2017 marks the 500th year anniversary of the Reformation period in history. This year, orthodox, ecumenical, emergent, liberal, and even secular groups will be “honoring” the Reformation. In this new booklet by Roger Oakland, certain aspects of the Reformation will be discussed, aspects you won’t find in these other circles.
THE REFORMATION: A Brief But Important Look (Some Things You Might Not Know) by Roger Oakland is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of THE REFORMATION: A Brief But Important Look (Some Things You Might Not Know), click here.
By Roger Oakland
A study of church history reveals that the plan by the serpent to infiltrate Christianity has been relentless through the ages. This plan continues today and is accelerating as the apostasy foretold in the Bible unfolds. In my book, The Good Shepherd Calls, I document how the counterfeit bride (what the Bible calls the harlot) is assembling an amalgamation of apostate “Christianity” with the world’s religions for establishing a peace plan. This peace plan will in turn set up a one-world religion in the name of Christ to further the cause of peace. What is happening right now in the political, economic, and religious sectors is a gradual unfolding of this plan that will build up speed and momentum as we approach the coming of the Antichrist.
While it is impossible to accomplish a complete study of church history in one small booklet, I have chosen one period of time that will help us to comprehend a number of principles we are trying to clarify. While Christianity can become distorted and separated from the foundation of the Bible so it is no longer recognizable as biblical Christianity, God always calls out those who hear His voice. As Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10: 27).
Throughout church history, those who are called out form a remnant. Hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd in the midst of a Christianity that has gone astray and then speaking out against this deception is always met with opposition, hostility, and even death. Of course, this would be expected according to the battle described in the Bible between good and evil, God and Satan.
The area of church history we will be discussing in this booklet is a time known as the Reformation when the reformers split from the Roman Catholic Church in an attempt to re-establish what they believed was a Bible-based Christianity. The reformers, and those who followed their lead, then faced what was called the Counter Reformation (by Rome) and were persecuted. In many cases, they were tortured or killed because of their refusal to submit to papal teachings such as those that said Jesus could be found in a wafer (the Eucharist), and they would not pledge their allegiance to Rome or the pope. Many Christians today have either forgotten about the Reformation and the Counter Reformation, do not understand the implications of what took place, or have never even heard about this period of time.
It is also important to point out that those who led the Reformation were not infallible individuals. They were grieved by the way Christianity had departed from Scripture and had a desire to make corrections. But some of their corrections were not biblically based. How tragic it is today that many sheep follow these men (even naming themselves after them) and their ideas more than they follow the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. Even though a correction to the course of Christianity was made, the corrections often did not go far enough, or in some cases veered away from biblical truth altogether. In other cases, some reformers did not want to leave the Catholic Church but rather desired to change some things but leave other beliefs that were just as detrimental intact. Nevertheless, many of these men and women suffered greatly for their efforts to stand for truth.
It is essential that we examine and understand the past because many proclaiming Christians today are being led down the same path as the past, as if they are trying to rediscover the wheel, and they don’t understand that the Bible was written so we don’t have to thrash about aimlessly in the tides of life.
As the reformers discovered, contending for the faith is not an easy road to walk. My prayer is that those believers today who are indeed contending for the faith and trying to warn the deceived can do so in love. Contending is not being contentious. Instead, contending should be sharing the truth in love with the deceived.
One source describes the Reformation in the following way:
The Protestant Reformation was the 16th-century religious, political, intellectual and cultural upheaval that splintered Catholic Europe, setting in place the structures and beliefs that would define the continent in the modern era. In northern and central Europe, reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin and Henry VIII challenged papal authority and questioned the Catholic Church’s ability to define Christian practice. They argued for a religious and political redistribution of power into the hands of Bible- and pamphlet-reading pastors and princes. The disruption triggered wars, persecutions and the so-called Counter Reformation, the Catholic Church’s delayed but forceful response to the Protestants.1
More information from the same document suggests the goal of the reformers was to guide people away from a man-made system of power and control (purported to represent Christ) back to following Christ and His Word alone. We read:
Historians usually date the start of the Protestant Reformation to the 1517 publication of Martin Luther’s “95 Theses.” Its ending can be placed anywhere from the 1555 Peace of Augsburg, which allowed for the coexistence of Catholicism and Lutheranism in Germany, to the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years’ War. The key ideas of the Reformation—a call to purify the church and a belief that the Bible, not tradition, should be the sole source of spiritual authority—were not themselves novel. However, Luther and the other reformers became the first to skillfully use the power of the printing press to give their ideas a wide audience.2
The most significant contribution of the Reformation is its illumination and recognition of the true Gospel of justification (salvation) by grace alone through faith in Christ alone apart from earning salvation through works; this fundamental truth exploded as the Word of God (the Bible) became available to the common people. We can even thank the more obscure events, such as the invention of the printing press around 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg and the efforts of Bible translators for making this possible. Meanwhile, many other extra-biblical dogmas and traditions that had reinvented biblical Christianity with outright non-Christian beliefs had been implemented to control the sheep as well. Some of these were:
Selling of indulgences
Praying to dead “saints”
A focus on Mary as the mother of God
The rosary and repetitive prayers to “Mary”
The “Holy doors” opened on Roman Catholic Jubilee for forgiveness
The Eucharistic Jesus
Popery and the infallibility of the pope
While there were many different Reformation leaders in various countries, we will reference only a few.
Germany and Lutherism
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was an Augustinian monk and university lecturer in Wittenberg when he composed his “95 Theses,” which protested the pope’s sale of indulgences in lieu of doing penance. After Luther read and came to understand Romans 1:17 that says, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith,” Luther’s spiritual life was radically changed as he came to realize he was not under this continuous weight of condemnation but through Christ had found justification through faith alone. This understanding helped spark the Reformation.
Although he had hoped to spur renewal from within the Catholic Church, in 1521 he was summoned before the Diet of Worms and excommunicated. Sheltered by Friedrich, elector of Saxony, Luther translated the Bible into German and continued his production of vernacular pamphlets. When German peasants, inspired in part by Luther’s empowering “priesthood of all believers,” revolted in 1524, Luther sided with Germany’s princes. By the Reformation’s end, Lutheranism had become the state religion throughout much of Germany, Scandinavia, and the Baltics.3
Sadly, Luther later turned vehemently against the Jews after becoming discouraged because they wouldn’t convert. Tragically, Adolph Hitler utilized Luther’s anti-Jewish sentiments to help convince the German people to turn against the Jews.4
As far as Luther’s contribution of his discovery of the essence of the Gospel, that justification is through faith and not works, it cannot be understated, and he did suffer persecution for his reform efforts.
Switzerland and Calvinism
The Swiss Reformation began in 1519 with the sermons of Ulrich Zwingli, whose teachings largely paralleled Luther’s. In 1541, John Calvin, a French Protestant who had spent the previous decade in exile writing his Institutes of the Christian Religion, was invited to settle in Geneva and put his Reformed doctrine into practice—which stressed an extreme view of God’s sovereignty and humanity’s predestined fate where man has no control over his fate nor the free will to choose or reject Christ, as these things are predetermined. These teachings have brought much confusion to Christians over the centuries in that Calvin’s doctrine contradicts the message of the Gospel that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16) and this verse from the Book of Revelation:
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)
The result of Calvin’s work was a theocratic regime of enforced, austere morality. Calvin’s Geneva became a hotbed for Protestant exiles, and his doctrines quickly spread to Scotland, France, Transylvania and the Low Countries, where Dutch Calvinism became a religious and economic force for the next 400 years.5
Like Luther, Calvin was fallible, and in addition, he was the cause of much human suffering. This can be documented in the writings of Bernard Cottret, a university professor who greatly admired Calvin, and whose book (published by Eerdman’s) was intended to be a favorable portrait of Calvin, yet it describes more than 38 executions attributed to Calvin.
[Cottret] documents the dates of each of John Calvin’s despicable acts and shows that Calvin’s methods included imprisonment, torture, and execution by beheading and by burning at the stake.6
Michael Servetus was a scientist and a theologian who was born in 1511. Calvin had given Servetus a copy of his writings hoping for admiration and a favorable review. When Servetus returned Calvin’s writings to him with review and critique comments in the margins, Calvin was infuriated. On October 27, 1553, at the age of 42, Servetus was burned alive at the stake. To add to his agony, Calvin had Servetus’ own theological book tied to his chest, the flames of which rose against his face. While Michael Servetus’ doctrines may not have all been biblically sound, Calvin’s torture and execution of this man is inexcusable.7
Another problem with Calvinism is that it offers no assurance of salvation. The reason for this is that while the Bible declares “whosoever” may come, Calvin’s grasp and understanding of “predestination” was so all consuming as to become “another gospel” where one gets saved if and only if God has already chosen to save someone; hence, receiving the Gospel according to Scripture is both impossible and of no avail to someone predestined to Hell. It is worth noting that in his will, Calvin wrote a plea to God to save him if He can find it in His will to do so.8 This is completely contrary to Scripture that promises us assurance of salvation:
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)
England and the “Middle Way”
The history of Christianity in England is marked by some extreme highs and lows, often happening simultaneously, where good and evil were always present, clashing with but never eradicating the other. King Henry VIII had a highly questionable personal life, but through the course of related events, broke away from Rome, instituted an English church, and made the Bible available to the people. Below is a brief historical synopsis of this turbulent period of English history:
In England, the Reformation began with Henry VIII’s quest for a male heir. When Pope Clement VII refused to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he could remarry, the English king declared in 1534 that he alone should be the final authority in matters relating to the English church. Henry dissolved England’s monasteries to confiscate their wealth and worked to place the Bible in the hands of the people. Beginning in 1536, every parish was required to have a copy.
After Henry’s death, England tilted toward Calvinist-infused Protestantism during Edward VI’s six-year reign and then endured five years of reactionary Catholicism under Mary I. In 1559, Elizabeth I took the throne and, during her 44-year reign, cast the Church of England as a “middle way” between Calvinism and Catholicism, with vernacular worship and a revised Book of Common Prayer.9
Without a doubt, a reformation was needed. And the reformers paid a high price, some with their lives, to help pave a road away from the heresies of the Roman Catholic Church and toward biblical purity. But even though their roles in this were substantial, nevertheless, they were still just fallible men and women who were used of God and in some cases of our adversary. They should not have been put on spiritual pedestals to be esteemed so highly that centuries later, when a Christian challenges their writings, he is sorely ostracized by much of today’s Christian academia.
The Counter Reformation
Understanding some of the history behind Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and the Jesuit agenda to bring back the “separated brethren” to the “Mother of All Churches” reveals one of the darkest periods of church history. Untold numbers (some estimates are in the tens of thousands, others in the tens of millions) of Christians, Jews, and other non-Catholics were tortured and killed if they refused submission to the pope, refused to accept that Jesus Christ was present in the Eucharist, or simply refused to be Catholic.
In fact, at this point, I would suggest our readers either read or re-read a copy of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. This will give an excellent overview of the suffering and torture imposed on Bible believers during the Reformation and Counter Reformation Period by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. For those who are unable to read the book, we will provide an example, quoting a source that explains who the Huguenots were and the persecution they endured because they desired to follow the Good Shepherd:
The Huguenots were French Protestants. The tide of the Reformation reached France early in the sixteenth century and was part of the religious and political fomentation of the times. It was quickly embraced by members of the nobility, by the intellectual elite, and by professionals in trades, medicine, and crafts. It was a respectable movement involving the most responsible and accomplished people of France. It signified their desire for greater freedom religiously and politically.
However, ninety percent of France was Roman Catholic, and the Catholic Church was determined to remain the controlling power. The Huguenots alternated between high favor and outrageous persecution. Inevitably, there were clashes between Roman Catholics and Huguenots, many erupting into the shedding of blood.
Thousands of Huguenots were in Paris . . . on August 24, 1572. On that day, soldiers and organized mobs fell upon the Huguenots, and thousands of them were slaughtered. . . .
On April 13, 1598 . . . the newly crowned Henry IV [who favored the Huguenots] . . . issued the Edict of Nantes, which granted to the Huguenots toleration and liberty to worship in their own way. For a time, at least, there was more freedom for the Huguenots. However, about one hundred years later, on October 18, 1685, Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes. Practice of the “heretical” religion was forbidden. Huguenots were ordered to renounce their faith and join the Catholic Church. They were denied exit from France under pain of death. And, Louis XIV hired 300,000 troops to hunt the heretics down and confiscate their property.10
Nothing New Under the Sun
This brief study of the Reformation and the Counter Reformation opens a window to the past that has either been forgotten or ignored. We know that most Catholics today would be totally against people being tortured and burned at the stake, and while it is not our objective to open old wounds or to be called “Catholic bashers,” it is important to understand what happened in the past from a biblical perspective with the hope it won’t happen again.
Unfortunately, something is happening in the Protestant church today that would shock and horrify those believers who have gone before us suffering torturous deaths because they would not bow the knee to the Catholic Church. Many of today’s Protestants, who at one time agreed that the Reformation needed to take place, have now proclaimed that the Reformation has no relevance anymore and that Protestantism and Catholicism need to see themselves as one church. While the same unbiblical dogmas, traditions, and ideas are being taught by the Catholic Church (and being labeled as harmless by many Protestant leaders), the martyrs of the Reformation are now considered by some to be anti-ecumenical crackpots who endured tremendous suffering and death for what is now seen as trivial and unnecessary.
The church that once relied on the Word of God now follows men who have compromised the truth or ignored the truth entirely. Church history is being repeated, perhaps for the last time, and many have fallen asleep or are willingly ignorant.
The last-days delusion is upon us. Many Christians who are attempting to maintain biblical integrity and not “go with the flow” of megachurch madness cannot even find a church to attend that has not compromised the faith. Denominations and associations of fellowships that were once on track have been derailed.
If we have heeded the warnings and instruction of Scripture, we must expect this attack on biblical faith. Like those who were willing to speak the truth in the past and suffer the consequences, the Good Shepherd is calling those who are willing to take a similar stand today.
To order copies of THE REFORMATION: A Brief But Important Look (Some Things You Might Not Know), click here.
1. History.com; The Reformation: http://www.history.com/topics/reformation.
4. Toward the end of his days, Luther became profoundly anti-Semitic, and the publishers and author of The Good Shepherd Calls and this booklet wish to dissociate themselves utterly from the views he expressed on the Jewish people during these final few years. As Perry, Peden, and Von Laue point out, “Initially, Luther hoped to attract Jews to his vision of reformed Christianity. In That Jesus Was Born a Jew (1523), the young Luther expressed sympathy for Jewish sufferings and denounced persecution as a barrier to conversion. He declared, ‘I hope that if one deals in a kindly way with the Jews and instructs them carefully from the Holy Scripture, many of them will become genuine Christians . . . We [Christians] are aliens and in-laws; they are blood relatives, cousins, and brothers of our Lord.’” Based on this point, Luther went on to say: “if it were proper to boast of flesh and blood, the Jews belong more to Christ than we. I beg, therefore, my dear Papist, if you become tired of abusing me as a heretic, that you begin to revile me as a Jew.” Thanks in no small part to the appalling extent of Rome’s past persecution of the Jews ‘in the Name of Christ’, the vast majority of Jews did not convert to Christianity, and this, combined with Rome’s many false teachings about the Jews, prompted Luther toward his violent diatribes against them. It should also be borne in mind that he lived in a very anti-Semitic time, and in a very anti-Semitic part of the world. Tragically, centuries later, Adolph Hitler utilized the anti-Semitic sentiments of Luther to help justify to the Germany people his atrocities toward the Jewish People, which resulted in over six million Jewish deaths. For further information on Luther’s views of the Jews, read William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
5. http://www.history.com/topics/reformation, op. cit.
6. B. Kirkland D.D., Calvinism: None Dare Call it Heresy (Sarnia, ON: Local Church Ministries, www.fairhavensbaptist.com), p. 4.
8. Norman F. Douty, The Death of Christ, Rev. And Enlarged (Irving, TX: Williams & Watrous Pub. Co, 1978), p. 176.
9. http://www.history.com/topics/reformation, op., cit.
10. The Huguenot Society of America, “Huguenot History,” http://huguenotsocietyofamerica.org/?page=Huguenot-History.
To order copies of THE REFORMATION: A Brief But Important Look (Some Things You Might Not Know), click here.