Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post commemorating the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation (October 31, 1517) and encouraging everyone to grow in the knowledge of this important event by recommending some key resources. New research recently released by the Pew Research Center has underscored just how great this need is and how unaware most professing Christians are about the fundamental doctrines, issues, and events of the Reformation. Here are some highlights (or lowlights!) of the survey:
- 52% of U.S. Protestants reject sola scriptura and say Christians should look for guidance not only from the Bible but from church teachings and traditions as well, the position actually held by the Catholic Church
- Only 30% of all U.S. Protestants affirm both sola fide and sola scriptura
- 44% of U.S. Protestants believe that both Protestants and Catholics affirm sola fide
- 57% of U.S. Protestants say that Catholics and Protestants today are religiously more similar than they are different
So in light of this new research and with the arrival of 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I am republishing the original blog post below. You might also want to listen again to the recent sermon series preached by our pastoral staff entitled "The Five Solas". May the Lord continue the work of reformation in our minds and hearts and in our church as we continue to believe and affirm sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, and soli Deo gloria!
“The Man in the High Castle” is an alternative history novel that imagines what might have happened to the United States had the Allies not won World War II. East of the Rockies, the people all speak German and live under the flag of the Third Reich while Imperial Japan rules over the land west of the Rockies. It’s both fascinating and frightening to think what life today might be like in this alternative scenario.
Envisioning life without the Reformation is just as unsettling, for without the Reformation the gospel would still be largely hidden under millennia of tradition and false teaching. The Bible would quite possibly never have been translated into our own language and millions upon millions would have died in their sins. It’s difficult to calculate just how important the Reformation was and just how indebted we are to those who risked all for the sake of God’s Word and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. It was October 31, 1517 on All Hallows’ Eve that an unknown Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Though it wasn’t thought to be a very significant event at the time, Luther’s action proved to be the spark that ignited a great reformation of the church that spread rapidly across Europe.
The Reformation resulted in a recovery of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a return to the centrality of the Scriptures in our worship and beliefs. This reformation was not so much a singular event but rather an ongoing process of studying the Scriptures and bringing Christianity’s beliefs and practices into greater and greater alignment with God’s Word. Thus the church was to be ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbi Dei, “the church is reformed and always [in need of] being reformed according to the word of God.” May we today take up this centuries-old slogan, semper reformanda, “always reforming.”
There were many important precursors to the Reformation including men of the 14th century like Johannes (John) Huss in Bohemia and John Wycliffe in England, both of whom were martyred for their beliefs which conflicted with the Roman Catholic Church. However, no single person has come to be so associated with the start of the Reformation than Martin Luther. Though not without his own significant sins and shortcomings, the facts of history have shown Luther to be a man worthy of both our attention and admiration for the role he played in bringing about the Reformation.
In this 500th year since the start of the Reformation, I have sought to learn more about Luther and the Reformation period, something I would encourage every Christian to do. Below I am listing a few of the resources which have been helpful to me and may prove helpful to you as you seek to grow in your understanding and appreciation for those who have gone before us.
Starring Joseph Feinnes, this film is surprisingly faithful in depicting Luther’s life from the time he became a monk through the major events of the Reformation. This is a great place to start in gaining interest and a basic understanding of Luther’s life and times. It is, however, rated PG-13 for some significant scenes of violence and mild language, so it probably isn’t suitable for younger viewers.
The Torchlighters: The Martin Luther Story
A brand new, 33 minute animated life of Luther. Great for younger viewers, though still with some difficult subjects like plague, purgatory, etc. Free right now with Amazon Prime.
Here I Stand by Roland Bainton
This is the classic biography of Luther that has stood the test of time. If you read only one biography on Luther, this should probably be it.
Luther on the Christian Life by Carl Trueman
A great survey of Luther’s life, theology, and vibrant spiritual life.
Brand Luther by Andrew Pettegree
This work traces Luther’s story but through the lenses of theology, technology, and economics.
Recorded in early 2017 at The Master’s Seminary. Free to stream. The link will also provide you with additional information in conjunction with the over 20 hours of video lectures.
Ten, twenty-minute video lectures; free streaming with Amazon Prime.