October 31, 2017 will mark the 500 year anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to a door in Wittenberg, Germany — remembered as the beginning of the Reformation.
This Sunday, during the sermon, we will consider some of the lessons we can learn from Luther’s faith. In the meantime, here are a few things I’d recommend to help you step into this era of Chirsitian History:
Read Some Great Stuff Online
The Desiring God staff is producing a series of readable, blog-sized biographical sketches (a new one each day this month) featuring a variety of figures from the Reformation era. Great place to start. Go check them out!
Read about the Reformation Era
If you’re looking for one book to read about the era, my first recommendation is The Unquenchable Flame by Michael Reeves. It’s a great way to step into the world of Luther, Calvin, and Cranmer — and to catch some of the urgency they felt in studying the Word, reforming the church, and serving the world. It’s not very long, and written in a lively style that might even make you laugh once in a while!
Read Something by Luther
It’s valuable to read about Luther; it’s also valuable to read what he wrote himself. My top recommendation from Luther is The Freedom of a Christian (1520). Classic Luther. Gospel dynamite. It’s not long at all (maybe 50-80 pages, depending on the edition), but it is overflowing with edifying truth. You can find free pdfs online, or cheap ebooks (sometimes with the title tralslated as On Christian Liberty).
The the book is devoted to thinking about the relationship between two things: (1) a Christian’s vertical righteousness (before God through faith), and (2) a Christian’s horizontal righteousness (serving others in daily life), which is unleashed when we are made right with God by faith.
Read More about Luther
The most famous biography of Martin Luther — for more than 50 years now — is Here I Stand, by Roland Bainton (a Yale historian). There are plenty of other biographies of Luther, and each author will bring a unique slant. But Bainton’s biography became a classic for good reason.
On a slightly more readable level, the new biography by Eric Metaxes is getting some positive buzz (although I haven’t read it myself yet). On a more scholarly level, Heiko Oberman’s biography is a very good book with lots of helpful footnotes (if you’re into that kind of thing).