Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World

It is Wednesday which means it is time for another book review. Today, I wanted to highlight a book I read last week called The Reformation by Stephen J. Nichols. As you will see if you read the review, I thought it was a very good book and will be giving away a copy of the book (details at the end).

As you can probably tell from the title, this book is about church history, particularly the history of the reformation. Nichols says, "This book offers a look at this cast of characters and what they accomplished for the life of the church. It tells the various stories that make up the one, grand narrative of the Reformation" (11).

Now, I know that this topic might turn some of you away, but that is unfortunate. I have always loved church history. When I began seminary at Trinity in Deerfield, IL, I had to pick an emphasis for my MDiv and I picked church history. I loved to read and study how God had used men and women to accomplish His mission in the world. If you have been disinterested in church history, this is exactly the type of book that you should read.

This is not a detail book, but only gives the important people, places, and events. Nichols is a very good writer. He says at the beginning that he thinks history is fun and I think he helps with that by the way he writes. But more importantly than the way he writes is the subject he writes about. He says, "In studying hte Reformation, we remember what the church is all about, and we remember how easy it is for the church to lose its grip on the gospel. If he said it once, Martin Luther said it a hundred times: 'The church's true treasure is the gospel'" (17). Again he says, "We need to realize that the Reformers saw nothing less than the gospel at stake. We sometimes forget what Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others risked in taking a stand for the gospel. They risked their very lives" (21).

I think we tend to forget about that. Later in the book, he talks about theology in a classroom versus theology in the real world. A world that was willing to kill those who stood up against their false views of the gospel. If anything, you should read this book because many of these people talked about died for the faith you claim to have today! We don't think of our theology as "worth dying for" because we don't have to. They did and that meant counting the cost.

Who does he talk about in this book? As the subtitle suggests, Martin Luther was the Monk who used the mallet to post his 95 thesis in hopes of provoking a debate with the leades of the Catholic Church. It didn't happen and what resulted was what this book is all about. He tells many stories about Luther, one being that he told his future wife he would marry her not out of love but because his parents needed grandchildren and he wanted to spite the pope (gentlemen, I don't recommend that next Valentine's Day). Did he love her though? You'll have to read the book!

He tells the story of how a sausage dinner started a reform in Switzerland through Ulrich Zwingli. He tells about the Anabaptists and their reformation. He tells how John Calvin staying one night in Geneva turned out to be the turning point of his ministry. He recounts the stories of the English reformation with Thomas Cranmer and why John Foxe wrote about all those martyred for the gospel. I loved the last couple chapters where he talks about the puritans and even some puritan women who greatly impacted the world.

If you read this book, I promise you will long to read more. It will leave you desirous to learn more of church history. While we might not agree with everything all of these historical figures did or believed, they helped shape much of what we say we believe. Because of that, I want to give this book away.

Here are the rules. You have two ways to be entered. (1) You can comment on the blog. All those who comment will be entered into the drawing. You have until 10am (CST) Friday to comment on the blog. When you comment, you MUST at least leave your first name, or I will not know who you are. (2) You can tweet about the book review (twitter). In your tweet, you must make mention of the blog as well as @thadbergmeier (not because I am stuck on myself, but I won't be able to track it otherwise). The winner will be announced on Friday's blog post. 

This is a really good book, you will enjoy it. So comment or tweet away!


  1. That looks like a great book! I really enjoy church history, but haven't read anything substantive on it in a couple of years. Thanks for the review, and I'll have to add that one to my list!

  2. Thanks for the review. You always are challenging me to read more books. Such a good RA! -Greg

  3. I am intrigued. Especially about theology in the classroom vs. the real world. Thanks for the review, hope to read it soon! - Kyle O from Ohio

  4. Thanks for the review. Since I love to read I'll have to check in to this book. Church reformation history is something I have not read about since college days.
    Cindy Roth

  5. I really like coming to you websit to see new posts and reviews I love what your doing

  6. Srry I forgot to set my name right above
    Landon Taylor


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