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The Protestant Reformation Paperback – August 4, 2009
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From the Back Cover
This collection of important primary sources pertaining to the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century has had an amazingly persistent history. Originally published some 40 years ago, it still enjoys the confidence of students of the Reformation. In contrast to most other source collections, The Protestant Reformation offered lengthy excerpts from important primary sources, rather than short snippets, so as to provide the reader with an understanding of the broader cogency and dynamic of an author's arguments. However, since the time of the original publication, the study of the Reformation of the sixteenth century has taken several important turns that have revised or changed the traditional understanding. Accordingly, these new perspectives need to be noted. This new edition seeks to accommodate these new trends and perspectives while retaining the basic orientation of the original edition. It includes texts written by women as well as texts dealing with popular religion. Its basic assumption, however, continues to be that religion - no matter how variously dependent on societal forces--must be seen as the pivotal element in the story of the sixteenth century.
About the Author
Hans J. Hillerbrand is the former chair of the department of religion at Duke University. A recognized expert on the Reformation and the history of modern Christianity, he has published many articles and books on the period and was the editor in chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. He is the former president of both the American Academy of Religion and the American Society of Church History, and he lives in Durham, North Carolina.
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Top customer reviews
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Of the many alternate, sometimes overlapping and quite ingenious explanations of the whys and wherefores of the reformation, one still must pay heed to the theological core as a succinct and comprehensive answer. Among the better scholars of the Reformation Era is Hans Hillerbrand. His insight should be highlighted.
"To be sure, Luther and his fellow-reformers now and then talked about the correction of ecclesiastical abuses and their efforts may have been so understood by the people. But the real thrust of the reformers was in a different direction - a reinterpretation of the gospel. The reformers propounded a different understanding of the New Testament, and while this understanding had connections with the theological tradition of the Fathers, especially St. Augustine, it can justifiably be called new. When the Protestants talked about "reform," therefore, they thought not so much about the practical life of the church as about a new theological understanding." [Hans J. Hillerbrand, ed. The Protestant Reformation in Documentary History of Western Civilization, ed. Eugene C. Black & Leonard W. Levy, (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), p. xxii].
A new theology, indeed! What the church realized in the sixteenth century, that the church needs reform, is still true today. Christendom is a conglomeration of ritual, ceremony, idolatry and superstition once more. Only a new theology will save the church from the worldly compromise, but that new theology is going to look very much like that of Luther and Calvin. What Luther called the Babylonian Captivity in his day, we are witnessing in our own times similar phenomena, with the Evangelical Captivity with its evangelistic megastars like Bill Hybels or Rick warren, the Megachurch Captivity with Joel Osteen, the Televangelist Captivity with Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar, and on and on it goes. The average Evangelical church that has remained true to the Bible is blinded by other glaring inconsistencies. Whether Baptist, Methodist or Presbyterian, much compromise has infiltrated the church via humanistic tendencies masquerading as plausible theological affirmations. Whether it is Arminianism or Semi-pelagianism, the result is the same: God is not the Ruler of History in many churches across the spectrum. Soli Deo Gloria is no longer true; even sociologists are insightful enough to explain church growth! It is not God getting the glory. Rather techniques and ingenuity are the true heroes. One local church in my community was even offering ten dollar gift-cards for all adult first time visitors. And better still for the person that initiated the most visitors a fifty dollar bonus. Tetzel is being undone in our own backyard. This time it is: "when the soul emerges through the church door, a dead president hits your wallet for sure."
The time is ripe, just like 1517. We are in a time when the church needs someone to smash a post against the door. Who will it be? Maybe you are the man! Will you do your homework as Luther did and study afresh the New Testament? Will you risk infamy or even worse, persecution or death for the cause of Christ? Will you submit all your cherished traditions to the scrutiny of God's inerrant Word? Are you willing to change into that person and believer that God desires in order to show the world once again that a man and a mallet can change the world? If so, look up! We may be on the verge of a reformation of the reformation!