October 4, 2017

Reformation 101

Seeing the Reformation through a photographer’s lens.

Gerald a. Klingbeil

Photos and text by 

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” they say. This pictorial introduction to the Reformation highlights five key principles as articulated by the German Reformer Martin Luther. His 95 theses changed the world forever.

SOLA SCRIPTURA “by Scripture alone”

48 1 2
Martin Luther became Knight George in 1521 when he was kidnapped by the henchmen of a friendly prince and hidden for his own safety in the Wartburg Castle above Eisenach. He spent this time giving the German people one of the greatest gifts possible: a German translation of the Greek New Testament.
48 2 1
Replica of the printing press of Johann Rhau-Grunenberg, who was the first to print Luther’s writings between 1508 and 1525. Luther and the early Reformers realized the power of the printed word and used cutting-edge technology to spread the good news of the gospel— sola scriptura. 

SOLA FIDE “by faith alone”

48 3
Stairway in the Luther house in Wittenberg. As a conscientious monk, Luther tried for many years to find peace and a quiet heart through prayer, fasting, confessions, and even a pilgrimage to Rome. In Rome he saw many a faithful crawling on hands and knees in order to gain grace. Through the careful study of Scripture Luther finally recognized that by faith alone we have direct access to Christ and His grace.
48 4
Faith is more than a doctrine. Martin Luther realized that music was a powerful way of teaching and remembering. As in Old Testament times, composing new music and finding new words became a way to bolster faith—even in difficult times. 

SOLA GRATIA “by Grace Alone”

48 5
Grace knows no boundaries. In a small cell in the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt Luther finally realized that grace is an unearned gift.
48 6
“We are beggars; this is true.” Luther’s quote, on the wall in his Wittenberg home, reminds us that an honest look in the mirror of God’s word tells us that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

SOLO CHRISTO “through Christ alone”

48 7
Putting Christ back in the center of Christianity became Luther’s passion and purpose. In the Wittenberg city church the place usually reserved for the images of saints is now replaced by the central focus on Christ crucified.
48 8
The salesmen of religion promised immediate forgiveness through the purchase of indulgences. Johann Tetzel, the Dominican friar engaged in selling indulgences for the pope, is said to have used this ditty: “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings / the soul from purgatory springs.” Luther challenged this mechanical notion of unlocking forgiveness by focusing on Christ, faith, and divine grace.

 SOLI DEO GLORIA “glory to God alone” 

48 9
The Protestant Reformation was more than a powerful social or political reform movement.
Its renewed focus on Scripture also paved the way for many innovations in the arts, sciences, and humanities. One of the most famous expressions of soli Deo gloria can be found in the works of Protestant composers Johann Sebastian Bach (who, incidentally, was born in Eisenach, below Wartburg Castle) and Georg Friedrich Händel, who regularly dedicated their works to the glory of God.

Gerald A. Klingbeil is an associate editor of Adventist Review who was born and raised in Germany, where Luther is always not too far away.