What Should Contemporary Evangelical Christians Think about the Reformation?

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David R. Brumbelow's picture

“That designation [Recovery of New Testament Christianity] falls, for me, to several lesser-known reformers during the Reformation: Balthasar Hubmaier, Felix Mantz, Conrad Grebel, Michael Sattler, Menno Simons. Because they went so much farther than Luther in recovering true New Testament Christianity, and because they suffered and died (except Menno) for their courageous reforming works, I date the true beginning of the Protestant Reformation to 1525—the year Mantz and Grebel and others in Zurich met to baptize each other and declare their separation from the state. That was the true beginning of the recovery of New Testament Christianity. I honestly do not understand why so many Free Church Protestants are so enamored with the magisterial reformers and largely ignore the true heroes of the Reformation recovery of New Testament Christianity.

Besides, as much of a hero and prophet as he was, Luther was deeply flawed. So deeply flawed that I have great trouble celebrating him as the recoverer of New Testament Christianity. He advocated the slaughter of the peasants during their uprising against the feudal lords who treated them like animals. He condoned the burning of heretics even though he, himself, was considered one by the Roman Catholic Church which wanted to burn him. He became virulently anti-Semitic and wrote things against the Jews that foreshadowed Nazi propaganda against them. He refused to listen to Andreas Carlstadt who he knew to be a devout Protestant who simply wanted Luther to go further in reforming the church—away from sacramentalism and clericalism.”

-Roger E. Olson

I agree.  Don’t completely understand why Baptists praise leaders that would despise us. 

David R. Brumbelow

Ron Bean's picture

If you want people who are held as heroes of the faith who, in reality were deeply flawed, start listing the glaring sins of those listed in Hebrews 11.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Bert Perry's picture

It's worth noting that some Anabaptists actually waged war on their Lutheran neighbors, so if "they weren't horrible to other brothers in Christ" is my metric, I'm afraid I've got no one to revere.

Which is, of course, about right.  I can be grateful for the contributions of men like Hus, Luther, Simons, and more without falling into their errors and sins, and hopefully my kids will do the same with me.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Phil Siefkes's picture

A helpful read on this issue is Leonard Verduin's The Reformers and Their Stepchildren.

Discipling God's image-bearers to the glory of God.

Rob Fall's picture

Verduin. He's a good read and from a Dutch Reformed scholar.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

josh p's picture

Luther does indeed have deeply flawed theology. As do most/all the men Olson cites and even Olson himself. The reformation was a blessing to the degree that it refocused biblical truth. We all naturally want examples to look up to but they should probably be found in our churches instead of church history.