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18 - German Reformations, German Futures

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Thomas A. Brady Jr.
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
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Summary

For most Germans now going to Berlin, our history starts in 1945 or with the Holocaust…. We have developed a new national consciousness, one formed from the terrible legacy of Auschwitz.

Hans Mommsen

The future is made of the same stuff as the present.

Simone Weil

In 1983, the year of Martin Luther's 500th birthday, Heiko Augustinus Oberman chose a coign of vantage from which to set the reformer into the age of reformations without veiling his significance for the modern era. He found such a site not beyond but above both Luther's time and all others. “Surprisingly,” Oberman wrote, “the discoveries and experiences of a life marked by battle raging within and without make him a contemporary of our time, which has learned to sublimate the Devil and marginalize God.” If we are to understand such a Luther, he added, “we must read the history of life from an unconventional perspective. It is history ‘sub specie aeternitatis,’ in the light of eternity; not in the mild glow of constant progress toward Heaven, but in the shadow of the chaos of the Last Days and the imminence of eternity.” Yet Oberman also understood that however tellingly Luther the theologian might speak to the great issues of our day, they cannot be understood, much less explained, except in terms of the ideas, issues, struggles, and solidarities of the age of reformations. Luther had his time and place, we have ours.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2009

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