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The Reformation for Armchair Theologians Paperback – March 22, 2005
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Sunshine begins by setting the stage for the Reformation, then gives a sketch of Luther's career. Popular humorists have God changing the course of events by tossing lightning bolts around, but apparently the course of history was changed by a lightning bolt. Luther, a law student, got knocked off his horse by a lightning bolt and got back on it determined to become a monk. From that point forward, Luther's pathway to the founding of a new religion was an exercise in Murphy's Law. His 95 theses weren't a declaration of religious independence, they were simply a modest call for debate. When his challenge was answered, his able opponent maneuvered him into admitting that he held views that had gotten another theologian, Jan Hus, burned at the stake. Next came his famous declaration (which he really would rather not have had to make) at the Diet of Worms, and the rest is history.
Sunshine next looks at Zwingli, probably the only Reformation theologian who died in battle and in armor, and then turns his attention to Calvin. Calvin comes across as a much more sympathetic figure than the rigid, dictatorial killjoy of popular legend. Calvin was another lawyer who, much against his will, got coerced into founding a church in Geneva. Calvin wanted to go to Strasbourg and pursue a career as a writer, but events compelled him to go to Geneva and oversee the birth pangs of Calvinism.Read more ›
When it comes to the theological ideas of the times the book misses its mark. I do understand that the text is meant for "armchair theologians", but even "armchair guys" need some meat in the soup. There is nary a one Bible reference to corroborate or demolish any of the theological ideas introduced. This was a disappointment.
It would be more appropriate to title this text as "The Reformation for Armchair Historians".
Readers will come away having a good grasp of the nuances of Roman Catholic beliefs and the Protestant beliefs of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and Arminius, as well as some other lesser known religious leaders. I would have liked to see more on Thomas Cranmer and the theology of the English Reformation, but that reveals my own bias, too. Sunshine adroitly summarizes some core commonalities among the above and some of their sharp differences that led to conflicts. He follows their influences and relationships to various states and rulers.
As much as this is a book about theology, it is also about the history of the states and their internal and external conflicts. Religion of the Reformation era was closely tied to the politics and, as this book shows, an historical author really cannot focus on one at the exclusion of the other. A few times the book gets bogged down in the political history, especially in the discussion of the Thirty-years war, but I think that is a hazard of the subject and not a fault of the writer.
Sunshine does a thorough job of being precise about the beliefs of the theologians as opposed to what theology was later developed by their followers. He does not gloss over negative actions of folks like Luther or Calvin either.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent overview of the Reformation as we approach the 500th anniversary.Published 4 months ago by Patti
So many history books tend to be long and drawn out. This one was just right. It was a summary of the reformation. Easy to read.Published 16 months ago by I'll Be Frank
Great book for an introduction to the history of the reformation.Published 17 months ago by Charles
Reformation for Armchair Theologians is a fact filled, sometimes humorously written account of the reformation. It covers the subject well without being tedious. Read morePublished on April 3, 2014 by David Porter
I enjoyed the format...a bit of humor thrown into it. While some want to nit-pick it, no small, single volume book of 250 pages could cover every person and situation of the... Read morePublished on February 23, 2014 by Amazon Customer
Of all the books I have read in the Armchair Theologians series this is the one I learned the most from. Read morePublished on January 15, 2014 by SLIMJIM