An explanation of Martin Luther and the Reformation for children (adults can watch, too!)

I ran across the article far below which mentions the surprising popularity of the Playmobil toy company’s Martin Luther figurine. Included in the article is the above stop-action animation video, which brings to life some of the early history of the Reformation for young people and will delight adults as well. Narrator, Michael Reeves, has written a couple of excellent books on the Reformation, which I reviewed previously. See here and here.

As we know, in contrast to this light-hearted video, many of the men and women who turned away from the Catholic church and trusted in Christ during the Reformation suffered greatly for their faith at the order of Catholic prelates.

Thank you, Lord, for raising up men like Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and others who endeavored to return the church to the glorious Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

A believer’s Bible study resource book shelf is not complete without a Playmobil Martin Luther figurine to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Order from Amazon here.

Playmobil Martin Luther is a hit – new You Tube animation brings the Reformation to life

The “Other” Reformer

Ulrich ZwingliZW
By William Boekestein
EP Books, 2015, 163 pages

As I related in an earlier post, my wife and I visited Zurich, Switzerland as a side trip during our stay in Germany in early April. My wife had an interest in Zurich because her grandfather originated from there and I was interested in the city because it was the home of the Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli.

After returning to the U.S., I wanted to read about Zwingli but I didn’t want to get bogged down in an academic tome. This book from the “Bitsize Biographies” series was perfect.

When it comes to Reformation history, most people know about Luther and Calvin, but Zwingli is far less familiar. Ulrich Zwingli was born in 1484 and ordained a Catholic priest in 1506. Young Zwingli was strongly influenced by the priestly scholar, Erasmus, who was a critic of the thoroughly corrupt church. Zwingli was one of the first to obtain a copy of Erasmus’s New Testament translation in 1516. When Zwingli was appointed pastor of the most important church in Zurich, the Grossmunster (Great Minister), in 1518 at the age of thirty-four, he was already pushing for reforms that would return the church back to New Testament faith and practice. Zwingli preached against ritualistic liturgy and the mass, indulgences, obligatory Lenten fasting, worshipping statues, the intercession of Mary and the saints, and the enforced celibacy of priests. Zwingli taught that salvation was not by sacramental grace and merit as Catholicism taught, but by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone as revealed in the New Testament. The Reformer won over the support of the civil government of Zurich and most of its citizens.

Zwingli and Luther met in 1529 in an attempt to unite the Swiss and German Reformation movements but the two could not find agreement on the issue of the Lord’s Supper. Luther held to the real presence of Christ in the elements while Zwingli believed the bread and wine were only symbolic.

Zwingi believed in a strong alliance between church and government. Anabaptists pushed for reforms beyond what Zwingli could accommodate and he persecuted them via the city magistrates. Several of the Swiss cantons followed Zwingli’s Reformation while others remained Catholic. Civil war ensued and Zwingli died in battle in 1531 as a chaplain to the Zurich troops.

I learned quite a bit about Zwingli in this short book. His belief in an ordained, church-state alliance is disappointing but understandable given his times. Perhaps the most unusual information I learned about Zwingli was his belief that God elected some “heathens” for salvation, those who would never hear the Gospel during their lifetime.

As this book makes clear, Zwingli was an imperfect man. But as flawed as he was, the Lord used him in a mighty way to return the church back to the Gospel of grace by faith. In America, with all of its freedoms, it’s hard for us to imagine the amount of faith and courage needed by Zwingli, Luther, Calvin, and the other Reformers to stand up to Rome in the 16th century.

* An interesting (and even comical) episode in Zwingli’s revolt against Catholic formalism and ritualism was the famous “Affair of the Sausages.” See here.

33,000 Protestant Denominations?

When defending the exclusive claims of the Catholic church in regards to ecclesiasticalDenom authority, Catholic apologists often point to the thousands of Protestant denominations and conclude God could not possibly be the author of such confusion. In their zealousness to press this argument, Catholics have been known to inflate the number of Protestant denominations to 20,000, 30,000, and, yes, I’ve even seen claims of 40, 000. But what is an accurate number?

In the article below, Scott Eric Alt scolds his fellow Catholic apologists for “cooking the books” when it comes to the alleged number of Protestant denominations. Bravo, Mr. Alt! Thank you for your honesty and objectivity.

My take? The early Reformers took many important initial steps in turning the church away from Catholic ritualism and legalism and back to the Gospel of simple faith in Jesus Christ. What may seem like incomplete and underdeveloped shifts in doctrine and methodology from our point of view were major steps at the time. Succeeding Reformers continued to shed beliefs and practices rooted in Catholic tradition. The process took place over many generations resulting in a large number of denominations. I don’t see that as a bad thing but a positive. Does anyone really desire to go back to 1517 when a monolithic church was ruled by a single dictator, where church and state were bound at the hip, and where all citizens were forced to join and be completely subservient to a religious system that had buried the Gospel beneath layers of ritual and superstition?

There have undoubtedly been many casualties along the way. Many of the mainline denominations have drifted into modern unbelief and apostasy. Many unsaved “protestants” began heretical religious movements. But in this unorganized mishmash called evangelical Protestantism that the world ridicules and scorns, the Gospel still shines brightly and the Holy Spirit still draws sinners to Jesus Christ.

“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25-28

The world respects wealth, power, organizational structure, historical pedigrees, and the trappings of ritualistic pomp and ceremony, but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head (Luke 9:58).

We Need to Stop Saying That There Are 33,000 Protestant Denominations

See also…

The 33,000 Denominations Myth: A Call to Roman Catholic Apologists to Repent of the Use of Simple Dishonesty in Their Presentations

Rescuing the Gospel

Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the ReformationRG
By Erwin W. Lutzer
Baker Books, 2016, hardcover, 224 pages, currently $14.56 from Amazon (doesn’t include tax or shipping)

With the 500th anniversary of the Reformation coming up in the Fall of 2017, we can expect the publication of many books on the subject. Every evangelical should, at the least, be “somewhat” familiar with the struggles of the men and women of the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries who, led by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, sought to return the church from Roman ritualism and legalism to the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

“Rescuing the Gospel” is an excellent introduction to the topic for those who want to get just an essential understanding. It’s basically a “Reformation 101” in an easy-to-read style and (very) attractively formatted with many small, color illustrations. It’s abundantly evident that this book was a labor of love for author, Erwin Lutzer, retired pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

The book begins by examining the corruption of the Catholic church in the Middle Ages. The church had devolved from preaching simple, saving faith in Jesus Christ into ritualism, legalism, superstition, and formalism, all tightly controlled by the increasingly despotic church leadership. In addition, many of the popes, cardinals, and bishops had adopted flagrantly wicked lifestyles. Early reformers like John Wycliffe in England and Jan Hus in Bohemia defiantly challenged Rome’s teachings. The bulk of the book focuses on Martin Luther’s rebellion against church authority beginning with the nailing of his 95 theses to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther was a complex man with his share of faults but he was used mightily by the Lord to return the church back to the Gospel. Lutzer then turns to the important contributions of Huldrych Zwingli in Zurich and John Calvin in Geneva, as well as a few others. The Reformers had several failings and missteps (e.g., Luther’s liturgicalism and anti-Semitism, Zwingli’s alliance with civil government), which the author readily acknowledges. It would be up to succeeding Reformers to chip away at remaining vestiges of Roman error.

Perhaps the best part of this book is the final chapter: “Is the Reformation Over?” Today, some evangelicals clamor for unity with Rome despite the remaining fundamental differences in doctrine. Most importantly, the Catholic church continues to teach salvation by sacramental grace and merit in contrast to the “Good News” of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Some evangelicals hear “grace” and “faith” mentioned by Catholic representatives and proclaim, “Close enough!,” while purposely ignoring the fine print. Lutzer calls for evangelicals to continue to rescue the Gospel of grace from the Catholic church and all other groups and individuals who believe “that it is up to them to contribute to their salvation and that they must make themselves worthy to receive it “ (p.200). Lutzer suggests that our task to uphold the Gospel may be even more difficult than in Luther’s day because of the compromise with error WITHIN evangelicalism. It’s our unending job to rescue the Gospel of grace and to proclaim it! The Reformation continues.

If you’re interested in reading a basic examination of the Reformation without the challenges and obstacles of an academic tome, THIS is your book. It would also make a wonderful gift for anyone who loves the Gospel. I’m not one to collect books on a dusty bookshelf anymore, but this one’s a keeper!

“Who cares about what happened 500 years ago!?!?”

Ever hear the famous quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeatReform it” from philosopher George Santayana? Of course you have. In fact, we’re all going to get sick if we hear it one more time. But despite our awareness of this principle, we constantly continue to prove its truthfulness.

I’ve been harping on the Reformation lately and the article below prompts me to harp a little bit more. Many of us blissfully head off to church on Sunday mornings to worship the Lord and to be taught from His Word. And most of us take it completely for granted. But millions of Christians suffered and died so that we could also have the opportunity to hear the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Brothers and sisters in the Lord gave up their lives so that we can have God’s Word in our own language and be able to freely assemble and worship with our fellow believers. We evangelicals have a heritage of faith, sacrifice, and forthrightness that most of us are only vaguely aware of. Sure, we’ve heard of Martin Luther and maybe John Calvin but that’s pretty much it.

The recent article below provides some information on ten of the lesser-known Reformers that I found interesting. Christians with a Baptist background may also be interested in the Reformers, John Smyth and Roger Williams. Many Christians are moving toward an ecumenical union with Rome where doctrine will be disregarded and the Gospel will be betrayed and the only important thing will be to “just love Jesus.” Few these days care about the Protestant Reformers and the saving Gospel truths they stood for and, in some cases, died for. Few care to understand what exactly the Reformers were protesting against (and for) in regards to Catholicism. Few consider the dangers 16th century believers faced when they stood up to the institutional, authoritarian church. Many of today’s believers hear Rome talk about God, Jesus, grace, and faith and think, “Hey, we’re on the same team!”

“Those who cannot remember the past…”

It’s not my goal to venerate the leaders of the Reformation. They were just sinful men saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone and used by the Lord to proclaim His glorious Gospel. Soli Deo Gloria! All Glory to God!

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” – Acts 5:27-29

10 lesser-known Protestant Reformers

Uh-oh! Here comes the Reformation anniversary “tchotchke”

The Catholic article below frets about pope Francis possibly paying too much respectML to Martin Luther and the other Reformers in connection with the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. God opened up the floodgates of His grace upon the world by raising up Luther and the other Reformers to return the church to simple, saving faith in Jesus Christ. The Reformers were certainly flawed, sinful men (as we all are) but they preached the glorious Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. I praise the Lord for all the men and women who boldly stood up for the Gospel of grace in those days, often under intimidation and threat of physical harm.

I had to chuckle when I read in the article that Playmobil’s Martin Luther (pictured) is the fastest selling figurine in the company’s history. Here comes the Reformation tchotchke! There’s no doubt that the Reformers would want all praise and honor to go to the Lord, Jesus Christ!

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58


Hovering over Rome: The Ghost of Martin Luther

Selling out the Gospel

Team A: Broad-minded, Flexible, Open-minded, Receptive, Tolerant.ctc

Team B: Sectarian. Parochial, Doctrinaire, Provincial, Dogmatic, Insular.

Which team would you rather play for?

These days anyone who proposes their belief system is THE TRUTH is viewed as being a member of Team B. Remember when Jesus appeared before Pilate and told him that He brought Truth into the world?

“Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. – John 18:37-38

Pilate scorned Him.

But God made it very clear in His Word that He provided only one way of salvation and fellowship with Him and that is by accepting His Son, Jesus Christ, as Savior.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” – John 1:12

There are several religious denominations which call themselves “Christian” and claim THEY have the truth. They say membership in their particular denomination or organization is what leads to salvation. They combine “faith” in God with good works and merit as part of their salvation process. That is a different gospel, not the “Good News” of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus ALONE. Salvation doesn’t come through an institution, it comes through Christ.

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, great efforts are underway to bypass Truth and embrace those who base their salvation on their own efforts as fellow-Christians. Unity at the price of Truth has become the main thing. Unity at the expense of Truth has become the idol of “broad-minded” Christians.

I’m not one for celebrating days or the accomplishments of people but sometimes I think about the many Christian men and women who were persecuted and even died for their belief in the Gospel. So we can read the Bible in our own language. So we can freely worship the Lord in churches where the Gospel is preached. So now we just turn our backs on them and say it was all a big mistake?

We Evangelicals have our secondary differences but we all profess salvation by grace through faith alone. To muddy the Gospel and accept religious legalists as fellow Christ-followers is a tragedy beyond words. The church is thinking like the world.

Below is an article from Evangelical pastor, Leonardo de Chirico, which reminds us that to embrace as Christ-followers those who insist we must merit our salvation is a betrayal of the Gospel of grace.

2017: From Conflict to Communion?
January 20, 2016