The Age of Reform as an Age of Consolation

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Church History






This article seeks to provide a new way of interpreting the Age of Reform and its legacy on the occasion of the Protestant Reformation's 500th anniversary. Over the past several decades, many scholars have interpreted the Age of Reform through the lens of a “Discipline Paradigm.” They have stressed the centrality of social and moral discipline in the Age of Reform and its legacy for the modern world. This paradigm has inspired much important and original scholarship, and yet it has also failed to take account of significant aspects of the Age of Reform. This article seeks to revise and challenge the “Discipline Paradigm” by focusing on one of the most important and widespread practices of the period: verbal consolation. There was an unprecedented flowering of such consolation in the Age of Reform and yet scholars have largely ignored it in their treatments of the period. This article seeks to demonstrate how viewing the Age of Reform as an Age of Consolation can provide important new insight into the character and legacy of the Age of Reform, and, indeed, into human existence in the past.