Reformation Church History Booklist, English Reformation Video, Friday Deals, and More! posted these special Reformation book links a week ago (Oct.13, 2017). They are worth your perusal. Many of these are titles we have referenced already, but there are also some new ones that may capture your attention. For the full post and to check out this valuable website – especially for children’s literature, visit the link below.

Read About Church History

Ready to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation with books?  Here’s a Reformation Church History Booklist.

Don’t miss our new review of Richard Hannula’s anthologies on Reformers, Puritans, and Covenanters.

Reformation Round-Up from Across the Web:

From The Gospel Coalition: This short list of new books includes one on Reformation church history that sounds like a good fit for those wanting a concise overview.

From Christianity Today: A solid-looking list of books on the Protestant Reformation for grown-ups (and mature teens) who want to dig a little deeper.

From Tim Challies: A general list of church history resources, but they are broken down by category. There is a small section for Reformation church history.

Also, from The Gospel Coalition, here’s a list of the best books to read for Reformation, including some books about women.

Source: Portrait of a Reader, Reformation Church History Booklist, Family Reading, and More 

righteous-faith-alone-hhYou may also be interested to know that the Reformed Free Publishing Association ( is having some great “Friday Deals” during the months of October and November. Here is today’s special:

Today’s Friday Deal is Righteous by Faith Alone.

Use code RBFA13 to get 30% off the retail price! 


Righteous by Faith Alone

A Devotional Commentary on Romans

by Herman Hoeksema

This exposition on what the author calls “one of the richest and most beautiful parts of the word of God” is clear in language, simple and warm in teaching, rich in practical application, and faithful to Scripture. This exposition is addressed not to the scholars, but to the very same audience for whom the apostle wrote the epistle: the “beloved of God, called to be saints.”

And, finally, would you like to know more about the English Reformation, which had its own unique features depending on the king or queen in power? Watch this recent video from the Church History Institute, another part of its “RefoThursday” features. This post on Lady Jane Grey went with it; you may want to read that as well.

First 2017 “Standard Bearer” Special Reformation Issue

The October 15, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer is now in print and being mailed, and it is our annual special Reformation issue, marking the 500th anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation (1517-2017).


The articles in this special Reformation issue reflect “the heritage of the Reformation,” that is, the special truths of the gospel that were restored to the church of Jesus Christ through the various brave and bold Reformers God raised up in the sixteenth century.

From the front cover of the issue you can see some of the topics treated. And from the table of contents posted below, you can see the rest of the important subjects covered in this issue.

You may have noted that I wrote “first” special issue in my heading. That is because we have also planned and will publish a second special issue on the Reformation this year. The November 1, 2017 issue will be “The Heritage of the Reformation” part 2. That too will have a variety of articles on the important truths and practices restored to the church according to the Word of God. Look for that issue in a few weeks!


For today, we take a quotation from Prof. D. Engelsma’s article on the controversy over the bondage of the will, a subject of vital concern to the Reformers. Lord willing, we hope to feature another article from this issue as well.

The truth of the bondage of the will, including its being fundamental to the gospel of grace, has its urgent application to churches and professing Christians in AD 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation of 1517. The doctrine is not a petrified mummy safely sealed up in an ancient ecclesiastical museum. It is not a truth to which hypocritical ministers and church members can pay lip service when this is convenient for them (as in the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, although even then the bondage is usually not one of the topics of their celebrations), while effectively denying it in their synodical decisions, in their preaching, in their writings, by their church membership, and by their ostracism and slander of churches and theologians whose only offence is an uncompromising confession of the bondage of the will.

First, applied to the heart of the elect believer, this truth assures him of his salvation in that his willing of God and the good by a true faith carries with itself the assurance that he is saved. His will is free, and it is free because it has been freed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Therefore, he will glorify God on account of his salvation.

Second, confession of the bondage of the will is a fundamental mark of a true church. Confession of the bondage of the will is an essential element of the proclamation of the gospel of grace, and the true church proclaims, confesses, and defends the gospel of grace—the gospel of salvation by grace alone, without the will and works of the saved sinner.

Third, confession and defense of the alleged free will of the natural, unsaved, man, which purportedly cooperates with grace and upon which grace depends, are the mark of an apostate, false church. In our ecumenical age, God’s people need to know this, and to act accordingly.

Why the Reformation Still Matters: Because of the Sacraments

why-reformation-matters-reeves-2016One of the books I continue to read this year of remembering the Reformation (500th anniversary!) is Why the Reformation Still Matters, co-authored by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester (Crossway, 2016).

Each chapter touches on a significant doctrine rediscovered by the Reformers, showing why the return to that particular truth was important for that time and why it is still important for the church today. I have been informed and inspired by what the authors have written. While repeating the great truths God restored to His church during the 16th century, Reeves and Chester present them in a fresh and lively manner, calling us to be true Protestants and Evangelicals in this hour of history.

The next chapter I read this evening is Chapter 8, “The Sacraments,” to which they add the subtitle “Why Do We Take Bread and Wine.  The authors do not hide the fact that this was the most contentious of the Reformers’ doctrine, as Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin differed significantly, even vehemently. But they also point out the great progress these men made – each with a particular contribution – in returning the church to the biblical doctrine.

At the end of the chapter, the authors make some good applications based on the heart of the Reformation doctrine on the sacraments:

We live in a culture where everything is about response and feeling. And our contemporary evangelical culture is deeply imbued with this subjectivism. We need to understand that the gospel is entirely outside us. The gospel is not my response. The gospel describes the objective reality to which I am to respond.

This is why the link made in the Reformation between Word and sacrament is important for us today. Calvin said, ‘Let it be regarded as a settled principle that the sacraments have the same office [that is, function] as the Word of God: to offer and set forth Christ to us, and in him the treasures of heavenly grace.’

And from there they go on to say,

So it is helpful to think of the sacraments as embodied promises. Their validity lies in the One who makes the promises.

…When Luther was struggling, he would go into the courtyard and shout (in Latin), ‘I am a baptized man.’ There is an objective reality when the sacraments are celebrated in the church. Their meaning is not in my response or feeling. The meaning is the gospel embodied in the sign. But the sign is designed to evoke my response and feeling. So we receive it as a promise from God – as a pledge of his intentions. So baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not primarily signs of our subjective experience or faith or response. They are signs that point us to the gospel [pp.157-59].

Reformation 500 in Periodicals

A week or so ago I shared a picture of some of the new Reformation 500 books we have added to the PRC seminary library in the last year.

But today we may also report by way of picture that the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 is also being noted and annotated in many of the periodicals we receive. 

Today I pulled together a sampling from the magazines and journals we have, and took this photo.

Looks like plenty of good reading for this year’s remembrance – and for years to come! What are YOU reading for Ref500?

Published in: on October 16, 2017 at 9:41 PM  Leave a Comment  

W. Tyndale and His English Translation of the Bible

W.TyndaleTyndale has been described as a polemicist, a propagandist, a political reformer, a moralist, a theologian, an enemy of the Church [that is, the Roman Catholic Church], and yet his first thoughts are those of the translator, the laborer-craftsman. His first complaint is about the Word of God being sealed shut. ‘They have taken away the key of knowledge and beggared the people,’ he said. Translation is primal cause for Tyndale.

[Then follows this quotation from the prologue to Tyndale’s 1526 New Testament in English.]

I have here translated, brethren and sisters most dear and tenderly beloved in Christ, the new Testament for your spiritual edifying, consolatio0n, and solace: Exhorting instantly and beseeching those that are better seen in the tongues than I, and that have higher gifts of grace to interpret the sense of scripture and meaning of the spirit than I, to consider and ponder my labor, and that with the spirit of meekness. And if they perceive in any places that I have not attained the very sense of the tongue, or meaning of scripture, or have not given the right English word, that they put to their hands to amend it, remembering that so is their duty to do. For we have not received the gifts of God for ourselves only, or for to hide them, but for to bestow them unto the honoring of God and Christ, and edifying of the congregation, which is the body of Christ.

Which leads the author to conclude:

This is not the voice of hostility [some have charged that Tyndale’s translation work arose out of anger and hostility toward the church at that time]. The warmth is evident. The humility is evident. He applies his text with meekness and sincerity. He is not shouting. He does not command nor does he please. He reasons. He appeals.

In 2017, as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation, we thank God for this bold yet humble Reformer too, and for his wonderful work of translating the Bible into our tongue.

tyndale-teemsTaken from David Teems’ Tyndale:the Man Who Gave God an English Voice (Thomas Nelson, 2012; Kindle ed., pp.53-54).

Sermon on the Parable of the Sower – Martin Luther

Luther-Christ-crucifiedFor our meditation on this third Lord’s Day in Reformation 500 month, we post this section from Martin Luther’s sermon on the Parable of the Sower (Section II, “The Disciples of This Word”), based on Luke 8:4-15.

May it serve to remind us how important it is not only to seek the true gospel of our Lord but also to hear it with a true and living faith in Him.

7. The fourth class are those who lay hold of and keep the Word in a good and honest heart, and bring forth fruit with patience, those who hear the Word and steadfastly retain it, meditate upon it and act in harmony with it. The devil does not snatch it away, nor are they thereby led astray, moreover the heat of persecution does not rob them of it, and the thorns of pleasure and the avarice of the times do not hinder its growth; but they bear fruit by teaching others and by developing the kingdom of God, hence they also do good to their neighbor in love; and therefore Christ adds, “they bring forth fruit with patience.” For these must suffer much on account of the Word, shame and disgrace from fanatics and heretics, hatred and jealousy with injury to body and property from their persecutors, not to mention what the thorns and the temptations of their own flesh do, so that it may well be called the Word of the cross; for he who would keep it must bear the cross and misfortune, and triumph.

8. He says: “In honest and good hearts.” Like a field that is without a thorn or brush, cleared and spacious, as a beautiful clean place: so a heart is also cleared and clean, broad and spacious, that is without cares and avarice as to temporal needs, so that the Word of God truly finds lodg[e]ment there. But the field is good, not only when it lies there cleared and level, but when it is also rich and fruitful, possesses soil and is productive, and not like a stony and gravelly field. Just so is the heart that has good soil and with a full spirit is strong, fertile and good to keep the Word and bring forth fruit with patience.

9. Here we see why it is no wonder there are so few true Christians, for all the seed does not fall into good ground, but only the fourth and small part; and that they are not to be trusted who boast they are Christians and praise the teaching of the Gospel; like Demas, a disciple of St. Paul, who forsook him at last (2 Tim. 4:10); like the disciples of Jesus, who turned their backs to him (John 6:66). For Christ himself cries out here: “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear,” as if he should say: O, how few true Christians there are; one dare not believe all to be Christians who are called Christians and hear the Gospel, more is required than that.

10. All this is spoken for our instruction, that we may not go astray, since so many misuse the Gospel and few lay hold of it aright. True it is unpleasant to preach to those who treat the Gospel so shamefully and even oppose it. For preaching is to become so universal that the Gospel is to be proclaimed to all creatures, as Christ says in Mk. 16:15: “Preach the Gospel to the whole creation;” and Ps. 19:4: “Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” What business is it of mine that many do not esteem it? It must be that many are called but few are chosen. For the sake of the good ground that brings forth fruit with patience, the seed must also fall fruitless by the wayside, on the rock and among the thorns; inasmuch as we are assured that the Word of God does not go forth without bearing some fruit, but it always finds also good ground; as Christ says here, some seed of the sower falls also into good ground, and not only by the wayside, among the thorns and on stony ground. For wherever the Gospel goes you will find Christians. “My word shall not return unto me void” (Is. 55:11)

North Country Michigan in October

Shoreline near Arcadia, looking north

With a seminary reading recess on the calendar today and the latest Standard Bearer issue completed this morning (the second special Reformation issue!), my wife and I took the rest of the day off to take an overnight trip north along the western shoreline of our beautiful state.

Pt. Betsie Lighthouse – great waves today, as the wind picked up the farther north we went!

Yes, in mid-October the shoreline is still a fine destination. It was a mild day and we hoped the fall colors would be full and  brilliant. They were not, as the north country is also behind what it usually is. But it was still a splendid day as we stopped in Manistee, Point Betsie lighthouse, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, and Crystal Lake in Beulah.

Sleeping Bear Dunes, looking northwest toward the Manitou Islands

Included here are a few pictures from the many we took. Enjoy a taste of our day!

View of upper and lower Glenn lakes from the national park scenic loop

Though Saturday calls for storms and lots of rain, it’s a beautiful morning in Beulah-land so far (picture below is Crystal Lake with the Saturday morning sunshine on it). I spent some childhood summers at a cottage here with my family and family friends. Brings back good memories of fishing, swimming, and family/friends fun.

It was a good day (Saturday) to stay north. Though most of the lower half of the state had heavy rain, the north country didn’t receive it until late in the day.

So we went farther north, taking beautiful M-22 up and around the Leelanau peninsula. The fall colors were better and the views of the lake fantastic. At the top of the peninsula is Leelanau State Park, where sits the stately Grand Traverse lighthouse. But before you get to that, you walk by this unique northern white cedar tree (above).

Once again, the skies opened and we enjoyed sunshine and 60 degree (F) temperatures.

They even did a fog horn demonstration and opened up that separate 1889 building, which is now a museum. 

But the lighthouse – built in 1858! –  is definitely the magnificent structure on this northernmost point of the peninsula, serving the ships and sailors for many years.


This last part of the post was designed for a “Friday fun” item (even though I conclude this post on Saturday night after we returned home).

Lest we forget our Reformation month tribute, we include this photo I took at grandparents’ day at Adams’ Christian School on Wednesday. It is also a Friday fun item. If only we could hear Luther comment on this pumpkin picture 🙂

Ulrich Zwingli: Reformer in the shadows? – Reformed Perspective

This photo of Ulrich Zwingli Monument is courtesy of TripAdvisor

As we give thanks to God for the great work of reforming His church according to the Word of God 500 years ago this month, how many of us pay attention to another important Swiss Reformer – Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531)?

Yes, we properly criticize him for his errant view of the Lord’s Supper (a mere memorial supper in his estimation, with no real presence of Christ involved); but as Clarence Stam shows in this article, we ought to recognize his positive contributions too.

This article was posted on the Reformed Perspective website on October 9, 2017, but is an edited version of one written in 1984, commemorating the 500th anniversary of Zwingli’s birth.

I post here an excerpt, the very end of the article, which gives Stam’s conclusion concerning Zwingli’s work as a Reformer. The whole article is worth your read. Let this part of it encourage you to do so.


It is not easy to estimate the significance of the work of a person such as Zwingli. Because of his own development and changing insights, Zwingli’s significance cannot be caught in an easy formula. In liberal circles, Zwingli is hailed as the reformer who was a true humanist, a worthy forerunner of contemporary radical and political theologians. His humanistic background and patriotic zeal, perhaps, cause him to recede somewhat to the background in Reformed appreciation. We generally turn to Calvin for advice.

Yet it cannot be denied that Zwingli’s basic convictions and personal endeavors are true to the spirit of the Great Reformation. Zwingli wanted nothing else than to live by the Scriptures alone and to let the Scriptures explain themselves under the illumination of the Holy Spirit and not under the tradition of the church. For Zwingli it was without doubt that it is not the church with its sacramental administration that governs the flow of grace, but that men are reconciled to God only by the death of His Son. He clearly rejected the “cursed idolatry” of the mass and its excesses in the worship of saints and relics, proclaiming that our salvation lies only in the sacrifice of Christ, once offered on the cross.

Zwingli did not tire in defending the just cause of the Reformation over against the Anabaptists, remaining firm with respect to the Scriptural doctrine of infant baptism.

Although in many ways a disciple of Erasmus, he refuted the teaching of the master that the will of man is free. Man cannot save himself, Zwingli emphasized time and again, but must have true knowledge of God and sin, knowledge learned only from the Word of God. Man has no saving knowledge in himself!

It is clear, then, that in these key issues there is a direct line from Ulrich Zwingli to John Calvin. In the turbulent era of the Reformation, Zwingli maintained the Scriptures over against the prevailing humanism and emerging radicalism of his time. In this respect he is still an example for the church, some five hundred years later. It would be good if in this commemorative year his works were rediscovered and studied anew. Since we are faced in our time with similar extremes, humanism and radicalism, we can learn from Zwingli’s struggle. Zwingli definitely does not belong in the shadows between Luther and Calvin.

Source: Ulrich Zwingli: Reformer in the shadows? – Reformed Perspective

Published in: on October 12, 2017 at 11:11 PM  Leave a Comment  

More New Luther/Reformation Titles

MLuther-Selderhuis-2017Recently, a few more new Martin Luther and Reformation titles have crossed my desk and screen, and today I call your attention to them.

The first is another major biography on Luther. This one, which arrived in the mail yesterday as a review copy from the publisher, is Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography (Crossway, 2017; 347 pp. with indices and timeline, hardcover). The author is noted Reformed teacher Herman Selderhuis, professor of church history at the Theological University Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, and director of Refo500.  He has also penned a significant biography of Calvin, titled John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life  (IVP Academic, 2009).

The publisher gives this information on the book:

Famous for setting in motion the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther is often lifted high as a hero or condemned as a rebel. But underneath it all, he was a man of flesh and blood, with a deep longing to live for God.

This biography by respected Reformation scholar Herman Selderhuis captures Luther in his original context and follows him on his spiritual journey, from childhood through the Reformation to his influential later years. Combining Luther’s own words with engaging narrative designed to draw the reader into Luther’s world, this spiritual biography brings to life the complex and dynamic personality that forever changed the history of the church.

The contents of the book covers all the basics of Luther’s life and labors:

Table of Contents

1. Child (1483–1500)

2. Student (1501–1505)

3. Monk (1505–1511)

4. Exegete (1511–1517)

5. Theologian (1517–1519)

6. Architect (1520–1521)

7. Reformer (1521–1525)

8. Father (1525–1530)

9. Professor (1530–1537)

10. Prophet (1537–1546)

I am looking forward to browsing this title for now – until a reviewer claims it.

heralds-ref-hannula-2017Another new title I recently purchased – in digital form (for .99!) and in print form for the Seminary library is Richard M. Hannula’s Heralds of the Reformation: Thirty Biographies of Sheer Grace (Canon Press, 2016; 286 pp., paperback). This author has taught history in the Pacific NW for many years, and now serves as principal at Covenant High School in Tacoma, WA.

About this title the publisher states:

The sixteenth century in Europe was a tumultuous time. Monumental inventions like the printing press rocked society as huge philosophical shifts caused by Copernicus split the scientific world. But just as important was the seismic upheaval within Christendom herself, as the Church of Rome responded to internal rebuke with oppression. In thirty short biographies, Heralds of the Reformation tells the important story of the struggle between the theological authorities and the men and women who refused to keep quiet about the sheer grace of the Gospel.

As you might guess, this book is an easier read, serving well for both the young adult and the adult, with shorter sketches of the key figures involved in the various branches of the Reformation. Hannula divides his book into five main parts, covering the “Forerunners of the Reformation,” “The Reformation in Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands,” “The Reformation in France, Switzerland, and Italy,” “The Reformation in England,” and “The Reformation in Scotland.” You will learn all the basics about the key figures God used before and during the Reformation. And, as the author states, “It is my hope that the reader – boy or girl, man or woman – will be inspired by the grace of God, to follow in their steps as they followed in Christ’s.”

Katherina-Zell-2017Finally, we point you to this recent notice on the Really Good Reads blog (tied to Reformed Perspective magazine), about a new biography by noteworthy children’s author Christine Farenhorst. The book is Katharina, Katharina; The Story of Katharina Shutz Zell (Sola Scriptura Ministries International, 2017).

The publisher provides this description:

Katharina Schutz is a young woman growing up in sixteenth-century Strasbourg. Immersed in the mystique and works-righteousness of medieval Catholicism, Katharina’s life is one of curiosity, mischief, sorrow, fear of purgatory, indulgences and all the struggles of a regular teen in a busy home, full of siblings and daily challenges.

Living at the time of Martin Luther, the great Reformer, the currents of change and gospel light begin to cast their glow into Katharina’s life. Eventually, hungry for a true knowledge of God and a living relationship with him, Katharina finds that God has mercy on those who seek him.

Jon Dykstra, the reviewer of this book on Really Good Reads, states,

We follow the title character from childhood up until her mid-twenties. Though Katharina Schutz is a real person, this is historical fiction– all the big events are true, but the day-to-day details of Katharina’s life have been made up. This is why, even as a background character, Luther still dominates the story. Katharina’s life is fascinating reading but because much of it is speculative, it serves as the foundation while what we learn about Luther here is his real, actual history.

He adds concerning those for whom the book is intended,

This is a teen to young adult book, but like any good children’s book, adults interested in their church history will find it fascinating. However, as a third of all children at that time died before they hit age 5, there are some parts to Katharina’s story that would be bawl-inducing to anyone under, say, 10.

The somewhat slow beginning – it took until chapter 4 to really grab me – also makes it better suited for readers with a little maturity to them.

That’s it for now! But I am sure I will be back with more Reformation 500 titles for 2017!

9.5 Theses: Suggested Reading on the Reformation

This stimulating book-reading challenge by Barry York takes off on Martin Luther’s 95 theses and provides some great ideas for reading during this Reformation 500 month. It is designed as a guide for Christian congregations, but it serves equally well for individuals. But because it is designed for churches, it can also serve as a guide for church libraries. Of course, the same holds true for your personal or family library. I hope it helps you find something good to read this month as well as in the months and years ahead.

By the way, the picture above was taken by me yesterday after I had taken a bag of recently published and purchased books on the Reformation and Luther in particular from our seminary library to our book club meeting Saturday morning. We needed to choose a new book to read, and we decided on… Eric Metaxas’ Martin Luther. After returning the books yesterday, I decided to lay them all out on the library table and take a photo. Now you have another way to make a selection yourself. 🙂

Below is the opening part of York’s post, then his first and last “theses” with suggested readings. Find the full post at the link below.

Read on, and remember to read more and read better – especially on the Reformation this month and year!

With the five-hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses approaching on the last day of this month, how might a church put together a guide for laypeople who want to learn more about the history of the Protestant Reformation? Before I answer that question, let me answer a more foundational one: Why is reading about the Reformation so important for Christians today? Please let me offer a bit of testimony for this latter question, then offer a guide to answer the first one.

…Returning now to the opening question, what might be some guidelines to help a church grow in its knowledge of the Reformation through some of the best books written on it? In the spirit of Luther, here are 9.5 theses to give congregations a suggested plan. This plan focuses on encouraging (1) quality books rather than a quantity of books; (2) a simple yet comprehensive strategy; and (3) a longer-term, deepening approach to help a congregation mature in its knowledge of the Reformation.

With that introduction the author proceeds to offer up these great Reformation reading theses, a few of which we post here:

Thesis 1: Start with an overview of Reformation history. For a work written with clarity and charity to help the church have an insightful overview of the Reformation, Michael Reeves’ work The Unquenchable Flame is hard to top. Though not a book, Ligonier Ministries’ video series on Reformation church history by Robert Godfrey (A Survey of Church History, Part 3: A.D. 1500–1600), combined in a class with Reeves’ work, would ensure that your congregation is knowledgeable of the timeline in order to properly place the highlights and heroes of the Reformation.

Thesis 9.5: Challenge the congregation to delve into a few deeper works. For five books to challenge a congregation, first consider the scholarly, narrative treatment of this period’s history in Diarmaid MacCulloch’s The Reformation: A History. But reading the work of the Reformers themselves should also be a goal. Recall that Luther himself included The Bondage of the Will among the only two works of his to preserve (the other was his Small Catechism). This classic work describing human inability as it counters Erasmus’ Freedom of the Will is well worth the time spent. Bucer’s Concerning the True Care of Souls develops the nature of the church and the manner of its proper shepherding. Calvin used it as a guide in his own pastoral ministry, and the church today would also benefit from its wisdom. Certainly, any guide to reading Reformed books that does not encourage delving into Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion is suspect. Finally, a faithful summarization of what occurred during this historic time is William Cunningham’s The Reformers & the Theology of the Reformation. He explains how the Reformation was not only about the doctrine but also the worship and governance of the church.

Source: 9.5 Theses: Suggested Reading on the Reformation