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Thursday, February 02, 2006


Ed Peters

Great service. Print off and save this, folks.

May I also suggest for advanced readers, Belloc's "Characters of the Reformation" and maybe Clayton, "Luther: His Life and Work". But, what would you all suggest?

Carl Olson

Some other books of possible interest:

The Dividing of Christendom by Christopher Dawson
Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes, Rousseau by Jacques Maritain
Young Man Luther by Erik H. Erikson
A Popular History of the Reformation by Philip Hughes
How the Reformation Happened by Belloc

Mark Brumley

Characters of the Reformation by Belloc is a fun read, great for its metahistorical interpretation. However, that book, along with How the Reformation Happened, needs a critical review. It does not hold up in all significant respects to the scrutiny of critical history nor contemporary Reformation scholarship. That doesn't mean it's not worth reading; only that it should be read with care.

Msgr.Hughes is on firmer historical footing because he was a first-rate scholar of church history, but he wrote quite a while ago and historical scholarship has picked up a thing or two in the meantime.

Dawson's The Dividing of Christendom, being a top-notch synthesis of historical analysis, has not been significantly gainsaid by recent scholarship. On particular points people will quibble, but the overall treatment of the breakdown of medieval Christian unity and the role of the Reformation in that process remains solid.

Sandra Miesel

I second caution on Belloc. He was a polemical writer, not a historian.
John Bousma's biography of Calvin is the best out there as is Heiko Oberman's of Luther. Stephen Ozment is the leading authority on the Lutheran perspective. One current Catholic historian is John Bossy.
It's 20 years old now, but RW Scribner's little student guide THE GERMAN REFORMATION covers many significant books and issues. Scribner's analysis of Reformation era propaganda, FOR THE SAKE OF SIMPLE FOLK shows how Protestants won the first round in the battle for hearts and minds. LUTHER'S HOUSE OF LEARNING by Gerald Strauss demonstrates why they couldn't maintain their advantage.
I actually own an indulgence, a scroll that says a donation of one gold piece equals the merit of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Carl Olson

Heiko Oberman is indeed excellent. He sympathizes with Luther, but is very insightful, especially re: the key role nominalism played in Luther's outlook and thought. I agree that Belloc is suspect as a historian, but I think he's worth the read. Owen Chadwick's book on the Reformation is very good as well.

Ed Peters

Mark and Sandra are chickens. I'll bet they cut their gin, and water down their screwdrivers, too. As seen scrawled on a mens' room stall: "For a great time, read Belloc."


Thanks for a good read. But is it Sevetus or Servetus?

Don Ross

I have read Belloc a few times on the Protestant enigma and do enjoy thoroughly his approach. Whether I need to be wary of his scholarship is not a point I take too much to heart. I've discovered in my apologetic work that very few people care what the facts are. Whether I can recite passages from Lagrange, or can summarize an acidic jibe of Chesterton is irrelevant. It seems to always come down to emotions, not facts.

With that said, I am currently on the search for a good collection of books on the so-called "Reformation", the Crusades, the Galileo affair and the Inquisitions. My wife and I are home schooling our children using K12, a Christian-run public school curriculum (I know it sounds like a contradiction, but it's true) through the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School. Their history is only balanced from a Christian perspective, but certainly not fair to Catholics. When discussing the Dark Ages, they evasively refer to the "church" that built universities and saved civilization, but when it comes to Galileo, they very boldly state that it was the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH that assaulted "that poor defenseless scientist for teaching the truth". It's a load of crap, to be sure. And it gives me ample opportunity to show my kids how words can be used to sound one way on the surface while at the same time loudly proclaim an either intentional or unintentional agenda.

I've ordered Facts about Luther and am looking online for Grisar's Luther. What other books are there that can help me formulate a better explanation for my kids and for the letter I plan to write to K12 about their history curriculum?

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