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The Reformation: 1500-1599

Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Knox

The Five Solas of the Reformation

The following are the foundational principles of the Reformation, written as a corporate confession by Rev. David Owen Filson.

  • We affirm sola scriptura – that the Holy Scriptures alone are the sole inherently authoritative norm for faith and practice. All tradition must yield to the authority of the Bible.
  • We affirm solus Christus – that salvation comes through Christ alone. All that he has done in his perfect life of obedience, death on the cross, bodily resurrection from the grave, and session at the right hand of the Father is sufficient for our salvation. For, there is one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.
  • We affirm sola fide – that justification is by faith alone. We are right before our heavenly father only because of the saving faith, which he has worked in us. Our good works can never merit right standing before God.
  • We affirm sola gratia – that salvation is by grace alone, God’s unmerited favor toward and saving power in the lives of his people.
  • We affirm soli Deo gloria – that all things are to the glory of God alone.

SDG, the abbreviation for Soli Deo Gloria, has often been used a symbol, rallying cry, and encouragement in the church (especially Reformed churches) since those days. For instance, J.S. Bach would sign his works with this inscription.

  • 1504 b. Heinrich Bullinger
  • 1507 Luther is ordained as a priest at Erfurt
  • Henry VIII becomes King of England in 1509
  • 1509 b. John Calvin
  • 1510 Luther sent to Rome on monastic business. He saw the corruption of the church
  • 1513 Leo X becomes Pope
  • 1514 b. John Knox
  • 1515 While teaching on Romans, Luther realizes faith and justification are the work of God
  • 1517 Luther nails his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg. It is the first public act of the Reformation
  • Zwingli's reform is also underway
  • 1519 Charles V becomes Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. [Here I stand. I can do no other.] God help me. Amen.”

Luther before the Diet of Worms, April 17, 1521. The bracketed part probably wasn’t actually spoken, but it has long been associated with the speech, and is often quoted. Think of it as a famous, almost contemporary, summary of the actual speech.

And now for something completely different...

  • 1521 Luther is excommunicated
  • 1525 The Bondage of the Will. Many of the essays, discourses, treatises, conversations, etc. that Luther had over the years are collected in his Table Talk

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525571: Martin Luthers 95 Theses Martin Luther’s 95 Theses
By Martin Luther / P & R Publishing
In the Ninety-five Theses Luther applied his evangelical theology to indulgences. He hoped thereby to find an answer to a practical problem which had disturbed him and other sincere Christians for a long time.

53429: The Bondage of the Will The Bondage of the Will
By Martin Luther / Baker
Martin Luther's The Bondage of the Will is fundamental to an understanding of the primary doctrines of the Reformation. In these pages, Luther gives extensive treatment to what he saw as the heart of the gospel. Free will was not merely an academic question for Luther. Rather, he believed that the whole gospel of the grace of God was bound up with it and stood or fell according to how one understands the human will in relation to salvation. Luther affirms our total inability to save ourselves and the sovereignty of divine grace in salvation. He upholds the doctrine of justification by faith and defends predestination as determined by the foreknowledge of God. Luther considered this refutation of Erasmus to be his finest theological work and it has remained a classic in the history of Christian thought.

For More, see: Luther’s Works and Luther Studies

Protestant Reformation Studies

  • 1529 The Colloquy of Marburg
  • 1531 d. Ulrich Zwingli
  • c. 1532 or 1533 Calvin's conversion
  • 1534 Henry VIII declares himself "The only supreme head in earth of the Church of England"
  • 1535 Anabaptists take over Muenster
  • 1536 d. Erasmus
  • 1536 Menno Simons rejects Catholicism, becomes an Anabaptist, and helps restore that movement back to pacifism
  • 1536 William Tyndale strangled and burned at the stake. He was the first to translate the Bible into English from the original languages. He was burned for heresy by King Henry, whose divorce Tyndale had opposed.
  • 1536 First edition of Calvin's Institutes
  • 1540 Jesuit order is founded. The Catholic Reformation is under way
  • c. 1543 Knox converted
  • 1545 The Council of Trent begins
  • 1546 d. Luther
  • 1547 The young Edward VI becomes King of England. The Duke of Somerset acts as regent, and many reforms take place
  • 1549 Consensus Tigurinus brings Zwinglians and Calvinists to agreement about communion
  • 1553 Mary Tudor (Bloody Mary) begins her reign
  • Many protestants who flee Mary's reign are deeply impacted by exposure to a more true reformation on the continent. John Knox is among them
  • 1558 Elizabeth is crowned, the Marian exiles return
  • 1559 Last edition of the Institutes

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For more from this period, see: Protestant Reformation Studies, Puritanism (both Puritan Works and Studies), and Anabaptist Traditions

Free Seminary Course

For a Free Seminary Course on Calvin’s Institutes by Dr. David Calhoun, see: Covenant Worldwide - Calvin’s Institutes

  • 1559 The Act of Uniformity makes the 1559 Book of Common Prayer the standard in the Church of England and penalizes anyone who fails to use it. It is not reformed enough for the Puritans
  • 1560 b. Jacobus Arminius
  • Parliament approves the Scot's Confession, penned by the six Johns (including Knox)
  • 1561 d. pacifist Anabaptist leader Menno Simons
  • 1563 The Council of Trent is finished
  • 1564 d. John Calvin
  • 1566 Bullinger writes The Second Helvetic Confession
  • 1567-1568 The Vestments Controversy. Puritans did not want the ceremony and ritual symbolized by the robes of the Church of England
  • 1571 Thirty Nine Articles are finalized
  • 1572 d. John Knox
  • 1572 b. John Donne, devout Anglican minister and poet
  • 1572 Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day, the worst persecution of Huguenots
  • 1575 d. Bullinger
  • 1582 The General Assembly in Scotland, with Andrew Melville as moderator, ratifies the "Second Book of Discipline." It has been called the Magna Carta of Presbyterianism
  • 1593 b. George Herbert, Anglican country parson and poet
  • 1596 b. Moses Amyrald, founder of Amyraldianism, which is basically Calvinism minus limited atonement. Amyraldianism became the theology of the School of Saumer in France
  • 1596 b. Descartes, founder of rationalism
  • 1598 Edict of Nantes grants Huguenots greater religious freedom

For further study

Listen to Covenant Theological Seminary's Reformation and Modern Church History by Dr. David Calhoun.