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Great on the positives but disappointing on the negatives
on 10 May 2016
Michael Reeves writes in an engaging accessible style and does a very fine job in covering some of the essentials of the Reformation and the role of some of the main characters who played such a pivotal part in history. He is clear and lucid. However, although he is excellent in bringing out the many huge positive changes in this crucial time of history, he is less impressive in dealing with some of the negatives. For instance, the fierce campaigning of Luther in his latter years, in encouraging and enacting persecution of the Jews, is somewhat glossed over. It is indeed no surprise that Luther's writings and actions were later used by the Nazis to support their persecution of the Jews. Nevertheless, Michael Reeves writes (p.59) of Luther's 'On the Jews and Their Lies' that 'It is hard for a modern audience, not only to avoid reading later racial anti-Semitism into such unpleasant material, but also to understand that these were, at the time, standard measures taken against heretics.' Likewise, tragically, following the practice of the Catholic Church before them, some of the Reformers cooperated with the might of the state to persecute opponents. With reference to John Calvin, Reeves mentions Calvin's support of the execution of Michael Servetus and writes (p.106) 'This was no big deal: all Christendom agreed that death was the appropriate sentence for heresy...' However, as some of the 'Anabaptists' of the time preached, such church/state persecution was not biblical Christianity. It's a pity that the book's excellence in ably outlining the many huge positive achievements and bravery of many of the Reformers in the fight for the truths of the Scripture, is not matched by an impartial appraisal of some negative practices also present during the Reformation.