The Best One-Volume Book on the Reformation?
Carl Trueman explains the basic textbooks he assigns in his Reformation classes and ultimately recommends for us Diarmaid MacCulloch’s The Reformation: A History:
MacCulloch is one of the best Reformation historians alive and this is what I would call a brilliant, scholarly beach read—well-constructed explanatory narrative history, rooted in profound and accurate scholarship, laid out in the grand epic style. My guess is that Ref21 readers wanting a good, scholarly, readable history of the Reformation—and one which will not break the bank—should buy this.
What follows are some shorter and less expensive introductions to the Reformation:
Michael Reeves, The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation.
Read for free the table of contents, Mark Dever’s foreword, and chapter 1.
“With the skill of a scholar and the art of a storyteller, Michael Reeves has written what is, quite simply, the best brief introduction to the Reformation I have read. If you’ve been looking for a book to help you understand the Reformation, or just to begin to study church history, this little book brings history to life.”
Stephen J. Nichols, The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World.
“Professor Stephen Nichols is already well-known for his remarkable ability to make history live and sing. This new work is no exception and will simply enhance his well-deserved reputation. It is a scintillating helicopter tour of the amazing men—and wonderful women—of the Reformation. Here conviction joins with courage, holiness with humor, in a wonderful medley of Christian heroes and heroines.”
—Sinclair B. Ferguson
Kirsten Birkett, The Essence of the Reformation.
In addition to Dr. Birkett’s overview of the Reformation, this book includes excerpts from classic works by Luther, Calvin, and Crammer.
“I do not know any book that more succinctly gets across, in readable prose, what the Reformation was about. This new edition combines Birkett’s superb text with some judiciously selected primary documents. This is a book to distribute widely among lay leaders and other Christians who want to be informed of the heritage of the gospel that has come down to us.”
—D. A. Carson
Carl R. Trueman, Reformation: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
“This fine book should be required reading for all Christians—and especially for those who doubt whether the Protestant Reformation has anything left to say to us in our day. Stating that “the Reformation represents a move to place God as he has revealed himself in Christ at the centre of the church’s life and thought,” Trueman then retrieves Luther’s theology of the cross, argues that because the Reformation “was above all a movement of the Word—incarnate in Christ and written down in the Scriptures,” and because the Spirit works through the Word, “the Word written and the Word preached are both central to Christianity and are not simply cultural forms which can be shed when culture moves on,” and then closes with a chapter on Christian assurance that recognizes our assurance as the foundation for our Christian activity. Along the way, he scatters nugget after nugget of insight into what is core to the Reformation legacy, motivating his readers to embrace this core again.”
—Mark R. Talbot