Happy Reformation Day 2015!

95ThesenOn this day in 1517 Martin Luther tacked the 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This was the initial blow in what eventually led to the Protestant Reformation.

During the Reformation, the Bablyonian captivity of the church was broken, the power of anti-christ was weakened, and the Word of God was given back to the people of God.

The Protestant Reformers fought for the following 5 ideals, referred to as the 5 Solas:

1) Scripture Alone
2) Faith Alone
3) Grace Alone
4) Christ Alone
5) Glory to God Alone

Each year on Reformation Day, I write up a short bio on one of the heroes of the Reformation. This year our annual Reformation Day series will focus on Martin Bucer – reformer of the Southern German, Swiss, and English churches.

Martin Bucer is one of the most prominent, yet least known, reformers. He was born in Alsace Region (of present day France) in 1491 and began his religious career as a Dominican Friar at 15 years old. He was later sent to Heidelberg (1517) to further his education at the famous University there. He was strongly impressed after hearing Martin Luther‘s debate at Heidelberg in 1518. He had dinner with Luther and was solidly impressed with his teaching and understanding of the Scriptures. Later, after continuing his own Biblical studies and reading the works of Luther, he was converted and fully committed to the reformation cause. Interestingly, Bucer was to stand with Luther before the Diet of Worms in 1521. He was later released from his monastic vows, and by 1522, he was excommunicated from the Roman church. He (scandalously) married a former nun in 1522 and had 13 children.

Bucer moved to Strasbourg to become a Protestant Pastor in 1523. He pastored there for 25 years. Strasbourg was then a German city and capital of the region of Alsace (today French). It had (and still has) an enormous cathedral. Calvin labored there when he was exiled from Geneva from 1538 to 1541. The mass was abolished in Strasbourg in 1528 and soon after a Christian college and seminary were established. Bucer also established Christian schools in Strasbourg, wrote many Bible commentaries, and traveled and wrote extensively in support of the reformation.

After the Smalkaldic War, he refused to compromise with the Interim of the Diet of Augsburg, and was forced to leave Strasbourg. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer invited him to England to be a professor of theology at Cambridge University. There, he wrote perhaps his most famous work, De Regno Christi (On the Kingdom of Christ), for King Edward VI in 1550. He labored as an advisor to both Archbishop Cranmer and King Edward VI and was influential over the reformation of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer of 1552.

Bucer died in England in 1551. Statesman John Cheke wrote a fitting eulogy:

We are deprived of a leader than whom the whole world would scarcely obtain a greater, whether in knowledge of true religion or in integrity and innocence of life, or in thirst for study of the most holy things, or in exhausting labour in advancing piety, or in authority and fullness of teaching, or in anything that is praiseworthy and renowned.

After his death, Bucer was buried with high honors at Cambridge, but “Bloody” Queen Mary had his body exhmmed, so that he could be tried, condemned as a heretic, and burned. Later, Queen Elizabeth reversed Mary and restored Bucer’s honor.

Martin Bucer was very influential over the Protestant theology of Germany, Switzerland, and England and was a peaceful link between the German Lutherans and Swiss Calvinist reformation movements. He was a prolific author and his writings had a great impact on better known reformers, including John Calvin.

His motto was: “Wir sind Christgläubig, nicht kirchgläubig.” (“We believe in Christ, not in the church.”)

Some helpful resources for further study of Martin Bucer are Wikipedia and Theopedia, and Philip Schaff’s “History of the Christian Church, Volume VII”.

Prior Reformation Day Posts


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