Everyone raved about Dr. Dill. My friends who majored in history adored him as much as we English Literature majors adored Sister Nicholas — at least as much. So in my Senior year at Dominican University of California, I signed up for his Medieval History class. After all, history classes with Mr. Squires in high school delighted me so much that I took one just for fun.
Dr. Dill taught by straight lecture. I’d grown used to the more discussion oriented style of my English professors, so I struggled to pay attention to Dill’s monotone voice. Having a straight lecture class immediately after lunch in an upstairs classroom that stayed warm even in January didn’t help either.
The class bored me. Mr. Squires made me care about the Supreme Court rulings of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., but poor Dr. Dill simply couldn’t get me excited about the Great Schism or the Ottoman Empire. It wasn’t until nine years later, when I visited a 14th Century gravestone in Wales, that I regretted not paying attention to Dill’s lecturers.
So, contrary to popular opinion, I really do understand why most people feel an aversion to history. Most high school history teachers are more like Dr. Dill than Mr. Squires. Consequently, my blog posts on the Protestant Reformation generally leave my readers cold. I get it!
But I also get the fact that the Protestant Reformation was the greatest revival in church history. And it troubles me that most evangelicals simply couldn’t care less about it.
I’m troubled because I see an indifference to God’s Word (if not an illiteracy of Scripture) among professing evangelicals. Because evangelicals won’t look at church history, they don’t appreciate the restoration of God’s Word that the Protestant Reformation made possible. Therefore we take Scripture so much for granted that we manipulate, supplement and/or ignore it according to whatever evangelical trend strikes our fancy.
The Reformation happened because men gained access to the original Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. They saw how the Latin Vulgate translation misrepresented Paul’s teaching on justification. They saw how keeping Scripture exclusively in the hands of the clergy gave Rome too much power over people.
Of course, it’s easy to simplify the Reformation. Since I only understand history on a small scale, I admit that I don’t write some about the Reformation with much depth. But even a surface level understanding of the Reformation helps me cherish God’s Word as I never have before.
I am sure that most of you see history as dry and dusty. Sadly, my experience with Dr. Dill is more typical than not in regards to history, making people shy away from any discussion of the Reformation.
Please don’t let any high school or college experience with a boring history teacher turn you off to learning a little about the greatest revival in church history. I hope that my next two blog posts might help you consider the impact of the Protestant Reformation and its subsequent exaltation of God’s Word. Perhaps knowing the price the Reformers paid to ensure that laity could read the Bible for ourselves might deepen your appreciation for this Book that God has given us.