What Luther Wrought

October 8, 2018

This blog wasn’t around in October of last year so it couldn’t pay attention to Formed programs marking the start of the 500th anniversary of the event that launched the Protestant Reformation – the challenge to Church authorities that Martin Luther posted on a German church in October of 1517.  But we can bid farewell to the anniversary year by drawing your attention to several audio programs on Formed about the causes and effects of the Reformation, as well as on the Catholic response.  There is Understanding Luther by Ken Hensley, a Catholic convert and Luther scholar.  Hensley discusses Luther from his perspective as a former Baptist minister.  He acknowledges that many of Luther’s criticisms of the Church at that time were valid, but he also points out the flaws in the new doctrines Luther was proposing, such as sola scriptura – his belief Christian teaching relating to faith and practice must derive from Scripture alone.  He also points out that reformers were at work inside the Church.

This point is developed further in another Formed offering, Heroes of the Catholic Reformation, by Timothy Gray, a Catholic scripture scholar.  Gray begins with some perspective, noting a fundamental problem that the Church shares with all man-made institutions: it’s composed of human beings and, since human beings are prone to corruption, there will always be need for reform.  Gray focuses on the Catholic reformers of Luther’s time.  Some are well known – Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Teresa of Ávila, Saint Charles Borromeo, each of whom came on the scene after the Protestant Reformation was under way.  But he also mentions two lesser-known heroes who preceded Luther, Cardinal Francisco Jimenez of Spain and Giles of Viterbo.  Giles, like Luther, was an Augustinian monk, who, years before Luther posted his famous challenge, urged reforms to end Church corruption. 

Finally, in The Reformation: A Tragedy in Five Acts, Christopher Blum, academic dean of the Augustine Institute (an affiliate of Formed.org), demonstrates how the repercussions of the Reformation were felt far beyond the religious domain.  He examines its influence on five Europeans, alive during Luther’s time, who were prominent in the arts, literature, science and politics.   He finds in all five, “if not quite the death of the European soul, at least the onset of the final illness.”   The tragedy of the Protestant Reformation, he concludes, “can only be undone in one way: By recognizing the error in Luther’s innovation and putting it finally to rest.”