Jesus was the "Mirror of the fatherly heart [of God], apart from who
we see nothing but a wrathful and terrible judge."

Martin Luther, Large Catechism

When Martin Luther refused to recant his bold criticism of the Catholic Church - "Here I stand, I can do no other" - he initiated what is arguably the most significant intellectual and cultural debate in western civilization. The Reformation inspired some of the most creative and controversial thought in the history of western culture. Many of these debates focused around Jesus and his relation to the classical triad of the Beautiful, the True, and the Good. While virtually all thinkers saw in Jesus the reflection of Truth - both spiritual and intellectual - there was little consensus about how Jesus reflected Beauty and Goodness. In their attempts to locate Jesus in the realms of aesthetics and politics, Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Jean Calvin (1509-1564) again tried to answer the question which has engaged and baffled Christian thinkers since the beginning of the faith: Wher Read More
Jesus was the "Mirror of the fatherly heart [of God], apart from who
we see nothing but a wrathful and terrible judge."

Martin Luther, Large Catechism

When Martin Luther refused to recant his bold criticism of the Catholic Church - "Here I stand, I can do no other" - he initiated what is arguably the most significant intellectual and cultural debate in western civilization. The Reformation inspired some of the most creative and controversial thought in the history of western culture. Many of these debates focused around Jesus and his relation to the classical triad of the Beautiful, the True, and the Good. While virtually all thinkers saw in Jesus the reflection of Truth - both spiritual and intellectual - there was little consensus about how Jesus reflected Beauty and Goodness. In their attempts to locate Jesus in the realms of aesthetics and politics, Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Jean Calvin (1509-1564) again tried to answer the question which has engaged and baffled Christian thinkers since the beginning of the faith: Where does Jesus fit in the secular world order?

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Reformers

This image of the primary petitioners for church reform in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries depicts the central concern of the Reformation: return to the Biblia Sacra, the sacred Bible, as the sole authority for faith, belief, and practice.

Artist unknown
c. 1886
Engraving
PMA:J99.1886
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta.


…and they came and said to him, "Teacher, …is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not?"…Jesus said to them, "Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's."

Mark 12:14, 17

The massive re-ordering of ideas, institutions, and civil society that constituted the Reformation found its most powerful exponent in Martin Luther. Disgusted by the decadence of the Catholic Church, Luther called for reforms based upon the example of Jesus, the Mirror of the Eternal. Luther's understanding of how Jesus reflected the divine had profound implications for western culture and history. He believed that Christ's kingdom was not of this world and that, as such, there should be a separation of Church and State, of one's principles as a Christian and one's duties as a citizen. He also saw in Jesus the reflection of the Beautiful and believed that the arts should be used to praise God. These ideas exerted a powerful influence upon the Church and the culture in which it was embedded.
…and they came and said to him, "Teacher, …is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not?"…Jesus said to them, "Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's."

Mark 12:14, 17

The massive re-ordering of ideas, institutions, and civil society that constituted the Reformation found its most powerful exponent in Martin Luther. Disgusted by the decadence of the Catholic Church, Luther called for reforms based upon the example of Jesus, the Mirror of the Eternal. Luther's understanding of how Jesus reflected the divine had profound implications for western culture and history. He believed that Christ's kingdom was not of this world and that, as such, there should be a separation of Church and State, of one's principles as a Christian and one's duties as a citizen. He also saw in Jesus the reflection of the Beautiful and believed that the arts should be used to praise God. These ideas exerted a powerful influence upon the Church and the culture in which it was embedded.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Martin Luther with a Dove

The dove descending on the head of the Father of the Reformation, Martin Luther, echoes the ancient church imagery of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles. The Reformation was seen by many as a new Pentecost.

Hans Baldung (1484/5-1545).
Martin Luther: Acta et res gestae
c. 1520
Woodcut
PMA:J99.1765.
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta


Christ is the Mirror wherein we must, and without self-deception may, contemplate our own election.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

Like Luther, Jean Calvin emphasized the primacy of scripture as the authority for doctrine, and salvation through grace, rather than good works. For Calvin, however, using art to praise God might lead to idolatry, while the separation of Church and State denied an unavoidable truth: while the Kingdom of God was distinct from civil jurisdiction, the proper means and ends of the State could only be accomplished through conformity with the Christian faith. Calvin's belief in the interweaving of religion and politics was especially influential and led, in February 1554, to the ruling magistracy of Geneva agreeing to "live according to the Reformation" and, in essence, to make the laws of the city conform to the laws of Christ. Luther and Calvin were united in their desire to reform the Church in accordance with their vision of Jesus, the Mirror of the Eternal.
Christ is the Mirror wherein we must, and without self-deception may, contemplate our own election.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

Like Luther, Jean Calvin emphasized the primacy of scripture as the authority for doctrine, and salvation through grace, rather than good works. For Calvin, however, using art to praise God might lead to idolatry, while the separation of Church and State denied an unavoidable truth: while the Kingdom of God was distinct from civil jurisdiction, the proper means and ends of the State could only be accomplished through conformity with the Christian faith. Calvin's belief in the interweaving of religion and politics was especially influential and led, in February 1554, to the ruling magistracy of Geneva agreeing to "live according to the Reformation" and, in essence, to make the laws of the city conform to the laws of Christ. Luther and Calvin were united in their desire to reform the Church in accordance with their vision of Jesus, the Mirror of the Eternal.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Jean Calvin

Calvin, the greatest mind of the Reformation, is shown in his study surrounded by Biblical texts. His grave solemnity, the books, and the painting of Geneva that adorns the wall echo images of St. Jerome in his study, a popular Catholic image.

The Provincial Museum of Alberta

Engraving
PMA:J99.1877
© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • describe the theology of Martin Luther and John Calvin;
  • explain viewpoints of Christ in the Reformation, with examples.

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