Banned Books

January was a really bad month for Protestant reformer Martin Luther, 500 years ago in 1521. In fact, the entire year was the wurst. (He was German you know.)

First, he was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Leo X after refusing to recant his writings. That was January 3.

Then a few weeks later on the 23rd, the RCC held a meeting at The Diet of Worms in Germany, which was the worst name for a meeting or place ever. Luther was branded a heretic, and his writings were banned.

Still, it took until April for everything to be final. In the end, Luther stated,

Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.

Most sources agree there is no evidence Luther said, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.”

I think it is good timing that we are allowed to ponder a 500-year anniversary of event in 2021. More than the pandemic, we are in a global crisis of faith: whether to stand strong and communicate the truth of Jesus Christ or submit to the forces who desire to stifle the truth.

The vast majority of Christian books in the world are written in English by people in the United States. While the United States is not the epicenter of Christianity in the world, it is most certainly the greatest provider of Christian reading material to the global church.

If you read about Luther after his dust-up with the Roman Catholic Church, you’ll discover some friends arranged his “kidnapping” since there was an order from the emperor that allowed anyone to kill Luther and not be prosecuted. So he spent the next weeks in Wartburg Castle, regaining his strength, writing, and working on the German translation of the Bible.

For writers of books with a Christian worldview and for those of us who work with them, the story of Luther has numerous lessons.

  1. Be direct. Just because Luther never said, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise,” doesn’t mean these words can’t be the mission statement for the rest of us. The world does not need veiled illusions of God. They need to be told clearly.
  2. Be courageous. If you get some pushback and resistance, remind yourself that the Spirit of God lives in you and you are not fighting alone.
  3. Be an encourager. Just as Luther survived because God placed various friends and supporters around him, you can be that type of person in another person’s life. I will always believe the best way to be encouraged is to encourage someone else.
  4. Be immovable. Maybe we need to remind ourselves regularly of the solas that characterized the Reformation: Sola scriptura (by Scripture alone), Sola fide (by faith alone), Sola gratia (by grace alone), and also a couple more added later, Solus Christus (Christ alone) and Soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone).

Anniversaries of important events and the events that make up the church calendar are there to remind us of what happened hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Without them, we would likely forget what God has done; and our lives would wither and blow here and there by the wind.

So stand.

29 Responses to Banned Books

  1. Darla Grieco January 28, 2021 at 5:23 am #

    Thanks, Mr. Balow. I needed that this morning.

  2. Gordon Palmer January 28, 2021 at 5:42 am #

    Thank you for that needed reminder about communicating the truth versus submitting “to the forces who desire to stifle the truth,” and “the world does not need veiled illusions of God.” Many times I feel the tug to soften what I write, not knowing if I’m doing that to get the message across more clearly, or if I’m holding back what needs to be said. Praying for more clarity. And welcome back to the team!

  3. Gordon Palmer January 28, 2021 at 5:44 am #

    Thank you also for that history about Martin Luther. I had no idea

  4. Rhonda Dragomir January 28, 2021 at 6:51 am #

    Thank you for this enlightening post about Martin Luther. In researching our family tree, my aunt discovered we are direct descendants of Luther, and I’m among those of the 17th generation. Fourteen of my ancestors in that family line were ministers or women married to ministers, as I am. What a heritage! I’ve prayed for courage to live, teach, and speak the truth boldly as he did.

  5. Shauna January 28, 2021 at 7:17 am #

    I am so thankful for you and your obedience to stir up the Remnant and in reminding us that Our God IS THE SAME YESTERDAY NOW AND FOREVER and so we are His Church or better said the Living Ecclesia! Your words have revealed that God’s moving in and throughout the world and nothing will stop His Love.

  6. Roberta Sarver January 28, 2021 at 7:40 am #

    Dan, what a challenge we have in this time of history. Thank you for your words of wisdom.

  7. Frank January 28, 2021 at 7:43 am #

    and God is not finished with us.

  8. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser January 28, 2021 at 7:45 am #

    I think we have a real problem here, not so much with governmental authority but with a technocracy that now has the ability to carry out extenive social engineering simply by shutting off platorms and information pathways.

    I hope it’s all right that, in the sonnet below, I made reference to verse 78 of the 4th Sura of the Qu’ran: “Wherever you are, death will find you, even if you are in looming towers”.

    It seems to fit.

    They have found the way to power,
    that their dreamscape be fulfilled;
    freedom’s trapped in looming tower
    to be hunted down and killed.
    It won’t be rifle-toting men
    to kill the First Amendment song;
    it will be done by stroke of pen
    at Google and at Amaon,
    for we have given them the tools
    to dictate that which we can see,
    and we will be judged as fools
    by a cold-eyed history
    as those who got what they deserved,
    their liberty left unpreserved.

    • Linda Riggs Mayfield January 28, 2021 at 11:55 am #

      Andrew, Today your sonnet was a hammer, and you “hit the nail on the head.” We live in troubled times in so many ways, and to those of us who consider ourselves communicators, the stakes are enormously high. As Dan challenged us, we must stand. But I fear that knowing exactly where to take a stand, and for what, will become increasingly difficult and contentious. Thank you for your post today.

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser January 28, 2021 at 6:41 pm #

        Linda, it’s not something I ever expected to write, and certainly never wanted to write it…but there are surreal and dangerous times.

        Not only for the de facto censorship in the technological marketplace, but in regard to actual physical safety. A couple of years ago a congressional representative urged her followers to make her political opponents ‘feel unwelcome’ in public through confrontation and harrasment, and rather than being censured, she has been celebrated, and emulated.

        Shades of kristallnacht. I hope I’m overstating the case, but think that perhaps the opposite is true.

        As Christians, we’re obliged to stand…but for sure, we need to know exactly where we’re standing, and I’ve got the feeling that pretty soon we’ll be up to our backsides in alligators.

  9. Peggy Rychwa/Sheryl Marcoux January 28, 2021 at 8:22 am #

    This is an encouraging post from a rare Christian agency that makes “no apology for specializing in books written from a Christian worldview” (Steve Laube). Christian writers must determine to do the same; otherwise, we’re useless salt.

  10. Ashley January 28, 2021 at 8:29 am #

    This is such an encouraging post. I want my writing to represent a Christ and be a light to others, despite what the world says or what’s popular. Thanks for the reminder that this is our job, to stand up, even in our writing, and share Jesus.

  11. Norma Brumbaugh January 28, 2021 at 8:43 am #

    So good. I especially appreciate #4. Thank you.

  12. Ellen Engbers January 28, 2021 at 8:44 am #

    A wonderful exhortation! I wrote this a long time ago but it came to mind after reading your timely post, Mr. Balow, so I will share it here. Perhaps it will be an encouragement to others?


    And having done all,
    to stand,

    There’s a place in the spirit
    underneath God’s sheltering Wing
    where a soul can find and meet
    The One Who is everything.
    The One Who returns to you
    more than Satan can take away,
    The One Who’ll make more of you
    than what you are today.
    For He is All in All
    The Omniscient I Am
    Suffering Servant, Priest, and King;
    I tell you now and evermore,
    He is Everything.

    Bring your heart’s cry to the Saviour,
    lay it all before His throne,
    lay your hopes and dreams,
    your loved ones at His feet.
    He is your One Redeemer,
    your One Eternal home,
    The One you set your eyes upon
    until the race is done,
    until the battle’s won
    and all the witnesses
    and the heavenly hosts
    cry aloud with thunderous voice,
    Rejoice, Rejoice, REJOICE!

    And having done all,
    We stand,
    We rejoice!

  13. Laura Selinsky January 28, 2021 at 9:02 am #

    I am genuinely puzzled. To which specific Christian books do you refer as having been banned? And maybe you are including books that are “challenged,” which is the term when someone says “This book gets on my nerves, please remove it,” and the library says “no.” Please, tell us which specific Christian books are banned or challenged.
    Here’s the most recent list of banned and challenged books. The only Christian book on the list is the Bible itself, which someone is always challenging and which is never actually removed from anywhere. The Bible remains the most broadly available of books; every translation is available online for free. The King James is in every standard British Literature textbook, thus it’s in the curriculum of almost every high school, public or private, in the country.

    • Dan Balow January 28, 2021 at 9:15 am #

      The title? Click bait. I was referring to Martin Luther’s writing which were banned and destroyed. Wasn’t intending this to be a discussion of the other issue. I am not that provocative!

      • Steve Laube January 28, 2021 at 3:28 pm #

        Don’t forget that Jeremiah’s writings were burned as they were read to King Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 36 – see verse 23).

        Not sure if the prophet had saved a copy of his manuscript. But he had to write it all again (verse 28).

        i jokingly claim that God invented the Cloud Backup before humanity did. “Cloud”… get it?

  14. Wendy January 28, 2021 at 11:14 am #

    I wonder if, with once-hidden agendas now coming to light, the ability of publishers to buy manuscripts only to bury them might become the norm. Companies funded by ungodly agents will not miss the income from book sales, if given enough incentive to silence a Christian message. Perhaps Steve Laube would consider expanding his publishing business, to keep the Word going forth?

    • Dan Balow January 28, 2021 at 2:46 pm #

      The first part of your note cannot happen. Every contract requires an accepted manuscript be published within a certain period of time or it reverts back to the author.

      Certainly we are in a battle, but I also know who will win the war and that sure hope gives me joy!

      • Wendy January 29, 2021 at 3:43 pm #

        True, Dan. One way or another, God’s purposes always prevail.

    • Steve Laube January 28, 2021 at 3:25 pm #

      The clause Dan refers to happened to one of my clients. A book had been accepted (and monies paid) by the publisher…before they read it carefully. Found out there was a paragraph they didn’t like. Wanted the author to change it. The author refused. The publisher refused to publish it.

      Thus 18 months later, by contract, the rights reverted to the author. We took the same manuscript and sold it to another publisher in less than a week. The book was published and sold over 50,000 copies.

      • Wendy January 29, 2021 at 3:59 pm #

        That’s encouraging, Steve; thanks for sharing.

        Although I’m not fond of delays (who is?), I’ve found there’s always a good purpose behind them.

  15. Kristen Joy Wilks January 28, 2021 at 11:15 am #

    An important reminder that I write for God alone first. Yes, I hope that others will read my words and I want to consider the needs of my reader. But first, I am God’s and my first responsibility is to Him. Not friends and family or other Christians, but God.

  16. Joy Godbold January 28, 2021 at 1:06 pm #

    Dan, thank you especially for #3. I’ve been obsessing about what to write in the “Comps” section of my book proposal, specifically “why this book is needed.” Your article crystallized its role as “Encouragement.”

  17. Lynda Irons January 28, 2021 at 1:13 pm #

    Amen and amen!!

  18. red January 28, 2021 at 7:34 pm #

    You may keep your diet of worms. I’m into hamburgers and fried chicken. I’ve heard a lot of dirty on Pastor Luther, most of it is pure fertilizer. One anti-Semitic article he wrote may have been written by a Nazi forger. It has no fingerprints on it. Nor to the other works attributed to him that are anti-Semitic. When debating this, one more thing comes up, it was German Lutherans who fought Hitler to the bitter end. Many a pastor and priest went to their deaths for it.

  19. Karen Ingle January 29, 2021 at 7:05 am #

    Thank you for this encouragement to stand firm. Much of my freelance writing as well as my fiction WIPs deal with a field of loving our neighbors that has been highly politicized and targeted for takedown by some rising to power at this time. You have shored up my courage to keep on writing.

  20. Kathy January 30, 2021 at 2:42 pm #

    These are great lessons from Luther’s life! As a Christian History teacher, I appreciated this post a lot!

  21. February 6, 2021 at 6:43 pm #

    A great encouragement after a negative message from one of my readers. It is difficult to word things these days without offending someone. But then I get two positives from others. The Lord knows how to keep us going for Him.

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