Lessons from the Reformation’s Pamphlet War

From Carl Trueman over at First Things, 11.4.21

“As a Protestant, I rejoice that the Reformers carried the day in many places, with their appropriate emphasis on biblical authority, divine grace, and the finished work of Christ. They recovered the gospel and paved the way for many of the freedoms we in the West now take for granted. But I am not naïve enough to believe that they won simply by force of argument. Few people would have had the background to understand the issues, and that would have applied to many subsequent debates, particularly regarding the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Few members of the populace could actually read. So what made the Reformation a popular success in so many places?

One last thought: the Reformation, Protestant and Catholic, may have been fueled by pamphlets. But who, beyond a small group of scholars, reads those pamphlets today? To the rest of us they are, at best, the throwaway productions of a bygone age, at worst an example of the way in which human beings can treat each other with pride and venom and no concern for the truth. The works that really counted—Luther’s On the Freedom of a Christian, Calvin’s Institutes, Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises, Bellarmine’s Disputations—continue to shape how Christian leaders approach the faith and teach it to their congregations. And those writings could not be encapsulated in pamphlet form. There is a lesson there for those of us who have eyes to see.

Read the full article, and what we can learn in today’s context, here.

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