Half a millennium ago, the ringing of a hammer on nail pierced through the bustling sounds of what was otherwise an ordinary, late-October day in Wittenburg, Germany. Martin Luther hammered away, driving his beliefs incarnated as 95 Theses into the gnarled, old doors of the Castle Church, the town’s center of worship.
That hammering would keep ringing for 500 years. Protestants around the world have celebrated the anniversary of the Reformation, the movement Martin Luther sparked when he publicly pinned his convictions.
On Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4 and 5, Regent University’s Center for Renewal Studies held a conference titled The Holy Spirit and the Reformation.
“Father … we thank you for this conference, we thank you that we can rejoice in the treasures of the Church, old and new,” prayed Dr. Mark J. Cartledge, professor for the School of Divinity and director of the Center for Renewal Studies. “We pray that you would bless our conference, and that you would bless our speakers, and we pray that you would bless our conversations … and that you would bless the whole of this event, and that it would be for your glory.”
Despite the commemoration of a 500-year-old movement, speakers and various forums and sessions weren’t solely centered on deeds and events from past times.
Discussions revolved around looking to the past, to the Reformation movement, acknowledging the renewal movement and the renewing work of the Holy Spirit, and seeking ways to unify and serve both Catholic and Protestant Christians.
“I believe that fundamentally, this will be a step forward in us recognizing that Christ will unite His Church,” said Dr. Corné J. Bekker, dean of the School of Divinity.
“When we think of the School of Divinity, this is our school,” he said. “What I mean by this, [is] all of us, coming together to serve the Church.”
“We believe that the Holy Spirit will do some work on us in this conference singly, individually, and together,” said Regent School of Divinity professor and former Navy chaplain Dr. Mark A. Jumper. “That is our prayer, that is our hope, that the Holy Spirit will sweep through this time together, and we will come out of here more understanding people, more able people, more equipped people, better people.”
During one session hosted by Dr. William Cox, Regent School of Education’s Christian School Program Chair, headmasters of schools from across Virginia shared their advice for helping young students engage with the Holy Spirit.
Although their experiences varied, they shared a common method for structuring a classroom in which the Holy Spirit can move: a portion of their students’ class time is used for worship, prayer, and the reading of scripture.
All the headmasters reported instances in which their students experienced the Holy Spirit in distinct ways.
Cox referred to this belief — that the Holy Spirit is still working and moving today — as “continuationism,” a contradiction of “cessationism,” the belief that the Holy Spirit is not actively working and moving in the earth.
In a subtle nod to the Reformation, Cox said that through the panel discussion, “we’re not going to nail anything to the Wittenburg [church] door, but we’re gonna open the door so that we have some clarity talking about the Holy Spirit in the classroom.”