On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Chapel door (or mailed them) and thus sparked the Reformation. Today, Reformation Day, commemorates that event and the work of Reformers. CT asked scholars what books they recommended for better understanding the Reformation. Here’s what they suggested.
The Reformation, Diarmaid McCulloch (Penguin)
“McCulloch is one of the foremost Reformation historians in our day. His works are expansive and thorough. While this book is large, it’s definitely worth the time to invest in reading it.”
~ J. V. Fesko, professor of systematic and historical, Theology Westminster Seminary California
Reformers in the Wings, David Steinmetz (Oxford)
“In this book, Steinmetz covers a number of Reformers largely unknown in the present day, who stood in the massive shadows of figures like Calvin and Luther. They were giants in their own day, however, so it behooves us to learn about their contributions to the Reformation.”
The Unquenchable Flame, Michael Reeves (B&H)
“Michael Reeves' book is a thoughtful, concise, and clear account of the major events, people, and ideas that shaped the Reformation. With theological sensitivity and historical acumen, Reeves explains why the Reformation happened. And at a time when many are declaring that the Reformation is over and that its concerns no longer apply, Reeves gives a charitable and thoughtful explanation of why it is still important for Christians today and what difference it should make.”
~ Carl Trueman, professor of church history, Westminster Theological Seminary, Phildelphia
Getting the Reformation Wrong by James R. Payton, Jr. (InterVarsity Press)
“Many Christians believe myths about the Reformation, and Getting the Reformation Wrong sets the record straight about the Reformers and their reforming works. For example, Luther and Calvin did not jettison all previous Christian tradition and “just go back to the Bible.” They highly respected the early church fathers and considered the early Christian creeds authoritative. This is one of many popular myths that Payton corrects in his phenomenal book.”
~ Roger Olson, professor of theology and ethics at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary
Here I Stand, Roland Bainton (Abingdon)
“Though a little dated now, this is still the first book I would recommend for anyone wanting to understand the Reformation and its significance. A true masterpiece of a biography, Here I Stand draws you deep into Luther’s life so that you both understand and feel the significance of what he faced and what he did.”
~ Michael Reeves, theological advisor, Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship in the UK
John Calvin: A Biography, T. H. L. Parker (Westminster John Knox)
“You need to be careful what you read on John Calvin: bookshops are cluttered with opinionated and biased books on him. Parker’s sensitive and careful presentation of the great French Reformer avoids all that, giving a fair and fascinating insight into one of the Reformation’s big hitters.”
The Division of Christendom: Christianity in the Sixteenth Century, Hans J. Hillerbrand (Westminster John Knox)
“Hillerbrand is a distinguished historian of the Reformation, known for his many books on the subject. This volume offers a sophisticated yet accessible presentation of his prodigious learning on the subject, presenting the Reformation in its complexity—politically, socially, culturally—while emphasizing that the core of the movement was religious. In the table of contents, each chapter is described in some detail, making it easy to use as a work of reference, but the contents of each chapter make reading the book a feast.”
~ James Payton, Jr., professor of history, Redeemer University College
Theology of the Reformers, Timothy George (B&H)
(Recommended by Scott Manetsch, professor of church history, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
The European Reformations, Carter Lindberg (Wiley-Blackwell)
(Recommended by Scott Manetsch)
Reformation Christianity, Peter Matheson (Fortress Press)
(Recommended by Karen Spierling, associate professor of history, Denison University)
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