Category Archives: Reformation

Who Were the Huguenots?

I have an interest in the French protestants known as the Huguenots. My family (on the Bedard side) are originally from La Rochelle, one of the Huguenots strongholds in France.

While the Bedards were all Roman Catholic by the time they arrived in Canada, I suspect some were Huguenots. It was common for Huguenots to convert to Roman Catholicism after the St Bartholomew’s Massacre in 1572.

Here is a helpful documentary by Ryan Reeves. I have shared other of his videos and they are very good.

Dutch Revolt and Arminianism

One of the most significant events post-Reformation for the history of theology was the teaching of Jacob Arminius. Arminius considered himself to be a true Calvinist, in the sense of being faithful to the teachings of John Calvin. However, Arminius developed a theology the reinterpreted the idea of predestination. Predestination was more about God having foreknowledge of who would believe than God determining who would believe.

Today, many protestant Christians divide themselves into those who identify as Calvinist and those who identify as Arminian. This video will help to understand how that divide emerged.

Ulrich Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation

When people think about the Reformation, they often think about Martin Luther and John Calvin. They are very important, but less well known is Ulrich Zwingli. Zwingli was a contemporary of Luther and preceded Calvin.

This short video will give you a nice introduction of Ulrich Zwingli.


Here I Stand – Review

Here I StandWith the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, I felt compelled to do some reading on Martin Luther. I had a book on my shelf that had been there for a while and so I grabbed Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand.

This is not a new book. Bainton died in 1984 and Here I Stand was published in 1950. Anyone looking to do some serious study on Luther will want to consult some newer books.

Still, I quite enjoyed Here I Stand. Bainton was a talented writer and I truly felt like I was getting to know Luther. The book was filled with illustrations that were created at the time of Luther and it only made the story more real.

Bainton focuses on the adult life of Luther and perhaps bypasses some of the negative aspects of Luther more than people would like. That is not to say that he ignores all of Luther’s faults. I found particularly interesting the discussion of Luther’s interactions with Zwingli and with the Anabaptists.

If you would a good and solid introduction to Martin Luther, I would recommend Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand. It is a good start to more recent and intensive studies on Luther.

Should We Celebrate Martin Luther?

ReformationWe have just reached the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 theses on the Wittenberg Door and the start of the Protestant Reformation.

Like many, I posted many links to my Facebook page of articles on Martin Luther. My observation is that articles on Martin Luther fell into two groups: those that praised him and called us to celebrate his achievements and those who called us to reject him because some of his unhealthy views.

Those that were critical of Luther were not just Roman Catholics that consider him a heretic who divided the church. Much of the criticism of Luther was aimed at his opinion of the Jews.

Luther had a complicated view of Judaism. He seemed to be rather sympathetic toward the Jews in his early years but became more critical over time. The clearest and ugliest statement was Luther’s The Jews and Their Lies.

I have no desire to defend Luther’s anti-semitism. I will say that we should be careful not to paint Luther as a radical bigot in an age of toleration. Luther was a man of his time and he shared these views with many others. That doesn’t make it right, but we do need to place Luther in proper context.

Without excusing Luther’s view of the Jews (or any of his other faults, as anti-semitism was not the only problem), that doesn’t negate the accomplishments that Luther did make.

Luther called the Roman Catholic Church on some pretty major problems. The selling of indulgences to fund building projects was wrong. Luther also had some good biblical insight on how one becomes right with God. Luther’s translation of the Bible into German was an important step in developing biblical literacy.

Because Luther was wrong in certain areas does not make him wrong in every area. We do not have to label him as a complete hero or a complete villain. We can see Martin Luther as a fallible person who held some bad views but who was used to make a significant impact on the church and the world.

Can we celebrate Martin Luther? Without ignoring his faults, we can celebrate his accomplishments.

Did Martin Luther Reject Reason?

Martin LutherMartin Luther is quoted as saying, “Reason is the enemy of faith.” That is a difficult statement for those who believe that Christianity is a reasonable faith.

Like any historical inquiry, statements need to be examined in context. Roland Bainton puts Luther’s statement in perspective with this explanation:

Luther often railed at reason, and he has been portrayed in consequence as a complete irrationalist in religion. This is quite to mistake his meaning. Reason in the sense of logic he employed to the uttermost limits. At Worms and often elsewhere he asked to be instructed from Scripture and reason. In this sense reason meant logical deduction from known premises; and when Luther railed against the harlot reason, he meant something else. Common sense is perhaps a better translation. He had in mind the way in which man ordinarily behaves, feels, and thinks. It is not what God says that is a foreign tongue, but what God does that is utterly incomprehensible. (Here I Stand, pp. 172-73)

Thoughts on the Legacy of the Reformation

ReformationAs you know, this years is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses on the Wittenberg door. Whether one is Catholic, Protestant or non-religious, you cannot deny the impact of this event.

What is the lasting impact of the Reformation? I asked a number of historians what they thought and here are their responses.

I agree with Lindberg: “In one way or another…the legacies of the Reformations have affected every aspect of modern life and thought.” (Carter Lindberg, The Reformations, 357.) The good would be the reform of the church (both Protestant and Catholic), and positive developments in governance, science, liturgy, and literature. The bad would be the violent breakup of Christendom, and 500 years of internecine warfare between Christian communities.Gordon Heath, McMaster Divinity College

The legacy of the Reformation is the recovery, by part of Christendom, of the biblical, apostolic teaching on a variety of subjects, including justification by grace alone through faith alone, and the authority of Scripture, as God’s revealed word, over all human teachings and authorities. While the recovery of these teachings tragically resulted in opposition from the church authorities and therefore in new divisions in the church, such divisions should not be blamed on God’s truth or its recovery, but on our human fallenness.Kevin Flatt, Redeemer University College

The legacy of the Reformation essentially boils down to two important points: 1) the need for fidelity to Scripture’s authority; 2) a love for the gospel of faith alone apart from works. It’s both the meaning of the Reformation, and its continuing relevance.Ian Clary, Colardo Christian University

What about you? What do you see as the legacy of the Reformation?

A Short Introduction to John Calvin

One of the most important figures in church history is John Calvin. Calvin didn’t start the Reformation but he put his stamp on it. Today, many people use Reformed theology and Calvinism as synonyms.

In this short video, John Piper shares some background of John Calvin. Piper is obviously passionate about Calvin’s ministry. It is worth taking a few minutes to watch this interesting video.

Martin Luther – PBS Documentary

One of the most influential figures in all of Christian history is Martin Luther. Love him or hate him, we must admit that he had a great impact and his legacy lives on.

PBS put out a documentary on Martin Luther that you might find interesting.