In two weeks, King’s Chapel will be hosting a book discussion on Stephen J. Nichols’ captivating and concise survey of the Protestant Reformation entitled The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World. Weighing in at 159 pages, the book is a great introduction to the Reformation – including its main characters, their theology, and the cultures in which they lived – for first time students. At the same time, it is a great resource for those seeking to revisit this incredibly important time of church history when the gospel was rediscovered.
Despite the subtitle (and to his credit), Nichols doesn’t stick solely with Luther. He masterfully weaves the stories of several Reformers and people groups – taking time to highlight their sociopolitical contexts as well as their theological contributions – into a single, complex narrative that takes us on a voyage throughout Europe and even across the sea to the New World.
Nichols also won’t let us forget that just as significant as its vast geographical (and cross-cultural ) reach is the Reformation’s lasting historical impact. He states in chapter one, titled “Five Hundred Years Old and Still Going Strong – Why the Reformation Matters Today” :
We study the Reformation because of what we can learn. We learn of the treasure of the gospel. We learn how easy it can be for the church to lose sight of its value. We learn of the origin of most of the practices of church life that we simply take for granted. We learn what doctrines should matter most. We learn how to proclaim those doctrines in the world in which we live. And we learn about real people, gifted and talented, who also possessed the flaws and limitations of humanity. Above all, we learn from them that our faith and trust lie not ultimately in their lives and in their examples, but in the God-man, Jesus Christ. They all point us beyond themselves to him. Luther said it best: “We are beggars.”
The fact is the Reformation’s continues to influence us today. Why? Because during that time in history, God used men and women to reclaim the centrality of the gospel – the heartbeat of God’s people past, present, and future. The Reformers’ goal wasn’t to expose corruption in the Roman Catholic Church as a means of enticing crowds to join a Christianity of their own making. They didn’t seek to depose priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes in order to enthrone themselves as religious nobility. Rather their mission was to proclaim the truths of Scripture to all people (Mark 16:15). They took God’s word seriously, and made the Bible their authority and guide for understanding the person, work, and will of God. They weren’t perfect. Like us they were flawed human beings. But their lives were fixated on one thing, exalting Jesus Christ and his gospel which is the power of God to save souls from sin, Satan, and hell (Romans 1:16).
We hope you will join us on March 20th and 27th as we celebrate and discuss the Protestant Reformation – not with the intent of heralding the Reformers themselves as heroes. But rather to learn how God used them (and how he uses us today) to proclaim the majesty of only the King of glory – Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:17).
Soli Deo Gloria!