by Robert Booth
I had just picked up my two oldest girls from school, and we were in my office before going home. Sitting on my desk was a package that had just arrived. I opened the package and inside was a small Martin Luther figurine from Playmobil that someone had sent me. As I showed it to my girls, one of them asked me the question, “Dad, who is Martin Luther?”
My daughter is not the only one who is asking that question. While Germany is seeing a rise in tourism this year because of the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, knowledge of who Martin Luther is at an all-time low in the United States. According to Religion News Service, “53% of U.S. Protestants know virtually nothing about the importance of Martin Luther or the Reformation.” Here are ten things that everyone needs to know about Reformation history:
1. Reform Started Before the Reformation
2. The Religious World Was in Turmoil
Giovanni de’ Medici was made a cardinal at the age of thirteen and became Pope Leo X at thirty-eight. He loved the comforts and trappings of the world and went on a spending spree as soon as he became Pope. He wanted to leave behind a legacy of rebuilding St. Peter’s Basilica and making Rome great again. He spent all of the Papal Treasury within two years of assuming the role of Pope. In order to finance the rebuilding of St. Peter’s, pay for the papal wars, and continue his lavish living, Pope Leo X needed new ways to raise money. One of the ways he decided to do this was by the selling of indulgences.
3. Forgiveness Was For Sale Through Indulgences
4. The Ninety-five Theses Attacked Religious Abuses
Here are two examples of the Theses:
- “Every Christian who truly repents has plenary [full] forgiveness both of punishment and guilt bestowed on him, even without letters of indulgence.
- “Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has a share in all the benefits of Christ and the Church, for God has granted him these, even without letters of indulgence.”
Imagine how angry the Pope was when he heard this! Luther attacked the foundation of his money-making machine.
5. New Technology Helped Spread the Reformation
I often wonder how effective Luther’s message would have been without the new technology of the printing press. Even though the world was dark, God was moving behind the scenes, and when everything was ready, He ignited a fire that was never stopped!
6. “A Mighty Fortress” Was The Battle Hymn of the Reformation
“And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.”
7. The Reformation Produced Some Negative Results
8. The Reformation Increased Literacy
9. Three to Five Principles Drove the Reformation
10. Courage and Conviction Led to Awakening
In our day, we need men and women to live courageously and with conviction. We need to stand for Biblical truth and live abandoned to God. He will send the awakening.
- Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton
- October 31, 1517: Martin Luther and the Day That Changed the World by Martin Marty
- The Legacy of Luther by R.C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols
- Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester
- People of the Reformation, a blog series by Robert Booth
About the Author
Robert Booth is husband to Arlene, father of three little girls, administrator and Bible teacher at Hobe Sound Christian Academy. He is also the creator of Kids Bible Travels, which teaches kids how to study the Bible. You can connect with him on Twitter @rwbooth and at kidsbibletravels.com.