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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars CALLING ON CHRIST IN A DESPERATE WORLD
"There was a king of Yvetot, " wrote the French poet Pierre-Jean de
Beranger, "little known to history." Pick any period of history of which
you are especially fond, and you will feel strongly that some figure you
deem important is too "little known."
Consider the era of the English Reformation. It is a time of...
Published on November 9, 2001 by Dr. Kendall Harmon

versus
9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly and Interesting Author - Reflects Trad Anglicanism
Dean Zahl is an intriguing and interesting preacher and author. I read the book as I am deeply interested in the Reformation - particularly in the United Kingdom. I was most impressed with his chapter on Lady Jane Grey who certainly should be the role model and main subject of the five. I believe he should have downplayed the role of Anne Boleyn because of the great...
Published on January 17, 2002 by Charles Russell


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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars CALLING ON CHRIST IN A DESPERATE WORLD, November 9, 2001
By 
Dr. Kendall Harmon (Summerville, sc USA) - See all my reviews
"There was a king of Yvetot, " wrote the French poet Pierre-Jean de
Beranger, "little known to history." Pick any period of history of which
you are especially fond, and you will feel strongly that some figure you
deem important is too "little known."
Consider the era of the English Reformation. It is a time of tumultous
change. A king shifts his faith, leaders are burned at the stake, people
flee the country, many monasteries are destroyed, and the king's successors
shift back and forth in the middle of the sixteenth century with astonishing
rapidity. Read any work on this time and the authors TEND to focus on the
politics, the leaders, the church, the liturgy and the men. When a woman is
mentioned at all, the one bright light that gets nearly all the attention is
Elizabeth I (1533-1603).
Nearly all the other women are less noticed, and when they are focused on
little is said about the role THEOLOGY plays in their lives and ministries.
In a highly provocative and little noticed book, "When Life and Beliefs
Collide : How Knowing God Makes a Difference" (Zondervan, 2001), Carolyn
James writes: "As I have met with hundreds of women, I have encountered a
wide spectrum of negative attitudes towards theology, from casual
indifference to open hostility, and all points in between. Here and there,
a few women may find theology fascinating, may even devote a lot of time to
study it, but they are exceptional and, in the opinion of some, a little
peculiar. Beyond these rare exceptions, most women cannot be bothered."
Well, in the period of the English Reformation women COULD be bothered,
indeed fascinated, by theology, as Paul Zahl's "Five Women of the English
Reformation" (Eerdmans, 2001) shows. Dr. Zahl picks Anne Boleyn
(1507-1536), Anne Askew (1521-1546), Katherine Parr (1514-1548), Jane Grey
(1537-1554), and Catherine Willoughby (1520-1580) for his examination. "All
of these woman thought theologically," he writes. "They were lay
theologians. They read theological books, most especially the Bible, and
anything to which they could gain access from the continental Protestant
Reformers. They talked theology. Their inner circles were
twenty-four-hours-a-day Bible studies. They saw everything that happened
through two lenses: the lens of the providence of God and the lens of the
furtherance of the Reformed religion."
For Dr. Zahl, the "Reformed religion" comes to England in three successive
parts. "The first phase of Reformation theology was justification by grace
through faith rediscovered. The second phase was the implications of
justification by faith for the Mass, the Mass being the central action and
transaction of medieval Catholicism. The third phase of the English
Reformation was the focus on election and predestination."
Phase one concerns Anne Boleyn, "who died meekly but gave away nothing." So
completely was she erased from the official record "it became as if she had
never lived." For Zahl, however, she left the indelible mark of her faith.
"As queen, Anne understood her providential mission to be.to bring the
Reformation to England and employ every single instance of patronage and
influence to that end." What is the human predicament? "The human person is
caught up in himself and herself until set free to love by a prior exterior
love." That prior love is the love above all loves, and the heart of Anne's
faith, "the forgiving love of Christ Jesus, without which all human
endeavors of love are doomed to be scripted and need projected."
The second phase of the Reformation involves another Anne. "Anne Askew's
primary target was biblical teaching concerning the eucharist, and more
precisely the idea of transubstantiation. Anne was burned for denying
transubstantiation. Her denial of it was aggressive. In fact she mocked
the concept!"
Zahl believes Anne Askew rejected transubstantiation for two reasons.
"First, it is irrational to say that God can be contained within any object
of any kind..`God will not be eaten with teeth': This is the Enlightenment
or critical, deconstructing side of Protestantism in early form." Anne's
second reason Zahl calls an "evangelical" one, namely the notion that Christ
's atoning death occurred once for all. "To conceive of the Eucharist as a
sacrifice of repetition, by which the benefits of Christ's death are
presented new and actual each time on the altar, was to denigrate the `one,
full perfect sacrifice'" of which Cranmer wrote.
The final phase of the Reformation concerns Catherine Willoughby, the
duchess of Suffolk in 1533, who lived the longest of the five women treated
by Dr. Zahl. She addresses primarily the subjects of divine will,
providence, and election. When she loses her sons Charles and Henry to
death, she seeks to understand it as a "mercy. She means that by taking
away from her, her very most cherished prerogative-her children and her
attachment to them-God has intentionally forced her to rely solely on Him."
Zahl confesses this is "counterintuitive" yet sees it as the inevitable
outflow of Luther's theology. "If grace alone saves, then God alone is the
willing actor in all human events.Contemporary people make heavy weather of
this. Our ancestors generally accepted it."
So here is vintage Zahl: compact, pithy, and theologically oh so rich.
Appropriately, there is a chapter of reflection by Mary Zahl which concludes
with the best call of the book: "Study the Bible.be courageous.See God as.
[your] only authority.Be grateful that .[we are] not being asked to die for"
our faith.
For all the talk about theology, however, this theologian was most struck by
all the suffering these women went through, the physical agony, the
emotional trauma of becoming convenient victims in other's schemes, and the
lives cut so terribly short (Willoughby excepted). "What I think we can say
regarding the steel of our heroes' convictions is that in each case their
new convictions were made firmer by means of affliction, loss and
harassment." Indeed. "Shall I fall in desperation?" Katherine Parr asks.
"Nay, I will call upon Christ, the Light of the world. The Fountain of
life, the relief of all careful consciences, the Peacemaker between God and
man, and the only health and comfort of all repentant sinners."
Oh how they suffered, but they suffered for and with Christ. May God grant
us similar rich and deep devotion to him in our generation.
--The Rev. Dr. Kendall S. Harmon (ksharmon@mindspring.com) serves as Theologian in Residence at St.
Paul's Episcopal Church in Summerville, South Carolina
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthusiastically-told stories wonderful, August 16, 2001
By 
jim Reed (Birmingham, Alabama United States) - See all my reviews
Biographical historians would do well to emulate this book. This is history enthusiastically--never dully--told. Paul Zahl spins his true tales with zest, wit and total commitment to the subject: five women who dared to think and tell what they knew to be the truth. It's a difficult book to put aside, simply because the author is obviously time-travelling: you feel he was actually there, witnessing the remarkable times in which his subjects lived. Zahl brings each woman to life and makes the reader wish for more. Mary Zahl adds an epilogue that injects just the right amount of support for Paul Zahl's courage to write about women who are bigger than life--from a male perspective. Well done!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthusiastically-told stories wonderful, August 16, 2001
By 
jim Reed (Birmingham, Alabama United States) - See all my reviews
Biographical historians would do well to emulate this book. This is history enthusiastically--never dully--told. Paul Zahl spins his true tales with zest, wit and total commitment to the subject: five women who dared to think and tell what they knew to be the truth. It's a difficult book to put aside, simply because the author is obviously time-travelling: you feel he was actually there, witnessing the remarkable times in which his subjects lived. Zahl brings each woman to life and makes the reader wish for more. Mary Zahl adds an epilogue that injects just the right amount of support for Paul Zahl's courage to write about women who are bigger than life--from a male perspective. Well done!
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly and Interesting Author - Reflects Trad Anglicanism, January 17, 2002
By 
Dean Zahl is an intriguing and interesting preacher and author. I read the book as I am deeply interested in the Reformation - particularly in the United Kingdom. I was most impressed with his chapter on Lady Jane Grey who certainly should be the role model and main subject of the five. I believe he should have downplayed the role of Anne Boleyn because of the great sorrow her marriage to Henry VIII caused to his wife of 20+ years. I am of course referring to Katherine of Aragon. Henry and Cranmer's treatment of the Queen was cruel and should not be defended in any modern Protestant forum. Indeed in Britain in Peterborough Cathedral her grave (desecrated by Protestants) was restored and now befittingly says "Katherine The Queen". I otherwise enjoyed the book but wish he had not remained silent on this issue when proclaiming Anne's virtues. A modern parallel might be considered in the relationship of Edward VII and Alexandra - Alexandra a devout Protestant endured Edward's numerous affairs. Katherine endured the same with Anne. I have read all of his books and consider him a scholar on Anglicanism. A little more compassion for Katherine would have made me rate the book higher.
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8 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Does not reflect Reformed thinking, November 27, 2001
By A Customer
I don't have the book in front of me anymore, so I can't pull quotes from it, but I remember thinking as I read this book that the author didn't really understand what the Reformation was about. At one point, he says in effect "God's love responds to man's faith". The Reformers clearly taught that man's faith responds to God's love and His calling. I know that the book wasn't about in depth theology, but statments like the above made it hard to take the rest of the book seriously.
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