Religious Wars

The Reformation Era by Robert D. Linder

Westport, CN and London: Greenwood, 2008

I have just finished reading Robert Linder’s new book on the reformation and plan to write a formal review. Dr. Linder is distinguished professor of history at Kansas State University.

A couple years ago he graciously agreed to speak to a small conference we had in Manhattan. I asked him to address the health of evangelical Christianity in the United States. He agreed, and as the date approached changed the working title of his lecture.

His first title was something like “The Health of the Evangelical Church in America.” Later he revised it to “The Seriously Ill Evangelical Church in America.” When he finally gave the lecture, the title was “The Apostate Evangelical Church in America.”

But that’s another story . . .

The book on the Reformation is written for high school and undergraduate students wishing to write a term paper the topic. It is packed full of information, including many primary documents, glossaries, brief biographies of major players, charts of main events and other helps, along with the main narrative. The book will prove very useful for its intended readers. I suspect that it will also be useful for graduate students preparing for exams. But I’ll finish the formal review later.

Right now I am thinking about all the bloody religious wars during that era.

This week I visited the ruined cathedral of Elgin. The remains are impressive enough–but how did the cathedral get ruined?

This one was actually destroyed well before the Reformation by the Wolf of Badenoch, son of the illegitimate father Robert II, in revenge for his excommunication.

But after the Reformation many of the catholic churches were destroyed by zealous reformers. These wars were probably political more than religious–except that religion and politics were so intertwined it was impossible to untangle them.

The thing that impressed me while reading Linder’s book and while visiting historic sites was that the only ones who came out without blood on their hands were the Anabaptists or radical reformers–those who took seriously the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and the nonviolent lifestyle of the pre-Constantinian Christians–the forerunners of the Mennonites, the Brethren, the Baptists and other similar followers of Christ who believed in free association, separation of church and state, and freedom of conscience.

They were suspected of being related to the rebellion of the fanatical Thomas Müntzer, with whom they had nothing in common, and were persecuted mercilessly by protestants and catholics alike. The Anabaptists women in particular showed tremendous courage; many of them were tortured and eventually murdered, usually by drowning.

Sabbatical Plans


It’s hard to believe I’ve been at MCC for seven years, but here I am on sabbatical. Right now I’m studying at home, and enjoying time with Elijah when I can. Soon I will be leaving the country.

I will be working with a church in Buckie, Scotland, as interim minister and mentor and tutor to a young minister who will eventually be taking over full time. Scotland, as my former Colleague Scott Caulley says, “has a fine theological heritage.” Unfortunately, at least in the northern region near Buckie, there is a shortage of ministers. The church in Buckie has been served by American preachers for over thirty years. A young man from the congregation is now ready to take on the task of leading and guiding the church. I will be there from the last Sunday in March through the last Sunday in April.

Then I plan to spend a week in Tuebingen, visiting Scott Caulley at the Institute for Research in Christian Origins. While there I will present two papers to seminars led by Dr. Caulley. We also plan to worship with the church that has been planted by the mission that sponsors the Institute.

Sonja had planned on joining me for part of the time in Scotland and Germany.  We have decided that she needs to stay home to take care of the dogs and ‘possums, and I’m sure to spend some time with the new granddaughter Ariana Grace. I am going to learn where all the best shops and restaurants in Tuebingen are, and maybe next year the two of us will take a vacation trip there to visit with the Caulleys and wander in the Black Forest.

In May, I will go on to Klaipeda, Lithuania, to teach a class on epic literature.

Lithuania Christian College was founded in 1991 when the country gained its independence. After fifty years of communist oppression, the country’s leaders recognized communism was morally, spiritually, and economically bankrupt; so they asked Christian leaders to establish a Christian university that would train a new generation of leaders.

They want young people with a spiritual and ethical foundation and also an entrepreneurial spirit. They offer degrees in business and psychology and include a core curriculum of biblical and theological studies. The college has a good website:

My friend Alex is going to join me the last week in Lithuania.  He is going to rent a car, so that we can take some short day trips in the afternoon, and some longer weekend trips.  I hope they don’t have an autobahn in Lithuania, because Alex likes to drive fast.  In his job as a pipefitter he is used to walking on narrow beams 30 stories in the air, carrying heavy pipes and equipment.  He doesn’t consider that living dangerously.

Alex’s ancestors are Lithuanian, and he is looking forward to seeing some ancestral places. He will also be sitting in on my class.  He is reading all the books now: Gilgamesh, Homer, Vergil, Dante, Beowulf.  Alex has a great love for life, and we plan on having a great time.

After returning home to check on the tomatoes Sonja will have planted, my plans include one more trip to Europe, this time to Prague for the Tenth International Bonhoeffer Congress, where I have the unique privilege of presenting a paper together with my daughter Tabitha. We are currently working separately on different parts of the research, but will compare notes and work together on compiling the finished paper.

My travel plans are an unusual combination of professional development and academic work, mission work, and personal vacation.