500th Anniversary of the Reformation

Happy Reformation Day. This is the 500th anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the door of Wittenberg Church. A couple of things to remember, first Luther was not trying to break away from the church, that is why he (and the others) are called Reformers (and the the event is called the Reformation, not the Great Schism), because they wanted to reform the church. A huge focus was the selling of indulgences (which is still a thing), the more important impact was the ‘rediscovery’ of Grace. We also received the Five Solae (or solas for Americans), to ground us back in the Bible and Grace and away from the Church and Papal Authority.

One of the more fascinating changes that Luther brought was the weekly sermon and the singing of hymns, especially in the common language. Luther also eventually supported marriage of pastors, something all Protestant churches do today, but the Catholic Church still does not. Basically, the typical Sunday morning at church would be unrecognizable to modern protestants. There would be no sermon, basically just the ‘Mass’ or communion, and it wouldn’t be in the common language, it’d be in Latin. Even if you happen to go Advent or Easter and catch a homily (a type of sermon), it would also not be in your language. You would not sing, if there was a choir and any singing it all, it would also, you guessed it, not be in your language. The Bible, again, not in your language. The priest didn’t know Hebrew or Greek, and some of them likely didn’t know Latin. It really is hard to think about today, how far off from any type of church service you’ve ever been to, and how different it would all seem.

As Christians, this should probably be seen as the most important event/date outside of the Bible. Or at least most important since the formulation of the early creeds and confessions. However, the church had drifted so far from those early days, that this is at least on par with the early church.

 

That is really all I have to say. I’ll leave you with three podcasts, two articles related to the Reformation, and of course a few books to read. I don’t listen to many podcast that or focused towards Christians, because honestly, most kind of suck. Three that I do listen to are White Horse Inn, Theocast, and 5 Minutes in Church History. The first two both did a podcast each on the Five Solae that are well worth listening to for a basic theological understanding. The church history podcast (which if you listen at 1.5X like me, is more like 3:30) posted a podcast every day this month with some historical insights.

Two articles that I found interesting (there were surprisingly few out there), one is kind of a Catholic view, and the other more in the lines of ‘why I’m still protestant.’

You can also check our my review of Martin Luther in His Own Words, Martin and Katharine, and probably the best intro book into Protestantism and Reformed Theology out there.

So, that is it. Take some time and reflect before heading out to teach your kids to take candy from strangers this evening.

 

 

Book Review: Martin Luther in His Own Words

Martin Luther in His Own Words: Essential Writings of the Reformation

My Rating – If you are looking for something

Level – Short, but moderately difficult read. This isn’t an intro for the Reformation, some knowledge of church history and theology will be needed.

Summary
The title could be a bit misleading to some, i.e., one may think it is a sort of autobiography. However, the book is a collect of Martin Luther’s writings. Twelve selections, to be precise, broken into five broad topics (cleverly) modeled after the five solas – fida, gratia, scriptura, Christus, and gloria.

If you are unfamiliar, the five ‘solae’ (alone or only in Latin, think of the modern words sole and solo) was the cry of the Reformation. So the chapters are laid out in the Latin words mentioned above that correspond to faith, grace, Scripture, Christ, glory (to God). Delving into these is beyond the scope of a book review, but as this year (2017) is the 500 anniversary of the Reformation and Martin Luther was the initiator, it was a pretty interesting way to divide the book.

There is an into by Kilcrease before each selection that helps with context and there are a few footnotes within the selections that are helpful for understanding particular, archaic, and/or theological/ecclesiastical terms.

My Thoughts
There is a difficultly in trying to review a sample pack of a book. My main critique would be that Luther’s most famous writings are probably ‘The Bondage of the Will’ and his Larger & Short Catechisms, and if you know much about him, his commentary on Galatians, and of the 12 selections, only four come from sources other than these. Granted, this may have been their reason for the selections, but I would have preferred a more diverse grouping.

I wanted to like this book more, but maybe because I am fairly familiar with Luther, it just didn’t quite do it for me. However, if you do not know much about Luther’s writings or the beginnings of the Reformation, this may be a great place to start. Kilcrease’s introductions are great and very informative. Or, if you are curious about Luther’s writings and don’t know where to begin, this would be a great place to start. If you haven’t read much, the translation footnotes are incredibly helpful and will make it an easier read the just pulling some of the freely available online versions of many of his writings.

There is renewed interest in Luther and the Reformation in general this year as we approach the 500th anniversary and this book is one to read, if you are looking for something.

If you were looking for a biography then check out Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. I haven’t read it yet, but the general consensus seems to be that it is the best.

If you think this book sounds a little to introductory, or you’ve read it and want more of Luther, then this collection (which I have read) seems to be the best next step (there is some overlap) – The Martin Luther Collection: 15 Classic Works

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.