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Roger W. Heyns Lecture Series: Toleration, Pluralism, and Coexistence: The Ambivalent Legacies of the Reformation

EVT 504
Apr 20
5:00 pm
CIRCLE Common Room, Old Union 3rd Floor
Status: No Registration Required

Established at Memorial Church in 1994, the Roger W. Heyns Lecture in Religion and Society is an annual event that features a major speaker focusing on problems and challenges of religion and community. Heyns, who was a resident of Atherton, was a member of the Memorial Church congregation from 1977 until his death in 1995. Heyns served as chancellor at UC Berkeley from 1965 to 1971.

Toleration, Pluralism, and Coexistence: The Ambivalent Legacies of the Reformation

In this year, the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses, this lecture will explore some of the legacies of the Protestant Reformation. One of the enduring myths of the origins of modern liberalism is that the Protestant Reformation coincides with, and indeed encouraged, the rise of toleration. The notion that Protestantism helped to sow the seeds for advanced ideas of freedom of conscience and laid the foundations for the acceptance of religious diversity is part of another resilient paradigm: the story of the Reformation’s role as an agent of progress and as a stepping-stone toward the 18th-century Enlightenment.

This lecture will emphasize the internal contradictions of the experiments in “toleration” that emerged in 16th- and 17th-century Britain and Europe. Specifically, it will propose that tolerance and intolerance are not polar opposites, but dialectically linked impulses. Further, it will argue that the significance of the long Reformation for the history of pluralism lies less in its capacity to provide legal and social precedents for coexistence than in the light it sheds on the precariousness of communities fractured by deep ideological differences.

Alexandra Walsham, Professor of Modern History and Fellow of Trinity College, University of Cambridge

Alexandra Walsham collaborates on an interdisciplinary project investigating and illuminating how the Reformations were remembered, forgotten, contested, and reinvented. Her publications include The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity, & Memory in Early Modern Britain & Ireland, which was a joint winner of the 2011 Wolfson History Prize, and Catholic Reformation in Protestant Britain.

This program is sponsored by the Office for Religious Life. For more information, visit the Heyns Lecture webpage.
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