Monday, March 7, 2011

Book Review: Michael Reeves, The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation.

669316: The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation

By Michael Reeves / B&H Academic

Burning pyres, nuns on the run, stirring courage, and comic relief: the Protestant Reformation is a gripping tale, packed with drama. But what motivated the Reformers? And what were they really like?

The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation, is a lively, accessible, and fully informative introduction to the Reformation by Michael Reeves. It brings to life the movement's most colorful characters (Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin,), while also examining their ideas, showing the profound and personal relevance of Reformation thinking for today. Also included are a lengthy Reformation timeline, a map of key places in the Reformation, further reading suggestions, and, in this U.S. edition, a new foreword by 9 Marks Ministries president Mark Dever.

This book by Michael Reeves was not what I expected. It does not contain the type of contextualization that one would expect from a history book nor does it provide any coherent social, political, economic, or theological understanding of the Reformation. It is also not really a work of biography in the pure sense. It is essentially a series of biographical sketches that is intended to introduce the reader to some of the main characters of the Reformation. The writing isn’t all that great and the organization of the material makes the reader feel as though they are jumping from one thing to another in a somewhat rushed and disorganized fashion. It is not the book I would recommend for anyone who was looking for a serious introduction to either the history or theology of the Reformation.

Having said that however; it is probably one of the most accessible books I have read for readers who simply want a brief introduction to the major figures of the time period. It is clearly not intended as a weighty history or theology book and it likely serves well its intended audience. The book deals with most of the main characters and touches on important themes that provide the reader a starting point for further reading or for those who simply want a brief introduction. It is very short, easy to read, and includes enough drama and comedy to hold the readers attention while also giving a basic sketch of key issues. This book does a good job serving a particular need as an easy to read introduction to the key personalities of this fascinating and important time period. 

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