the Reformation Changed the World
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Luther Reformed Marriage and the Family
Martin Luther, the German Reformer, is generally remembered
as the theological professor, the Bible translator,
the writer, even as the composer of hymns. However,
Martin Luther was also a husband and a father of six
children. He provided the church its first and most
prominent example of a pastoral family.
While still a celibate priest, Luther wrote extensively
on marriage. He saw marriage as an institution in as
much crisis as the church - and no less in need of reform.
Martin Luther was a leading defender of the dignity
of women and the foundational importance of marriage.
Luther placed the home "at the centre of the universe."
His teaching on marriage and the family (and his personal
example) were so radical and so long-lasting that it
profoundly and permanently altered the home. If his
innovations don't seem so radical to us, it is because
of his success in establishing these principles as Christian
a thousand years, the single, celibate life had been upheld
as the Christian ideal. Sex, though grudgingly permitted
inside marriage, was not to be enjoyed. As the Church father,
Jerome, declared in the 4th century: "Anyone who is
too passionate a lover with his own wife is himself an adulterer."Augustine
advocated sexual relations within marriage to be without
emotion and primarily for procreation. A catechism of the
Catholic Church written in 1494, applies the third deadly
sin (impurity) to married people enjoying sex within marriage.
Martin Luther, however, declared war on Greek philosopher
Aristotle's depiction on women as "botched males".
Luther also criticised Jerome, Cyprian, Augustine, Gregory
and other Church fathers for "never having written
anything good about marriage."
Luther and the first generation of Protestant Reformers
rejected this tradition of over a thousand years, of ascetic
sexuality - in both their theology and their lives. The
Reformers rejection of the celibate ideal of the Middle
Ages was as great a revolution in the home as their teachings
were in the Church. Luther literally transferred the praises
and esteem that Christians had traditionally heaped upon
the celibate monks and nuns, to marriage and the home.
described marriage as the only institution where a chaste
life could be maintained. He insisted that "one
cannot be unmarried without sin."
"Marriage pervades the whole of nature". Luther
taught that nothing was more natural and necessary than
marriage, "for all creatures are divided into male
Luther actively encouraged fathers to remove their daughters
from convents. Protestant towns and territories dissolved
the cloisters and nunneries and freed women from the
sexual repression, cultural depravity, dominance by
male clergy and Catholic practices. Wherever the Reformation
succeeded monks and nuns who wished to marry received
automatic permission to do so.
Luther had a high regard for the ability of women to
shape society by moulding its youth and civilising its
men through the institution of marriage.
companionable woman brings joy to life" Luther wrote.
"Women tend to and rear their young, administer the
household and are inclined to compassion. God has made them
compassionate by nature, so that by their example men may
be moved to compassion also."
Luther also wrote: "People who do not like children
are swine, dunces and blockheads, not worthy to be called
men and women, because they despise the blessings of God,
the Creator and Author of marriage."
"Love begins when we wish to serve others." There
is no better school for humility and for loving sacrificial
service than marriage and parenthood.
Luther wrote that his entrance into the monastery was "a
cowardly act". He saw marriage and fatherhood as an
essential requirement for effective pastors. Luther had
six children (Hans, Elizabeth, Magdalene, Martin, Paul and
Luther urged parents to always discipline their children
with forethought and caution, taking into account the unique
personality of each. He taught that: "no power on earth
is so noble and so great as that of parents."
Luther also wrote: " There is no bond on earth so sweet
nor any separation so bitter as that which occurs in a good
"A wife is easily taken, but to have abiding love,
that is the challenge. One who finds it in his marriage,
should thank the Lord God for it. Therefore, approach marriage
earnestly and ask God to give you a good, pious girl, with
whom you spend your life in mutual love. For sex alone establishes
nothing in this regard; there must also be agreement in
values and character."
Because of the importance attached to companionship in marriage
the Reformers endorsed, for the first time in the Western
Christendom, genuine divorce and remarriage. Although they
viewed marriage as a spiritual bond transcending all other
human relationships, a marriage could definitely end this
side of eternity and a new one begin for separated spouses.
"Christ permits divorce for adultery and compels none
to remain unmarried thereafter; and St. Paul would rather
have us remarry than burn now with lust and later in hell."
Protestants, in contrast to the Catholics, generally
permitted divorce and remarriage on five grounds: adultery,
willful abandonment, chronic impotence, life-threatening
hostility and willful deceit. The Strasbourg Reformer,
Martin Bucer, declared that no proper marriage exists
where affection is not regularly shared and where all
conversation has ceased.
Protestant marriage courts did not permit divorce and
remarriage to occur without first making every effort
to re-unite the estranged couple and to revive the dead
marriage. However, the Reformers held that the community
formed by husband and wife was so fundamental to society,
that when all conversation, affection and respect between
a husband and wife had irretrievably broken down, it
could not be allowed to continue. The marriage bond
was so important that one had to fight to save it, and
failing success in genuine restoration, the marriage
should be recognised to have come to an end.
before had women been empowered to divorce abusive husbands.
Women from all over Europe fled to Protestant areas,
particularly Geneva, to find protection and freedom
Luther wrote: "Women have narrow shoulders and
wide hips. Therefore they ought to be domestic. Their
very physique is a sign from the Creator that He intended
them for the home." Luther also wrote: "In
domestic affairs, I defer to Katie, otherwise I'm led
by the Holy Spirit!"
Luther's wife, Katherine, was smuggled out of a cloister,
hidden in an empty herring barrel. She became a model
housewife and an accomplished businesswoman. Luther
dubbed her: "the morning star of Wittenberg"
as her day began at 4:00am. Even in his last will and
testament, Luther revolutionised the home by ignoring
the prevalent practice of appointing a male trustee
to administer the estate. Luther directly designated
his wife Katherine "heir to everything."
wrote: "It is impossible to keep peace between man
and woman in family life if they do not condone and overlook
each other's faults, but watch everything to the smallest
point. For who does not at times offend?"
Luther's home was described as "half home, half hotel".
The Luthers housed up to 30 people in their home at a time
- students, orphans, the sick and former monks and nuns.
Even on his wedding night, Luther couldn't refuse a person
in need. At 11:00pm, after all the guests had left, the
radical Reformer and critic of Luther, Andreas Karlstadt,
knocked at the door. Karlstadt was fleeing the Peasants'
War and needed shelter. Luther took him in.
Luther not only made the Bible part of the daily routine
in the home, but he also made the singing of hymns central.
He played the flute and the lute, and led his children in
singing hymns of praise.
He also introduced the Catechism to explain the faith to
children, incorporating Scripture memorisation in the daily
Perhaps it is time for us to recognise Martin Luther as
the true and original founder of Focus on the Family.
Congregational singing remains one of Martin Luther's most
"Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest
praise," wrote Luther. "I am not of the opinion
that all arts are to be cast down and destroyed on account
of the Gospel, as some fanatics suggest. On the other hand,
I would gladly see all arts, especially music, in the service
of Him Who has given and created them."
himself was a well-trained musician with a fine voice.
He played the lute, composed intricate hymns and was
well acquainted with the work of the leading composers
of his day.
"I always love music; who so has skill in this
art, is of a good temperament, fitted for all things.
We must teach music in schools; a schoolmaster ought
to have skill in music, or I would not regard him. Neither
should we ordain young men as preachers, unless they
have been well exercised in music."
Luther insisted that we are to "praise God with
both word and music." "God has preached the
Gospel through music." The common people need to
hear and sing the Word of God in their own language,
so that they might be edified. (Before the Reformation
such singing as had been done in Churches was in Latin
and sung by choirs).
everything be done so that the Word of God may have
free course." Luther loved to cite examples like
Moses who praised God in song following the crossing
of the Red Sea, and David who composed many of the Psalms.
"Music is a vehicle for proclaiming the Word of
God" declared Luther.
Urging pastors to write German hymns based on the Psalms,
Luther advised "use the simplest and most common
words, preserve the pure teaching of God's Word, and
keep the meaning as close to the Psalm as possible."
Luther wrote a variety of hymns, intended for Church
services and for devotions at home. To teach the Catechism,
he wrote two hymns on the Ten Commandments, a hymn for
the Apostles' Creed, one for the Lord's Prayer and others
for baptism and the Lord's Supper. Through these hymns,
Luther demonstrated his on-going desire to teach the
Faith, especially to children.
1527, during one of the most trying times of Luther's
life, (he suffered severe illness for 8 months of that
year) with his entire body in pain, the plague had erupted
in Wittenberg and he watched many friends die. Then
his own son became ill. Even though his wife was pregnant,
Luther's house was transformed into a hospital. During
that horrific year, surrounded by sickness and death,
Luther took time to remember the 10th anniversary of
his publication against indulgences. A Mighty Fortress
is our God, based on Psalm 46, was composed during this
time of severe trial. It has endured as one of the most
popular and most translated hymns in history: "And
though this world with devils filled, should threatened
to undo us, we will not fear for God has willed, His
truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness
grim? We tremble not for him. His rage we can endure,
for lo his doom is sure, one little Word shall fell
Luther made singing a central part of Protestant worship.
He dispensed with the choir and assigned all singing
to the congregation. Luther would often call the whole
congregation into the church during the week for congregational
rehearsals so that the people could learn new hymns.
"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."
Reformation and Science
Modern Science as a discipline is a fruit of the Reformation.
As Francis Bacon, the father of the scientific method, once
put it: "There are two books laid before us to study;
to prevent us falling into error; first, the volume of the
Scriptures which reveal the will of God; then the volume
of the Creatures, which express His power."
Historian Robert G. Frank points out: "The predominant
forms of scientific activity can be shown to be a direct
outgrowth of a Puritan ideology."
great astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571 - 1630), the
founder of Celestial Mechanics declared: "My wish
is that I may perceive the God whom I find everywhere
in the external world in like manner within me."
Kepler was a "brilliant mathematician and astronomer,
he contributed to the scientific revolution with his
work on the planetary orbits, laws of motion and the
scientific method. Kepler's accomplishments formed the
foundation of modern theoretical astronomy."
Kepler saw astronomy as a glimpse of God's glory. Kepler
argued: "Truth in religion is based on the Word
of God in Scripture, while truth in natural science
is based on evidence and reason." Kepler viewed
all of science as man attempting to "think God's
thoughts after Him." Kepler was the father of the
modern satellite, and of modern space travel.
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), the father of calculus
and dynamics, was a scientific genius and a dedicated
Christian. Newton formulated the theory of gravitation
and the laws of motion. He discovered that white light
is composed of the colours of the spectrum. He made
vital contributions to mathematics, astronomy and physics.
Newton maintained that there were two key sources of
knowledge - one revealed in the Bible and the other
revealed in nature. Newton believed that in order to
"truly know the Creator, one must study the natural
order of things." Newton dedicated his life to
know the Word of God (the Bible) and to know the works
of God (creation).
Pascal (1623-1662) made vital contributions to mathematics
and technology that helped with the development of the computer.
Pascal invented the first adding machine. In his honour,
a computer language is named after Pascal.
Charles Babbage (1792-1871), the father of modern day computer
science, described the world as a great computer, and God
as the programmer. Babbage was essentially a mathematician
and regarded mathematics as the best preliminary preparation
for all other branches of human knowledge. He believed that
the study of the works of nature, with scientific precision,
was a necessary and indispensable preparation for the understanding
and interpreting their testimony of the wisdom and goodness
of the Divine Author.
Samuel F.B. Morse (1791-1872) was the man responsible for
the development of the modern telegraph and the Morse Code.
This was one of the greatest innovations in the world of
communication. Samuel deeply absorbed his family's Calvinism,
which he eventually translated and applied to all his scientific
work. In 1844, he astonished the US Congress, gathered in
the Supreme Court chamber, by sending words from Numbers
23:23: "What hath God wrought?" The first inter-city
telegraph line in the world communicated these Words of
Scripture to inaugurate this great invention. Morse, as
an inventor, saw his work as a service to the Lord. He laid
the foundations for the development of modern communications.
In the realm of physics, Sir Michael Faraday is acknowledged
as one of the greatest scientists of all times. He discovered
electro-magnetic induction, without which we could have
no motors or engines. He invented the generator. Faraday
was a devout Christian who declared: "The Bible, and
it alone, with nothing added to it nor taken away from it
by man, is the sole and sufficient guide for each individual,
at all times and in all circumstances. Faith in the Divinity
and work of Christ is the gift of God and the evidence of
this faith is obedience to the commandments of Christ."
Lord Kelvin, one of the greatest scientists of all times,
formulated the metric temperature scale. He formulated the
science of thermodynamics, giving us the first and second
laws of thermodynamics. Lord Kelvin was the first scientist
who used the concept of energy. He declared: "With
regard to the origin of life, science positively affirms
Joseph Lister, the English surgeon who developed antiseptic
surgery and the use of chemical disinfectants, stated: "I
am a believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity."
Karl von Linnaeus (1707-1778) was the pioneer of modern
botany. He laid the foundation of natural history by devising
a system of classification whereby any plant or animal could
be identified and related to an overall plan. He introduced
the method of naming each type of living being with universal
terms that could be recognised in any language. He used
the Bible to provide the framework for scientific classification
of plants and animals.
James Simpson (1811-1870), the founder of gynaecology and
anaesthetics, was inspired by the Scriptural passage that
God had made Adam fall into a deep sleep before taking the
rib from him, to develop chloroform, and pioneer the beginnings
of modern surgical anaesthetics. Before this, operations
were conducted on conscious patients.
Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873), the father of modern
oceanography and hydrology, derived many of his ideas from
the Bible. He was the first person to chart shipping routes
throughout the world, pioneered the establishment of sea-lanes
and made possible the laying of electric cables across the
ocean floor. Maury was inspired by a verse from the Bible
(Psalm 8:8, which speaks of the fish that passed through
"the paths of the seas"). Maury declared that:
"The Bible is true and science is true
is authority for everything it touches
God is the
Great Architect Who planned it all."
It has been pointed out that science could not have developed
amongst those who worship Allah, because of Islam's fatalism.
Nor could science have been birthed from Hinduism or Buddhism,
because of their belief that the world is an illusion. Neither
could modern science have risen in our modern humanistic
culture, because of the humanist's belief that life is irrational
and illogical. By rejecting the notion of absolutes, humanists
reject the very foundation of science. If there are no absolutes
in nature, then results in experimentation can only be relative.
If everything is relative, then engineering, and other branches
of science, becomes impossible.
A proper, philosophical base for investigating the universe
was needed, and only the Christian doctrine of Creation
has provided that base. The Creator established Laws for
people and Laws for the natural world. A created universe
was expected to have design, order and purpose. Man using
his created, rational mind, could study this ordered universe
in a rational way and seek to discover its laws. Modern
science is based upon this assumption of scientific law.
In addition, the moral laws given by the Creator established
the ethical basis for science. Scientists must be honest
and truthful. If this universe were not created, if it is
merely the product of chance, then no intelligence would
be involved. There could be no reason to expect such a universe
to operate in a rational or consistent way. Man's mind would
also be the product of chance and would not be capable of
reason or logic. Hence, a materialistic philosophy could
not provide any foundation for science. Many ardent atheists
dominate science today, but they are working off the foundations
and pre-suppositions of Christianity.
The irrefutable fact is that Christianity gave birth to
modern science. The scientific revolution began in the Protestant
Reformation and the Bible played a vital part in the development
of scientific discovery. Every major branch of science was
developed by a Bible-believing Christian. The Bible essentially
When we get into a car, start the engine, turn on the lights,
drive to hospital, receive an anaesthetic before an operation,
and have an effective operation done in a germ-free environment,
we need to remember that we owe it to the Reformation. As
Isaac Watts declared in his great Christmas carol: "Joy
to the World", Jesus makes His blessings flow "far
as the curse is found."
"No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest
the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow, far as
the curse is found, far as the curse is found, far as, far
as, the curse is found."
Reformation and Education
The phenomenon of education for the masses has its roots
in Christianity. Christianity is a teaching religion. The
greatest universities worldwide were started by Christians
in fulfilment of the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus
roots of education for the common person goes back to
the Reformation, and, especially, to John Calvin.
"The modern idea of popular education - that is,
education for everyone - first arose in Europe during
the Protestant Reformation." (Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld
- Is Public Education necessary?)
American educator, Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld, came to Christ
through reading Calvin's Institutes of the Christian
religion. As Blumenfeld did his research on education,
he found that, when it came to the concept of education
for the common man, all roads led to Calvin. It was
as he read the primary documents, that he came to place
his faith in Christ.
"Wherever Calvinism has gone, it has carried the
school with it and has given a powerful impulse to popular
education. It is a system which demands intellectual
manhood. In fact, we say that its very existence is
tied up with education of the people." (Dr. Loraine
Boettner - The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination).
Academy at Geneva was the model for many of the early
colleges and universities established by the Puritans
and their successors in America.
Calvin advocated that the purpose of education is for
people to know God and to glorify Him as God - that
in our vocation and in our life we might know "the
knowledge of God, the Creator and Redeemer." The
content of education must begin with the Scriptures,
and continue into God's Creation.
In Geneva, Calvin promoted education for everyone, which
has become the pattern for our day. When John Knox fled
from Scotland and sought freedom from persecution in
Geneva, he declared that Geneva had become the greatest
school of Christ since the time of the Apostles.
Calvin emphasised the importance of education having
moral relevance. Calvin also was insistent that it was
the parents' responsibility to educate their children.
Therefore the control of education should remain with
Of America's first 126 universities, 123 were Christian.
This included Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc.
The Reformation also produced some of the greatest works
of literature. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was one
of the world's greatest writers. Scriptural quotes and
Biblical images from the Geneva Bible permeate Shakespeare's
John Bunyan (1628-1688) gave the world one of the greatest
novels ever written - Pilgrim's Progress. This parable of
the Christian life is one of the all-time most published
and widely read books in the history of the world.
John Milton (1608-1674) author of Paradise Lost and Paradise
Regained was the secretary to Oliver Cromwell, and also
Many music critics declare that Bach was the greatest musician
that ever lived. J.S. Bach was an unsurpassed genius, and
is acknowledged as the father of modern music. He left no
musical form as he found it, says one critic. On the other
hand, with every form he touched, he seemed to have said
the last word. Bach's teaching notebooks and violin books
have been the basis for music theory and practice ever since.
Johan Sebastian Bach was a Protestant Christian, a Lutheran.
Most of his library consisted of Protestant writings, including
all of Luther's writings. Bach taught his pupils that music
is an act of worship and all musicians need to commit their
talents to the Lord Jesus Christ.
As one critic said: "Bach is to music what Shakespeare
is to literature. They are both the greatest." And
they were both Protestant Christians.
Enterprise and the Work Ethic
Along with some of the greatest art and literature,
the Reformation brought about the greatest industrial
advances and prosperity ever experienced in history.
The Protestant work ethic, which helped to bring about
great prosperity in Western Europe and North America,
arose mostly through the Protestant Reformers - particularly
John Calvin. "The most dynamic businessmen were
to be found in Protestant Holland and the most vigorous
industrial growth in Protestant England, both states
heavily tinctured with Calvinism." (Historian Richard
Max Webber, in his famous book: "The Protestant
Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" (1905), attributed
the Capitalist Revolution to Calvinism, its worldly
asceticism and Protestant work ethic.
upheld the right of private ownership of property, taught
the Biblical concept of stewardship, promoted free enterprise
and freed money from the bondage to which it had been
held for centuries by the forbidding of interest being
charged. By allowing interest and promoting the work
ethic, Calvin unleashed all the powers that capitalism
has produced. As a result, the free enterprise system
has generated the highest standards of living, the longest
life expectancy and the greatest advances in industry
and medicine ever experienced in history.
For these and so many other reasons, the Reformation
in Europe during the 16th century has to be seen as
one of the most important epochs in the history of the
world. The Reformation gave us the Bible - now freely
available in our own languages. The Reformation also
pioneered the now-almost universally acknowledged principles
of religious freedom, liberty of conscience, the rule
of law, separation of powers and constitutionally limited
Republics. All of these foundational principles were
unthinkable before the Reformation. The Reformers emphasis
on God's sovereignty, that Scripture alone is the final
authority, that Christ alone is the head of the Church,
that justification is by God's grace, on the basis of
the finished work of Christ, received by grace alone.
Their teachings on the depravity of man, the Covenant
and Church government has influenced law and liberty
throughout the Western world and beyond. All of us are
beneficiaries of this tremendous movement for Faith
and Freedom. It is time that we re-examined the history
and the principles of the Reformation.
"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest
exposition every portion of the truth of God, except
precisely that point which the world and the devil are
at that moment attacking, then I am not confessing Christ,
however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle
rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and
to be steady on all the battle front besides is mere
flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."
For more Information on The Reformation Celebration click here
For further reading:
Christian History, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188,
Sketches from Church History by S.M. Houghton
The Reformation Conference Manual by Dr. Peter Hammond (audio
tapes of the Reformation Conference are also available)
What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? By Dr. D.J. Kennedy and
What if the Bible Had Never Been Written? by Dr. James Kennedy
and Jerry Newcombe
Men of Science - Men of God by Henry M. Morris