The Reformation Then and Now: 25 Years of Modern Reformation Articles Celebrating 500 Years of the Reformation

9781619708907oHendrickson has sent a review copy of this new volume of collected essays:

What caused Luther, Calvin, and others to set in motion the Reformation—and what are the consequences, both then and now? Is the 500-year-old breach between Rome and the Protestant church still necessary today? Does the Reformation even matter anymore?

The Reformation, Then and Now is a compendium of articles—gathered from the pages of Modern Reformation magazine—that illuminate the history and impact of the Protestant Reformation over the past 500 years. Although the questions above don’t have easy answers, over forty articles written by some of the most trusted voices across the Reformation spectrum offer readers a historical and spiritual walk through the Reformation by addressing the cause, the characters, and the consequences.

At the very start I have to say that I am a bit displeased with Horton and Landry, the editors of the volume.  At the conclusion of the volume they include a section which they call ‘Who were the Reformers’, a sort of very brief bio for each of the people they deem noteworthy. They then list Luther, Melanchthon, Calvin, Bullinger ,Cranmer, Latimer, and Knox.  They completely ignore Oecolampadius (why not him instead of Melanchthon) and Zwingli not to mention any women of reformational substance.  You’ll be unsurprised to know that this failure, this abject and miserable shortsighted failure to include Zwingli is inexcusable.  Only someone utterly unfamiliar with the history of the Reformation could leave Zwingli off any list of major Reformers.  This lack of insight bodes ill for the editorial guidance of the volume.

Add to that fact the even more incredible fact that of the 42 essays included from the pages of Modern Reformation (the original source of all of these essays) not a single one explicitly deals with any aspect of Zwingli’s work whilst many discuss both Luther and Calvin and the sad result is a volume which is editorially poor.

The contributors, by and large, on the other hand, are quite outstanding in terms of their scholarly reputations.  Indeed, worthy of special note are Veith’s “The Reformation and the Arts” (pp.159ff), McGrath’s “The State of the Church Before the Reformation” (pp. 9ff), and MacCulloch’s “Against the Weber Thesis” (pp. 176ff).  These three essays are – to make use of an overused but in this case true cliche- worth the price of admission.    Horton seems to admire his own work very much and as co-editor he includes 12 of his own essays; i.e., nearly a quarter of the volume is his.  Evidently it was somewhat difficult to find other essays by other authors of “Modern Reformation” to include.

Only one woman’s essay is included (Serene Jones, “Calvin and the Continuing Protestant Story” (pp. 246ff)) in the work and this too is cause for concern.  There are brilliant women who also happen to be Reformation scholars.  Are none of them invited to write for Modern Reformation or were their essays deemed unworthy so that Horton’s could find a home here?  Where is Elsie McKee?  Where is Rebecca Gieselbrecht?  Where is Amy Nelson Burnett?  Their absence is, frankly, astonishing.  Have they never published in Modern Reformation?  Reading about the Reformation without taking notice of their work is like reading about 20th century Christian theology without ever hearing mention Barth or Brunner.  It is, to be concise, jarring.

Still, I enjoyed this volume a great deal and appreciate Hendrickson for publishing such a fine collection of materials sure to engage students of the history of Christianity in a useful and informative way.    An index would have been useful but I understand its absence and cannot quibble with that too much.

Unfortunately, then, in something of a Summa Summarum, I have to register, for the sake of honesty and truthful evaluation, my tremendous disappointment at the volume’s editors for what can only be described as a work that on the whole is quite inadequate.  , not because of the core content but because of the poor decisions which can only fairly be laid at the editors feet.  Perhaps other editors would have chosen more wisely not only the essays they included so as to provide a far more well rounded work, but the editorial guidance such a volume ought to provide.

This volume should be read, even if the editorial Preface is skipped and the appendices are left aside, given their being tragically misleading thanks to what they exclude rather than what they include. At the end of the day, readers will learn more than they will lose due to the shortsightnedness of the editors.