by Doug Smith
490 years ago this month, Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the castle church door in Wittenburg, Germany (October 31, 1517). The purpose of this series of posts is to point you to resources about the Protestant Reformation.
When it comes to learning about the Reformation and enjoying its history and influence, there are many tools available for a variety of ages. This is a review of some of the more helpful items I have found or have had recommended to me by trusted sources. If you want to build your personal library, or that of your church, school, or college, this list of resources would be a good place to start.
Today, we will look at books. Future posts will cover music, websites, and movies.
- Paul L. Maier, Martin Luther: a Man Who Changed the World (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 32pp.
Greg Copeland’s beautiful art accompanies a fascinating account of Luther’s life and work. Thankfully, the Gospel is central to this book, evidenced by the focus on Luther’s discovery in the Bible of justification by faith alone. The author wants us to understand that a right standing with God comes only through trusting Jesus Christ, who has done all the work necessary for our justification. The book explains that the righteousness of God is a gift to those who believe in the Savior who died and rose again for them. I have found children captivated by this story as I have read it to them. The book is directed toward upper elementary children, but teachers and parents may find ways to adapt their reading of it to younger ages.
- Jean Henri Merle d’Aubigné, The Triumph of Truth: a Life of Martin Luther (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 1996), 427pp.
Mark Sidwell produced this abridgement of Merle d’Aubigné’s five volumes of The History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century. This single volume detailing the life of Luther is intended for ages 15 and up. Short chapters, vivid writing, and helpful analysis make this a good book to work through.
For ladies, gentlemen, and scholars
- Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: a Life of Martin Luther (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1950), 336pp.
Generally regarded as the standard biography of Luther for English readers, this classic work contains a helpful chronology of Luther’s life and many interesting woodcut illustrations from the 16th century. It is a delightful and sympathetic treatment of Luther.
- Christopher Catherwood, Five Leading Reformers: Lives at a Watershed of History (Christian Focus, 2000), 208pp.
This is a brief overview of the lives of Martin Luther, Thomas Cranmer, John Calvin, John Knox, and Huldrych Zwingli. My wife found this to be an easy read and a good beginning introduction.
- David Daniell, William Tyndale: a Biography (New Haven, CT: Yale, 1994), 458pp.
A thorough biography of the 16th century English theologian and Bible translator, this book is a bit tedious in its attempt to recreate the possible historical backdrop, but is an indispensable resource for studying this important servant of God.
- John Dillenberger, ed., Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1961), 526pp.
In this collection, you can read for yourself portions of Luther’s books, commentaries, articles, and sermons, including his prefaces to different New Testament books, The Bondage of the Will, and The Ninety-Five Theses.
- Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1988), 337pp.
In this scholarly work, Timothy George examines the theology of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and Menno Simons in the historical context of the Reformation. The book contains a chapter on the abiding validity of reformation theology and a helpful glossary.
- Harold J. Grimm, The Reformation Era: 1500-1650 (New York: Macmillan, 1954), 675pp.
Grimm provides a full-length treatment of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in the Reformation era, including social and political effects of the conflicts.
- Steven Lawson, The Expository Genius of John Calvin (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2007), 142pp.
Lawson analyzes the philosophy and practice of the preaching ministry of John Calvin, issuing a call for more ministers who are diligent in their studies and proclamation, beginning with applying the truth to their own lives. (I have reviewed this book here.)
- Timothy Lull, ed., Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2005), 755pp.
Dr. Robert Plummer, who teaches hermeneutics at Southern Seminary, pointed out this resource. It would be good to acquire because of its inclusion of Luther’s hermeneutical method based on Psalm 119: oratio, meditation, and tentatio. In other words, the Holy Spirit uses prayer, meditation, and trials to help believers understand the Word of God and grow in conformity to the Son of God.
- Stephen J. Nichols, Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2002), 240pp.
This may be the best short introduction to Martin Luther. Each chapter contains a helpful bibliography for deeper study of particular areas of Luther’s life and thought.
- Stephen J. Nichols, The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 160 pp.
Some have found this to be a helpful introduction to the Reformation.
- T. H. L. Parker, John Calvin: a Biography (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2007), 224 pp.
According to Dr. Albert Mohler, this is the best biography on Calvin. It was out of print when he mentioned it on his April radio program, but it looks like it’s back.
- John Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000), 160pp. (Click here to read or download it for free.)
This book is part of a series compiling biographical messages given at the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. Piper models well the discipline of reading biography for the purpose of growth in godliness.
- Dietrich Steinwede, Reformation: a Picture Story of Martin Luther (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1983), 56pp.
This book tells Luther’s story using reproductions of woodcuts, paintings, and documents of the Reformation.
- Roland H. Bainton, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1956), 278pp.
This book gives an overview of the thought and impact of various wings of the Reformation.