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The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World Paperback – February 14, 2007
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"Dr. Nichols has done it again! He's written a history book that will teach you without boring you to death. In fact, this book is fun! But more than that, this is a book that will cause you to rejoice in the Reformation and renew your commitment to the truths of the Reformation for our time. Read it! You'll be glad you did."
—Steve Brown, Host, Key Life Radio Program; author, Three Free Sins: God Isn't Mad At You
"Beyond merely summarizing Reformation history and teaching, Nichols draws us into the life and times of this era-as if the issues that inflamed an era still mattered. And they do. Read this book and you'll be glad that the Reformation isn't over."
—Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California; author, Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God's Story
"Professor Stephen Nichols is already well-known for his remarkable ability to make history live and sing. This new work is no exception and will simply enhance his well-deserved reputation. It is a scintillating helicopter tour of the amazing men-and wonderful women-of the Reformation. Here conviction joins with courage, holiness with humor, in a wonderful medley of Christian heroes and heroines."
—Sinclair B. Ferguson, Professor of Systematic Theology, Redeemer Seminary, Dallas, Texas
About the Author
Stephen J. Nichols (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) serves as the president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries. He is an editor of the Theologians on the Christian Life series and also hosts the weekly podcast 5 Minutes in Church History.
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The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World is one of a long line of books authored by Stephen Nichols, professor at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Nichols is a prolific author who seems to be releasing books with impressive regularity. To this point all of his books have centered on church history. He has written several works on Jonathan Edwards, one each on Martin Luther and Gresham Machen, and one providing a guided tour of classic Christian writing. This new title "goes behind the scenes and uncovers the human side of the larger-than-life Reformers through user-friendly narrative stories on the Reformation."
The book is built upon two ideas, both of which I agree with entirely. The first is that the Reformation matters (which indicates that all of church history matters). Nicholas provides four reasons why: first, church history provides lots of examples of Christians from all walks of life who labored to bring their faith to bear upon the world in which they lived; second, church history can be humbling as we realize that we are not a whole lot better and smarter and godlier than people in the past; third, we are humbled by the spiritual insight and spiritual depth of our predecessors in the faith; fourth, we learn what matters most to the Christian faith when we look to church history in general the the Reformation in particular. The second idea behind this book is simply that history can be fun. Though teachers of history can take the fun out of it, this does not indicate that history is just plain boring. When taught well, history is a joy and can bring about many benefits.
The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World serves as a brief and popular introduction to the Reformation, and in particular, to the key figures in each of the nations involved. We first meet Martin Luther and learn about the Reformation in Germany where it began. From there we move to Ulrich Zwingli and Switzerland and then to the Anabaptists. From there we go to John Calvin, Thomas Cramner and other English Reformers, and then we meet the Puritans. The final chapter introduces many of the women of the Reformation, both those notable for being the wives of the Reformers and those who made substantive contributions on their own. A few appendices introduce Reformation-era creeds, prayers, and other writings. One section I appreciated was one dealing with the question of "Do we still need the Reformation?" Answering historians like Mark Noll who argue that the Reformation is over and that unity between Protestants and Catholics can now be achieved, Nichols affirms that the theology at the heart of the Reformation was the very gospel and that we are not at a place where we can have ecumenical unity.
All-in-all, this book serves as a wonderful, popular-level introduction to the key persons and events involved in the Reformation, surely one of history's most pivotal times. It makes for a great springboard to deeper appreciation and thus deeper study of both people and events. It is exactly the kind of book I would put in the hands of new Christians, or simply Christians who have no appreciation of the church's history, so they can benefit from knowing and understanding the history of the church and thus the history of their faith. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Nichols sets this up for an introduction for the differing reformations that happened all over the globe after the way that was paved by Wycliffe and Hus and then finally with the most powerful Martin Luther.
You can actually get a great understanding of where the book will lead you by seeing the different chapter titles.
1. Five Hundred Years Old and Still Going Strong: Why the Reformation Matters Today
2. A Monk and a Mallet: Martin Luther and the German Reformation
3. Some Middle-Aged Men and a Sausage Supper: Ulrich Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation
4. The Not-So-Radical Radical Reformers: The Anabaptists and the Reformation
5. An Overnight Stay in Geneva: John Calvin and the Swiss Reformation
6. A King and a Divorce: The Anglicans and the British Reformation
7. Men in Black: The Puritans and the British Reformation
8. Women in Black Too: The Untold Story of Women and the Reformation
Appendix: In Their Own Words: Selections from Documents of the Reformation
So, as you can see Nichols tries to cover a lot of ground in one little book, as the book, including the appendix is only 150 pages. It is very short in a lot of areas but it has to be so that the reader that is not accustomed to the Reformation can get their pallet wet enough to want to read other works that get more detailed each of these particular reformation periods.
The one thing that was stated at the first of the book that I was excited to see more about, that I found lacking, came when Nichols said we need to "humanize" the people of history. Meaning, we need to show who they were and not merely what they did. I felt as though Nichols did a pretty good job in this with Luther, but felt that this dropped off in the future chapters with the others. This, by no means, makes this book a disappointment and would definitely recommend it to others for an introduction to who and what went before us.
Nichols does make this history very readable and interesting to read without merely spitting out facts, which is happening in another book I am reading on the same subject. The book flows very well and makes you want to learn more about the reformers, instead of seeing history as a dry and dead subject.
I look forward to reading more books by Nichols and would defnitely recommend this to any who need an introduction to the Reformation from Wycliffe to the Puritans.