By Jeff Straub
Editor’s note: In honor of the 500th anniversary of Reformation Day, this article is the fifth in a series exploring the history and significance of the Protestant Reformation from a Baptist perspective.
The Protestant Reformation as a movement lasted less than 100 years. It began with Martin Luther’s 95 Theses in 1517, and it was over by the beginning of the 17th century. England’s Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603. With her death, an important chapter in religious history closed. All the principal Reformers had predeceased her, and most of their immediate successors were also gone. The changes they collectively agitated for had, by and large, become a part of regular Christian experience. Luther’s reforms in Germany became Lutheranism, a tradition that is very much alive today. The Anabaptist movement has its successors in the Mennonites, the Amish, and some Baptist groups. Calvin’s followers are well known. Today a neo-Calvinist movement bears a theological affinity with its namesake but has its own distinct ethos. What remains to be told of the Reformation story is its English manifestation. In many ways, the current Baptist tradition owes the most to this branch of the Reformation, not directly but indirectly, as the following narrative will describe.