Friday, October 10, 2014

Did Reformation really begin in Germany? VIVE LA FRANCE !

Giles & Gillian while I was writing on the Huguenots 2013
When we think of the Protestant Reformation, what is the first country that comes to mind? Almost everyone would say Germany. Who is the first person that comes to mind? Everyone would say Martin Luther. Intending no desparagement of the irrepressible Martin Luther or of Germany, is this strictly accurate? I will make the case at the Reformation Faire in my keynote address in Peoria, Illinois, October 17-18, 2014 that it's not at all accurate to say that the Reformation of the 16th century began in Germany. There was, to be sure, a wonderful and powerful work of the Spirit of God in Germany and through the ministry of Luther, but let's get this right. The Reformation began in France. Period.
Why then do we persist in crediting Germany and Luther for the Reformation? I plan to unpack this more thoroughly in my three address, but it has a great deal more to do with how difficult French names are to say for Anglos than with any solid historical evidence. And it has to do with how horrifically oppressive the French government and the papacy were in crushing the Huguenots, the enigmatic and difficult to pronounce name given to the followers of Christ and justification by faith alone in France.
Don't get me wrong here, I love Martin Luther; I just don't think it's historically accurate to think of him as the prototype Reformer. I'll unpack more reasons for this in my addresses at the Ref Faire, Peoria, but here's one: University of Paris professor Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples (there's a mouthful for any English speaker) was converted to Christ long before the great German Reformer, and was preaching the "Ineffable exchange" of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ alone for sinners in Paris more than a decade before Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. If that doesn't begin to shake our confidence in Luther as the vanguard of Reform, surely this will: The first Protestant martyr burned at the stake in Paris was in 1512, almost a decade before Luther would take his valiant stand for the gospel before Emperor Charles V in Worms.
God would raise up some of the most intrepid and gifted servants of Christ in France, including John Calvin, William Farel, Renee of Ferrara, Joanne of Navarre. and Pierre Viret. Like so many Christians in the world today, believers in France in the 16th century would be brutally hunted down and tragically slaughtered by the enemies of the cross of Christ, yet the gospel would continue to spread and flourish in nearly every corner of that once great land. May our exploration of the lives of some of these valiant saints fix our eyes more clearly and more lovingly on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith. 

Join me next Friday and Saturday at Providence Presbyterian Church Peoria if you're in the neighborhood!

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating post! I enjoyed following your family's travels while you worked on your book about the Huguenots and I look forward to reading the published product.
    ~ Glenda Mathes