Reformation Theology at Marquette University:
Students Share Research Results
News article web posted 10/28/2005:
Department Participates Successfully at Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Atlanta
With a total of three panels organized and chaired by Dr. Markus Wriedt, Visiting Professor for Theology at Marquette University, the Department of Theology contributed significantly to the annual meeting of the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference held October 20-23, 2005 in Atlanta, GA. Invited to accentuate theological research Dr. Wriedt decided to organize two panels with graduate students from the Department of Theology and a third one with colleague, Dr. Mickey Mattox, Assistant Professor of Historical Theology.
After successfully completing a seminar called “Calvin and the Reformation in Geneva,” taught in the Fall of 2004, Dr. Wriedt invited five graduate students from the Department of Theology at Marquette University to present their papers in Atlanta. The complete proposal was revised and accepted by the program committee of SCSC in early March this year. The enthusiastic acceptance by its members encouraged everyone to work toward a good outcome of the papers for the conference. Dr. William Naphy, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, accepted with great pleasure the invitation of Dr. Wriedt to comment on the papers. In all, five Marquette students were able to present their research at two panels. Michael Groen reported on Calvin’s view of the Jews, which, interestingly, though the Genevan minister did not ask for any kind of action against Jews, was not actually shaped by tolerance in any modern sense. Christopher Stephenson focused on the questions of memory, remembrance, and commemoration in Calvin’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Daniel Torkelson laid out a thorough analysis of Calvin’s preaching in relation to the consolidation of the Genevan Reformation in the crucial years between 1552 and 1555. Two more papers dealt with the new edition and English translation of the Consistory reports between 1542 and 1544 in Geneva: Aaron Smith searched within the cases for a certain understanding of justification as promoted by Calvin, while Lisa Stephenson scanned the manifold cases for the implementation of Reformation Rites in regard to some kind of social discipline in Geneva.
In his comments, Dr. Naphy focused on the elaborated interdisciplinary discourse as represented in the papers and its importance for future reformation research. The Genevan Reformation was widely interpreted as the establishment of a theocratic regime under the guidance and leadership of Calvin. The two panels sketched out a more detailed and precise picture of that process in which Calvin, of course, was of a certain importance, even though other influences, such as the resistance of Rome or French-affiliated groups, social status, and intellectual disabilities should not be overlooked. The close linkage between politics and theological reformation issues became clearer. The intensive discussions after the panels demonstrated how effectively the papers initiated questions and ideas for further research.
Attending the Conference also meant the opportunity to present the most current research to a wider audience by way of of several outstanding colleagues and researchers of the Genevan Reformation: Robert Kingdon (Madison, WI), Herman Selderhuis (Apeldoorn, Netherlands), Randy Zachman (Notre Dame, IN), and Eric Gritsch (Baltimore, MD). These contributors, to mention just a few, made the discussions extremely pleasant and useful. The eager reception by professors and students from all over the continent and Europe also demonstrated a growing interest in the research of Historical Theology at Marquette University. In short, our students’ attendance of the SCSC in Atlanta became a wonderful opportunity to advertise the qualities of studies in the Department of Theology at Marquette.
Known for his long-standing engagement with “auctoritas patrum” – the knowledge and reception of the Church Fathers in the 15th and 16th centuries – Dr. Wriedt was asked to organize a panel contributing to the highly ambitious project of Reformation research. Looking forward to presenting the most recent research, Dr. Wriedt proposed a panel with three contributors. He opened the session with an extensive overview regarding the reception of Augustine in the Middle Ages from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries, which was based in great part on a seminar on late medieval Augustinianism taught during Spring 2005. He focused significantly on hermeneutical and methodological questions that found a broad echo in the following discussion. Dr. Mickey Mattox gave an overview of his most recent translation and commentary on Johannes Oekolampad’s interpretation of the first sixteen chapters of the book of Genesis (to be published within the text editions of the highly regarded Marquette Series). The paper provided impressive insight into the broad knowledge of the Basel Reformer. Interestingly, Oekolampadius focused much more on Greek authorities than he did to Latin Fathers like Augustine, Boethius or Tertullian. Finally, Ashley Hall, a graduate student from Fordham University, New York, after just returning from a one year stipend at the Institute of European History, Mainz (Germany), introduced his extensive studies on Philipp Melanchthon’s use of the Church Fathers. Hall concentrated on the Wittenberg reception of the Three Capadocians: Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa. His work demonstrated that a fourth theologian was of great interest for Melanchthon, who we do not today count as a Capadocian: Gregory Thaumaturgos. The large auditory substituted wonderfully as a single commentator and asked various questions with regard to particular research of the individual and their knowledge of the sources. The discussion continued even after the panel ended, demonstrating how much recent foci of research in historical theology interest the community of historians of the Early Modern period. The contribution was most welcome and provided in particular a good picture of the latest work of Marquette students and professors.