Brandon's Notepad

March 27, 2015

Martin Luther: Father of the Reformation

Filed under: Book Reviews,Christianity — Brandon @ 4:30 pm
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Martin Luther: Father of the Reformation
This is a short review of Martin Luther: Father of the Reformation, written by Barbara A Somervill.

This is a very good biography and primer on Martin Luther. It is written for young readers, probably those of middle school age.

The book covers Luther’s early years, his formative time as a monk, and all of the major events that defined him as a Reformer. It is a quick read and very easy to understand.
There are, however, implicit anti-Catholic undertones throughout the book. For example, in describing the holy Roman empire of Luther’s youth, the land now known as Germany, the author says this:

“in the midst of personal storms, the Catholic Church offered hope. But religion also brought with it fear and dread. People commonly believed in the devil, evil spirits, and witches. […] People also feared God, whom they believed to be stern and judgmental. They dreaded the punishment they thought they deserved for their sins. The Catholic Church taught that penance, or acts that proved people were sorry for their sins, would release them from God’s eternal punishment. As a result they performed many virtuous deeds.” Pages 19-20

This excerpt makes a number of statements without actually explicitly stating any one of them. First it notes that the Catholic Church offered hope in desperate times, but the reader gets the impression that it is a false hope. It also claims that people believed in the existence of the devil and evil spirits as if this is no longer the case (when, in fact, most Christians still do believe in such things). It makes it sound as though people would be better off without religion altogether. The most direct statement regarding the church is also full of misinformation. It states that penance would deliver people from eternal punishment. I cannot verify that people at the time did or did not believe this, but this is obviously untrue. Jesus secured for us internal salvation and while we must reconcile ourselves with God, penance only helps to alleviate temporal punishment, not eternal punishment. Eternal punishment is for the unrepentant. Here is another example:

“Among Catholics, it was customary to baptize babies as soon as possible. Six out of 10 children died as infants at the time, so parents promptly fulfilled this religious practice. They believed that this and would secure their babies places in heaven.”

This statement treats baptism as an ordinance and not the reception of the one being baptized into the household of God. This sounds a lot like something my Baptist or Bible Church friends would say, because even traditional Protestants, such as Lutherans and Anglicans, practice infant baptism and believe that it holds Sacramental value.

So, while the book may be historically accurate, it seems to be somewhat biased theologically. I cannot recommend it for Catholic children without some explanation from an informed adult.

December 22, 2014

Reformation Timeline

Filed under: Christianity,Protestantism,Religion — Brandon @ 11:39 am
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Home > My Research > Religion/Philosophy > The Reformation > Timeline

Below is a list of timelines for the movement known as the Protestant Reformation. For now, this is for reference only, but the thought of consolidating them into a definitive timeline is certainly tempting.

Source Years Description / Comments
Mark Nickens, Ph.D. 1228-1618 Tabular; very detailed; covers multiple reformers; includes historical and political entries; lots of detail for Luther.
Britannia 1486-1689 Narrative, by year; focus on English reformation
Timetoast 1309-1517 Tabular; very short and high-level, covering eight historical events leading up to Reformation
Wikipedia 1496-1660 Timeline of the English Reformation; tabular; mostly links to other Wikipedia articles
Clay McKinney 1504-1598 One entry per year; basic information; focus on Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Knox
HomiliesByEmail (Wayback) 1517-1555 One entry per year; very short; focus on Luther only

October 24, 2011


Filed under: Christianity,Protestantism — Brandon @ 6:13 pm
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Home > My Research > Religion/Philosophy > Lutheranism

At the time of this writing, only a few years remain before the Quincentennial celebration of the Lutheran Reformation, demarcated by the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg in 1517. Being a former Lutheran, this is a bittersweet time for me. I defended this glorious “victory” over the tyrannical reign of the Papacy through the formative years of my life; however, that was before I looked deeper – much deeper – and discovered that this reformed theology lacked a certain substance, leaving many questions unanswered, for which the only viable answers could be found in the teachings of the Catholic Church.

This page represents a long-term research project for me. I want to better understand Luther and his contemporaries, but from the ground up. This means revisiting the man’s history, reading his words in the context of his life and the world around him, examining how his beliefs evolved over the years. Also, I want to see Luther through Catholic eyes, in comparison with the Popes and other churchmen with whom he disagreed, in light of his priesthood in the Augustinian order, in contrast with Trent and Aquinas, etc. This will take time. Indeed, I realize that I may never actually finish this project, but that’s no excuse for not getting started…

The Church Before Luther

What led Luther to challenge the Church? The short answer is the sale of indulgences, but that could just as well have ended in a failed crusade of one. What pre-existing conditions helped to make Luther so successful in his campaign?

  • Inquisition
  • Albigenses, Cathari, & Waldenses
  • Bohemia: Wyclif & Hus
  • Councils of Constance and Basle
  • Gravamina nationis Germanicae

Martin Luther

Part of this research is necessarily biographical. Some treatment of Luther’s life prior to 1517 should be made before attempting to disassemble his writings in the order of composition. Likewise, it should prove interesting to see how age and experience affected his views as the Reformation Age began to unfold.

Luther Summarized

Having studied his life and the world in which he lived, the next step is to digest his writings. It seems most appropriate to read them in chronological order. I am limited here in reading the English translations.

  • How to Read Luther
  • Comprehensive List of Luther’s Writings

The Church After Luther

What did Luther actually accomplish, if anything, in the way of Church reform?

  • The Counter Reformation
  • The Council of Trent
  • The Next Ten Popes (or 15? or 20?)

Lutheranism After Luther

I know from experience that the teachings of the Lutheran Church(es), in its various synods, are not bound by the teachings of Luther himself. To what degree have Lutherans through the ages departed from the monk’s vision?

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