Martin Luther’s 95 Theses in Historical and Modern Context with John Bright

Martin Luther’s 95 Theses in Historical and Modern Context with John Bright


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The Protestant Reformation was one of the most consequential movements in Western intellectual history, and it began, so we are told, on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses onto a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. On the anniversary of that date, this brief conversation surveys Luther’s ideas both in their historical context and in relation to modern American religious ideas that continue to have a profound effect on politics and culture today.

The story of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to a church door in Germany is a dramatization that fills the human need for a moment in time to carry the weight that history later assigns it. Martin Luther did not intend and could not possibly have known what would happen as the result of what was, to him, an academic theological disputation. It was so important that we still remember it 500 years later. That same towering importance, however, can obscure the historical reality, as the original ideas are examined and re-examined throughout history, with each generation reckoning with their importance in its place and time.

This conversation will begin with the historical context of Martin Luther’s dispute with the Roman Catholic Church and why the dispute grew so large in that particular moment. We will briefly discuss the effects these ideas had in Europe, then, endeavoring not to forget their original historical context, move across the Atlantic to discuss how their evolution through discussion and re-use in North America leaves these ideas from 1517 with observable political and cultural consequences in the United States today.

Led by a public historian, John Bright, this seminar will deepen our understanding of an influential figure and the impact of this history today. John is joined in this conversation by an ABD colleague from United Lutheran Seminary who has studied Luther under the country’s premiere Luther scholar.

John Bright is a public historian who has worked for seven years at one of the most historic churches in the United States, which is part of Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. He has spoken to tens of thousands of people about the intersection of American religious and political history and has experience addressing the thorny questions that arise in such a contested space. He has done doctoral work at Temple University in Philadelphia and General Theological Seminary in New York.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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