Book Review by Hayden Schultz of Alister McGrath’s Reformation Thought: An Introduction.

McGrath, Alister E. Reformation Thought: An Introduction. 3rd ed. Blackwell, 1999 (Reprint 2004). 329 pp., $15.37


The book is Reformation Thought: An Introduction, 3rd edition, written by Alister E. McGrath. It addresses the social and intellectual movements, primarily theological, that both led to and propelled forward the European Protestant Reformation of the 16th and early 17th centuries. The author was, at the time of publication, Professor of Historical Theology and Principal of Wycliffe Hall at Oxford University. He currently holds the Andreas Idreos Professorship of Science and Religion at Oxford, and is Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion. The author, an Evangelical Anglican who previously served as a priest in the Church of England, addresses the issues relevant to the Reformation in a way that is academically even-handed. The sources utilized vary widely, from modern studies to 16th-century texts to even earlier works. He also makes substantial use of scholarly works that were not written in English.

He does offer input on which historical theories he finds most plausible, but achieves a pleasantly high amount of objectivity in his assertions, as evidenced below. Although the book is a broad overview, his thesis is one of inclusion and moderation; he claims that the Reformation was primarily a religious movement guided by a distinct set of ideas and that sociopolitical influences were present but not primary. This is contrasted with other views that see the Reformation primarily as a social movement.

McGrath introduces the historical and philosophical setting pre-Reformation in the first four chapters before briefly offering biographies of five early Reformers in the fifth. From there, he covers some of the central doctrines of the Reformation roughly in the middle third of the book. These treatments compare and contrast the views of the various Reformers, as well as treating the development of the doctrines chronologically during this time, when appropriate. The final section addresses some miscellaneous topics, such as the political thought of the Reformers and the widespread effects of the Reformation. In this way, McGrath furthers his thesis by placing the theological and philosophical views and consequent events in the context of the sociopolitical situation of the time, while recognizing the prominence of theology.

For the first section (historical), McGrath begins by elucidating the severe condition of the Roman Catholic Church at the beginning of the 16th century. He cites examples like Pope Alexander VI “having several mistresses and seven children”, and Machiavelli blaming the moral laxity of renaissance Italy on the example of the Church (3). The distinction is made that there was already a general call for the administrative and moral reform of the Church; Luther and Calvin simply added theological grievances. Thus, Luther’s reforms following the 95 Theses did not spring out of nowhere, but had a solid non-theological basis to build upon, which can explain the rapture with which some Germans embraced his ideas. The influential roles of ad fontes, Humanism, and Scholasticism are addressed in chapters three and four, and assist in providing the intellectual context for the reformer’s ideas.

The second section (doctrinal) includes several of the dominant theological doctrines at the forefront of the Reformation, including justification by faith, Scripture, sacraments, church, and predestination. Although the five Sola’s are not all explicitly mentioned, they all are present in one form or another. In the chapter on justification by faith, McGrath held true to his thesis by exploring the social implications of this view, mentioning specifically Tetzel’s appeal to people’s guilt and the subsequent removal of this guilt regarding purgatory. McGrath rightly states “it is little wonder that Luther’s views… were received with great interest by so many laity at the time” (118). The third section (miscellaneous issues) for four chapters addresses political theory, the spread of the Reformation’s ideas, the English Reformation, and the long-term effects of the Reformation. These chapters offer a broader view of the Reformation than would otherwise have been afforded if the discussion had exclusively focused on theology, and complete McGrath’s thesis by offering yet more context for, and applications of, the theology.

McGrath states outright that the Reformation “was a movement based upon a more or less coherent set of ideas, which were believed to be capable of functioning as the foundation of a programme of reform” (x). This part of his thesis finds good support in the example of Martin Luther, who clearly took ad fontes seriously enough to believe it to be a sound foundation capable of supporting a consequent theological position. Because of this and the other examples above, I believe the thesis is well defended. The fact that McGrath addresses other scholar’s theories and viewpoints throughout the book also lends support to his assertions, as they clearly were not made in intellectual isolation. Even when quoting sources that he disagrees with, he carefully mentions why he does so, as in the case of Andrew Dickson White’s assertions regarding Calvin’s view of the natural sciences (273). Although most of the chapters were arranged topically, he dealt with each topic in a roughly chronological manner, thereby avoiding some of the potential pitfalls of ignoring chronology.

the book was well written as a whole; it was generally very clear, and there were even a few bits of humor. However, the style is academic in nature and the language is dry. The average layperson could read this book and understand the content, but this would take some time. Additionally, the author adds historical minutiae which, though they demonstrate his historical expertise, are excessive for the non-scholarly audience. One somewhat minor example is the mention of later Calvinism portraying Calvin’s theology in the “rigorously logical structures suggested by the Aristotelian methodology favoured by the later Italian Renaissance” (135). It is unlikely that anyone but scholars would find these statements or longer examinations of detailed historical theories valuable. That being said, the content was clearly stated, but the book would be improved if it were more concise.

Overall, this book provides a good summary of Reformation thought. McGrath’s straightforward writing presents the material in a manner that is almost always clear. He deals with the Reformers fairly; while he praises Luther’s recovery of justification by faith, he admits that “Luther was no political thinker” (227). His commitment to providing space for interacting with other scholars also mitigates potential bias, such as his use of David C. Steinmetz’s scholarship (226-227) and Heiko A. Oberman (79). One stylistic weakness is that in its relative neutrality, it does not show the exciting nature of the material as often as it might. I would recommend this book to undergraduate students interested in the theology of the Protestant Reformers, but they will have to go elsewhere to find a book that includes devotional aspects of the theology. However, for an overview of the intellectual and social events before and during the Reformation, as well as the consequences of both, this is a useful and well-researched resource.

Reviewed by Hayden Schultz (Biola University)


Book Review by Sherwin Salonga of Stephen Nichols’ The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World.

Here’s another book review by my student Sherwin Salonga.

Nichols, Stephen J. The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World. Wheaton: Crossway, 2007. $14.99

how monk

The Author of How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World is Stephen J. Nichols. The author has taken another method to explain the Reformation in a way where it matters and the Reformation can be fun. Martin Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin were some of the key members that Nichols wrote about in this book. Nichols has a Ph.D. for Theological Seminary from Westminster. Located at Lancaster Bible College and Graduate College is where Nichols teaches theology. Turning to the Appendix part of the book, Nichols lists down his sources with the title “In Their Own Words.” Luther’s Ninety Five Thesis and Calvin’s work is a part of Nichols Appendix. Other Reformation prayers, confessions, and documents are listed as well.

The book contains eight chapters talking about the Reformation. He gives a brief description of important dates and characters in the Reformation. In the first chapter, Nichols explains how the Reformation matters today. Nichols writes that, “The Reformers also revolutionized the daily life outside the church. They gave new meaning to work and to various roles—spouses, parents, and children, employees and employers; civic rulers and citizens” (19). Reformation took a stand and was known for believing that the Word of God was the final authority in everything. Also, the Reformation brought the new idea that justification was through faith in Christ alone.

In the next chapter, Nichols talks about the German Reformation with Martin Luther. He explains the important event of the 95 Theses that Martin Luther did. Nichols proclaims, “Luther’s act gave birth to the Protestant church, now nearly 600 million members strong. Luther’s act brought the world out of medieval times and into the modern age” (11). In the next chapter, Nichols talks about the Swiss Reformation and Zwingli. The Anabaptist, Anglicans, British Reformation, and John Calvin follow. Chapter six talks about the British Reformation and how it started with a king and a divorce. Blood was a key factor in the British Reformation with wars and killings.

With the chapter title of “Men in Black”, Nichols talks about the Puritans. He gives them the right credit that they were theologians, politicians, soldiers, farmers, and scholars. He provided an informative chart on page 110. He also talks about their weaknesses. In the last chapter, Nichols includes the women of the Reformation in his book. This was not common and mentioning the women was not as common in explaining the church history. He mentions women like Katherine Zell. She married a clergyman and was the first one to do so. Her beliefs and writings were unique. She wrote about how women should remain strong and smart. During the age of the Reformation, a statement of women having power was impactful. Nichols also included Marie Dentiere. She had a big influence on the Genevan politics and religion. She preached with big named Reformers such as John Calvin. Nichols writes, “Steven Ozment has led the way for the view that the elevation of women and marriage and families is nearly the singular achievement of the Reformation’s impact of culture” (127).

Nichols speaks upon important events and theology that came from the Reformation such as the doctrine of sola gratia (grace alone). Connecting with the second doctrine, the third one is sola fide (faith alone). Those two components are the only factors for a person’s salvation. Solus Christus explains that Christ is the only way to the Father God. Soli Deo Gloria means the glory of God alone. This means that everything one person does should be aimed to glorify God alone. Christians and non-Christians alike should read this book; for, the Reformation is an important part of history. Nichols then moves on with Martin Luther with his mallet nailing the Ninety Five Thesis. He explains the German Reformation with Martin Luther being the main person of that section. Nichols then moves on to the Swiss Reformation with Zwingli as the hero of this section. Then includes the Anabaptists, the Anglican, British Reformation, Puritans, the women, and John Calvin. This book is a short eight chapter book explaining each of these movements in the Reformation. Nichols reminds us before the books ends that “their stories have too often gone untold. The church today can only benefit by telling and retelling them again”

Nichols last section of his book included a “Reformation Scorecard.” The entire book is in a chart format. This is where he gives different regions of the Reformation, important events, writings that happened and the key players of each place. It is a handy tool for a person to go back to.

I enjoyed the book more than I expected. Nichols gives a different approach to presenting a subject like the Reformation. For the Reformation is an important aspect to history, Nichols does a good job to keep the readers engaged to keep reading. The book itself is small yet it contains a lot of important information. This book is not only a historical book but it is practical. Nichols puts it best writing “these doctrine form the bedrock of all that we believe, and the Reformers give these doctrines their finest expression” 18. There were very few weaknesses that I can point out. It was a short book that explains a significant amount about the Reformation. One that I can think of would be if a reader wants more facts than this brief book. If a person is looking for a more facts based book then this book would not be for them.

Nichols explains the solas of the Reformers, which I found helpful. The first doctrine was sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). Scripture was the final authority in a person’s life and in the church. This is a good way to start the book because it gets straight to the point of how the Reformation matters today. The other solas Nichols included were: sola gratia (grace alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), and soli Deo gloria (the glory of God alone).

I strongly recommend book for a non-Christian to read because they can see God from another perspective. I believe that the church that people see is a legalistic church. People may feel like God is a master that one person gives up their life to by force or without joy. The Reformation is can turn anyone’s life around. There are numerous of drawings and notes which can make it easy to go back to or teach.

 Nichols used his resources in an academic way. He provides things such as “In Their Own Words.” He lists his sources in the Appendix, which is useful for future references. He provides a chart of an overview of the entire Reformation he wrote about it. He challenges the readers to take this subject seriously and not take it for granted. He writes, “Congregations didn’t sing in the centuries leading up to the Reformation. In face, Jan Hus, one of the pre-Reformation Reformers, was condemned as a heretic for, among other things, having his congregation sing. Luther and other Reformers restored congregational singing to the church.” Something simple as singing was not allowed in church and depending on some areas in life in general. The Reformers has changed history for the everyday life as much as the church life. I recommend this book to anything that is interested in history.

Reviewed by Sherwin Salonga (Biola University)


Book Review by Zack Rood of Kenneth Appold’s The Reformation.

Over the next week I will be posting the excellent book reviews that my Advanced Study: Reformation Theology class wrote at Biola University. This one is by Zack Rood.

Kenneth G. Appold. The Reformation: A Brief History, First Edition. United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. 203 pages. $35.95


Kenneth G. Appold in his book The Reformation: A Brief History, deals with history of the development and advancement of the Reformation. Appold uses all the different aspects of historical, theological, social, economic, and political to convey a rounded story of the Reformation. He particularly focuses on the political role in the formation of the Reformation both negatively and positively. Kenneth G. Appold is a professor of Reformation history at Princeton Theological Seminary. He has an academic career on the history of Christianity and received his Ph.D from Yale. He is also the author of Orthodoxie als Konsensbildung. and Abraham Calov’s Doctrine of Vocatio in Its Systematic Context. He relied heavily on the use of academic journals and works for the sources used in this book. His background in history really shows in this book as the historical events and role of politics takes the spotlight in this summary of the Reformation.

In his book Appold argues for the complexity of the situations that occurred to bring out the Reformation and allow it live and ultimately thrive in the age of Christianization. To support his claims he relies heavily on historical facts and with this is able to bring a unique perspective to the Reformation. Appold breaks up the book into three parts; the history of Christianization, Luther Phenomenon, and the Reformations Establishment. In the first part of the book focuses on the history of the Christianization and the many events that brought Catholicism to the point where it developed during the Reformation. This chapter helped contextualize the development of traditions of the Catholic Church such as indulgences. Appold points out were the idea of indulgences is first seen in the Germanic tribes with the idea of blood money where they assigned a price to a life that was owed to the family for forgiveness of the death (15). It is insightful facts such as this one that are present throughout the first chapter that helps give a sense of the context of influence behind the development of the Church. Part two focuses on the rise of Luther and how his actions brought upon change but also the way in which the Catholic Church handled his challenges that were also highly important if not just as important to stimulate the extreme change that occurred in Christendom. This part also briefly goes over the theological ideas that Luther had developed and his use (if not necessity) of politics to help push this reform. The third part of the book touches the different sections of the reformation that occurred and it is during this section where a variety of different influences can be seen in the formation of the reforms. In a contrast to Luther who saw politics as a way to push the Reformation the Anabaptists and the peasant revolts took a different approach and saw the need to rebel from and abolish the rulers instead of use them for reform.

Throughout the book Appold was able to accomplish what he set out to do, give a better perspective of the influences of the Reformation focusing on more than the individual leaders. The strongest points he had to offer were on the key role politics played throughout the reformation whether it was for political or religious regions it is ultimately one of the biggest parts of the formation of the Reformation. Appold’s book was written in a clear and concise manner that made it easy to read and comprehend. He was able to take all the different aspects of the Reformation and put them clearly into one flowing narrative. However, one major movement of the Reformation that was missing was the English Reformation. Not including this Reformation movement that was so involved with the government was surprising. What could have contributed to the lack of the English Reformation was in his studies Appold studied in France and Germany causing him to focus on the history of continental Europe leaving England out of his interests.

Kenneth G. Appold presents an exceptionally good representation of the many different factors that were present and influencing and ultimately shaped the Reformation into what it was. All the parts were necessary in the development of the Reformation from the individual leaders to the governments all the way down to the ideology of the common person. The major strength of this book is the historical context that it brings to the Reformation that many other sources lack or don’t take the time to get into, because of this it also has weaknesses. The major weakness is the lack of theological focus on the individual movements while it does touches on the major views of each sect of Reformers this is not the source to go to get a better understanding of their beliefs. I would recommend using this source as a starter for looking more into the outside aspects of culture and politics as well as general context and the role it played in the formation of both the Church and the Reformation. It would also be wise to get a complete grasp of what occurred during the Reformation to accompany this reading with a secondary source with a greater focus on the theology and the individual leaders. The ease of accesses while reading this book makes it the best source to truly grasp the complexity that is the Reformation.

Reviewed by Zack Rood (Biola University)

Book Review by Jasmine Rodriguez of Ulinka Rublack’s Reformation Europe

Over the next week I will be posting the excellent book reviews that my Advanced Study: Reformation Theology class wrote at Biola University. This one is by Jasmine Rodriguez.

Ulinka Rublack. Reformation Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press. 226 pages. $34.99.


Ulinka Rublack’s Reformation Europe of the Cambridge University Press’s New Approaches to European History series discusses the Reformation in Europe in a rather different light than other historical outlines. Her writings on the topic of the Reformation allow the audience to critically think from the Reformer’s point of view rather than simply ingesting facts of the history from the Reformation era. Rublack was born in Germany and has taught at Cambridge University for almost twenty years. Her primary research interest include sixteenth and seventeenth century culture, visual, and material aspects, the European Reformation, gender and society, as well as methodological concerns. She is currently the sole editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of the Protestant Reformation which combines 34 contributors together.

In Reformation Europe Rublack states that, “Reformation history can no longer be plausibly written from a partisan perspective” (but rather from asking important and challenging questions. From the Prologue, Rublack asks two main questions to put into context: “How did Luther and Calvin, who seem so strange to us in many respects nowadays, manage to gain any influence at all? What did their new religious ‘truths’ mean for people in their everyday lives?” Thus, the purpose of Reformation Europe is to propose the two arguments that “the success of Lutheranism and Calvinism can be analyzed only by restoring to Wittenberg and Geneva a sense of place and personality” as well as the argument that “Protestant identities which developed in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe do not fit the image of a more ‘modern’ religion.” (10)

Along with the prologue and epilogue, the book is divided into four chapters. With Rublack’s interest of sixteenth century visual aspects, she opens with the “Prologue: Prophecy” with Lukas Cranach’s visual of the ‘Pope-Ass’ as an “icon of Protestant propaganda.”(1) Along with briefly describing in the Prologue the religious world-views as well as the political and social history at the time of the Reformation, her unique use of the beginning visual sets the insulting tone of how Luther, Calvin, and their followers felt about the Pope and the structure of the Roman Catholic Church.

In order to go about the arguments that Rublack stated and to understand the Reformation, she states that it is necessary “to begin to locate” the works of Martin Luther and Jean Calvin in Wittenberg and Geneva.(10) Thus, the first chapter titled “Martin Luther’s Truths” introduces and focuses on Luther and the impact his works in Wittenberg had on his legacy as a notable Reformer. It was focused that Luther’s greatest influence stemmed from his teachings as a professor at Wittenberg University where he was considered as ‘the sworn doctor of the Bible’ who created a network of graduates that also took along his ideas and thoughts in what the author describes as a ‘student reformation.’ Rublack states that Martin Luther’s influence in history “happened accidentally and through the power of specific places and people.”(61) She backs this argument up with facts that Wittenberg was merely a dot on a map and that the close proximity of people allowed Luther to obtain many relationships including those who were members of the Elector of Saxony’s household and other townspeople. This also allowed Luther to become a successful theological teacher that enabled his to oversee eleven monasteries. The rise of the printing press also was noted in this chapter although Rublack suggests that Luther’s “careful consideration how appearances and modes of speaking might help his convey his message in different contexts.”(49) Luther’s charisma to communicate the message to other trumped over the use of modern printing technology during his legacy in the Reformation.

“The Age of Heterodoxy” of the second chapter then picks up from the idea of Martin Luther and the critical responses that spurred the thoughts of other notable Reformers. Rublack goes on to briefly discuss others such as Charles V, Erasmus, Zwingli, Margaret of Navarre, and Martin Bucer. The works and idea from each of these individuals were discussed based on the critiques or acceptance of doctrine established by Martin Luther. Although some rejected or agreed with his doctrines, those like Erasmus found Luther’s teachings as respectable but still remained within the Roman Catholic Church. The debate against free will and salvation between Luther and Erasmus shows that although the Reformed thinkers had differences in their outlooks of the Catholic Church, it could be argued that some were based off personal struggles rather than reason or theory.

The third chapter on “Calvinism” contains the same structure as chapter one but places Jean Calvin in his Geneva context. The sixteenth century Reformer had notable differences than that of the fifteenth century Martin Luther. Calvin began to “build institutions and used the authority of civic institutions and their resources effectively.” (144) Calvin used this method to his advantage and suggested to Geneva that “his Protestantism as vital to solving local political problems and securing social order”.(113) This idea goes back to Rublack’s idea of “right time, right place” of these Reformers and their surrounding context.

The final chapter of “The Truths of Everyday Life” relate back to Rublack argument that Protestantism was not a more “modern” religion nor was it a more rational one. One of the boldest statements that could be taken to offense to those who admire the works of Luther or Calvin stated that Protestantism was “fired by emotion – by anxieties about God’s punishment, by the determination to explain why there was so much suffering in the world and the deeply felt wish for everybody’s salvation, and by intensely private emotion about life and life changes.”(113) In Luther’s case, inner spiritual struggles had an effect on his outward profession of faith as well as depiction of the Catholic Church. His most notable instance of spiritual struggled stemmed from his fear of God when nearly being struck by a lightning bolt which then lead to his “tower experience” of the importance of Scripture. The same in turmoil could have been said for Calvin for his spiritual anguish and disconnect with the Lord through the Catholic Church. Rublack backs her idea by putting the material use into effect by using factual sermons, martyrs, and symbols.

 Reformation Europe by Ulinka Rublack brought up many great questions and thoughts. Although stating the in the last chapter that Protestantism was merely created by emotion may cause controversial debates in the Christian community, it is a great critical statement to allow some time to process on. From a Catholic perspective, it is helpful to understand and ask these types of questions as well to grasp a better understanding of the division of the Catholic Church and Protestantism of the Reformation. Although some may argue that Rublack lack of theological analysis of Catholicism and Protestantism hinders her ideas, it can be refreshing to step away from differentiating the theological views of denominations and look at the core values of the Reformers who started it all. On another note, Rublack’s lack of organization throughout her book does need some improvement. With so much content to cover, some of the brief commentaries did not flow well in parts of each section. Although because of the book’s brief analysis, this may allow the reader to grasp the concept that Rublack had intended for her audience easily. Overall, I would recommend this book maybe as not a primary textbook for undergraduate students but as a secondary reading for students to critically think through the ideas of the Reformers and their impact on the Reformation in Europe.

Reviewed by Jasmine Rodriguez (Biola University)

Book Review by Luke Mountain of Euan Cameron’s The European Reformation.

Over the next week I will be posting the excellent book reviews that my Advanced Study: Reformation Theology class wrote at Biola University. Here’s one by Luke Mountain.

Cameron, Euan. The European Reformation. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991 (2012). 616 pages. $47.95 .


This book review is on The European Reformation, written by Euan Cameron. The European Reformation gives a complete account of the Reformation that took place in Europe during the sixteenth century. Euan Cameron gives a broad and detailed analysis of the Reformation from the individual Reformers and their message, the establishment of the reformed churches, and the growing community beyond the Reformation. Euan Cameron’s theme for The European Reformation is to comprehensively describe the entirety of the Reformer’s protests to the Catholic Church across Europe and the political changes that came along with it. Euan Cameron is a distinguished scholar who studied at Eton and Oxford. He is a Doctor of Philosophy and is the Professor of Reformation Church History at Union Theological Seminary in New York and holds the same position in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. Cameron also served as the academic vice-president of the seminary. He is also an ordained deacon and priest in the Episcopal Church. Cameron applies critical scholarship to his writing using sources and literature from all the major Western European languages, being thoroughly extensive in his research.

Euan Cameron’s work in The European Reformation offers a comprehensive study of sixteenth century Christianity. The first six chapters of Cameron’s book gives a background of the European Reformation. Euan Cameron describes the religion of the people of Europe, “Medieval Christianity formed a vast, diverse, and seamless texture.” (11) He then describes the vulnerability of the Church and the economic problems that it faced. This is crucial to Cameron’s work in a comprehensive study of Reformation Europe because the economy of the sixteenth century led to the problems the Church faced. Cameron also considers if the reform from within is a lost cause and the ‘unreformable’ bishops and the secular clergy. In chapter four Cameron says, “The Late Medieval Church was its own sternest critic; however, it was also exposed to external challenges, political, legal, moral, and institutional…” in order to consider the challenges from outside and their limits. (54) Cameron in chapter five considers heresy and uses the following quotation in his work, “One who does not consent to the decrees of the apostolic see is deemed to be a heretic.” (207) The Church and the Christian soul is covered in chapter six in Cameron’s account of the European Reformation. In these pages he considers the lifelong cycle of sin, absolution, and penance. He also explains the theologies of justification and the matters within the Church.

Chapters seven through thirteen consider the Reformers and their message. In chapter seven Cameron moves on to the Reformers and their message. He begins with Martin Luther and discusses how the Reformation message spreads and diversifies throughout Europe. Cameron outlines the development and influences of Martin Luther. One of the main characters that rejected the Reformation was Erasmus as Cameron says, “Erasmus rejected Luther’s speculations on free will as ‘irreverent inquisitiveness’ into ‘things which are hidden, not to say superfluous.’” (134) Cameron then outlines the aspects of the Reformers’ message, which are salvation, scripture, the church, and the sacraments. He does so considering the human race, sin, and the law as well as faith in its nature and object. Scripture was invaluable to the Reformers message as they pitted the authority of Scripture against the authority of the Church. Cameron explains the Reformers set up the authority of “‘the Word’ against that of an institutional church.” (163) Cameron uses chapter twelve to describe the Church as the ‘community of the faithful and explains the Reformers’ choice of preaching ministers over priests. Cameron defines the sacraments by stating, “Most agreed on two basic components in a true ‘sacrament’: a promise of God, to which a sign was added”.(184) Cameron concludes this section explaining how the Reformers’ message corresponds to baptism, the communion, and rejecting the rest of the sacraments.

Chapters fourteen through seventeen consider the establishment of the reformed churches. In chapter fourteen Cameron considers the reformed cause in Germany and their communal movements in his comprehensive study of Reformation Europe. He then discusses the urban Reformation of Germany as well as Switzerland and the introduction of new ideas in the cities. In order to be exhaustive in his work Cameron also analyzes the political pressures of these reforms and the unsuccessful civic Reformation movements that took place. Cameron also covers the German Princes, Scandinavian Kingdoms, and the fragmented kingdoms of Eastern-Central Europe. Further, the text covers the Partial Reformation of England and the delayed Reformations of France and Scotland before 1559. Cameron concludes this section on the establishment of the reformed churches by considering the motives for it. Some of motives as Cameron explains might be wealth or power, an appeal to classes or social structures, or answering a spiritual need. Ultimately, what the reformed churches accomplish however is reformed preaching honoring the lay population.

In the last chapters of the book Cameron discusses what happens beyond the Reformation movement. Chapter eighteen reviews the Radical and Anabaptist movements and rejecting the ‘coalition.’ Cameron also explains the new heresies in Eastern Europe as well as religious and social teaching in order to cover the comprehensive study of the European Reformation. Cameron uses chapter nineteen to further explore politics and political theory. The study of rebellion and martyrs or Warriors of the Gospel as Cameron said is also important to the knowledge of sixteenth century Europe. The second to last chapter considers the ‘Confessional’ Reformation and the Reformers at odds. This includes the Lutheran controversies, Germany’s ‘confessional’ movement, and the reform movements in the British Kingdoms and France and the low countries. In the last chapter Cameron analyzes the importance of the lay-people for the Reformers in building a religious culture. He discusses instilling correct doctrine and the new standards of piety and Godliness. Before his conclusion Cameron considers the lay-people’s response also.

Euan Cameron proves his thesis throughout the entire book in providing a broad overview of the European Reformation. He is continually building upon the theme of comprehensively describing the entirety of the Reformer’s protests to the Catholic Church across Europe and the political changes that came along with it. Cameron uses countless evidences to support all the conclusions that he makes about the Reformation. All of the textual evidence he uses as well backs the claims about the Reformers. Sources were integrated multiple ways into The European Reformation by Euan Cameron. His notes/bibliography section at the end of his book was 107 pages long so it is fair to say he was comprehensive in his study and use of sources. The book was written extremely well and integrated the numerous sources efficiently and effectively. However because of its comprehensiveness The European Reformation by Euan Cameron loses some detail. Cameron could have done a better job in considering each major Reformer and what they accomplished for the Reformation. Instead the work mainly covers Luther and his contributions. However, for the goal it set out to accomplish in being a comprehensive study of the Reformation as a whole, there is not much I think Cameron could have done better.

I agree with the conclusions that Cameron made about the Reformation. While Cameron did leave certain aspects of one’s opinion about the Reformers up to interpretation the conclusions he makes about the Reformers positions and history is so well backed by sources it would be difficult to disagree with him. One of the major strengths of the work was its comprehensiveness. I have not read a book who was so vast in its nature of research, which lets The European Reformation’s credibility speak for itself. One of the weaknesses might be its length and readability. Cameron’s book is definitely aimed at a high level of reading that would be intimidating for someone who isn’t at the very least extremely interested in sixteenth century Europe. This work is a leader in its field due its comprehensiveness once again. From cover to cover The European Reformation covers so much information, so fluently it is an example for other books in this field. I would absolutely recommend this book but probably only someone who is as interested in Reformation Theology as I am. At the very least it is an undergraduate level read and I would only recommend it to someone who was asking for a reliable and exhaustive text on the Reformation.

Reviewed by Luke Mountain (Biola University)



Book Review by Jarrod Keithley of Kenneth Appold’s The Reformation: A Brief History

Over the next week I will be posting the excellent book reviews that my Advanced Study: Reformation Theology class wrote at Biola University. Here’s one by Jarrod Keithley:

Appold, Kenneth G. The Reformation: A Brief History. Hooken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2011.


“The Reformation: A Brief History” Is written by Kenneth G. Appold. As the title suggests it covers the important events in the Reformation and also talks briefly about its effects on the world today. The book focuses less on what the author calls “academic theology” and wants to focus more the history that affected and also was affected by the Reformation such as the political and sociological causes and effects. This drives the main theme of his book. The Reformation had a profound impact on history and helped signify a change that was heavily influenced by politics just as much as religion Appold is currently a Professor of Reformation History at the Princeton Theological Seminary who has done work in studying Lutheranism. This naturally leads him to take look at the Reformation from a Lutheran perspective. He earned his doctorate from the Martin Luther University of Wittenberg. He continues to write and teach about the Reformation and has studied many of its different aspects. His other works include “Orthodoxie als Konsensbildung” which is translated to the english title of “Orthodoxy than Consensus” and “Abraham Calov’s Doctrine of Vocatio in Its Systematic Context

The book is divided into four chapters and an Epilogue. The first one, “The Different Paths of Medieval Christianization”, focuses on the period before the Reformation. It is generally assumed that the Medieval Church was completely uniformed in its theological thought but as Appold explains this is not the case. Throughout the chapter Appold writes that there were many different theological paths in the Medieval era. These were mostly seen in the different monastic orders. There were orders that focused on theology like the Augustinians and those that focused on Jesus’ social ministry. Towards the end of the Medieval era a new branch formed after the teachings of Thomas Aquinas. He championed a form of philosophy called scholasticism. Scholasticism is a form of theology which gives the tradition and dogma of the church strong authority.

The second chapter is called the Luther Phenomenon and discusses the events and influences directly before and during the catalyst of the Reformation. It begins by discussing the influence of indulgences in the Medieval and early renaissance world. The buying of indulgences to help reduce someone’s time in purgatory was especially damaging to the poor who obviously could not afford as much. This practice was often abused by clergy to finance their own world lives including Archbishop Albracht who presided over the diocese where Luther himself studied. Luther sent him a copy of his criticism which Albracht sent to Rome. Already alarmed at how they were losing influence amongst European courts they sought to tighten their influence and power where they had it. In this chapter we see the politics that influenced the excommunication of Luther. The Pope’s decision to excommunicate him was influenced and delayed by the politics of the day.

The third section of the book involves the reforms carried out by the Reformation. Again he discusses the politics of the time. The Protestant movement seemed to be very popular with both commoners and minor nobility who sought freedom or power from being under the church. When both of these groups began to publicly embrace the Protestant theologies they began to implement them in different ways. In Switzerland the Reformation took such a hold where their political reforms turned their cities into various theocracies that were no longer part of the Holy Roman Empire’s domain but were their own “Swiss Confederation” (88). Particular focus is given to Zurich and the reforms Zwingli implemented. Zurich became a model for all other Protestant cities to follow. Zwingli championed “magisterial Reformation”. Images in the church were destroyed, priests could marry and all clergy were declared “free from episcopal jurisdiction” (96). Juristions was instead implemented by urban magistrates. The power shifted from far away Rome to local rule. Appold notes that many of the reforms that took place were very political in nature (102). The common people however benefited both from local rule and the removal of draconian church policies and punishments and would often rise up against Catholic governments with the Protestant banner.

Similar to the last chapter the Reformation Establishment discusses governments that embraced Protestantism. The government’s had personally gain to receive. In many cases the governments wanted power for themselves. Up until this point in history the church had the authority to appoint Bishops which held considerable power. Under Protestantism the King could be the head of the church and have control over who gets power. In some cases (like Sweden) the nobility was in a direct revolt the the catholic support king of Denmark and naturally choose Protestantism since they would receive no help from the Catholic church. Other places were being torn apart by the religious differences and the Kingdom of Hungary adopted a position of religious tolerance.

Appold accomplishes his goal of tackling the history of the Reformation in brief. As he states each chapter can and has yielded a wealth of further information (ix). He accomplishes his goal well enough by telling the story of how politics influenced the Reformation. From the Catholic church to the Protestant governments the Reformation both influenced them and was influenced in return. Ironically he discusses the role of the common man as if it is going to be a main subject in his book rejoicing about how it is now possible to study the perspective of the common man (ix). Despite this he spends most of his time discussing the nobility and clergy. A sociological approach could have been useful here. He could have taken the sources he used for noting the politics of the times and built off of them to deduce how it was affecting the people. The other improvement was his shunning of discussing the “academic theology”. In fairness as stated earlier, he wanted to focus on the history and politics of the time. If we wish to come to a true understanding of the influences of the Reformation then we need to have more of a grasp of the theology and worldview. This anthropological idea could have been very useful to the book.

Appold’s idea that the Reformation was just as much influenced by politics as well as theology is well proven throughout the text. Politics were very intertwined in the Reformation and altered its course while the Reformation itself changed political government in Europe forever. While it is able to prove this point throughout the book it doesn’t really get into the other affects of the Reformation. A sacrifice to be made supposedly by designing “A Brief History”. This is a good text to recommend for anyone interested in the Reformation and can help them understand its complicated nature as well as its importance in history.

Reviewed by Jarrod Keithley (Biola University)

Book Review by Kaitlyn Henning of Hans Hillerbrand’s The Protestant Reformation.

Over the next week I will be posting the excellent book reviews that my Advanced Study: Reformation Theology class wrote. Here’s one by Kaitlyn Henning.

Hillerbrand, Hans J. The Protestant Reformation. New York: Harper Perennial, 1968 (2009).


“For a long time, historians-not surprisingly, mostly Protestant in their orientation-declared the ‘Reformation’ of the sixteenth century to have been one of the most significant epochs of European history” writes Hillerbrand in his introduction of his book titled The Protestant Reformation (pg ix). He makes a well-formed statement about the Reformation that is very true within the Protestant church today. Every Christian, Protestant and Catholic alike, knows of the Reformation. The question that Hillerbrand poses to answer within his book is not whether or not the modern Christian knows about the Reformation, but rather, how accurate their understanding of the theological debate that was happening actually is. Further into his introduction into the book, Hillerbrand explains his hopes for the piece of literature and how it is intended to be a contribution to the conversation that is already being held by nearly everyone that was effected by the reformation. His purpose of writing this book was to give more individuals the opportunity of reading the works for themselves so that a person might actually have a grasp upon what the leaders of the reformation were attempting to argue. This being said, the book is mainly made of up large segments of the primary works written by key reformers. However, unlike many of the books that fall into the same genre as this one, Hillerbrand chose to include larger segments of the articles. He intentionally did this so that a larger scope of how the argument was being formed and why it was significant would be better grasped by the reader.

Hans J. Hillerbrand is a man widely recognized for his insight and education regarding the Reformation and history of the church. This book was one of many that he has written and published expanding on his knowledge of that particular time period. He was the editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. He was also the president of a few societies pertaining to religious history and he was the head of the religion department at Duke University. Needless to say, he is more than qualified to be the author of such an insightful and educational book as it falls under his great expertise. The majority of the book is made up of primary sources. However, he took the time to write very brief introductions and historical explanations of each source to help the reader get a good understanding of its context before reading the various primary documents. He writes his introductions from a protestant perspective. He assumes that his readers are also protestant and strives to give them more insight into the theological argument that was being had.

The way that Hillerbrand organized the book was in five main parts that each centered around a specific person or historical moment that defined the next stage of the reformation. It was a chronological structure of the different phases within the break up of the reformation. Part one is ‘Martin Luther and the German Reformation.’ Part two is ‘The Division of the Reformation.’ Part three is ‘John Calvin and His Influence.’ Part four is ‘The English Reformation.’ Finally, part five is ‘Postlude: A New Age?’ Within these segments, there are primary articles from a multitude of people that help the reader gain a good grasp of the conversation that was happening during this time. The book remained entirely focused on the theological conversations that were happening. He included political documents that released theological statements and rules for the church and the people within it specifically. Then, Hillerbrand included the works of major and minor writers who contributed to the theological dialogue that was happening. He moved from Luther to a common woman in part one. In part two, he listed five different authors, one of which was equivalent to Zwingli and Luther at the time (Thomas Muntzer). Part three focused on John Calvin and the influence he had, whether he had wanted that influence or not. Part four included a more political conversation, being that the theology and politics could hardly be separated in this era. It included William Tyndale, King Henry’s 6 articles, Cranmer’s response, and more that helps the reader gain a full access into the conversation. Finally, the book concludes with the final and fifth section that contains a single work written by Sebastian Castellio and his work on heretics and the appropriate response to them. He did a lot of work for the protestant church, including Bible translations.

Hillerbrand’s goal in writing this book was to give the modern Christian a broader access into the theological conversation that was happening within the Protestant Reformation. He gave a wide range of primary documents and very little original work of his own. He wanted to allow the works to speak for themselves. While this was a helpful endeavor and a wide time saver for those who were not planning on doing any major research on the Reformation, it was not a book that provided enough information or contev xt to stand alone. The introductions were very straightforward and gave little introductory information. This book is not a book for beginners. It was challenging as a student to understand what some of the vocabulary meant and why it was significant. The introductions were very short, giving a very limited amount of context for the articles. Furthermore, Hillerbrand tended to play favorites in his resources. One particular favorite was Luther. He included a large amount of writings from Luther rather than others during the first part. However, that being said, the hopes that Hillerbrand had in providing a wider range of exposure to the conversation of that time was still a success. This was establishing because he included larger sections of the primary works. Most other books, so he claims, included far too short excerpts from the primary works. He intentionally included larger portions, allowing the reader to determine for themselves what the text was actually saying. Hillerbrand also took the time and he included the major works and the minor ones equally. This way, the reader is not only exposed to the extremists or the leaders involved in the conversation, but the minor moments as well. This was greatly revealing and provided a more accurate and well rounded experience and understanding of the theology that was actually under debate. Even though the why behind the debate was not necessarily provided, the what was clearer than ever. This book is very valuable and holds it own place in the collection of books that have been written on the Reformation because of its unique provision of important primary documentation. Every individual who hopes to gain a better understanding of what actually happened, theologically during that time would benefit from reading this book at some point or another. However, this book is not one that should be the first one grabbed off of the shelf, nor the last. It stands as a proper mediator between historical context and outside analysis that helps the modern reader actually understand. It is not for the beginner, but it is also too primary for someone who is looking to be advanced in the subject. It is a great resource for someone who wishes to know more with limited time. It is perfect for the middle man.

I thoroughly enjoyed the selection of works that this author chose to include. I especially appreciated his choice in female authors and what they had to say about the theological conversations during that time because it proved to make the collection of articles more holistic when understanding the entire conversation. It was a very holistic book altogether. However, it is not a book that should or could stand by itself. An additional book that dwells on the contexts a bit more would help any reader keep up with the introductions and works found within this book. Reading a historical account that is foundational would be helpful. However, it is definitely a good aid in reading the primary works without having to read a large amount. It cuts down and shortens the research that a person would need to do to be able to read primary documents and get the actual writings too. This book is great for any student who has already begun their study of the Reformation and has additional help in learning the context of the time, but it is not necessarily for the beginner. The question that Hillerbrand poses to answer within his book is not whether or not the modern Christian knows about the Reformation, but rather, how accurate their understanding of the theological debate that was happening actually is. He is successful is establishing the theological disagreements and significant moments within the Protestant Reformation.

Reviewed by Kaitlyn Henning (Biola University)