2017 is the 500th anniversary of an event that strangely ignited the Protestant Reformation.
If you want to learn more about the Protestant Reformation, consider these helpful resources. I combed through about 800 relevant resources in my Zotero library and selected only twenty—including some picture books and videos.
1. Bainton, Roland H. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther.
New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1950.
After hearing so many historians recommend this biography as a classic, I finally read it last year. It’s still in print for good reasons.
2. Barrett, Matthew, ed. Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary.
Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017.
Just released last week. Impressive. (Check out the contributors using Amazon’s “Look inside” feature.)
3–7. Barrett, Matthew, ed. The Five Solas.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015–2017.
An outstanding five-volume series.
- Barrett, Matthew. God’s Word Alone—the Authority of Scripture: What the Reformers Taught and Why It Still Matters. 2016.
- Schreiner, Thomas R. Faith Alone—the Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught and Why It Matters. 2015. A sure-footed guide. Chapters 18–20 were highlights for me: Frank Beckwith’s Return to Rome, N. T. Wright and the New Perspective on Paul, and New Perspective on Paul: The Sin of Israel and the Rejection of Imputation.
- Trueman, Carl R. Grace Alone—Salvation as a Gift of God: What the Reformers Taught and Why It Still Matters. 2017.
- VanDrunen, David. God’s Glory Alone—the Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life: What the Reformers Taught and Why It Still Matters. 2015.
- Wellum, Stephen J. Christ Alone—The Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior: What the Reformers Taught and Why It Still Matters. 2017. My endorsement: “Steve Wellum is my favorite living theologian because he masterfully integrates exegesis, biblical theology, historical theology, systematic theology, and practical theology culminating in doxology. He does it again in this book on sola Christus.”
8. George, Timothy. Theology of the Reformers.
2nd ed. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2013.
This book’s first edition was the main text for a course I took in graduate school, and it seemed like my professor quizzed us each class period on every (cotton-picking) detail! It’s worth reading carefully.
9. Leigh, Susan K. Luther: The Graphic Novel; Echoes of the Hammer.
Illustrated by Dave Hill. St. Louis: Concordia, 2011.
In 2011, I read all 144 pages of this graphic novel to my three-year-old daughter, and she loved it (even though some of it is over her head). This 32-page sample PDF illustrates the book’s format and style. It’s published by Concordia Publishing House (the publisher of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod), so I’m guessing they know something about Luther.
Here’s a 40-second preview of the book:
10. Maier, Paul L. Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World.
St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 2004.
Here’s what my wife, Jenni, and I wrote about this book in 2008 (‘Theology for Kids: Recommending Some Recent Books for Younger Children”): Maier superbly describes Martin Luther’s life and clearly and simply explains the controversy between Luther and the Catholic Church that led to the Reformation. This magnificently illustrated biography by a trustworthy historian covers a vast amount of history, and some young children may become lost in the details and need explanations for words like “indulgences” and “theses.” (For more by this author, see 15 Accessible Books by Historian Paul Maier.)
Illustrated by Sherwin Schwartzrock and Jonathan Koelsch. Leesburg, FL: Kingstone Comics, 2017. 72 pp.
An illustrated introduction to Luther that’s interesting for children and adults.
12. Piper, John. The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin.
Pages 11–117 in vol. 9 of The Collected Works of John Piper. Edited by David Mathis and Justin Taylor. The Swans Are Not Silent. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017.
13. Reeves, Michael. The Unquenchable Flame: Introducing the Reformation.
Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2009.
14. Reeves, Michael, and Tim Chester. Why the Reformation Still Matters.
Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016.
Explains why the Reformation is still relevant today.
15. Trueman, Carl R. Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom.
Theologians on the Christian Life. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015.
I’ve been trying to read everything Carl writes for over ten years, and he’s never boring. He’s in his wheelhouse in this book.
16. Trueman, Carl R. “The Reformation.”
Stimulating lectures from courses Carl taught to graduate students.
- to students at Westminster Theological Seminary: available in iTunesU (audio only)
- to students at The Master’s Seminary: available on YouTube (which you can convert to MP3s). Justin Taylor also includes Carl’s course syllabus and bibliography for further reading.
An excellent 90-minute documentary that interviews reliable guides throughout the film, especially Carl Trueman, Steve Nichols, R. C. Sproul, and Bob Kolb. It’s both sympathetic and critical. It responsibly surveys the life and times of Luther. Some of Luther’s writings make us cheer. Others make us wince. The film helpfully explains why.
Here’s a 3.5-minute preview:
The book that goes with this documentary is also good: R. C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols, eds., The Legacy of Luther (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2016).
18–20. Sections on the Reformation in Books That Survey Church History and Historical Theology
My book on how to interpret and apply the Bible includes a chapter on historical theology, and I end it with four pages recommending resources for further study. Here are three resources that stand out:
- Allison, Gregg R. Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine; A Companion to Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011. This book was over a dozen years in the making. It’s 778 pages (and that’s the abridged version—Allison turned in the largest rough draft that Zondervan had ever received). The chapters basically parallel the chapters in Grudem’s Systematic Theology, and in each chapter Allison surveys what notable theologians believed in four periods of church history: (1) the early church, (2) the Middle Ages, (3) the Reformation and post-Reformation period, and (4) the modern period.
- Hannah, John D. Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2001. An informed survey that targets not scholars but pastors and laypeople. Like Allison, Hannah surveys what notable theologians believed in four periods of church history, and the third period (1500–1750) is the one to check out if you are studying the Reformation.
- Woodbridge, John D., and Frank A. James III. Church History, Volume Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day; The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. This book is the fruit of several decades of teaching. It’s rich. The first part tells the story of the Reformation.