The Reformation of Suffering: Pastoral Theology and Lay Piety in Late Medieval and Early Modern Germany  -     By: Ronald K. Rittgers
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The Reformation of Suffering: Pastoral Theology and Lay Piety in Late Medieval and Early Modern Germany

Oxford University Press / 2012 / Hardcover

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Examines the transformational effect on perceptions of suffering effected by the Reformation.

Protestant reformers sought to effect a radical change in the way their contemporaries understood and coped with the suffering of body and soul that were so prominent in the early modern period. The reformers did so because they believed that many traditional approaches to suffering were not sufficiently Christian--that is, they thought these approaches were unbiblical.

The Reformation of Suffering examines the Protestant reformation of suffering and shows how it was a central part of the larger Protestant effort to reform church and society. Despite its importance, no other text has directly examined this reformation of suffering. This book investigates the history of Christian reflection on suffering and consolation in the Latin West and places the Protestant reformation campaign within this larger context, paying close attention to important continuities and discontinuities between Catholic and Protestant traditions.

Focusing especially on Wittenberg Christianity, The Reformation of Suffering examines the genesis of Protestant doctrines of suffering among the leading reformers and then traces the transmission of these doctrines from the reformers to the common clergy. It also examines the reception of these ideas by lay people. The text underscores the importance of consolation in early modern Protestantism and seeks to challenge a scholarly trend that has emphasized the themes of discipline and control in Wittenberg Christianity. It shows how Protestant clergymen and burghers could be remarkably creative and resourceful as they sought to convey solace to one another in the midst of suffering and misfortune. The Protestant reformation of suffering had a profound impact on church and society in the early modern period and contributed significantly to the shape of the modern world.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 448
Vendor: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 0199795088
ISBN-13: 9780199795086
Availability: Expected to ship on or about 08/29/15.
Series: Oxford Studies in Historical Theology

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Publisher's Description

Protestant reformers sought to effect a radical change in the way their contemporaries understood and coped with the suffering of body and soul that were so prominent in the early modern period. The reformers did so because they believed that many traditional approaches to suffering were not sufficiently Christian--that is, they thought these approaches were unbiblical. The Reformation of Suffering examines the Protestant reformation of suffering and shows how it was a central part of the larger Protestant effort to reform church and society. Despite its importance, no other text has directly examined this reformation of suffering. This book investigates the history of Christian reflection on suffering and consolation in the Latin West and places the Protestant reformation campaign within this larger context, paying close attention to important continuities and discontinuities between Catholic and Protestant traditions.

Focusing especially on Wittenberg Christianity, The Reformation of Suffering examines the genesis of Protestant doctrines of suffering among the leading reformers and then traces the transmission of these doctrines from the reformers to the common clergy. It also examines the reception of these ideas by lay people. The text underscores the importance of consolation in early modern Protestantism and seeks to challenge a scholarly trend that has emphasized the themes of discipline and control in Wittenberg Christianity. It shows how Protestant clergymen and burghers could be remarkably creative and resourceful as they sought to convey solace to one another in the midst of suffering and misfortune. The Protestant reformation of suffering had a profound impact on church and society in the early modern period and contributed significantly to the shape of the modern world.

Author Bio


Erich Markel Chair in German Reformation Studies, Professor of History, Professor of Theology, Valparaiso University

Editorial Reviews


Building on his earlier work on confession in the German Reformation, Rittgers offers a thorough account of German, predominantly Lutheran, consolation and pastoral literature, studied in comparison with late medieval theological writing and sixteenth-century autobiographical literature. His treatment of vernacular theological literature coupled with pastoral practice and the individual reflection of historical actors is wonderful. --Archive for Reformation History, Literature Review


"No one will come away from reading it without a deeper understanding of early Lutheranism and without an admiration of the author's accomplishment." --Journal of Ecclesiastical History


"This is a marvelous book that will enormously enrich scholarship. It is full of intelligent ideas and clear lines of direction. It achieves the proper balance between continuity/tradition and discontinuity/innovation with respect to the relationship between the later Middle Ages and the Reformation and also between historical theology and social history. In contrast to the tendency of much scholarship, it is a courageous book and therefore an especially necessary book."-- Berndt Hamm, Professor Emeritus of Modern Church History, University of Erlangen


"In The Reformation of Suffering, Ronald Rittgers deftly combines theology and cultural history to examine consolation, one of the most important themes in sixteenth-century Lutheranism. His masterful study highlights both continuities and changes to pastoral care found in the writings of Luther and his followers. Using a broad range of sources, he argues persuasively that the Reformation changed the way literate German laypeople interpreted their world. An impressive achievement!"--Amy Nelson Burnett, Professor of History, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


"Through his focus on their approach to suffering in daily life, Rittgers effectively captures the inner dynamic of the practice of theology by Luther and the Wittenberg circle around him. Rittgers shows how concern for the admonition of sinners and consolation of the repentant drove that theology. This study sets Luther's way of meeting the late medieval crisis of pastoral care within its historical and contemporary contexts with a clarity that illumines the Wittenberg impact on his own times and subsequent eras."--Robert Kolb, Missions Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis


"The Reformation of Suffering is an important and convincing demonstration of the centrality of suffering and consolation in the thought and language of the Lutheran reformers, and indeed the Reformation tout court. Part biblical exegesis, part social history, it is a nuanced attempt to understand the age on its own terms and demonstrate, by drawing on a vast array of source materials, that there was a deep history of profound human experience bound up in the subtleties of Reformation ideas."--C. Scott Dixon, author of Protestants: A History from Wittenberg to Pennsylvania 1517-1740


"Deeply researched, wonderfully readable, and often profound."--Books & Culture


"This history of early modern German responses to suffering is a signficant contribution to scholarship on the reception and practice of Reformation ideas." --CHOICE


"A lucid, thoughtful and ultimately persuasive study." --German History


"An essential contribution This book is indispensable reading for anyone interested in the history of theology and pastoral care." --Medieval Mystical Theology


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