by Pastor Brian Phillips
October 31st, known as All Hallows Eve or Halloween, is the eve of All Saints’ Day. The name “Halloween” derives its name is from the full title of All Hallows Eve. October 31st is also referred to as Reformation Day, in commemoration of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, the event often held to be the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. This event is a helpful historical marker, but the Reformation began much earlier, with men like John Wycliffe and Jan Huss, and others.
The Reformation was intended to be just that, a reformation; not a revolution. Luther and the other reformers had no intention of leaving the Catholic Church, but eventually did so, some departing on their own, others driven out. But, when we commemorate the Reformation, we do not desire to commemorate the division of the Church but rather the message of grace, and the return of the Bible to the hands of the ministry and laity of the Church.
As we near the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, here are some suggested reads for the occasion:
1) The Reformation by Diarmaid McCulloch
A highly-acclaimed and expansive look at the Reformation, written by Diarmaid McCulloch, who is widely considered the foremost authority on the history of the Reformation. At just shy of 900 pages, it is as thorough as it gets. Perhaps the most valuable contribution of this book is that it presents the Reformation, not as one movement, but as many movements that took place in different places, with different cultures, personalities, and emphases. Very needful in a time when “Reformed” is often reduced to “five points.”
2) The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves
Incredibly thorough given its brevity (a little over 200 pages), Reeves provides an overview of the major people, events, and ideas of the Reformation, along with arguments for why the Reformation still matters today.
3) The Reformation 500 Years Later: 12 Things You Need to Know by Benjamin Wiker
Written by a Roman Catholic thinker, it may seem odd to include it on this list. However, Dr. Wiker provides a balanced assessment of the Reformation, the good, bad, and the ugly. Wiker is honest about the flaws of the Roman Catholic Church before the Reformation, and the flaws of the Reformers and their descendants. Worth the read, even if you leave with some disagreements.
4) The End of Protestantism by Peter Leithart
An honest assessment of some of the Reformation’s unintended consequences, written by a Reformed pastor and theologian. Dr. Leithart wrestles with the rampant division that rose from the Reformation, and the chaotic denominationalism that dominates the American church. He makes a case for growing unity between all the streams of Christianity. This is an ambitious work that leaves us struggling with all the right questions.
5) Heralds of the Reformation by Richard Hannula
Richard Hannula, author of Trial & Triumph, tells the stories of thirty figures of the Reformation throughout Europe. Beginning with the forerunners of the Reformation, like Wycliffe and Huss, and proceeding geographically, Hannula includes household names like Luther, Calvin, and Knox, along with relatively unknown players.