Why the Reformation still matters (book review)

Why the Reformation still matters
Michael Reeves & Tim Chester
Crossway, 2016

why the reformation still matters

We’re almost in touching distance of 2017, which will mark 500 years since the most iconic moment of the Reformation – Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Just like any Christian publishers worth their salt, Crossway are on the ball to make the most of the anniversary with timely publications, such as this one.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book – though it’s not quite the what I expected it to be. For example, it’s quite surprising to find a positive endorsement from Mark Noll on the back cover. After all, Noll, the author of ‘Is the Reformation over?’, answers his own question in the affirmative. This endorsement becomes less surprising when it becomes clear that this book is more a digest of Reformation theology, rather than an interaction with contemporary arguments that the Reformation no longer matters (for that, there’s a thorough response to Noll by Carl Trueman on Reformation 21).

Nor is this the sort of book I would hand to someone who was new to Reformed theology – it’s too in-depth to be a primer, at least for the average person. But for Christians who are serious about wanting to grasp more of the great heritage we stand on, the 200-or-so pages are full of gems.

The book however does reflect not just the emphases of the Reformation, but also some of the emphases of 21st century evangelicalism. The authors manage to write a whole chapter on ‘The Sacraments’ in which baptism hardly gets a mention. In the words of Paul Levy, there’s also ‘a slightly curious defence of the Anabaptists’. Having only noticed Levy’s comments after reading the book, I’d have to agree that it seems out of place.

Those are relatively minor quibbles however. The book excels at going back to the sources and picking out apposite quotations from Luther, Calvin and many more. I particularly enjoyed the emphases on preaching and the other means of grace, an emphasis which we badly need a recovery of today.

As Calvin put it, ‘it is necessary for us to go out of ourselves to find happiness’ – this book is a great taster of a movement which rediscovered where that happiness could be found.

Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.