The Reformation of the Family

Justification by faith alone, the authority of scripture over popes—these come to mind when we think back to the sixteenth-century Reformation. Yet with the reform of the church also came a reform of the family, a fact too often neglected. Martin Luther, for example, broke the mold when he married a runaway nun. No longer was marriage off-limits to clergy, but with the recovery of the scriptures and sound doctrine was a retrieval of marriage as an institution, modeled by the reformers at the start of the Reformation. No longer was the monk or priest who had vowed to remain celibate considered holier than the married couple in the pew. Turning to the book of Genesis and Paul’s epistles, the reformers reintroduced marriage as a holy institution itself, one God himself ordained. In this issue of Credo Magazine, pastors and mothers alike reflect on how the reformers started a revolution, a revolution, that is, of the family.   

Feature articles by premier thinkers

A Sixteenth-Century Scandal
The Radical Marriage of Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora
by Michelle DeRusha

When Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora married on June 13, 1525, neither was in love with the other. “I do not love my wife, but I appreciate her,” Luther declared in a letter to a friend a few weeks after celebrating his nuptials. In fact, just months before his wedding day, Luther had written to another friend that he had no intention of marrying…

The shortest road to heaven
by Matthew Barrett

With the formal and material principles of the Reformation under debate, one might easily miss the whole of Luther’s reforming agenda. That agenda included the “estate of marriage” as he called it. In 1519 Luther preached a sermon … Had Rome misunderstood marriage as it had biblical authority, justification, and other Christian doctrines? If so, what is God’s view of marriage and what is its importance in the church and society?

No woman’s chit-chat
Argula von Grumbach as prophetess, writer, and defender of the Reformation
by Kristen Padilla

September 20, 1523 is a date not found in any Reformation timeline I have seen. In fact, if the opponents of the Reformation at the University of Ingolstadt would have had their way, that date, the events surrounding a letter they received, and its female author, whom they called a “female devil,” would be lost to obscurity.…

The Best Companion of My Life
John Calvin's Search for a Wife
by Michael Nelson

John Calvin is typically thought to be a stoic and perhaps unemotional type of scholar. … His natural disposition was reserved and serious. It is only when you peer into the depths of his marriage that you begin to see what kind of man John Calvin really was. …Nothing was theoretical for Calvin, for as he pursued Christ, he grew in love for his wife.

An Uncommon Union

An interview with Herman Selderhuis on the Luther marriage and family

The Reformation at the Movies
by Timothy Raymond

A couple weeks ago my family and I were walking to a baseball game when my nine-year old son suddenly commented, “I’m really glad that I’m alive during the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.” …

The Reformation of Education and the Christian Family
by David Murray

Calvin reformed not only the church, but also the family, especially in the area of education. Although his views about education were shaped by his classical schooling and mainstream humanism, he also introduced a number of changes that impacted education in many countries for many years.

10 Questions with Rebecca VanDoodewaard

Rebecca VanDoodewaard is a wife, mother, and author of several books, including Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity’s Rebirth.

"In comparison with this one work, that married people should bring up their children properly, there is nothing at all in pilgrimages to Rome...nothing at all in building churches, endowing masses, or whatever good works could be named. For bringing up their children properly is their shortest road to heaven. In fact, heaven itself could not be made nearer or achieved more easily than by doing this work. It is also their appointed work. Where parents are not conscientious about this, it is as if everything were the wrong way around, like fire that will not burn or water that is not wet."
-Martin Luther

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