Monday, October 25, 2010

Book Review: The Unquenchable Flame

For most people, Protestants especially, the Reformation is a bit of a confused blur. Fragments of information are held, but without knowing how they fit together. So perhaps you know something about Martin Luther, Archbishop Cranmer and the Pope, but how does it all fit together? What was it all about, at the end of the day, particularly when some are claiming that the Reformation is over (or shouldn't have happened under the new perspective on Paul)?

Michael Reeves has written a fairly short, snappy, and suitable introduction to the Reformation, and is perhaps one of the best books I've read this year. From a short, dramatic prologue, your appetite is whetted, and the book propels you into the turbulent times of the 16th century.

As well as introducing you to the key personalities (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Tyndale, Cranmer, the Puritans and a few others), and what they did and said, Reeves presents the issues and doctrines at stake in a clear and helpful way. Alongside the important doctrines, there are some nice witty touches. For example, 'Allowing Luther such freedom with a Bible was a move Rome would soon profoundly regret, but for now, Luther became a teacher of the Bible at the brand new university of Wittenberg.'

Reeves is careful and considered in his writing, though, recognising some of the problems associated with the Reformers while appreciating their stand for true doctrine. His analysis of the Puritans is particularly penetrating, seeing their 'attempt to enforce strict Christian behaviour on a nation' as one of the reasons the Commonwealth under Cromwell ultimately failed.

All in all, this book is an excellent introduction to the history of the Reformation period. Lots of ground is covered with good explanation, but in a clear and accessible way. Both highly recommended and heartwarming!

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