Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Short resources on Luther and the Reformation

It has now been 500 years since Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door on Wittenberg (go on and read them, its like history and stuff). Earlier this year I was given some short books on this topic, so I thought the best time to read these books would be on or around the 31st of October. My wife thought it was a bit strange as she asked if I had already learned this, and yeah I did in an old PTC course and I also did a Reformation church history class at uni, but still, it's not every year the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation happens.

Meet Martin Luther: A sketch of the Reformer's Life by Anthony T. Selvaggio

This short book lived up to its name. It broke Luther's live into ten small chapters and stepped through his life. While this book was only about 100 pages, I felt that it did cover the basics along with a few quotes from original documents, such as the Papal bull against Luther (which he publically burnt) and Luther's hymn on the Lords Prayer.

The book traces Luther's, upbringing,  gradual questioning on certain rites, the use of indulgences and then his realisation that our salvation or righteousness comes entirely from God as a gift and not something we earned. It deals with his interlockers and how their arguments made Luther's contentious points shaper and case Luther as a heretic. Luther was under the impression he was going to be killed early on, but the politics of the day saw that the Church's actions, the local state and the feelings of the man on the street mean that Luther's ideas were well received before he could be killed.

Luther did spend some of this time in hiding, and while there he translated the New Testament into German, wrote a series of works and the reforms he wanted along with more extreme reforms were been done on the ground. Luther came out of hiding, not really to correct the Catholic church but more to correct the disorder that was going on with some people taking more extreme reforms that Luther didn't agree with.

The author of this book rather admired Luther as a leader and all that he accomplished, but there were also honest. They didn't like how in later life the way Luther spoke about the Jews and how he secretly approved of the bigamous marriage of Philip of Hesse.

This book engages with current interpretations of Luther and gave a good overview of Luther. Not much of Luther's humour came through, but that is just minor. This would be a good quick book to read if you want an overview of Luther's life.

The Essence of the Reformation by Kirsten Birkett

I think this short book may have bitten off more than it can chew. It aims to explain the religious medial system, how the Reformation took place in Europe (including the UK) and the key doctrines of the Reformation, all in about 100 pages.

I think the weakest bit of the book was the middle section on how the Reformation took place, mostly because it only really sketched a loose outline on what happened. Lots of details were left out. Perhaps I may have just wanted a book on this section, rather than just a 30 page overview.

This book would be useful to perhaps a high school student who wanted to know generally what happened. I think the first and last section explained the medieval thought life simply and clearly, along with the survey of the five solae of the Reformation.

At the back of the book, it also points to a free download edited by Birkett containing Luther's  The Freedom of a Christian, John Calvin on Prayer and some sermons by Thomas Cranmer. You can download this document here.

Reformation Preaching and the Modern Mind by Carl Trueman

This year's Anual More College lecture was on the ideas behind the Reformation and our contemporary world. I found these talks quite interesting. Carl Trueman talks on the five solae and the effect these ideas and issues have influenced our culture and thought. These are talks that makes you feel smart as Trueman wrestles with deep or complicated ideas but explains them in a way that you can understand. I think these are well worth a listen to.


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