The story of the Reformation is a story that once again is becoming very current, because it was set during the collapse of one world and the birth of a new.
The Middle Ages, the Age of Belief, was drawing to a close, and the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, was born. It was a time of political and social upheaval, where the calm synthesis of one age was erupting into multiple streams of thought and practice, and a new way forward under Modernity was embraced that seemed to give stability to the world.
Now here it is -- in the words of Yogi Berra -- “Déjà vu all over again.” We seem to stand once again between the collapse of one world and the birth of a new. It is a time of social, political, economic, scientific and religious upheaval as the Age of Modernity draws to a close and, indeed, the Age of Postmodernity (which never had a clear positive identity to begin with – except that it was “post” – like my man between two swings) may also be drawing to a close. What will give stability to the new world is hard to say. Perhaps it will be the “Convergence Culture” described by M. Rex Miller that can forge a new brand of politics and economics out of old ideas and new challenges, and in the world of religion leaves room for the “vintage faith” to interact with the fluid culture that surrounds it.
One thing is clear, however. In times of such upheaval – and there have been many in the Church, the Reformation being one – the Church has always shifted from an emphasis on “religion” and its traditions to a return to the Word and to the central tenet of the Word, that we live by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. And on the foundation of that formal and material principle (in the backpack of my “man on the swing”) the Church finds new life and renewal of mission in every age.