Question: Religion

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Readings: Martin Luther, Open Letter to the German Nobility (Moodle)
Preparation Questions
Martin Luther was a 16th-century monk who became increasingly concerned about many of the
beliefs and practices in the church of his day. As Luther’s attempt at reform within the church grew,
he wrote an “Open Letter to the Christian Nobility” of Germany, urging his audience to action. In this
letter, Luther identifies three “Walls of the Romanists” which he believes are central problems in the
church. What are these three “walls”? Briefly summarize each.
While Luther also wrote to the religious leaders, his “Open Letter to the Christian Nobility” was
written to the Ruling class, and not to his religious contemporaries. Why might Luther have done
this? What could he hope to get from the ruling class that he couldn’t get from the religious leaders?
What is your assessment of Luther’s critiques of the church? Are they persuasive? Do you think they
could become dangerous ideas if taken too far? Why or why not?
Preparation Questions: Protestant & Catholic Reformations
Readings: Schleitheim Confessions (Moodle)
Council of Trent Selections (Moodle)
Preparation Questions:
Schleitheim Confessions is a document representing the Anabaptist tradition (a more radical variety
of the Protestant reformation). After reading this document, what strikes you as some of the most
important values for this community?
The Council of Trent was a Roman Catholic response to the Protestant Reformation (held 1545-
1563). They took up a variety of issues, from Scripture, to Justification, to Transubstantiation. What
seems to be their understanding of the relationship between faith and works?
In the section on the Eucharist and Transubstantiation, what is their teaching about the sacrament?
What are your thoughts about these readings?
Preparation Questions: (you must answer all questions to receive credit)

  1. Today’s readings center around reforms that took place in England, creating the Church of
    England (also known as Anglicanism). Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy (1534) was an important
    development for the future of the church in England. From your reading of this text, what does the
    Act of Supremacy claim for the King? What implications would this have for Christians in England?
  2. The second reading is a selection from one of the most significant developments of Anglicanism:
    the Book of Common Prayer. In an act of originality and innovation, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop
    of Canterbury, authored this book containing the main Christian services. What makes it so
    important is that it was the first of its kind which provided lay Christians the services of the church
    in the language of the common people (English rather than Latin). Today’s reading is a selection of
    Matins (Morning Prayer). What features of this reading make an impression on you? What impact
    on Christians do you think it would have that such prayer books were now made available in the
    language of the people?
  3. The final reading comes from John Wesley, an 18th-century Anglican priest who would become
    responsible for starting the Methodist movement. These selections give a brief window into some
    important issues for Wesley. From your reading, what seems to be central to being a “Methodist”,
    both in terms of beliefs and in terms of practice?
  4. What personal questions and/or reflections do you have from these readings?
    Preparation Questions: Christianity in Colonial America
    Christianity in Colonial America
    Reading: “A Model of Christian Charity” by John Winthrop (Moodle)
    Preparation Questions:
    The reading for today is a treatise delivered in 1630 by the Puritan John Winthrop while sailing on
    the Arbella across the Atlantic to America. Winthrop would be instrumental in forming the
    Massachusetts Bay Colony, and he served as its governor for the first 12 years. This is Winthrop’s
    most famous treatise, in part, because in it he lays out his vision for the kind of community he
    imagines in the New World. How would you describe Winthrop’s general vision for this community?
    In the first part of the treatise, Winthrop lays out specific practices related to charity and caring for
    the poor, but the second half of the work explores the ground (reasons) for such a life. According to
    Winthrop, what is the basis of this community of love? Is this something that can just be worked up
    by anyone, according to Winthrop, or is its source unique to Christians?
    Toward the end of the treatise, Winthrop gives his most famous phrase: “For we must consider that
    we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” What do you think Winthrop
    meant by calling this group to be “a city upon a hill”? Rather than a statement of arrogance, how
    might Winthrop have intended that word picture to be both a challenge and a caution to his fellow
    travelers?
    Do you think such a community is possible? Do you think America today has followed the advice of
    John Winthrop? Why or why not?
    Preparation Questions: Christian Varieties in Global Context
    Preparation Questions:
  5. Philip Jenkins is the Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University. He is well-known and
    well-respected for his research and writing on the global shape of Christianity today and the
    trajectory of Christianity’s future. Today’s reading is a chapter in one of Jenkins’ books: The Next
    Christendom. To begin, Jenkins suggests that Christianity in the modern world is “living through
    one of the transforming moments in the history of religion worldwide” (p. 1). What does he mean by
    this, and why does he say this?
  6. Jenkins classifies contemporary Christianity into two broad groups—the liberal North/West and
    the global South. What are the distinguishing features of these two groups of Christians in the
    world today?
  7. Jenkins charts the growth of modern-day Christianity. Where does he say Christianity is most
    vibrant and growing right now? What implications does Jenkins think this will have on the shape of
    Christianity in the 21st century? And what concerns does Jenkins warn about?
  8. What personal questions and/or reflections do you have in light of Jenkins’ predictions for the
    future shape of Christianity? If Jenkins is right, do you consider this to be a positive or a negative
    development? Explain yourself.
    Preparation Questions: Christian Varieties in Global Context
    Preparation Questions:
    Christianity in Colonial America
    Reading: “A Model of Christian Charity” by John Winthrop (Moodle)
    Preparation Questions:
    The reading for today is a treatise delivered in 1630 by the Puritan John Winthrop while sailing on
    the Arbella across the Atlantic to America. Winthrop would be instrumental in forming the
    Massachusetts Bay Colony, and he served as its governor for the first 12 years. This is Winthrop’s
    most famous treatise, in part, because in it he lays out his vision for the kind of community he
    imagines in the New World. How would you describe Winthrop’s general vision for this community?
    In the first part of the treatise, Winthrop lays out specific practices related to charity and caring for
    the poor, but the second half of the work explores the ground (reasons) for such a life. According to
    Winthrop, what is the basis of this community of love? Is this something that can just be worked up
    by anyone, according to Winthrop, or is its source unique to Christians?
    Toward the end of the treatise, Winthrop gives his most famous phrase: “For we must consider that
    we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” What do you think Winthrop
    meant by calling this group to be “a city upon a hill”? Rather than a statement of arrogance, how
    might Winthrop have intended that word picture to be both a challenge and a caution to his fellow
    travelers?
    Do you think such a community is possible? Do you think America today has followed the advice of
    John Winthrop? Why or why not?

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