Professor Gury Schneider-Ludorff on Five Centuries of Reformation

According to the professor, the Reformation formed the basis of education today; caused the unification of the German language; and cultivated a conception of tolerance which was incorporated into the law.

The dividing lines in German politics have become very clearly exposed by the recent election where Angela Merkel struggled to live up to her historic triumphs in the past. Her policy of absorbing one million refugees into Germany has come at the cost of the rise of neo Nazism in Germany and her opponents detest her for her open Willkommenskultur approach and her positive attitude towards foreigners and migrants. Notably, Merkel, who is a scientist and the daughter of a Lutheran clergyman, is now having to cope with the rising popularity of the racist Alternative für Deutschland party which is anti-Europe, anti-immigration and vehemently anti-Islam. Although Merkel’s CDU won 32.9 per cent of the vote and 34.7 per cent of seats, the AfD made significant gains in the polls and won 2.6 per cent of the vote and 13.3 per cent of seats making it the third largest party in the Bundestag (with 94 seats) with swelling support in eastern and southern Germany.

Like Theresa May, who just urged the German chancellor to press Brussels to accelerate the problem ridden and lethargic Brexit negotiations, Merkel is a much diminished political figure in both German and European politics which have both been leaning towards a more insulated and increasingly racist political ideology. Indeed, both women, who looked quite powerful just a year ago, are looking more and more like dead ducks. Politics is a funny thing at times and of course Theresa May is much more enfeebled than her German counterpart. In such an interesting political climate, on 11 October 2017, Professor Gury Schneider-Ludorff spoke at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and presented her deeply interesting thoughts on the instrumental changes that occurred in Europe as a consequence of the Reformation.

Reformation brought fundamental changes to Europe by Peerzada Salman from Dawn

The Reformation movement of the 16th century in Germany caused unification of the German language, the adoption of religious education for individuals by means of general access to the Bible, and the development of the concept of tolerance in society.

This was said by Prof Dr Gury Schneider-Ludorff while concluding her lecture on the Reformation and its effects on culture and politics in Europe at the PIIA on Wednesday.

Dr Ludorff, who holds the Chair of Church History at the Augustana University in Neuendettelsau, divided the main part of her talk into three chapters. The first one focused on the man who was closely linked to the Reformation, Martin Luther; the second on the reception of the Reformation particularly with reference to the media; and third on the consequences of the Reformation.

Dr Ludorff said what we called the Reformation was a stage in European history in the 16th century which led to a fundamental change in the basis of sociology, politics, culture and in the foundations of religion. It is first of all associated with the person of Martin Luther. According to his parents, Luther should have been a lawyer but he decided to become a monk. He also studied theology in depth at a university. It was his ideas published in 1520 as a document titled To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation (known as Nobility tracts) concerning the reform of the Christian state that drew attention to him. This had a seismic effect, shaking the foundations of the late medieval society. The document was addressed to the emperor, Charles V, and the nobility of the empire. It called for reform in all areas of the church and society. Luther used the word `walls` which the papacy had erected around it to protect itself.

On the second chapter Dr Ludorff said the reason for the quick spreading of the Reformation in the 16th century was that people of all segments of society took to his ideas -not just the theologians but the writers, tradesmen, middle-class women and men, protestant princes and princesses etc. They were stimulated by Luther`s Nobility tracts, because now they could read the Bible themselves. It had become possible because Luther had translated the Bible into German which later became the official language of Germany, as prior to that there were many dialects of the language.

Another reason was the media revolution, thanks to the invention of book printing in the 15th century. It also created an extremely rapid impetus for girls’ education. The church was no longer in charge of the schools.

Dr Ludorff mentioned another Lutheran reformer Philip Melanchthon who did a great deal for educational reforms, and was an advocate for humanist education. This had an effect on art, architecture, music and literature recommended by secular authorities the arts flourished in the Reformation.

Speaking on the third chapter Dr Ludorff highlighted the cultural and political situation of the movement in Europe resulting from the development of different denominations. Not all towns and princes supported Luther’s ideas. Europe was divided in different denominations. In Germany territories faithful to the pope, called the old believers, were separated from those who had adopted the new teachings they waged wars against one another.

Religious convictions and political power games played a role in that. But at the same time different groups (Catholics and Protestants, for example) found common ground in the arts.

Dr Ludorff at this point mentioned the three cultural skills that Europe acquired from the movement: 1) They learned to live together; 2) They had to know one another better; 3) The long struggle for freedom contributed to the idea of tolerance. She said today in Germany religion and state were separated, but the state protected the religious communities.

In conclusion, Dr Ludorff underlined five points that defined the Reformation.

They were: the unification of the German language, the adoption of religious education for people by means of general access to the Bible, the initiatives for education on a broader scale, the impulses of new styles in art, and the concept of tolerance.

‘Media revolution facilitated Reformation in Europe’ by Anil Datta from News International

The PIIA on Wednesday hosted a highly informative and analytical lecture, titled ‘The Reformation and its effects on culture and politics in Europe’, by renowned German scholar Professor Dr Gury Schneider-Ludorff.

Dr Schneider-Ludorff currently holds the chair of Church History at the Augustana University in Neuendettelsau, Germany. The lecture was meant to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Europe (1517-2017).

She deliberated on the reform programme of the German monk, Martin Luther, founder of the Protestant sect of Christianity. She also shed light on the effects of the Reformation on the music, art, literature, and architecture of Europe, and countries other than Germany, such as Switzerland and England.

She said it was the media revolution that was responsible for the rapid dissemination of Luther’s reform programme, given that the printing press had just been invented by Guttenberg. This enabled the exchange of ideas and information because of the rapid transmission of knowledge that came about on the basis of the printing press technology. This enabled mass printing of books which in turn facilitated the dissemination of ideas far more quickly, she added.

“Without the media revolution, the Reformation may just have tapered off,” said Dr Schneider-Ludorrf. Luther’s Nobility Tract, a document addressed to the emperor, probed the social and political landscape, she said.

Luther, she added, abolished the distinction between the laity and the clergy. Instead of leaving it up to the priesthood to read the Bible and interpret it to the masses, she said, by having it translated, he enabled the common folk to read the scriptures and interpret it for themselves.

Besides, she said, Luther’s Reformation launched a rapid educational impetus. Lots of schools for boys and girls were set up in the rural areas, apart from the many universities and institutes of higher learning. Secular authorities, she said, were to manage these centres of education.

Luther’s Reformation, she said, brought about a harmonious society where people of all religious persuasions lived together in harmony and there was tolerance all over. The Reformation, she said, sparked off a rapid advancement in the arts, literature, and music.

Referring to the ‘cultural skills of Europe’, Dr Schneider-Ludorrf said people learnt to live in harmony even in the face of religious differences; they had to get to know one another better to comprehend each others’ viewpoint and be tolerant; the Reformation formed the basis of education today; caused the unification of the German language; and cultivated a conception of tolerance which was incorporated into the law.

The interaction between the Church and the state was highly beneficial to the nurturing of a harmonious society, she said. The historical lecture was followed by an animated question-answer session.

A questioner asked as to how it could be said that the Reformation cultivated harmony and unity when today we see Europe coming apart, an allusion to Brexit. She said this was just a cycle of history, whereby, trends change after every few decades and then recur. The tenor of her talk was the way secularism contributes to a harmonious and tolerant society.

Earlier, the German Consul-General in town, Rainer Schmiedchen, thanked Dr Masuma Hassan, chairperson of the PIIA, for hosting the event. The lecture was part of the series of the German Weeks being marked jointly by the German Consulate-General and the Goethe-Institut which extend all the way to the end of December.

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