Questions for reflection: Renewal, revival, and reform

[Nicholas Roerich (1874–1947), St. Francis, Tempera on canvas, 1932—Public domain, Wikimedia File:St. Francis.jpg]

1. Would you agree that Christianity is naturally a reforming faith (pp. 6–10)? Why or why not?

2. How would you put the definition of revival on page 11 into your own words? Do you agree with it? Why or why not? How can you seek God through both ordinary and extraordinary experiences?

3. Why was there great conflict between secular and religious power in the eleventh and twelfth centuries (pp. 12–15)? How was this conflict connected to desires for reform?

4. How would you describe Bernard of Clairvaux’s impact on the church (p. 16)? Do you recognize traces of his influence today?

5. Why did many medieval thinkers believe the end of the world was near (pp. 17–19)? How did this affect their aspirations for reform and revival?

6. How would you characterize the beliefs of the Waldensians (p. 20)? How did they compare to other reform movements?

7. With which person in our gallery (pp. 21–25) do you most identify? How might you have sought reform and renewal in their situations?

8. What was revolutionary about Francis of Assisi’s thought (pp. 28–33)? How did he echo earlier cries for reform? Where do you see his influence in the modern church?

9. How did mystical writers encourage a more passionate devotion (pp. 34–38)? How did this contribute to renewal? If you’ve read our issue #127 on medieval mysticism, what new things did you learn this time around?

10. What sorts of things did late medieval preachers preach about and why (pp. 39–42)? How did people respond to their calls for revival? How would you have responded?

11. In what ways was the Reformation a revival? In what ways was it not (pp. 44–48)? How did it serve as a culmination of medieval calls for reform?

12. What’s one thing you learned from this issue that surprised you? What is one thing that confirmed something you already thought?

13. Did some types of reform seem to inspire greater revival than others? Why do you think so? What parallels can you draw between these reforming trends and similar movements today?

14. If you could ask a historical figure from this issue one question, what would that question be and whom would you ask?

By the editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #149 in 2023]

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