I LOVE HISTORY, ESPECIALLY CHURCH HISTORY. I love it because history is “his-story”—the story of Christ ruling the world from the Father’s right hand by the power of his Holy Spirit. I have also discovered that biographies are one of the best, and most enjoyable, ways to learn history.
I wrote this because I am teaching a Sunday School class at Grace Christian Fellowship North on the history of the Reformation, and for those interested, this blog post contains additional resources on that subject. You can find these lectures with accompanying outlines here.
To this date, I have lectured twice on the build-up to the Reformation. The first lecture (Church History-Week 1) was about Wycliffe and his unintended disciple, John Hus. The second lecture (Church History-Week 2) was about the influence of Gutenberg’s printing press, the important Florentine prophet, Girolama Savonarola, and the Rennaisance intellectual, Erasmus.
The third lecture, (Church History-Week 3) discussed the emergence of Martin Luther in 1517.
For works on the Reformation at large here are some short, accurate books. They are all easy, enjoyable reads designged for the average historiacl novice. My all-time short favorite is The Unquenchable Flame, by Michael Reeves. Another is The Reformation For Arm Chair Theologians, by Glen Sunshine. Last I enjoyed The Reformation , How A Monk and a Mallet Changed History, by Stephen Nichols.
One of the best resources for the non-specialist on church history is Christian History Magazine. This quarterly has been published four times a year since the 1980s. Each issue is on a different person or theological subject. For example, two issues are on Martin Luther. There are also issues on Wycliffe, Hus, Calvin, Zwingli, the Anabaptists, Erasmus, etc. You can download free pdf copies of each issue, or you can buy paper back issues. Each edition closes with a list of books and resources for future reading on that person or movement.
The book that brought me to tears on the beach at Bermuda is A Crown of Fire by Van Paassen. Although written in the nineteen fifties, it was recently republished. It is especially well-written, and well researched, (although his comments on Calvin are not accurate).
Since Luther is one of the ten most biographied persons in all of history, a list of books about him would be overwhelming. However, two excellent places to start would be Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand. Bainton was professor of church history at Yale. Although written in the 1950s this book is timelessly current. It has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. The second book, Eric Metaxas’ Martin Luther, The Man Who Discovered God and Changed the World, was written more recently. I believe it was on the New York Times best seller list.
I also recently read, Zwingli, God’s Armed Prophet by Bruce Gordon. Gordon, who also teaches at Yale, is a specialist on the Swiss Reformation. He has also written on Calvin, and I enthusisastically recommend his work as well.
Last, on Calvin read John Calvin, T.H.L. Parker, or the book with the same title by Bruce Gordon.
More to follow in weeks to come.