Guest / Limited Access /

Even though Martin Luther is my favorite Reformer, I take some pride in my connection to Ulrich Zwingli. Okay, it's a dubious connection since I can't trace my ancestors back to the 16th century. But on October 11, 1531, Adam Näf distinguished himself in battle, rallying the Protestant troops against the ultimately victorious Catholic forces. Zwingli, a great preacher but a lousy general, lost his life that day. However, for Näf's bravery, Zurich granted him and his descendants permanent citizenship and hereditary honors.

Protestant kids are taught to admire Reformers the way Catholic children learn to love virgin martyrs and ascetic saints. Imagine my disappointment, then, when I learned about Calvin's role in burning the heretic Servetus and numerous witches.

Reading Protestant history should make us take seriously the Reformation principle of "a reformed church, always being reformed." The Reformers did a good job of calling the Catholic Church to its biblical and patristic roots, but they also knew that the task of reforming lives and institutions is never over. That job requires an honest appraisal of both past and present.

William Wilberforce is a reformer we want to learn from. We love his critique of mere religiosity. We praise his passion against all forms of cruelty, whether directed against African slaves, petty criminals, or animals used for sport. We admire his perseverance.

It is tricky to fit all the pieces together, though, when we learn that he supported workers' rights and then voted for bills that prevented them from assembling to organize. And as Ted Olsen relates in this issue, we are now called to integrate Wilberforce's fierce opposition to slavery with his refusal to support reforms of slavery ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedHow I Almost Lost the Bible
How I Almost Lost the Bible
Had it not been for the first editor of CT, I likely would have gone the way of liberal scholar Bart Ehrman.
TrendingThe 10 Most Influential Churches of the Last Century
The 10 Most Influential Churches of the Last Century
There is much to learn from some key trends in the last 100 years of church history.
Editor's PickWhy Black Churches Are Keeping Millennials
Why Black Churches Are Keeping Millennials
The reasons are rooted in history.
Comments
Christianity Today
Honest Appraisal
hide thisOctober October

In the Magazine

October 2010

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.