Preachers and People in the Reformations and Early Modern Period

Preachers and People in the Reformations and Early Modern Period

Preachers and People in the Reformations and Early Modern Period

Preachers and People in the Reformations and Early Modern Period

Synopsis

Sermons are an invaluable source for our knowledge of religious history and sociology, anthropology, and the mental landscape of men and women in pre-modern Europe, of what they were taught and what they practiced. But how did an individual process the preached message from the pulpit? How exactly do written sermons duplicate the preached Word? Do they at all?The 11 leading scholars who have contributed to this book do not offer uniform answers or an all-encompassing study of preaching in the Reformations and early modern period in Europe. They do, however, provide new insights on Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed preaching in Western and Central Europe. Part One examines changes in sermon structure, style and content in Christian sermons from the thematic sermon typical of the Middle Ages to the wide variety of later preaching styles. Catholic preaching after Trent proves not to be monolithic and intolerant, but a hybrid of forms past and present, applied as needed to particular situations. Lutheran homiletic theory is traced from Luther and through Melanchthon, the intention of the sermon being to transform the worship service based on exegesis of Scripture. In Reformed worship, the expository sermon, often given on a daily basis with a continuing exegesis, was designed to communicate the tenets of the faith in terms that the laity could understand ( plain style). Part Two deals with the social history of preaching in France, where preachers often incited their hearers to attack human beings or holy objects or were themselves attacked; in Italy, where preaching became a collective and home-grown product; in early modern Germany, where the authorities strove for uniformity of preaching practice and the preacher was seen as a moral guardian; in Switzerland, where leaders from Zwingli on sought to bring religious practice, conduct, and government in line with biblical teaching and propagated a pastoral vision of preaching; in England, where after the Reformation preachers became the indispensable agents of salvation, but clergy and congregations were often ill-prepared for the task; in Scandinavia, where post-Reformation sermons have a clear didactic aim, teaching obedience to the authorities; and in the Low Countries, characterised by its numerous denominations, all with their own churches and particular practices in terms of preaching. The volume ends with a consideration of the influence of late medieval preaching on the Reformation, concluding that the diversity of emphasis on how the practice of penance was preached (and received) very likely affected the appeal (or not) of the Lutheran/Reformed message in a given country.Preachers and People in the Reformations and Early Modern Period is also published by Brill in paperback (ISBN 0 391 04203 3, still available)

Excerpt

Larissa Taylor (Colby College)

For as the rain and the snow come
down from heaven,
and do not return there until
they have watered
the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and
bread to the eater,
So shall my word be that goes out
from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty
but it shall accomplish that which
I purpose
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

(Isaiah 55:10-11)

Neither this book, nor many like it, could have been written two decades ago. Although sermons have proven an invaluable source for our knowledge of religious history and sociology, anthropology, and social prescription, they were until recently either ignored entirely or studied solely for their literary merits (or lack thereof). Happily, so much has changed in the field of sermon studies that not only is there an entire society dedicated to it-The International Medieval Sermon Studies Society-but books, monographs, and articles are now so plentiful that it is impossible even to provide a short overview of the most important works.

What has changed? the simple answer is that history has changed. What was started half a century ago by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre – history as a discipline that combined the study of all disciplines in a time and place – has been taken much further than even they would have anticipated. Religious sociology, pioneered by Gabriel LeBras in his Etudies de sociologie religieuse and Sociologie et religion, has been taken further by historians of mentalités . . .

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