Author Graham Tomlin
Publisher Bloomsbury £16.99
ISBN 9780567677396 2017
The fruit of thirty years’ study, this brief introduction to Luther’s world and theology will be of immense value to anyone beginning a serious course of study on the Reformation. Tomlin argues that Luther’s one great insight, that we are justified solely by faith in Christ, informed all his subsequent writing to build a new vision of Christian living. The book is divided into three parts. The first three chapters examine Luther’s understanding of the Gospel, rooted in his reading and translation of the Scriptures. There follow three chapters on how Luther’s thought transformed patterns of Christian life. The last three consider his practical and theological teaching on sex and marriage, the devil and freedom. Tomlin is concerned to show Luther in his original context, while emphasising that ‘Truth speaks in historical clothes’ into our own age as well. There is a useful bibliography and checklist of Tomlin’s other writing to aid further study.
Invisible Worlds: Death, religion and the supernatural in England 1500-1700
Author Peter Marshall
Publisher SPCK £17.99
My first reaction to this collection of essays (divided into two parts – one heaven, hell and purgatory; the other angels, ghosts and fairies) was: ‘Angels and ministers of grace defend us!’ (Hamlet I iv). The discussion of guardian angels from a Calvinist, rather than a Lutheran perspective, is intriguingly open-ended,
inviting readers to draw their own conclusions. The discussion of Purgatory was particularly fascinating. Its removal as a believed post-mortem destination, long-underpinned by dogma and then-contemporary literature, had a profound, unexpected impact: ‘…with the despising of purgatory, they began little to regard hell’ as one scribe put it. At modern funerals, the minister says: ‘in sure and certain hope of the resurrection…’ regardless of whom is being buried/cremated and what they did/did not believe. Are these comforting words only that, or should the church be more open, more honest about heaven and hell? This book provides an eloquent starting point for such a debate. Marshall has written an accessible masterpiece providing the key to understanding the collective intellectual and spiritual mindset post-Reformation, and its continuing influence on post-modern
western Christian thought.
Christianity at the Crossroads
Author Michael Kruger
Publisher SPCK £19.99
Kruger’s absorbing study shows how the future of the worldwide Christian Church was shaped during the turbulent second century, when all those who had met Jesus were dead. Christians faced enormous challenges. Having emerged from the legal umbrella of Judaism, the early Church learned resilience in the face of frequent, severe persecution from the Roman authorities, and gradually developed leadership structures involving local bishops and presbyters. Kruger shows how the intellectual strength of Christianity was invigorated through significant new writings, and the polemical arguments – culminating in the works of Irenaeus – that were needed to combat the heresies that sprang up throughout the Mediterranean regions. He demonstrates that the New Testament scriptural canon, apart from some brief letters, was essentially in place by mid-century, and suggests that modern Christianity can learn from the prophetic voice of these times. This is a worthy and accessible academic history, with an excellent bibliography.