Monetary Influences on the Reformation

Last year, 2017, was the 500th anniversary of the beginning of Protestant Reformation. Many of us celebrated the restoration of the gospel as a core concern of Christianity. Others mourned the division of the unified body of Christ, thinking that Luther would have been better to simply let the status quo continue. The debate on the merits and necessity of the Reformation will certainly continue into the future. That debate should also include discussion of the reasons for the Reformation and the history leading up to the Reformation, both of which are often neglected.

According to some critics of the Reformation, it is as if Luther woke up one day in his monastery and decided to pick a fight with the Pope. That perspective is naïve and ignores the many real abuses of the Roman Catholic hierarchy leading up to the beginning of the German Reformation.

One of the major abuses of the Roman Catholic was the sale of indulgences. The Roman Catholic church still does deal in indulgences, though they have tightened up the rules since Luther’s day.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints."

Basically, a Catholic who has been restored to a state of grace (i.e., gone to confession so the priest could forgive their sin) can get time off of their stay in Purgatory—an extrabiblical intermediate state, which souls allegedly experience before making it to heaven with time allocated according to the merits of the individual—by doing certain things. The idea is that beyond being forgiven their sins by Christ’s atonement, people need to pay for them by doing good works to pay off the debt they owe to God.

In Luther’s day, one of the main “good works” someone could do was to give money to the Pope for the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Luther’s initial objections were not to indulgences per se, but to the impoverishment of the German peasants by sending the limited available German resources out of district to the posh palaces of the self-titled Vicar of Christ in Rome. The purchase of indulgences was a ransom of a soul from Purgatory.

Apart from the invention of Purgatory, the question remains how Roman Catholics came to believe that earthly wealth could be used to buy a better condition for souls. This is the question Peter Brown takes up in his 2012 book, The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity.

Early Christians, like Tertullian, believed in a bodily resurrection. That is, contrary to accusations that Christians are dualists, the Church has traditionally and consistently believed in a restoration of all creation in the eschaton. However, as they sought to differentiate the really holy people that died as martyrs from the average Christians, one of the myths that began to evolve was that some people got taken directly to heaven to be in God’s presence, while others would have to wait to make it as their soul was perfected. This idea, combined with the biblical image of human works being judged by fire (1 Cor 3:13), contributed to the development of a temporal period spent in a refining fire that would vary according to the earthly merits of a person whose eventual destination was heaven. Such a view enabled Tetzel’s infamous couplet, “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs.”

There was more to the ransom of souls by money than simply the purchase of indulgences, though. As Brown notes, “Throughout the fifth and sixth centuries, the churches increasingly became places where the rich members in the Christian communities of the West were able to flex the muscles of their social power. They did so mainly through donations designed to protect their souls and those of their relatives and loved ones.” Much of this protection came by endowing churches, funding masses to be said in honor of deceased loved ones, and giving money to the church in the name of the poor.

This belief that one could give to the church and receive quantifiable spiritual benefit in the form of time off Purgatory or a more likely entry to Heaven helped make the Roman Catholics one of the largest land owners in the world.

Contributing this belief was the idea that giving alms could atone for sins. According to Brown, “Augustine…insisted that almsgiving was an obligatory pious practice because it had an expiatory function. Alms atoned for sins.” His understanding of the trend in Augustine’s theology, which became more firmly established in later Roman Catholic doctrine, that something other than faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone could lead to salvation. This is profoundly different than the gospel that Paul outlines in his letters, hence the need for the Reformation.

There are certainly a number of factors that added to the evolution of works-based salvation. Much of the earliest extra-biblical literature of the Church, like the Didache, heavily emphasizes legalistic practices necessary for salvation. However, the idea that money could serve as ransom for the soul actually evolved from Jewish teachings drawn from Daniel 4, where some interpretations of the prophecy of Daniel have Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment being lightened by giving to the poor. For exiled Jews, this alleviated the tension of lacking a temple in which to sacrifice, and also, perhaps, contributed to the acceptance of the money changers in the temple that Jesus was obliged to clear out. The net result was the equation of atonement for sin with money, which Brown argues shaped later Roman Catholic doctrines.

Notably, one of the major reasons for Augustine’s emphasis on the necessity of giving alms was competition for the money of the rich Christians. The practice of the day was for the rich to give to enhance their local communities, typically through civic activity. Part of the reason for Augustine’s focus on alms (multiple sermons focused on giving to the poor through the Roman Catholic church) was an attempt to shift the culture away from civic giving to ecclesial giving. That emphasis based on the evolved Roman Catholic doctrines and then later was developed to include the practice of indulgences as was seen in the late Middle Ages.

Brown helpfully shows how Roman Catholic doctrine drifted from Scripture and evolved due to various social pressures and theological turns in Church History. In particular, his survey traces out that evolution from about 250 AD to about 600 AD, which represents the end of the ancient era to the beginning of the Middle Ages. His non-polemical exploration of the development of doctrines has explanatory power as contemporary theologians and religious scholars seek to understand the Roman Catholic understandings of the nature of wealth and the role of wealth in attaining the afterlife.

Celebrating Reformation Day

I’m thankful for the Reformation. When October 31, 2017 comes around, I will be truly grateful that Martin Luther, Uldrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and many others who are less famous, were willing to risk their very lives to bring the Gospel of Christ back to the center of Christian faith and practice. It’s been 500 years since the Reformation started, but it is an important date in the history of the world that should be celebrated.

Taking potshots at the Reformation is relatively easy. There are aspects of contemporary culture that we don’t like: crony capitalism, hyper-sexualization, post-truth epistemology, environmental degradation, theological chaos. Those who dislike the Reformation tend to lay all of the flaws of contemporary society at the feet of the Reformers because Modernity and the Reformation were roughly synchronous developments. Whether the Enlightenment was progeny, parent, sibling, or classmate of the Reformation is far from a settled debate—that is, unless you want to blame a lot of bad stuff on something that you already don’t like.

It many cases, people within the Reformed tradition have latched on to various aspects of Modernity. Often, they have done so to the detriment of the Christianity they sought to reclaim from the hegemony of the Roman Catholic tradition. The unwitting desupernaturalization of Scripture into often bare, mechanical readings of the text by some within the Fundamentalist tradition is an example of the encroachment of modernity. This has led to sometimes culturally biased readings of Scripture being normalized as eternal truths upon which the reliability of the Bible depends. (Ask yourself why the culture in some churches looks like the 1950’s never ended.)

Within the history of ideas, there is no question that many aspects of Protestantism have been influenced by the surrounding culture—including forces of capitalism, (at times) Marxism, nominalism, empiricism, secularism, etc. Such influences are both obvious and, in some ways, unavoidable. The Gospel never changes, but it will always be expressed in different ways based on the cultural context.

To claim that the Reformed tradition in invalid because it has been influenced by the surrounding culture­—as some apologists for Rome sometimes do­—is to ignore the fact that earlier Christian tradition was also influenced in its form by the culture around it. The shape of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and magisterium is driven more by the social structures of ancient cultures than by Scripture. This does not necessarily invalidate that ecclesiology, but it may cause contemporary Christians to question whether having one supreme leader of Christianity making authoritative proclamations that may or may not accord with Scripture is more consistent with late Roman polity than with any framework laid down in the Bible.

The defenses to the above comment are obvious and would be worth noting in a different essay. However, they are built on the assumption that what the Roman Catholic Church says is right and the tradition of the Church is on par with the special revelation given in Scripture. Such debates exceed the bounds of this post, though I recommend Matthew Levering’s book on the doctrine of revelation for a meaningful discussion.

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The point is that culture pretty obviously has influenced all eras of church practice. But the uniting theme for Christianity is not denim skirts or Latin services, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is precisely this Gospel that was greatly obscured prior to the Reformation and was subsequently returned to the focus of Christianity by the Reformers. They did not divide primarily over polity, veneration of non-divine humans, or liturgy. Rather, Luther and the other early Reformers recognized that salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone had been sidelined in favor of dependence of heuristic traditions. As a result, they advocated for the ultimate authority of Scripture as the final arbiter of truth, and sought to lead people to live for the glory of God alone. This, and not the petty squabbles between elder-lead and staff-lead Baptist churches, is the root and legacy of the Reformation.

Despite the failures of many Protestant traditions and even more Protestant people, I still affirm and celebrate the Reformation. It represents division—yes. But it represents a division that was necessary for the recovery of the Gospel of Christ which was, and often remains, obscured by the traditions of Rome. No matter how noble a tradition claims to be or how ancient its origin, if it obscures the Gospel, then stepping away from it to affirm the Gospel is warranted and good.

There are a lot of things to critically evaluate about the Reformation, but its heart—the recovery of the Gospel—is worth celebrating, even after 500 years.

Protestants - A Review

Alec Ryrie’s recent volume, Protestants, is an immense project that attempts to survey the impact of Protestantism over the past five hundred years. Ryrie is, himself, a licensed lay preacher in his Anglican church. He is also a professor of the history of Christianity at Durham University.

Attempting a project this broad in scope is brave. In five hundred years, Protestantism has gone from a local attempt to correct theological errors of Roman Catholicism to a worldwide movement that has strong theological, social, and political emphases. Any project of such expansive scope will be subject to common criticisms that it makes generalizations, skips key points, and does not satisfy the desires of those with a pet theory about a topic. To cover every possible topic in perfect detail would have made this book tedious and impenetrable. Some of those criticisms are valid, however, and I will point to some areas of particular weakness in this review, but the book deserves consideration beyond such simple dismissals.



Ryrie attacks his enormous task in three movements. In Part I he deals with the contours of the Reformation Era, beginning with Luther and considering the various reformations that spread through Europe. This was the strongest section of the volume, as Ryrie weaves together the threads of history into a representative tapestry. Part II focuses on what Ryrie calls the Modern Age, which includes Pietism, the sin of human slavery, American Protestantism, the rise of liberalism, the German Nazi crisis, and American religious politics. Clearly in this selection of topics, there is a great deal Ryrie skips. His selections show something of his intentions through the volume. In Part III, Ryrie addresses a handful of examples of Protestantism in various corners of the globe, including South Africa with a focus on Apartheid, Korea and its evolution of a prosperity gospel, Chinese Protestantism, and Pentecostalism. His Epilogue attempts to tell the future, revealing his hopeful anticipation of changes in Protestantism to come.

With such an expansive topic and, possibly, a strong desire to get the volume finished during the year of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, it is little surprising that Ryrie relies much more strongly on secondary and tertiary sources to write his volume. He includes some primary sources, but there are clear cases, as with his depiction of Zwingli’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper, that Ryrie sticks to the mainstream theories, which are obviously inaccurate to those who have read the primary source. Such an approach is understandable, but it severely limits Ryrie’s ability to deal with topics about which he is apparently largely unread.

One such example is in Ryrie’s treatment of Fundamentalism. Though he opens the volume professing to attempt to treat movements fairly, writing, “Condemning ugly beliefs is easy, but it is also worth the effort to understand why people once believed them. If we are lucky, later ages might be as indulgent toward us. We all live in glass houses.” However, he dismisses Fundamentalism as a “mood” and not a doctrinal movement. In other words, Fundamentalism is a psychosis. These are the marks of someone who is critiquing a movement that he despises, has not bothered to research, and thus has not adequately considered. To say there are excesses in negative attitude among Fundamentalism is certainly true, but to dismiss the doctrinal heart of the Fundamentalist dispute with modernism is sloppy.

Analysis and Critique

Significantly absent from Ryrie’s lengthy tome is a chapter focused on the influence of Protestant missions. He engages in occasional discussions of the topic, but the central thrust of the volume is the sociological impact of Protestantism on history rather than on the concern for conversion. In fact, most of the discussions of missions in this volume are negative, describing missionaries in largely imperialistic terms, which is a sometimes-fair, but incomplete depiction. He largely skips the positive impacts that Protestant missionaries have had through their social reforms, and he certainly does not talk about the concern of so many Protestants to preach the gospel that many may not suffer the fires of Hell. Whether it is by design or default, Ryrie’s presents a Protestantism that is entirely devoid of the gospel which compelled Luther to seek reformation of faulty doctrines and inspired many to give their lives for their faith.

The portrait that emerges from Ryrie’s Protestants is one of an ever-adapting religion that lags somewhat behind the cultural winds, but always follows. In fact, his Epilogue is a hopeful prediction that will be exactly the case. However, it should be clear that Ryrie’s portrait is not of the forms of Protestantism that still feel strongly connected to their roots in the Reformation. Rather, Ryrie argues that Protestantism “is not a doctrine or theology. Defining it that way is usually an attempt to exclude people. . .” That approach enables Ryrie to trace out the influence that Protestantism has as it has morphed and migrated throughout the world. If the purpose of the book is to survey how people who have been impacted by movements that were influenced by those who attempted to reshape Christianity half a millennium ago, then it has accomplished its purpose. Such a book would say little about the content of Protestantism and a great deal more about the social influence of an event. However, Ryrie’s purpose seems to be something more than that.

The story that Ryrie is telling has a moral that begins to appear in his recounting of the evolution of liberalism. Ryrie makes his point explicit in the final pages of the book. One central theme is that it is not necessary to take the Bible too seriously to consider oneself a faithful Protestant. (His repeated bashing of inerrantists, whose actual beliefs he never considers, and Fundamentalists reveal this early on.) This leads to the more significant idea that Protestantism is descended from orthodox Christianity, but not significantly moored in that. Ryrie sees the liberalizing trend of culture as the final destination of all Protestant Christians. Thus, he seems to be saying, ethical revisionists should feel free to patronize churches (in both senses of the word) while the amorphous religion comes around to contemporary, culturally compatible doctrines. By ignoring evidence to the contrary, his conclusions are entirely plausible. And, by ignoring the possibility that extensive changes can actually sever a movement from rightful claims to a historical root in the Reformation, Ryrie’s conclusions may indeed salvage an anemic form of Christianity in the eyes of those who long to see it shaped by the waves of culture. Ryrie is telling a story that sounds a great deal like Niebuhr’s category, “Christ of Culture.” If Protestantism is primarily a social movement, the Ryrie’s predictions may be accurate, but those seeking a theological interpretation will likely question his prognostications.

Ryrie’s book is well written. The first part is quite well done, with engaging prose and even-handed interpretation. This is the sort of volume that will likely find its way onto a public library shelf, and which may serve as a launching point for a conversation. It will provide comfort to the culturally comfortable Protestant Christian, and potentially fuel criticism among those who want Christians concerned with historical orthodoxy to evolve faster. As such, this is the sort of volume one should read because of its potential for conversation in the plane or over the water cooler rather than as a normative interpretation of the history of Protestantism.

NOTE: I received a gratis copy of this volume with no expectation of a positive review.

Biblical Authority After Babel - A Review

In the year Protestants are commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, many tend to review the Reformation as either an unchristian schism or a tragic necessity. These sentiments tend to obscure a more positive view that the Reformation was a much needed liberation of Christendom from the hegemonic theological and doxological distortions of the Roman Catholic branch of Christianity. As a result, a common mood is for Protestants to wring their hands and confess to divisiveness while Roman Catholics wag their finger at the destructive individualism and doctrinal plurality they argue is the necessary result of the five solas Reformation and the theological recovery movement known as the Reformation. Liberal Christians, both those who claim continuity with Roman Catholicism and those who chart their course by revising other theological traditions, tend to see the interpretive plurality that resulted from the Reformation as an indication that the main principle of the Reformers—namely, sola scriptura—is a fundamental failure and that Scripture is an insufficient foundation upon which to build Christianity.

In Biblical Authority After Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity, Kevin Vanhoozer makes a positive case for Reformed Christianity built upon a robust development of the five solas. Vanhoozer unpacks his apology for Mere Protestant Christianity in five chapters with a separate introduction and conclusion. This book is a modified version of a series of lectures given a Moore College, the result is a more conversational and accessible volume than some of Vanhoozer’s other work, which is to say that this volume combined Vanhoozer’s academic rigor with clear, readable prose to create a much-needed tool and treasure for contemporary Protestants.

The body of this volume is comprised of five chapters in addition a substantive introduction and conclusion. Each of the five chapters highlights one of the five solas of the Reformation, though, as is clear from the title of the book, there is one sola to rule them all. Since sola scriptura is at the heart of true Protestantism, that idea functions as the glue that holds the entire volume together.

In the introduction, Vanhoozer begins by addressing the elephant in the room in considerations of contemporary Protestantism: Can separating from “The Church” ever be considered a good thing? He addresses some of the more common historical critiques of the Reformation, but remains confident that Protestantism was not fundamentally schismatic in its origins. Rather, Luther sought to reform Roman Catholic dogma because of severe errors in it and the Roman church forcefully rejected attempts at theological correction. Thus, Luther’s actions were not simply a protest against the error of the papacy. Instead, Vanhoover notes, “To protest is to testify for something, namely, the integrity of the gospel, and, as we will see, this includes the church’s catholicity.” (pg. 15) That catholicity includes more than the claims of Rome’s devotees to sole stewards of unqualified, universal truth. At the same time, Vanhoozer is critical of versions of Protestantism that have been divisive and individualistic in their interpretation, that is why he pursues the concept of “Mere Protestantism,” which is the sort of Protestantism that “encourages the church to hold fast to the gospel, and to one another.” (pg. 33). That vision, which Vanhoozer explores through his exposition of the five solas, is exactly why the Reformation was both necessary and good.

In Chapter One, Vanhoozer focuses on sola gratia, and by virtue expounds the gospel to his readers. Grace in the gospel is what ignites the Christian to God exalting praise, allows Christians to see the good in the world, and focuses the believer’s gaze eternally on the procurator and source of all grace—the Holy Trinity. It is God’s grace alone that enables fallible humans to have access to God’s infallible word and be able to comprehend any of it; the Spirit illuminates Scripture because of grace alone, which provides understanding of the path to salvation. Vanhoozer argues it is God’s grace alone to give Scripture and also to illuminate it that keeps the accusation of autonomous interpretation from being true among authentic believers.

The second chapter covers sola fide, which Vanhoozer uses to counter the argument that the Reformation begat skepticism. This accusation seems a bit strange, since the meaning of sola fide is “by faith alone,” which is used in reference to the sole necessary response to God’s gracious offer of salvation. In its original context, the term was meant to differentiate the gospel faith of the Reformers from the myriad of religious duties foisted on believers by the Roman hierarchy. Returning to the central theme of the place of Scripture, Vanhoozer is careful to show that the reading of Scripture encouraged by the Reformers was not one of skepticism, but of faith. Vanhoozer then considers several different hermeneutical methods and epistemical failures that are not consistent with biblical faith. Instead of subverting the authority of the church through private readings of Scripture, Vanhoozer argues the faithful reading of Scripture requires the authority of the God, working through the historic community of believers. It is God and his gift of Scripture—not the hierarchy of the Church—that are ultimately affirmed by faith alone. As Vanhoozer sums up, “True faith has to do not with anti-intellectual fideism or private judgment, then, but rather with testimonial rationality and public trust, the trust of God’s people in the testimony of God’s Spirit to the reliability of God’s Word.“ (pgs. 106-107)

Chapter Three digs into sola scriptura. Vanhoozer notes, “Sola scriptura is perhaps the most challenging of the solas to retrieve. Even many Protestant theologians now urge its abandonment on the grounds that in insisting on Scripture alone, it overlooks or even excludes the importance of tradition, the necessity of hermeneutics, and the relationship between Word and Spirit.” (pgs. 109-110) It is in the reliance on Scripture alone that those who regret the Reformation find the root of division. As Vanhoozer points out, however, divisiveness is driven more by solo scriptura rather than sola scriptura. The distinction is clear and obvious for those willing to consider it. Sola scriptura refers to relying on Scripture only as the primary authority in theology. There are other sources that inform theology, but those sources must be normed to the overarching authority of humans. This, of course, presumes the clarity, sufficiency, and coherence of Scripture. Vanhoozer discusses these, then he surveys other understandings of authority, but concludes that a robust understanding of sola scriptura brings Christians together, even simply in conversational disagreement, and that rejection of the concept through naïve biblicism and covert traditionalism is what leads to division.

The fourth chapter interprets solus Christus, which is the affirmation that Christ alone is the only mediator between God and humanity. In all practicality, this has sidelined the parish priest in Protestantism, since a sanctioned representative of the church is no longer needed for forgiveness of sin or receipt of grace through the eucharist. However, Vanhoozer argues that the priesthood of all believers has not minimized the significance of the local Church, as some claim (and as some flawed interpreters have posited). Rather, it has sanctified the lives of the lowly congregant, giving him or her a part to play in the divine drama coequal with ecclesial leaders in community with Christ. This means that local congregations have the right, privilege, and responsibility to rightly interpret Scripture and minister as the local instantiation of the body of Christ.

Chapter Five celebrates the final sola: soli Deo gloria. This is a fitting climax to the volume as Vanhoozer notes, “Soli Deo Gloria, like the other solas, is partially intended to exclude an error. In this case, what is excluded is not human works but the end for which we work: human glorification.” (pg. 182) The failure of the Reformers and their spiritual heirs is partially explained by the loss of unity around this concept, and the sometimes unwillingness to unite or work together due to human turf wars. Vanhoozer does not decry denominations; rather he rejects divisiveness due to human pride. Instead, he commends legitimate, gracious division of matters of interpretation, with an ongoing dialogical argument toward truth. Such dialog, conducted for God’s glory alone is a recognition of the authority of Scripture and the unity of the one, holy, catholic church. According to Vanhoozer, “The glory of mere Protestant Christianity is the conference and communion of holy nations, itself a gift that glorifies God in magnifying Jesus Christ.” (pg. 212)

This volume is just the sort of book needed for our present time. The term “evangelical” is quickly becoming meaningless as progressives deny the doctrinal content of the term and reject biblical authority. At the same time, it is being used as a vague political label that refers to a supposed conversion experience, but represents right wing politics. What Vanhoozer presents is a positive case for a properly evangelical, Mere Protestant Christianity, that rejects the divisiveness of the Roman Catholic tradition and pursues unity in the core of Christianity, which is the gospel.

Biblical Authority After Babel may be, without exaggeration, one of the most important books to be released in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Though Protestantism is not perfect, Vanhoozer explains the beauty and necessity of standing for truth against error and preserving the gospel for the sake of all.

Note: I received a gratis copy of this volume from the publisher with no expectation of a positive review.

Martin Luther - A Children's Biography

October 2017 will mark 500 years since Luther published his famous 95 Theses, which are often said to have kicked off the Protestant Reformation. A recent children’s biography on Luther by Simonetta Carr provides a delightful way to introduce the early German Reformer to children.

This volume is the latest edition in the series, Christian Biographies for Young Readers, which is published by Reformation Heritage Books. It is a beautifully illustrated, full color volume, that is likely to delight the reader even as it instructs.

Often children’s biography falls into the trap of hero worship. Obviously, a publisher like Reformation Heritage views the Protestant Reformation in a positive light. Thus it stands to reason they would celebrate Luther’s life and contribution to Church History. Carr, however, manages to avoid the pitfall of hagiography by presenting Luther’s story with its good and bad points.

This book critiques Luther for his coarse language and diatribes against the Jews later in his life, but it does not let those real, yet unfortunate failings diminish the impressive and exciting story of the monk turned Reformer. Roman Catholics or others who view the Protestant Reformation as a tragedy, and thus see Luther mainly negatively, will likely balk at the generally positive view Carr presents of his life and work. However, for most Protestant Christians, this volume strikes the proper note.

In recounting the life of Luther, Carr celebrates the recovery of the gospel from the twisted medieval traditionalism espoused by the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. Unlike many histories, this volume rightly argues that indulgences were the presenting problem, but the deeper issue was the loss of the gospel in the regular teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. That is why Luther’s ministry was so important; he was not dividing the universal church, he was seeking to preserve the gospel and was subsequently attacked by the traditionalists who elected to remain in error.

Some biographies work best if told as a story. Because of Luther’s wide range of activities and overall significance, Carr chose to tell his story in roughly chronological, but mostly topical chunks. There are seven chapters with 4-7 pages each. The chapters discuss his early life, clerical training, desire for reform, alienation from Roman Catholicism, attempts at Reform, marriage and family life, and broader ministry. The volume also includes a timeline, a collection of interesting facts about Luther, and a selection from Luther’s Short Catechism. Even young readers will walk away with a sense of the importance of Luther and an understanding of his life and work.

Much like other biographies in this series, Carr’s book about Luther is full-color throughout. Carr combines new illustrations from Troy Howell with historical engravings and paintings, along with photographs of some of the sites as they appear now. This breaks up the text and makes the book as a whole a feast for young eyes. (Older eyes will appreciate it, too, and may have to be reminded this book is for the kids.)

Whether you are looking for a gift for a child, seeking a volume for homeschool history, or simply building your library, this volume is worth purchasing. It is historically accurate, delightfully illustrated, with an appropriately critical tone. It represents both a celebration of the recovery of the gospel with a recognition of the pervasiveness of human sin, even among our heroes. Reformation Heritage Books should be applauded for continuing the series and publishing excellent children’s volumes like this one.

NOTE: I received a gratis copy of this volume from the publisher through Cross Focused Reviews with no expectation of a positive review.