Bite-size history

Russell Powell

Ideas That Changed The World

Matthias Media 

If you have been leading a bible study group for a few years you will have tried most things. Chapter by chapter studies, devotional book studies, topical studies. You have probably done them all.

The rector of Annandale, Dominic Steele, has done us a great favour by giving us another alternative – one 500 years in the making.

In this Reformation anniversary year, Steele and Matthias Media have produced Ideas That Changed The World, a video series that is part history, part Bible study and part discussion starter.

Four main characters of the Reformation are profiled, along with their special part in Christian (and Western) history. Watching it, I was reminded of Francis Schaeffer’s How Should We Then Live? film series, or the more recent offerings on biblical archaeology and Western thought.

The difference with Ideas That Changed The World is that it is unashamedly theological. By this I mean that Dominic Steele is aiming, not for pre-evangelism or historical documentary, but to draw specific theological points from the Reformation and make sure his viewers understand their origins in the Bible, their profound historical influence and the changes they can make in your life today. Let’s leave it to the Oxford dons to do their anniversary histories (and no doubt excoriate Luther and Calvin) – this is bite-size Bible study with an historical background.

Steele travels to Europe and England to plot the course of these Reformation giants and sets the scene in the first segment of each of the four episodes: Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Bible Alone and Christ Alone. There’s space between segments for guided discussion and then, back in Sydney, he tells a little of his own journey of faith and draws conclusions. The differences between Catholic and Protestant theology are well handled, with insights from the presenter’s own experience growing up as a Catholic.

This is not Dominic Steele’s first video series. His Introducing God DVDs have been well used here and overseas. He was formerly a radio journalist, now turned preacher. As such, video is probably not his most comfortable medium and the early scenes reveal that. But by the time he mounts Calvin’s pulpit in Episode 2, he is into his stride and delivering a relaxed narrative.

The segments really move along so they hold the attention well. Filming makes the most of the historical locations and I particularly appreciated the snappy contributions of well-known faces such as Ashley Null, Kirsten Birkett and Mark Thompson. Andrew Atherstone from Wycliffe Hall in Oxford also gives some great insights, particularly in the segment about William Tyndale.

The DVDs are available for online purchase, along with workbooks for the discussion breaks. Given that we are nearly one quarter of the way through the Reformation’s 500th anniversary year the series is well timed to get your group on board and seize the opportunity to celebrate the theological cornerstones of our faith. Because, to paraphrase Roy and HG, “Too much Reformation is never enough”.

For more information on the series you can go to matthiasmedia.com.au

Above - In his shoes: Dominic Steele stands in John Calvin’s Geneva pulpit.