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