Recent Reading On The Reformation

Here is a list of books I have recently read on the Reformation. Some of this was rereading, some of it very new, but all of it helped me prepare to teach a class at our church on the Reformation. There is some remarkable writing here. 

Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1950. This remains a classic biography of Luther and the launching of the Reformation.

Martin Luther, Selections From His Writings, edited by John Dillenberger. New York: Anchor Books, 1961. An outstanding collection of Luther’s great texts.

John Calvin, A Little Book On the Christian Life, translated by Aaron Clay Denlinger and Burk Parsons. Orlando, Reformation Trust, 2017. These selections from Calvin’s great Institutes were published in this short form in the sixteenth century when Calvin was still completing his monumental work. This is a delightfully fresh translation.

Brad S. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2012. This extraordinary scholarly work lays out the unintended consequences of Reformation thought: hyper-individualism, hyper-pluralism (even relativism), ultimately secularism. At times discouraging reading, this book calls us to examine the enduring heart intended by the great Reformers.

Eric Metaxas, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God And Changed The World. New York: Viking, 2017. This hot-off-the-press biography is a lively reading of the complicated life of the man who set it all in motion.

Carlos M. N. Eire, Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450 – 1650. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. This is a big, sprawling book demonstrating that there was a lot going on before Luther and after, which we must acknowledge as reformations rather than one reformation. I balk sometimes at the secular overlay on original spiritual vigor and hesitate as well the too-easy trashing of medieval, Catholic spirituality.

Richard J. Mouw, Abraham Kuyper: A Short and Personal Introduction. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2011. From my friend, Rich Mouw, on the important teaching of Kuyper, the Dutch reformer from the nineteenth century, who encouraged Christians to be fully engaged in the cultures in which we live. Of course, Rich has lived this calling for his own life as an exemplary follower of Kuyper.

Peter Marshall, The Reformation: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. An overview in short form, the Reformation comes alive in all its rich detail. Out of my own biases about the Reformation, Marshall shortchanges the vibrant spiritual and theological issues that lie at the heart of the matter.

Hillary Mantel, Wolf Hall. Here is a fantastic take on the evolving Reformation, through the lens of Thomas Cromwell, chief of staff for Henry VIII. We have here all the intricacies and intrigue of the unfolding English Reformation. This novel is blockbuster.

Hilary Mantel, Bring Up The Bodies. The sequel to Wolf Hall, also a blockbuster continuation of the messy, endlessly fascinating history of how England became Protestant. We await with rapt attention the appearance of the third novel in the trilogy.

David Zahl, “500 Years After Luther, We Still Feel the Pressure to Be Justified.” Christianity Today Online, December 30, 2016, an outstanding article republished last week online, capturing the deep personal need for grace. Read More

Carlos Eire, “Martin Luther: The Wrath Of God,” First Things Online, 10/31/17, one of those fine articles by Catholic writers on the week of the 500th celebration. Read More

George Weigel, “Which Reformation? What Reform?”, First Things Online, 10/25/17, as always with Weigel, a deeply insightful Catholic reading of the Reformation, reflecting on what the Church lost or misplaced and what needs, then and now, to be re-formed.  Read More.