We are two weeks into our Reformation series marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and many people have already expressed their enthusiasm to learn more. For some, the Reformation is unknown history that helps them to put modern Christianity into perspective. For others, the key ideas and figures are well known but the reminder of the importance of the 16th Century reforms is encouraging.
In a series like this it is impossible to say everything. Between the key historical figures and the key doctrines under question we are only really scratching at the surface of the events since Luther nailed his 95 theses to that church door. For this reason, it is helpful to have a guide who can orientate you to the historical figures and movements and to their significance.
Kirsten Birkett provides an excellent guided tour in her short little book entitled “The Essence of the Reformation”. In just over 100 pages she weaves together the historical circumstances that occasioned the Reformation and picks out the key locations of reform and dispute. Along the way, she also introduces some of the Protestant heroes such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Thomas Cranmer and William Tyndale.
Birkett makes it clear that although 500 years have passed the events of the Reformation continue to have importance today. She writes:
“The Reformation was more than an alteration of liturgical practice; it was a new way of looking at the world, which invaded every parish church and the daily life of every parishioner. There was more than a change in ‘religion’; it was a change in thought, in life, and what it meant to be a human being in God’s world.
It was a world in which we can have confidence in God and hope for the future, based on his grace to us in the Christ of the Scriptures, which we receive through faith alone.
Too often since then, these certainties have been attacked and eroded, and continue to be attacked today. Indeed, many Christians are ignorant of the issues, and do not realise that the truths for which the Reformers fought and died are as much under threat now as they were then……
We do not need to copy the Reformers out of love for history or tradition. Yet we need to learn the lessons of the Reformation and be reminded that the truth that inspired that generation to protest, and to reform, is still true today.”