Elizabethtown College hosted an event Tuesday, Nov. 14, sponsored by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies about three different reform movements and leaders: Martin Luther, John Calvin and Swiss Anabaptists.
Each speaker discussed the history and choices made by the reformists.
The presentation allowed audience members to ask questions or make comments at the conclusion of the lecture.
Professor at United Lutheran Seminary Dr. Vince Evener spoke about the Lutheran Reformation, which he teaches about as a professor. He has also written several articles about Luther and other reformists, and he co-edited a book.
Executive director and assistant professor of history at the Pense Learning Center at the Evangelical Seminary Mark Draper spoke about the Calvinist Reform.
Director of the Young Center and associate professor of religious studies Dr. Jeff Bach spoke about the Swiss Anabaptist Movement. He has also published several books.
There were a multitude of individuals who attended the presentation for various reasons and from different locations.
Some people, like Phil Weinert and his wife Elaine Weinert, live locally in Masonic Village, Elizabethtown.
The Weinerts attended the event at the recommendation of a friend, who is a licensed minister. Phil Weinert thought that the event sounded interesting.
“We cancelled our other plans for the evening so we could be here,” Elaine Weinert remarked.
Garth Huffman from Georgetown, Delaware came to the lecture because, according to him, the Anabaptist resources are lacking in his area.
He was glad to learn that the Young Center event invited outsiders to attend. He drove three hours to be present.
“It better be good,” Huffman said.
Larry Etzweiler from Lawrenceville, New Jersey came because he met Bach at a Heritage Fair in 2002.
In 2010, after his retirement, he was “delighted by the programs Young Center put on.”
Since then, he has volunteered for the association. Etzweiler was taking photos for the event that evening.
Evener was the first to speak since it was the 500 year anniversary of Martin Luther commencing the Protestant Reformation.
Luther began with the idea of doctrine reform, which he believed entailed reaching salvation through faith alone, believing that faith is a gift of grace, hearing the word of God and receiving the sacraments.
“Luther wanted to purify the mass,” Evener said.
Luther had allies in Wittenberg that helped him. Luther did not believe that there should be altars, images or anything that referenced the saints.
He did not encourage begging, but Luther still thought that it was important to take care of the poor.
When Luther returned to Wittenberg, he was dissatisfied with the way his allies went about implementing the reforms.
Luther deemed that it was vital that the people’s hearts must first be led to God before they will trust in Him.
“He felt that it was the pastor’s job to preach the word, and allowing the Holy Spirit to be a vehicle for the Lord,” Evener said.
“Luther believed that one must distinguish what God commands and what he lets free. And secondly, determine how concrete may serve or not serve the congregation,” Evener said.
Draper, the second speaker, discussed the Calvinist reform. Calvin was different from most reformers.
A second generation reformer in Geneva, Calvin was specifically asked to rebuild the church.
He possessed a holistic viewpoint of reform. Calvin’s ultimate goal was to have the church reformed by the people of the church.
He believed that Calvinists could be great citizens, and even better than Catholics because of their theology. Calvin wanted to separate the church and state to peacefully coexist.
“Calvin came into the scene with a blueprint in hand,” Draper remarked.
Calvin had a strategically structured hierarchy within the church. He felt that the church needed pastors, elders, doctors and deacons.
Each person had a specific role within the church. He also felt that discipline was vital.
The final speaker, Bach, talked about the Swiss Anabaptist movement. These individuals believed that the church must be reformed by the ground-up method. They really wanted a separation of church and state, which was unheard of at the time.
The Swiss Anabaptist reform came about from several different people and different parts of the world.
“There wasn’t uniform thinking,” Bach said.
“The Swiss Anabaptist people had different treks from Calvin and Luther, but their visions weren’t all that different,” Bach explained.
The Swiss Anabaptist started to question the idea of baptism. They felt that baptism signifies a change, and that only starts to occur in adulthood. They continued to use their “ground-up” approach.
“They essentially unhinged themselves from the world,” Bach noted.
They firmly deemed that the church should not be attached to the government.
They also believed that people should read their Bibles and the book of Psalms weekly.
Evener’s best advice regarding religion is “learn, set aside the time to do so. It is vital to understand religions of the past and present. By doing so, you will better understand others and yourself.”
Draper said that you should, “know why you believe the things you do.”
Bach advises people to “respectfully inquire about others’ religions, even if you do not agree with what they are saying, make sure you listen to them.”