Gordon Rupp, The Old Reformation and the New: The Cato Lecture for 1966 (London: Epworth, 1967)
I love a book of good lectures now and then because it's not weighed down by too much detailed scholarly analysis. Originating as spoken presentations to a live audience they give scholars (and Rupp was an outstanding Reformation scholar) an opportunity to get into free style mode. When such reflections are based on a lifetime of scholarly activity, the peppering of anecdotes and well chosen aphorisms are a delight to read. Rupp was one of the greatest Luther scholars of his day and a Methodist to boot! (His 1947 Lectures on "The Righteousness of God" constitute a classic in the field.) This slim little volume reflects on the nature of the twentieth century as an Age of Revolution, examines the revolutionary impact of the sixteenth century Reformation (as a Crisis of the Word, a Crisis of Communication, and Crisis of Compassion) and then brings some words of sage advice to those engaged in the "New Reformation" of theological revisionism. He has little patience for innovators such as the Bishop of Woolwich, John AT Robinson, who compared himself with Martin Luther. "I wish him well," says Rupp. "He has now only to be unfrocked, tried and condemned for high treason, to write four of the world's classics, to translate the Bible and compose a hymn book, and to write some 100 folio volumes which 400 years hence will concern scholars all over the world, and to become the spiritual father of some thousands of millions of Christians - to qualify as the Martin Luther of a New Reformation." (p. 51) Rupp has no aversion to contemporary constructions of the faith but has only scorn for superficial mass media treatments that offer the same "baloon-like inflation" to theology and liturgy as are given to the Beatles and James Bond! (ibid) Though he has admiration for Bonhoeffer and his "religionless Christianity" he is not willing to "unchurch the Church" or "unpeople the people of God." "Once we admit that God has called us not because of our virtue or wisdom or efficiency - the ability to be up-to-date and impressive or exciting or brilliant - but simply because in His mercy he has pitied us, then we have another measure for the life and death and reformation of the Church." (p. 64). There is something here for contemporary missional and emergent thinkers who often speak as though the church is a hindrance rather than a help in engaging in mission and can even speak of being "post-church." Augustine, Luther, Newman, and Bonhoeffer (Rupp reminds us) were not only "incurably religious men, but professional religious men." (p. 64) That is, they were clergy - professional church leaders. Even Bonhoeffer with his secular Christianity was consumed with zeal for the house of the Lord. Rupp was convinced that there could be no genuine renewal of the Church in his time without the same kind of prophetic voices. The same remains true today.