Reformation 501 Roundup: Our Top 5 Picks of Books about the Reformation

By Sarah Welch, Editorial Assistant

Last year, we recognized the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on October 31—the date on which Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of the Wittenberg Castle church in 1517. Luther’s theses condemned practices of the Catholic church which he felt contradicted Jesus’ teaching of repentance, focusing mostly on indulgences and remission of sin by the pope. Before he begins listing his grievances, Luther invites those who disagree with him to debate, whether in person or in a letter. With that, half a millennium of discussion and dispute about church doctrine began.

In honor of the 501st anniversary of the Reformation this year, we’ve collected an overview of some of our favorite books about the Reformation and its leaders. Keep reading for recommendations on Luther, Calvin, and more!


1) Prayer, Meditation, and Spiritual Trial by Gordon Isaac

Most of us know Luther as the father of the Protestant Reformation, a great theologian, and devoted to uncovering the truth of scripture. However, Luther is also remarkable for the deep spirituality that accompanies his theology. In this volume, Gordon Isaac discusses how the monk-turned-reformer was able to integrate spirituality and theology using three rules taken from the psalmist: prayer, meditation, and spiritual trial.

Expect tolearn about Luther’s spiritual practice while being encouraged to integrate the “theology of the cross” into your own daily life.

Don’t missthe final chapter, which examines Abraham the patriarch as a case study for Luther’s three rules.


2) Reformation Celebration

Edited by Gordon Isaac and Eckard Schnabel

What do the solas of the Reformation have to do with the church in the twenty-first century? Reformation Celebration, compiled following a conference of the same name at one of the top seminaries in the United States, explores this question by applying the solas to practical aspects of Christian ministry and discipleship.

Expect to…hear from experts about how ideas from revolutionary church leaders 500 years ago are still relevant.

Don’t miss…sections devoted to four out of the five solas, covering everything from preaching to missions to Bible translation.


3) The Reformation Then and Now

Edited by Michael Horton and Eric Landry

In this collection of articles from Modern Reformation magazine, experts discuss the causes, characters, and consequences of the Reformation, both positive and negative. Compiled for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, The Reformation Then and Now explores why the Reformation occurred and how the issues that prompted it are still relevant today.

Expect to…become familiar with the leaders of the Reformation, their theology, and why their voices still matter.

Don’t missperspectives from over 20 contributors of many different religious and academic backgrounds.

If you’re looking for a way to bring in the celebration of the 500th anniversary or simply become more informed about the history and theology of the Protestant Reformation, then The Reformation Then and Now is an indispensable resource. It was a joy to read and reflect on. It comes highly recommended!
John Kight, Sojo Theo blog


4) Institutes of the Christian Religion

By John Calvin

Intended as a textbook about Protestantism, Institutes of the Christian Religion was first published in the sixteenth century—and is still read by students today. In it, Calvin emphasizes his belief in God’s absolute sovereignty in every area of faith, from differences between the Old and New Testaments to baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Expect to…hear from Calvin himself about beliefs disputed by Christians for hundreds of years.

Don’t miss…Calvin’s detailed indexes and resources, newly updated for this edition.


5) Day by Day with John Calvin

Start each day for a year with some John Calvin’s best teachings with this collection of 365 readings. Whether you are new to Calvin or already familiar with his work, each short excerpt from one of his sermons will encourage you in your own faith as well as help you understand the faith that was behind Calvin’s lifelong dedication to Christ.

Expect to…get to know the man whose teaching solidified the Protestant Reformation a generation after Luther.

Don’t miss…the short Scripture passage accompanying each reading.


Sarah Welch is an Editorial Assistant at Hendrickson Publishers. She graduated with honors from Gordon College, where she researched intersections between religion, nationality, and medieval English literature. These days, she’s catching up on all the reading she didn’t have time for in college and is constantly on the lookout for new teas to try.

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