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Travelling Through the Reformation 

Rick Steves with a 400-year-old Luther Bible. (Photo:

Reviewed by Sue Careless

A GREAT PLACE TO BEGIN, if you are looking for a quick overview of the Reformation, is with Rick Steves’ program Luther and the Reformation. The amiable Steves is best known for his entertaining European travelogues but there is some sound research and careful writing behind this 55-minute video, which can be accessed freely on YouTube.

The program takes into account not only the theology but also the history, politics and culture of the era. It is contrasted with the Middle Ages and positioned alongside the Renaissance.

Luther is shown warts and all, including some of the unintended consequences of his ideas such as the Peasants’ Revolt. There is also some discussion of forerunners to Luther like Huss as well as his fellow Reformers Calvin and Knox. (It is disappointing, especially for Anglicans, that Henry VIII is mentioned but Cranmer is not.) And the picture is rounded out with some exploration of Ignatius and the Counter-Reformation.

This is not an academic panel discussion of talking heads but more a travelogue through theology and history. The landscapes and townscapes of the Reformation all come into view. You will see the churches and colleges where Luther preached and taught and the castle where he hid. Good use is made filming relevant art, especially portraits and sculptures, as well as  important artifacts. (For instance, the Reformation could not have occurred when it did and on the scale it did without the printing press.)

It is true more could have been said about the forerunners of the Reformation and Luther’s fellow reformers -- although not in one hour. One would need a six- or eight-part series to do them all justice. But that said, this is still a fine place to begin glimpsing something of this remarkable man and his age, especially if we wish to get an inkling of how he has shaped our own faith and times.

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