Overstating the Protestant Reformation’s impact on modern society and culture would be an unbelievably difficult task. Similarly, recognizing the impact of the Protestant Reformation on Baptist life and culture is indispensable. As Van Neste and Garrett explain, “Baptist did not simply appear out of then air in 1612…Baptist grew out of the Reformation, sharing the commitments to Scripture and to the gospel.”
500 years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, the reverberations of that theological hammer are culturally salient. Regardless of culture’s hesitancy to accept this reality, the effects and overall attitude of the Protestant Reformation are so encompassing to our modern milieu that, in many ways, it’s the water in which we swim. The paradigm through which our current understanding of literature, education, science, the arts, worship, preaching, ecclesiastical structure, views on authority, and when authority should be challenged would be acutely different in the absence of the Protestant Reformation.
In Ray Van Neste and J. Michael Garrett’s, “Reformation 500: How the Greatest Revival Since Pentecost Continues to Shape the World Today” the reader is led through the titanic ripple effect the Protestant Reformation had not only the church, but the world at large. This collection of essays are pleasantly varied across topics and disciplines. It might be expected that a book on the Protestant Reformation be narrow in scope; however, the subtitle of the book is well suited for the book’s purpose. Reformation 500 informs the reader not only how our current world has been shaped, but how it continues to be shaped, by the Protestant Reformation.
The scope and diversity of the issues addressed is what makes it simultaneously unique and useful. The text is a beneficial contribution to both the layman and pastor, the seminarian as well as the arm-chair theologian. This book achieves what many try, but few achieve: the synthesis of readability without sacrificing the rich content which makes it able to stand the test of time.
The diversity of topics makes the book fresh with each new chapter. Without having to tread through multiple chapters on similar, narrow issues, the reader can appreciate the larger theme by knowing the impact of the Reformation on various areas.
Interestingly, this text could be utilized as a discussion point with unbelieving co-workers, neighbors, friends, or family members who may work in the area of literature, art, science, education. It may cause them to give a second thought to the Reformation’s impact on the development of these disciplines and, more importantly, the Christ-centered worldview which were the driving force behind them.
While the Reformation’s impact is undeniably stamped on our broader culture, it is most notably seen in our Protestant churches, especially in our Baptist churches. The authors say it best that “[i]f the Reformation had not happened, Baptists would not be. Thus for Baptists, as well as all Protestants, Reformation history is our history”.
500 years after the Reformation, Luther and the other reformer’s call to the authority and primacy of Scripture and salvation by grace through faith alone rings just as true and needed as ever. It is these truths that lead to Godliness and human flourishing in all areas of life.
Reformation 500 reminds us well of these truths.
This is why this book important.
This is why this book is needed.