A House Divided

Each week one of our Research Assistants will be offering their reflections on the pieces that we have recently posted as part of the 500 Project. This piece comes from Lauren Agnew.

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Over the last few weeks, in anticipation of the Anniversary of the Reformation, the 500 Project has considered it’s impact over the last 5 centuries. We’ve reflected on the past, and we have envisaged how the Reformation continues to shape the present and the future. As Damilola rightly suggests, ‘its relevance endures in its legacy.’ Over the course of this project, we’ve heard from a range of contributors, and we’ve had the opportunity to consider various opinions of, and reactions to, the Reformation. A striking theme throughout has been the preoccupation with reconciliation, and the focus on lessons our current generation can learn about the intersection between faith and religion.  

‘A House divided against itself cannot stand.’ 

The Church of Christ has divided within itself there are clear remnants of division sparked (between Catholics and Protestants) by Luther’s 95 Theses which endure today. Whilst on a simplistic level we are united in our faith in God, we are divided in our religious practices, and we differ on some of the most fundamental issues of salvation. 

Damilola’s piece draws interesting parallels between the Reformation and the modern discourse on human rights, Alban Maginness’ piece adroitly captures the Reformation from a Catholic viewpoint. As a student Alban recalls the reformation being presented as a “tragedy for Christianity.”  Whilst mature conversation has taken place between churches, Alban remains firm in his belief that the reformation was a tragedy.

There’s a similar narrative emerging between the two pieces; we are, as Alban Maginness suggests, in a position to ‘reflect anew’ on both the positive and negative aspects of the Reformation from our present vantage point 500 years on.

The message of these pieces combined culminate on the need for reconciliation of sorts. The need for reconciliation presupposes a deep division in the first place; a division which cannot be reduced to a mere ‘disagreement’ over, for example, the Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences. There was, and still are, fundamental differences between the Protestant and Catholic Church which cannot be ignored nor undermined. These are questions quite literally of eternal significance. 

However, as we reflect on the past and look toward the future, we know that progress requires change, and that change may require us to reimagine, or indeed rethink the legacy of the Reformation. Perhaps in the context of the Reformation, whilst a house divided against itself cannot stand, there is and can be, strength in diversity.