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Johnson, Anna Marie, and John A. Maxfield [Eds.]
The Reformation as Christianization. Essays on Scott Hendrix’s Christianization Thesis.
Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2012. XII, 430 S. = Spätmittelalter, Humanismus, Reformation, 66. Lw. EUR 109,00. ISBN 978-3-16-151723-5.
The 70th birthday of the well-known American scholar Scott Hendrix, Professor Emeritus of Reformation History and Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, is the occasion for this Festschrift written in his honour. The scope of the collection is to further a discussion of his views on the Reformation as they are most fully expressed in his book of 2004, Recultivating the Vineyard: The Reformation Agendas of Christianization. Both editors are former doc-toral students of his, Anna Marie Johnson now serving as an assistant professor of Reformation History at the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and John A. Maxfield as associate professor at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Concordia University.
The book contains nineteen articles by internationally recog-nised Reformation scholars. The majority are American researchers such as Amy Nelson Burnett, Susan Karant-Nunn, Robert Kolb, Carter Lindberg and Austra Reinis, to name but a few. But the circle has been expanded, reflecting the wide international contact maintained by Scott Hendrix, and we also find articles written in Finland, Canada and Germany by well-known names such as Risto Saarinen, James M. Stayer, Volker Leppin, Irene Dingel and Berndt Hamm.
Hendrix’s thesis about the Reformation as a process of Christianization does not go unchallenged. In Recultivating the Vineyard he tried to focus upon the aim of restructuring and revitalizing Christianity as a shared goal of 16th-century theology – a common aim, evoking diverse answers. Thus Hendrix made an effort to move away from the usual focus on 16th-century fragmentation and disagreement in Reformation scholarship, for the purpose of creating a more coherent picture of the great movement as a unified epoch of ›recultivation‹ reaching into the 17th century.
The articles are arranged in five sections: 1) Christendom and Christianization in the Middle Ages and the Reformation, 2) Martin Luther’s Agenda, 3) Rechristianizing Women, Men, and the Family, 4) Reforming Religious Practice and 5) Theological Controversies and Christianization. Many different themes and connec-tions to the Christianization-thesis are touched upon (cf. the fine short Introduction, 4–6) ranging from 16th-century Catholic reformation, 15th–century conciliar efforts, Melanchthon’s understanding of the words »Christendom« and ›Christianity‹, the agendas of the radical reformers, the different reformatory understandings of idolatry, Luther’s ›Christianization‹ of the social culture of giving and receiving favours, his theological interest in ›replanting‹ na-tural philosophy at the University of Wittenberg, the relation be-tween Luther and Katharina Schütz Zell, Luther’s appeal for a specific Christian treatment of pregnant women, Luther as a father, Aegidius Hunnius’ sermons on the Household Tables of Duties, late medieval tradition as a precondition for 16 th-century reformation and its diversity, the image of ›cultivating the vineyard‹ in 16th-century exegesis and preaching, the consolation literature of Urbanus Rhegius as an example of an attempt to create an ›authentic‹ Christianity, the use of the church fathers in the reformation controversy on the Lord’s supper, and the particular shape of the culture of controversy after Luther’s death.
From such a well-stocked shelf, I will call attention to one comment which poses an interesting theological question to Hendrix’s thesis. The question is put by James Stayer, Emeritus Professor at Queen’s University in Ontario and an authority on the radical reformation as well as on the 20th-century reception of Luther. Stayer asks what we mean when we speak of Christianization and ›being a Christian‹. If the Reformation agenda from the very beginning had to do with rechristianizing people, Stayer wonders, then how do we explain the fact that according to Luther »among professing and practicing Christians only a small minority was ›genuine‹, that is, ›true‹ Christians on their way to salvation in heaven« (102)? According to Luther very few Christians were hidden among a »vast multitude […] and a few grains of wheat are covered with a heap of chaff«. And Stayer emphasizes that he was not the only one to give voice to these thoughts: so did Calvin and the radicals. Thus confronted with Hendrix’s Christianization thesis one may ironically conclude with Stayer that »the only thing they all agreed upon was that they were not all authentically Christian; and the Lutherans, Reformed and radicals all agreed that Christians were few and far between inside ›Christendom‹« (103).
Furthermore Stayer goes on to call the term ›agenda‹ into question. Who, he asks, was the primary ›agent‹ in the implementation of the Reformation according to Luther? – and he answers, that it was God. Luther did not have an active agenda of Christianization beyond understanding it as »an instrument of God working within the constraints of extremely pessimistic or negative assumptions about human anthropology« (102).
These theological objections or nuances do not of course change the fact that Hendrix has tried to emphasize that the aim of the reformers was to restore true Christianity. But is the word ›Restoration‹ a better way, then, to put it than »Christianization«? Ex-pressed this way, possible connotations of revival and missionary efforts with a chiliastic scope slip into the background, and the central 16th-century aim of ›reforming‹ Christianity stands out.
With its many more widely ramified questions and comments this book functions very well both as a tribute to one of America’s highly productive and penetrating investigators of the Reformation, as a display of ongoing research into the 16th century, and finally as an inspiring catalogue of possible methods and topics within Reformation scholarship.