The Reformation Era by Robert D. Linder
Westport, CN and London: Greenwood, 2008
I have just finished reading Robert Linder’s new book on the reformation and plan to write a formal review. Dr. Linder is distinguished professor of history at Kansas State University.
A couple years ago he graciously agreed to speak to a small conference we had in Manhattan. I asked him to address the health of evangelical Christianity in the United States. He agreed, and as the date approached changed the working title of his lecture.
His first title was something like “The Health of the Evangelical Church in America.” Later he revised it to “The Seriously Ill Evangelical Church in America.” When he finally gave the lecture, the title was “The Apostate Evangelical Church in America.”
But that’s another story . . .
The book on the Reformation is written for high school and undergraduate students wishing to write a term paper the topic. It is packed full of information, including many primary documents, glossaries, brief biographies of major players, charts of main events and other helps, along with the main narrative. The book will prove very useful for its intended readers. I suspect that it will also be useful for graduate students preparing for exams. But I’ll finish the formal review later.
Right now I am thinking about all the bloody religious wars during that era.
This week I visited the ruined cathedral of Elgin. The remains are impressive enough–but how did the cathedral get ruined?
This one was actually destroyed well before the Reformation by the Wolf of Badenoch, son of the illegitimate father Robert II, in revenge for his excommunication.
But after the Reformation many of the catholic churches were destroyed by zealous reformers. These wars were probably political more than religious–except that religion and politics were so intertwined it was impossible to untangle them.
The thing that impressed me while reading Linder’s book and while visiting historic sites was that the only ones who came out without blood on their hands were the Anabaptists or radical reformers–those who took seriously the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and the nonviolent lifestyle of the pre-Constantinian Christians–the forerunners of the Mennonites, the Brethren, the Baptists and other similar followers of Christ who believed in free association, separation of church and state, and freedom of conscience.
They were suspected of being related to the rebellion of the fanatical Thomas Müntzer, with whom they had nothing in common, and were persecuted mercilessly by protestants and catholics alike. The Anabaptists women in particular showed tremendous courage; many of them were tortured and eventually murdered, usually by drowning.