The Historical Context and Nature of Luther’s Protest

In the spring of 2017,  I was invited to give a lecture about the historical context and nature of Luther’s protest. The video of my  “Taste of Reformation” lecture from April 3, 2017, can be seen here. This printed version includes the images adds a little more detail on the Cranach painting “The Vineyard of the Lord.”

A Taste of Reformation: The Historical Context and Nature of Luther’s Protest

By Kyle Jantzen, Ambrose University

As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, it is fitting that we look back on the event—both to understand something of what happened back in 1517, and to reflect on what it might mean for Christians and churches today. That is the purpose of tonight’s lecture and discussion. In that spirit, I’d like to start things off with a few thoughts about the historical context in which the Reformation took place. After that, I’ll describe the process by which various late medieval grievances expressed by Luther and many others evolved into a fundamental ecclesiastical break between Luther and his followers and the Church of Rome. Finally, I’d like to identify some of the key themes in the early phase of the Reformation. Continue reading


Life Interrupted: History and the Possibility of Life Lessons

The other day, I was working with students to analyze a series of primary historical documents. It’s something we do often in history classes, but as we were discussing Jewish responses to the Holocaust at the end of the war, a different conversation started up inside my head. Since then, I’ve been thinking about the way that tragedy impacts us, and how we recover.

The context was a discussion of texts from the pre-publication version of a new reader on Jewish responses to the Holocaust, which scholars from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum are soon bringing to press. The document in question was a polite but determined letter written in uneven English by a young Polish Jew named Julius Lewy. Composed at the end of May 1945, it begins “Dear Liberators” Continue reading

Loving Our (Refugee) Neighbours

Refugees from Syria and other parts of the Middle East are no longer front page news. After a month or more of non-stop reporting, most of our media organizations have moved on to other stories, no doubt sensing a measure of compassion fatigue across the Western world.

Not that there aren’t plenty of tragic refugee stories out there. Brandon Stanton–he of the famous Humans of New York blog–recently travelled to Europe and the Middle East to capture the testimonies of those fleeing terror and violence in the region. Recently, he added some accounts from Iraqis fleeing their own version of chaos and calamity, like the family who received death threat text messages everyday, then woke up to find their house on fire or the government clerk who fled in the night, when he learned the militia was going to kill him. But Stanton has not only chronicled these stories of suffering. He has also given us stories of hope, of kindness, and of love expressed by Europeans who see the refugees as fellow humans in need.

And there are great initiatives out there. One of the newest is a Kickstarter campaign to donate about $1.225 million to enable the UN Refugee Agency to provide sleeping bags, food and fresh water, clothing, and education for 5,000 Syrian refugees. Around 18,000 people have contributed and the project is almost fully funded (as of October 7, 2015).

A few weeks ago, it was my turn to share a devotional at our church board meeting. I had been reading and thinking a lot about the refugee crisis, and was wanting to understand the problem not only politically but also theologically. In preparation for the devotional, then, I began to think about where Scripture might speak to this issue. Continue reading

Provoking Conversation on Community: The Martin Luther Memorial Church and the Nature of Community

“Provoking Conversation on Community: The Martin Luther Memorial Church and the Nature of Community”
Kyle Jantzen, Ambrose Faculty Retreat, September 2015

Along with a faculty colleague, I was asked to give a twenty-minute talk on community from the perspective of my academic discipline. Four other colleagues from disparate disciplines responded to our talks, and a faculty-wide discussion emerged out of these interactions. It was a rich time together. Below is my contribution, meant to provoke discussion. The article from which this talk was developed–“Church-Building in Hitler’s Germany: Berlin’s Martin-Luther-Gedächtniskirche as a Reflection of Church-State Relations”–can be found here.

“Ambrose is a community of transformative Christian higher education – with a vision for the welfare of our city and our world.” With the words of our Ambrose University purpose statement, Interim Academic Vice President Ken Draper has challenged us as faculty to think about the meaning of community. My role is to stir you up a little by addressing some hard questions Ken has posed to me: What are the uses and abuses of community seen through a historical lens? What is the state of the discussion? What can we learn from history’s insights on community? Continue reading

2014 Conference on Faith and History Biennial Meeting – Friday

I’m enjoying a beautiful few days at the stunning Pepperdine University campus overlooking the beaches of Malibu, California–a stunning location for the 2014 Conference on Faith and History (CFH) Biennial Meeting. This is my second CFH meeting, and it won’t be my last. The CFH goes back almost 50 years now, and was established as “a community of scholars exploring the relationship between Christian faith and history,” the goal of which is “to encourage excellence in the theory and practice of history from the perspective of historic Christianity.”

IMG_0209-1.JPGThis purpose and goal was certainly evident in the excellent sessions I attended today, Continue reading

Christian History as Teacher of the Church: On Quakers and World Relief

On the plane to the Conference on Faith and History (CFH) Biennial Conference (confusing name, I know), I thought I would get into the spirit of this gathering of (mostly) Christian historians by perusing Winter/Spring 2014 issue of Fides et Historia, the CFH journal. Two of the articles reminded me of ways in which the history of Christianity can enlighten Christians and churches today, by raising questions that are rooted in particular historical events but speak to our current practices. Continue reading

Worshipping in Old Places

After the service in the Castle Church, Wittenberg (under renovation).
After the service in the Castle Church, Wittenberg (under renovation).

Last Saturday I went to church in Wittenberg, at an English service in the Castle Church. Led by a Lutheran minister from the United States, the congregation was comprised of Christians from every continent (save Antarctica). We sang “A Mighty Fortress,” read Scripture, recited the Apostles’ Creed, and prayed the Lord’s Prayer. The minister preached on the feeding of the five thousand.

All of this took place not ten feet from the grave of Martin Luther, Continue reading