By Dr. Neil Damgaard, Center for Religious and Spiritual Life
October 31st marks the 500th anniversary of the day that an Augustinian monk and professor of theology, Martin Luther, posted on the church door (which was sort of the town bulletin board) his ninety-five theological points of objection to the then current practices in the church. Luther was 34 years old and in all the world there was only the western and the eastern churches (which had split in the year 1054) and Luther had no intention of creating a whole new movement. However, coinciding with religious conditions in France, Switzerland, Holland, England and Scotland and yet quite unconnected to Luther directly, he brokered the beginning of a serious effort to return Christianity to its roots. He was excommunicated by the church but undaunted, continued his studies, and writing—(the printing press had been invented not long before his time).
Today any disunity or disagreement are frowned upon in many religious circles and much effort has been made to force the notion that the Protestant Reformation has become irrelevant to our modern, enlightened minds. Much bigger goals and ideals are now said to be in favor and the questions of the Reformation are couched as anachronistic and even toxic. However one thing is clear—when power is challenged it generally does not like the affront. In the university setting we welcome inquiry, debate and the process of carving out knowledge. We are generally civil enough to debate with kindness and respect but if there is disagreement we welcome discussion and even the point where two parties “agree to disagree”. Philosophical and metaphysical questions will never cease among us and those with a religious set of presuppositions are always ready to offer our suggestions. We honor each other, respect the education and experience which each of us bring but we love the process of discussion of the deeper questions. We each adopt a theological framework with which to approach the great questions and for me, the Reformation sets the mechanisms well for what is truth, where does authority come from and who gets to decide the rules?
I enjoy the ongoing dialogue and light-hearted atmosphere which we in the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life share. Call on us at any time to enter the community discussions on the many questions we face in a free society!