, answers on the other

These beautiful cards have been created by graphics designer, Kris Brown of Kris Brown Designs.

The post card sized style is distributed in two versions, one with cut lines and the other without cut lines, as the user might prefer.

These free resources let anyone print memory cards, each containing a portion of Luther’s Small Catechism, to use as a memorization aid, for teaching children, or for meditation and prayer. Simply download the free PDF file containing the cards from the distribution page, print the cards on letter size card stock, and cut four cards from each sheet. Remember to print them in duplex, two-sided printing, to put the questions on one side, and the answers on the other side.

Memory Card, Baptism, NPH-WELS - Kris Brown

A Nice Explanation of the Small Catechism

Here is a nice Explanation of the Small Catechism.

This is provided online by Pastor Joseph Abrahamson, Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, Clara City, Minnesota.

This is a derivative work. The 1981 Evangelical Lutheran Synod catechism committee compiled and edited this material from earlier catechism explanations. Pastor Abrahamson made some updates in language. The result is a nice explanation.

Catechesis Begins at Home — Parent Friendly Demonstration, Ramada Inn, Mall of America

Catechesis Begins at Home
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Ramada Inn, Mall of America
8:00-11:00 a.m.
Registration begins at 7:00am.

See a parent-friendly system of catechesis demonstrated by Rev. Jeremiah Johnson, Glory of Christ Lutheran Church, Plymouth MN.

Parents know they are responsible to pass on the faith to their children, but aren’t quite sure how. Sunday School and confirmation programs have been doing it for years, but it’s apparent more is needed. Pr. Johnson will be talking about and demonstrating a parent-friendly system he developed to get the family to anticipate the next Sunday’s Divine Service.

Cost: $15

Followed by 2016 Congress on the Lutheran Confessions. See more information here.

Venue
Ramada Inn – Mall of America
2300 East American Blvd
Minneapolis, MN 55425

Audio — Will Our Children Stay within the Church?

Pastor Timothy Pauls, then Editor of Higher Things, guest teacher for Bible Class, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Marshall, MI, 5 October 2008.

 

Just a couple excerpts.

You are, as parents, the greatest influence over your kids. And I am surprised at the number of parents who say, ‘Well, we leave the catechesis of our children in the hands of our pastor at church.’ … I take my kids to the dentist, but we still make sure they brush every day, because that’s not the dentist’s job. God gave our kids to us.

Luther very wisely wrote the Small Catechism not for pastors to teach teenagers, but as the head of the household should teach to his family from a very early age. … He also writes about the father of the house as the Hausvater, the ‘house father,’ teaching the kids, teaching the family … to train up a child in the way he should go, from the earliest of ages.”