Friday, August 25, 2017

Sententia semper reformanda

On the rather astonishing history of the saying Ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda, my summary of a comment by Theodor Mahlmann:

These, the concept's rather innovative and elemental roots in late 17th-century Dutch proto-Pietism (rather than the 16th-century Reformers) aside, it was in fact the 20th-century Reformed theologian Karl Barth who from 1947 both crystallized (Mahlmann (2010), 384 ff.) and popularized the saying we tend to think of as so ancient today.

Yet within a decade or so, Barth himself had forgotten that 
he had been the one to assemble it into an aphorism, and was asking the Catholic theologian Hans Küng—who, following Barth, had called the Catholic Church, too, an "Ecclesia reformanda" in an unpublished lecture delivered at Barth's invitation in January of 1959, and was later instrumental in getting the phrases "Ecclesia . . . semper purificanda" and "perennem reformationem" inserted into the documents of Vatican II (Mahlmann (2010), 391n43)—if he (Küng) could perchance shed any light on its presumably ancient origins (since by that time Barth had apparently accepted that the formula, too, was owed to ancient tradition (in the German of Mahlman (2010) at 388, "scheint Karl Barth . . . gar angenommen zu haben, diese verdanke sich alter Überlieferung").  It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that Peter Vogelsanger, editor-in-chief of the journal Reformatio, was calling it "th[at] ancient [(alt)] Reformed formula of the ecclesia semper reformanda" as early as 1961 (Mahlmann (2010), 394)!

Etc.  Sententia semper reformanda!

See Theodor Mahlmann, "'Ecclesia semper reformanda': eine historische Aufklärung: neue Bearbeitung," in Hermeneutica sacra: Studien zur Auslegung der Heiligen Schrift im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert:  Bengt Hägglund zum 90. Geburtstag, ed. Torbjörn Johansson, Robert Kolb, and Johann Anselm Steiger, Historia hermeneutica:  Series studia 9 (Berlin:  Walter de Gruyter, 2010), 381-442.

For much more, go here.

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