Reformation Day is a day of celebration for Christians who hold to the truth that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. October 31st 2017 marked the 499th anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church to protest the Roman Catholic Church’s abusive practice of selling indulgences–credits toward salvation, or a reduction of time in Purgatory. In the case of that providential day, Luther was confronted with plenary indulgences–the corrupt and false sale of salvation itself.
I have an amazing list of fabulous Reformation resources for you. But first, enjoy this excerpt from my novel for middle and high school students, When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther.
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When Lightning Struck!
Martin strode along College Street on his way back to the Black Cloister following his last lecture for the afternoon, the crisp fall air grazing his naked scalp. In the morning it would be exactly one year since Martin had first preached against indulgences. In the last year, he had preached on the subject a total of three times. It seemed to Martin that the more he spoke about indulgences, the stronger his feelings of disdain and disgust grew. Ahead, a large group of Martin’s congregants moved toward him from the direction of the Elster Gate.
That’s odd, thought Martin. There are rich and poor, young and old—all walking together. Perhaps they are celebrating All Hallow’s Eve in some new manner?
“Doctor Luther!” A young boy ran forward waving a parchment scroll, clearly excited. Past the new college and the old, past houses lining the street, he ran toward Martin. Behind him trailed a group of boys and girls, all with the same ruddy features and tawny hair. “Look at my indulgence! Mother sent us to meet the pope’s monk in Jüterbog to buy an indulgence for Father now that he is in purgatory.”
“You walked all the way to Jüterbog?”
The boy’s older sister nodded. She shivered beneath her threadbare dress. “We left two days ago and we slept in the market square.” In spite of her shivering, the girl’s eyes lit up with the memory of her journey. “The town criers announced the coming of a monk—I think his name was Johann Tetzel—and then the trumpets started blowing.”
A small crowd of children surrounded Martin, Puffing from the run down the street to catch up with the siblings. “Doctor Luther, there were horsemen and drummers too!”
“And a big cross!” announced a small child. Martin frowned.
“There was a parade! A man dressed in fancy clothes carried a velvet pillow embroidered with gold, and on the pillow lay the pope’s bull—the pope signed it himself!”
A sturdy youth joined the group. “There were many people walking with flags and candles, and a giant chest, and the church bells were sounding.”
“Then came the monk Johann Tetzel. He had many guards.”
“He preached on a wooden platform.”
“I couldn’t see!”
Martin rubbed his tonsure in quick, jerky movements. His head was beginning to hurt. He could imagine the scene now with peasants and noblemen alike crowding and jostling to get a chance to purchase the forgiveness for a loved one’s sins, frantic for the opportunity to overcome years of torture in purgatory as payment for sins Christ’s death had already justified on the cross. He turned to the boy. “Tell me, child, how much did you spend?”
“We spent half a gulden.”
“Yes,” interrupted his sister again. “But some people spent much more. I saw one bishop pay twenty-five guldens.”
Martin fixed his nearly black eyes on the girl. “A bishop? He purchased an indulgence for a family member for that price?”
The young man guffawed. “Nein, Doctor Luther, the bishop bought the indulgence for himself. This indulgence is not like the others we’ve seen sold—this indulgence forgives all sins completely for the buyer.”
“What?” Martin grabbed the rolled parchment the young boy was clutching. Scanning the document, he began to mutter aloud. “We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. We have faith only through grace—it is Jesus who saves.”
As he handed the indulgence back to the boy, a wealthy businessman walked past and waved a paper in Martin’s direction. “Doctor Luther! For six gulden, I have purchased my own salvation. You should not expect me in confession again.” The man laughed. “For as long as I have this paper, I am free from guilt!”
Martin’s head was spinning. He felt a sharp pain in his stomach as he called after the merchant. “Those souls which have believed this—that through indulgences a man is freed from all penalties—are being led in the paths of death!”1
“I have a paper that signed by the pope that says otherwise, Doctor!” With that, the man turned onto Mayor Street and was gone. The children ran off singing, “Once a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs!” They repeated it until Martin could no longer hear them.
Martin stood in the road as peasants, merchants, and knights streamed past him, the wind spinning the dirt from the road into little whirlwinds. He strained to hear above the general din surrounding him. From the direction of Jüterbog, he was certain he could hear the fiery cackle of his old enemy the dragon.
- Martin Luther, The Letters of Martin Luther, trans. Margaret A. Currie (London: Macmillan & Co., 1908), Letter XVI, to Albert of Mainz, October 31, 1517.
–Excerpted from When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther by Danika Cooley (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015), pp. 91-94.
The Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a significant time in history–the events and people of the Reformation changed the course of the Church, of Western history, and of the world. The Reformation was a response to embedded and worsening corruption in the Roman Catholic Church and a theology increasingly based on human tradition and leaders rather than on the truth of God’s Word alone. That fight erupted uncontrollably across Europe, causing not only religious change, but social and political changes as well.
Martin Luther, Father of the Reformation
Martin Luther (1483-1546) is often referred to as “The Father of the Reformation”. Born during a time of superstition, tradition, and spiritual corruption, Luther gave up a lucrative career as a lawyer to become a monk in the Roman Catholic Church–-a path he felt would certainly lead to salvation.
As Luther’s understanding of the spiritual corruption within the Church grew, and he despaired of true salvation, Luther (now a scholar and priest) sought the Bible for answers. Following his discovery of the true gospel in Scripture, Luther began to preach spiritual freedom to his congregation, and to teach biblical (rather than philosophical) theology at the University of Wittenberg.
It was on October 31, 1517 that Martin Luther penned his Ninety-Five Theses in Latin in response to the abusive indulgence sales practices of the monk Johann Tetzel in a nearby town. Luther nailed the Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, the scholarly bulletin board of his day, and mailed a copy to the Archbishop of Mainz. Luther hoped to start a scholarly debate about the practice of selling salvation through plenary indulgences. The response he received was greater–and more dangerous–than he imagined it would be.
Luther’s story is exciting. There are death defying moments, epic spiritual battles, narrow escapes, a kidnapping, revolution, and war. As the “Father of the Reformation”, Luther is a vital figure in Church history. His sacrifice and willingness to wage battle against the spiritual, religious, and political powers of his medieval world allowed Christians throughout time to embrace the truth of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as explained by Scripture alone once again.
Read portions of the first eight chapters of When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther below:
Free Downloadable Reformation Resources
When Lightning Struck! The Story of Martin Luther Discussion Guide ~ This 34-page, full-color discussion guide includes questions, timeline dates and a 4-page timeline, short biographies of important figures, and relevant Scripture passages to consider and discuss. Families and youth groups can use the discussion guide with children in grades 4-12.
Cobblestone Path ~ Martin Luther Unit Study ~ A 12-week, 244-page, full-color unit study on the life and times of the Father of the Reformation. Subjects covered by the unit study include: Martin Luther’s life, timeline dates, biographies of important people, relevant Scripture, history, science, art history, writing, research, copywork, vocabulary, and geography.
Atlas of the European Reformations Study Guide ~ A 56-page study guide for Tim Dowley’s Atlas of the European Reformations for grades 4-12. This study of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations includes: an overview of each section, discussion questions for each map, vocabulary, related literature by grade level, and Scripture to consider.
Cobblestone Path ~ Rumblings of a Revolution ~ Cobblestone Path Church History Research Journals allow students to research Church history chronologically and to record their findings in a structured format, teaching research, notetaking, and critical thinking skills, as well theology and history. This 70-page sample mini-unit of The Reformation Age allows middle and high school students to study the run-up to the Reformation with Rumbling of a Revolution.
Physical Reformation Resources
1) When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin Luther by Danika Cooley (Fortress Press)
Martin Luther’s life was too exciting not to be written for teens and younger readers! In this fast-paced, action-packed novel of Martin Luther’s life, teen readers (and more than a few adults!) will be introduced to a fascinating time when princes ruled Europe and knights roamed the countryside. They’ll learn about a time when powerful forces lined up against each other and believing the wrong thing could get you killed.
When Lightning Struck! is far more than just an adventure story, of course. It also tells a theological story. Drawing carefully from Luther’s own words, this book introduces readers to a kindred spirit who struggled with what knowing God through Scripture means for daily life. They will understand what was at stake and how powerfully liberating Luther’s idea of grace through faith was—in his time and in ours!
In crisp, enjoyable prose, author Danika Cooley conveys both the drama and the meaning of the Reformation for younger readers like no one before her!
This Martin Luther Special Edition was commissioned by the City of Nuremberg in celebration of 500 Years of Reformation. I’ve had a lot of fun taking mine on photo expeditions! (Playmobil 6099)
3) Men of Iron Package ~ 6 CD Audiobook, Chain Mail Kit, and Poster (Raising Real Men)
Young Myles Falsworth had just one mission…
To restore the good name of his father and his family.
It would take all his strength.
All his courage.
All his determination.
Master storyteller Howard Pyle’s classic coming of age story draws listeners into the days of knights and damsels, of feudal lords and loyal retainers, and of reputation and honor. The historic language will prepare listeners to enjoy classic literature while the rollicking tale keeps them asking for more.
Howard Pyle, the author and artist, lived from 1853 to 1911 and was not only one of America’s most beloved authors, but was also known as the “Father of American Illustration.” His works have become iconic in American culture. The cover art of our audiobook is a painting by Howard Pyle called The Coming of Lancaster.
Learn the medieval craft of armor-making with this exclusive Men of Iron Chain Mail Kit.
Inspire your young knight to become one of the Men of Iron with Hearts of Gold with this breathtakingly beautiful poster on high quality stock.
4) The Maid Marian Play Dress (Deborah & Co.)
Put a little adventure and elegance into your daughters playtime in this Maid Marian Play Dress. Made from high quality, durable materials for even the most adventurous of maidens. This new gown is made from a sparkly crushed velvet bodice and amazing gold trims. The unique, elegant sleeves and the beautiful lavender skirt makes this dress perfect for any maiden. Features: Clothing quality fabrics; machine washable. Comfortable; no itchy fabrics or trims. Sizes: S-XL
On the fence over the need to study Shakespeare? Shakespeare’s plays are pictures of humanity both at its very worst as well as its very best, delving into issues of romance, deceit, tragedy, and revenge. And then there is the language – difficult for an adult to understand, let alone a child. But Shakespeare is a literary icon; references to his works are everywhere, from advertising to sermons, and we do our children a disservice if we ignore his impact.
Graphic Shakespeare is the easier, sanitized way to expose your child to 4 of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, and 1 of his most popular comedies. Full-color artwork brings the scenes to life while speech bubbles present key excerpts from Shakespeare’s original dialogue. Of utmost help is that Graphic Shakespeare adds captions in modern English to make the stories easier to follow, plus a glossary at the foot of each page helps with any challenging vocabulary.
If you have a child who groans at the thought of reading Shakespeare, you may find a whole different attitude when you present your child with these graphic versions of Shakespeare’s works. While these plays are condensed, Graphic Shakespeare has retained enough key phrases and quotations from the originals that your child will have more than a nodding acquaintance with each celebrated play. The five plays include: Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
6) The Mystery of History Volume III MP3 Audiobooks with Music: The Renaissance, Reformation, and Growth of Nations
Bring The Mystery of History to life! Through these downloadable MP3 files, you can listen to The Mystery of History Volume III “The Renaissance, Reformation, and Growth of Nations” through the voice of the author, Linda Lacour Hobar. With the addition of soft thematic music, you’ll feel as if you’re traveling through time. In the car, over lunch, before bed, or as an integral part of your school day – there are endless ways for all ages to benefit from this listening library of world history.
8) A Child’s Geography: Explore Medieval Kingdoms and What Really Happened During the Middle Ages? (Knowledge Quest)
Now you can travel to far-off lands with your children as the long-awaited volume 4 is here!
While this series is primarily geared toward 1-6 graders, this volume works well with middle school students too.
In the lively style introduced to us by Ann Voskamp, A Child’s Geography: Explore Medieval Kingdoms will take you and your fledgling geographers on an amazing adventure through our Father’s world.
Imagine walking in the footsteps of great leaders and influencers of the medieval world… Charlemagne, Ferdinand and Isabella, Joan of Arc, Johannes Gutenberg, Martin Luther… Read their stories and live the adventure of sending explorers out into uncharted seas, the excitement of inventing the printing press, and the anxiety of starting a religious firestorm. As we explore Medieval Kingdoms, you and your family will delight in breathtaking landscapes, hidden wonders, and beautiful people – all created in God’s image.
This collection of historical biographies geared toward 8-14 year olds presents the lives of ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary deeds during the time of the Middle Ages. Illustrated with stunning portraits, this inspiring compilation of stories describes with historical accuracy and age-appropriate content the quality character and unbending determination of St. Patrick, Theodora, Alcuin, Wenceslas, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Joan of Arc, Johann Gutenberg and Martin Luther.
Everything you need to do art appreciation, all gathered into one beautiful package: gorgeous art prints, an artist biography, information on the pictures, and more! This portfolio covers the life of Leonardo da Vinci. Simply Charlotte Mason has an ever-growing selection of artists. (Grades 1–12)
- Your children must understand the deep issues of this time period! It was such a crossroad! They will see two different responses develop to the spiritual emptiness of the late Middle Ages–an emptiness quite like that of our own age, so we can learn much.
- It was good for the people to seek truth, but where did they turn? Themselves? God?
- How did the ‘searchings’ of the great artists, scientists, mathematicians, architects, businessmen, writers, philosophers, rulers, and explorers affect their awesome achievements?
- This truth quest, and the decisions made in response, determined the future of many nations–those that were on their way to cataclysm and those headed for greater freedom.
- The issues are not Catholic vs. Protestant, as TruthQuest History explains, so people of both faiths can feel safe using this guide.
- Ideally for Grades 5-12, but younger siblings can participate. Includes book recommendations for all ages, where available.
Engage your child with articulated paper figures of the great men and women of history. Unlike paper dolls, these figures move! They are easy to assemble and are designed to supplement any history curriculum or stand alone with biographies.
Color, cut, and assemble using the Famous Figures series of activity books! Then, act out the stories of history or tell about the past with your historical creations. Makes learning history fun and memorable for your child!
Learn about the Renaissance and the Reformers of the Church!
Examine how God intervenes in people’s lives to bring about change in their hearts and in the hearts of the people around them.
Carol Robb teaches you about people and events of the Renaissance and the Reformation using games and projects that will become 2 fabulous Lapbooks to be used over and over again.
Wycliffe and Huss Game
Art & the Renaissance
Johann Gutenberg and the Printing Press
Explorers Sliding Puzzle Game
Double Trouble Game
Timeline for the Reformation
Kings and Queens of England and Scotland
Jeopardy-style Game on the King and Queens
Famous People of the Reformation Game
Martin Luther’s 95 Theses Game
God Works Through People to Bring About Change
These Lapbook CD’s can be used as a supplement to any history curriculum. All directions, Masters, and project information (Student & Teacher Manuals) are ready to be printed out from the included CD’s.
13) King Alfred’s English: A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do by Laurie J. White (The Shorter Word)
King Alfred’s English is a unique approach to the history of England, English, the Middle Ages, and also the English Bible. Full of humor and insights that both surprise and enlighten, the book provides a guided tour of kings, conquerors, poets and scholars who have shaped, simplified, matured, and expanded English into what it is today—the first truly global language in history.
The capstone of the book is the story of how we got the Bible in English and its influence upon our language.
- What were the driving ideas behind the Reformation?
- Are the New Testament documents really reliable and how do they compare to other ancient manuscripts?
- Why was translating the Bible into English punishable by death?
- …and what does all THAT have to do with the history of English?
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