Providence will mark a milestone anniversary of the Reformation with a free, public lecture by Dr. John G. Stackhouse, Jr. on Tuesday, October 31—500 years after Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Schlosskirche.
Themed The Reformation: Then—and Now?, the lecture will examine the background of this deeply complex phenomenon and explain, through the life and thought of Luther, its central issue. Importantly, it will also ask what a contemporary Reformation of Christianity in Canada will look like.
No registration is required for this presentation, which will begin at 10:00 a.m. in the lecture theatre. All are welcome to attend, and refreshments will be served in the afternoon.
Stackhouse, the Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor Religious Studies and Dean of Faculty Development at New Brunswick’s Crandall University, has authored 10 books and more than 700 articles concerning the history, theology, philosophy, sociology and ethics of Christianity and has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Edinburgh, Hong Kong and Otago, among other universities worldwide. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear him “in conversation” at Providence, and he intends to leave them with something they can take into modern Canadian life.
“I hope they leave agitated, shaken out of the uneasy complacency and compliance by which most of us live most of the time,” he says. “And I hope they leave hopeful that things can be different—starting today, and then tomorrow, and then every day after that in a lifetime of ascent, sometimes painful, but always profitable—a lifetime of usefulness, enjoyment and impact.”
During the first segment of his lecture between, 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., Stackhouse will explore what he believes was the Reformation’s core question: “Does God truly love me?”
Late medieval Christianity, he explains, featured a God who was mostly remote and accessible only through Church mechanisms. “If you believe in God, as most medieval Europeans did,” he points out, “then to be unsure about God’ love is the most important, and terrifying, question there is.”
Following a break for lunch (attendees can purchase a meal in the J. & E. Scobbie Dining Hall) the second segment, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., will ask whether contemporary Christianity, particularly in a Canadian context, requires another Reformation.
Stackhouse says that North American Christians, and especially those labelled “evangelical,” previously enjoyed a period in which they dominated cultural life. “Since the 1960s,” he adds, “this comfortable feeling has evaporated in Canada, and while some fight to retain ebbing privileges, others make a virtue of weakness and advocate retiring from public life.”
Either strategy can be attractive, he says, although both are mostly “wrong-headed.” He’ll use his lecture to provide a vision for a deeply demanding model of church life that, he explains, “would, if followed, truly reform Canadian Christianity in our time.”
Canadian Christians, he states, have to become serious about their faith once again.
“Check our bank statements, calendars and homes,” he says. “Check our daydreams. Check how we spend the hours we don’t have to spend on occupational and domestic duties. We aren’t serious, and so our faith is weak, our experience of Christ is vague and dull, our hope is wan, and our love is largely sentimental. I have no big new thing to say in response, but one big old thing: get serious.