Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Review of Books on the Reformation

I HAVE BEEN READING THIS SUMMER about the Reformation and the sixteenth century. Too many good books to just settle for one, so I’m going to break the rules and recommend several.

Brand Luther, by Andrew Pettegree was a delightful read. In 1517, at the age of 34, Luther began publishing. Gutenberg’s printing press was only fifty years old, but no one had figured out how to make money with it. Most printing presses were going bankrupt. Along came Martin Luther. The subtitle says it all. How an unheralded monk turned his small town into a center of publishing, made himself the most famous man in Europe—and started the Protestant Reformation. Luther was a communications genius. He broke the rules. He printed his tracts and booklets in German. Before this books published by other authors were in Latin, the language of scholarship. But the common man didn’t read or speak Latin. Within 24 months Luther was the most widely read man in Europe. He was history’s first best-selling author.

The volume of Luther's is writing is simply astonishing. His published works fill up 80 volumes, and this was not done with a word processor, but with quill and ink. The rest is history. Brand Luther was informative, and motivational. I highly recommend.

Here I Stand by Yale Reformation scholar, Roland Bainton, is my second recommend. Published over fifty years ago, this classic has sold in the millions. For anyone wanting to understand Luther and the Reformation Bainton is the place to start. Written in an engaging, easy to read style, this book is highly readable.

A World Lit Only By Fire by esteemed historian, William Manchester, is my third recommend. The subtitle is The Medieval mind and the Renaissance, a Portrait of an Age. Manchester writes as a secular historian about daily life in the sixteenth century, which was the time of Luther and the Reformation. People lived, acted, and thought so differently it is almost hard to believe we have anything in common. It was the era of witches, knights, the dread inquisition, the divine right of kings, grotesque immorality, burning at the stake, plagues, dreadful ignorance, filth, and very short lives. Because Manchester details the cruelty and immorality of the era, I only recommend this book for adults. 

Last, skipping to the 18th century, everyone should read Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas, the story of William Wilberforce. Converted in his early 20s, the five-foot-tall Wilberforce was a member of Parliament for over forty years, and he was known for his amazing gift of oratory. One observer wrote, when he began speaking I thought, “what a shrimp,” but by the time he finished I realized I had been listening to a whale.
Wilberforce joined the “Clapham Fellowship” a band of Christian brothers and sisters devoted to ending the British slave and reforming the moral temper of the British people. He persevered until the job was done, and it took fifty years. You will learn about the horrors of the slave trade, John Newton, 
Wilberforce’ mentor, life in 18th century England, and what a life dedicated to persevering in a righteous cause, despite numerous obstacles, can accomplish. Amazing Grace will encourage those working for similar causes today, such as the drive to end abortion in North America.

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