Reformation Heroes: Written by Diana Kleyn with Joel R. Beeke
Today we are blessed to live in a country where we have little fear of physical or verbal persecution for our faith. We may read the Word of God without fear of punishment. We have the privilege of attending whichever church we desire and we may even encourage the public to come and join us for worship. This freedom has been all but common since the life of Christ and there is no reason to think that it will be common in the future. Sin is as abundant in the world now as it ever has been before. Reformation Heroes gives us an in-depth look at the Reformation gaining strength in the 15th and 16th centuries and the doctrines which were rediscovered, believed, and practiced at tremendous cost to the health, safety, and prosperity of those Reformers who held fast to the faith.
Reformation Heroes provides the reader with a brief history of the lives of over thirty Reformers. Most of the Reformers in the book lived in the 15th or 16th centuries during the rapid spread of the Reformed faith throughout Europe. Readers also receive a brief overview of the many opponents of the Reformation including the Roman Catholic Church, the Anabaptists, and those involved in the Counter Reformation.
The primary goal of the book is to educate readers on the lives of Reformers, namely in the way they influenced the Reformation. The authors point out errors that some of the Reformers held to in their lives, especially as pertaining to the Lord’s Supper and the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Disagreements among the Reformers are also pointed out. One such example is the disagreement between Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli. Not only are the perspectives of Luther and Zwingli given but also the perspectives of other lesser known Reformers who were witnesses to the debate.
The authors come at the book from a very Reformed perspective, especially as it relates to Scripture. If a Reformer held to a view that is clearly out of line with Scripture, the authors point it out while staying focused on the assistance the Reformer gave to the spread of the Reformation in Europe.
Kleyn and Beeke beautifully describe the triumphant martyrdom of many of the church fathers in the 15th and 16th century. They go to great depth to show the doctrinal and spiritual reasons why the Reformers could not renounce their faith in the face of cruel execution. The stories of the trust these men and women had in the Lord in the face of imminent death are moving and give cause for great rejoicing in the measure of grace the Lord gave them to endure the trial before them. When faced with burning, drowning, hanging, or strangling, men died not crying out in pain but praising the name of the Lord and proclaiming His goodness.
John Foxe wrote his Book of Martyrs nearly 400 years ago while the church was still facing violent persecution in Europe. Kleyn and Beeke have the advantage of looking back at the history of the church both before and after Foxe to see the doctrines and difficulties that are with the church today and how they were influenced by the Reformers hundreds of years ago.
The book includes artists’ depictions of the Reformers. Many of the pictures will be easily recognized and there are no attempts at portraying Christ in picture form. The descriptions of death, while accurate, are not overly graphic and a young child should not have difficulty understanding the event being described. Overall, Reformation Heroes gives a great summary of the work of the Spirit in the lives of the 15th and 16th century Reformers and how we build upon their work today.