Having previously reviewed and enjoyed this great little book by Mike Reeves, I was both professionally and personally delighted that IVP has re-released it for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. What follows is an updated, expanded and hopefully more comprehensive review.
This excellent book is now republished with a new cover and foreword – which means I hope it will be read by a new generation of readers. Mark Dever’s foreword alone is worth something, at least to Reformed folk like me, as he summarizes the purpose and power of this book really well, and simply. I love his vision for missional unity:
“The authority of the Bible has ensured that millions upon millions of Protestants have believed and shared the same gospel for centuries. An Assembly of God missionary in the Philippines, an Anglican minister in Sydney or Tanzania, a Baptist pastor in Brazil, a Lutheran minister in St Louis, a Presbyterian minister in Scotland, a Korean missionary in Stockholm or an inter-denominational pastor in Dubai may have never met. They may never be a part of the same earthly organization, but, unlike what Rome feared would happen, they are now, and will remain, united in the gospel of Jesus Christ“
This is the future picture that Reeves so beautifully paints in the present, informed by the past, of fidelity and unity in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This book is one I’d highly recommend. By Mike Reeves, the lovable (brain the size of a planet and a sense of humour) former head of Theology for UCCF and present President of Union School of Theology, this is a book about Church History that everyone can love. It is a book that is part narrative, part history, and part comment. This is a book that seeks to look at who the Reformers were, and why they were involved in such a radical movement.
Reeves is a good writer – combining humour, insight and fact in such a way that its enjoyable to read about obscure theological issues. But that is to disparage the subject matter. This book is about one of the most important parts of Church History – the Reformation. It’s one of the reasons I ended up writing about Calvin for my undergraduate dissertation – and it goes to the heart of a range of conversations I’ve found myself having on multiple occasions in the context of CU fellowship, CU evangelism, Church fellowship, and general life!
There is, it seems, a bit of popular misunderstanding of issues like Justification – here is my review of a great book outlining and exploring five different perspectives – which was the issue at the heart of the Reformation. There are many people who don’t think Church History is relevant – or think that it was all pointless – this book shows why it matters. There are many who don’t understand the distinction between Christianity and Catholicism – this book engages with the root of the differences. This book, stuck in the past, is urgently needed in the modern day.
The book is laid out broadly chronologically – starting with the context and background of the Reformation. There are then three chapters about key figures – one each for Martin Luther and John Calvin, and one about Zwingli and the Radical Reformation. Reeves does a great job of showing the common thread and the various differences between the figureheads of the Reformation movement. The final three chapters deal with the Reformation in Britain, the Puritans, and the final one asks the challenging question, “Is the Reformation Over?“. It’s followed by a timeline and some suggestions for further reading.
For anyone asking or thinking about the issues I’ve mentioned above, for anyone considering studying theology at university, or anyone thinking about what they might like to read over the summer, “An Unquenchable Flame” is a great primer on this crucial part of Western and Church History. Published by IVP, you can get it from them directly or off Amazon. Highly Recommended!