There can be no examination or discussion about the 16th century reformation without first turning to Germany and mentioning the name Martin Luther. Luther can be unquestionably credited with the beginning of this great movement which most agree began with the nailing of his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. His confrontation of the abuses of the Roman Catholic church especially on the sales of indulgences was the monumental event in triggering the fire storm that would turn Europe and the whole world upside down. Luther was a professor at Wittenberg University and an ordained monk when he began to address the false teachings of the empire known as the Roman Catholic Church. His desire was to reform the church and after being excommunicated by Pope Leo X on January 3, 1521. Luther was called before scholars, magistrates and emperors to defend his beliefs and his continued belief in Sola Scriptura lead him through all these trials. While Luther’s theology changed over the years, there were some classic works that were penned by the bold reformer that remain useful to us today as sons & daughters of the reformation.
While many this week will be getting dressed up in all sorts of frightful costumes and celebrating Hallow’s Eve, Christians who are Reformed in their understanding of scripture will reflect upon the 497th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
In 1517, Martin Luther, a young German monk, nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg challenging the great religious kingdom of his day in the Roman Catholic Church. It is a time of reflection on the story of those who took the word of God in their hands and brought it’s teachings to the common people. It was a time when God poured out His Spirit and lead men in different locations to rediscover the truths therein. These were men who stood for the principles laid out in scripture even under tremendousl persecution. The Protestant Reformation stands as a monumental time in Christianity to the extent that historian Philip Schaff could write that “next to the introduction of Christianity, it is the greatest event in history” . The spread of this movement reached the far regions of Europe and set the entire modern world into rethinking their faith and their allegiances. It brought about a focus on neglected biblical teaching including the five solas of the reformation.
While anyone today who possesses a bible in their hand has benefited from the Protestant Reformation, the vast majority of people who call themselves Christians have no idea what happened in this historical event or who was involved. Over the next 5 days I will be posting some materials on five of the most significant men who were part of the reformation movement in the 16th century. These will include Martin Luther, Phillip Melanchthon, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin and Theodore Beza. Please join me in considering how God was moving in those days.
If anyone would like to get a head start and gain an tremendously full historical understanding of the Reformation, please take the time to listen to Dr. Trueman’s lectures on the Reformation.
Anyone who reads this blog will be familiar with a website called monergism. It is honestly the creme of the crop for online sound biblical resources. The sheer amount of articles, books, MP3, videos is remarkable. They also have a great blog and an online bookstore with reputable books on theology, commentaries and bibles as well as many more resources that can be purchased. Please take the time to search the website for any resources that might be useful to you.
The owner of the website, John Hendryx, is also converting many classic books to eBook format (Kindle, ePub,etc…) and also to PDF for those who don’t own an eReader. This includes many Puritan and Reformation classics as well.
I just saw that Monergism has made Martin Luther’s classic “The Bondage of the Will” available in eBook format. This book is a response to the famous Roman Catholic theologian, Desiderius Eramus, whom some might know as the man who gave us the Texus Receptus, on the nature and freedom of the will in regards to Salvation and sin. While many who want to know anything about the reformation will turn to a history book, there will be much missing from this approach. For those of you who wish to get a real sense of what the reformation was all about, please take the time to read this book carefully as it has had a far reaching impact on the nature of man, the extent of his depravity, election, the atonement and the glory of justification. It will give you the real sense of the issues affirmed and fought against by Luther, Zwingli and Calvin.
We all know that you can ask the average person in Moncton or anywhere else about the significance of the date October 31 and the answer you’ll get from most people would be that the date is associated with “Halloween”. What is unfortunate is that the christians would answer in the same manner as the non-believers. I myself would associate October 31 with something else. You see when I think of October 31 I am taken back to October 31, 1517. To anyone who is considered a “Protestant” or simply knows anything about history then they understand that this is a very important date! This was the date that a young German monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenburg Germany which created one of the biggest religious firestorms in history. It would be the beginning of events that would lead to what is called the protestant reformation. The protestant reformation is so significant that one historian stated that “next to the introduction of Christianity, it is the greatest event in history” (Philip Schaff) This reformation rediscovered many beautiful and fundamental biblical truths that I hold to today and I am left in awe at how God worked in bringing them to the world and finally to me.
It was a time when the Roman Catholic Church was the predominant representative of Christianity and with that it was a time when the church was full of corruption and abuses. These abuses and corruptions came in many forms and people were oppressed spiritually. It was this man, Martin Luther and others who were like-minded who were labouring against these theological abuses that were against the average individual. They understood how men could use “religion” for their own gain and these were the things they were fighting against.
I am thankful for men such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin and many others who sought to make scripture alone the centrality of the life of a Christian and to bring back biblical theology at the forefront of Christianity.
To all, a happy Reformation Day!