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At a time when men and women were prepared to kill—and be killed—for their faith, the Protestant Reformation tore the Western world apart. Acclaimed as the definitive account of these epochal events, Diarmaid MacCulloch's award-winning history brilliantly re-creates the religious battles of priests, monarchs, scholars, and politicians—from the zealous Martin Luther and his At a time when men and women were prepared to kill—and be killed—for their faith, the Protestant Reformation tore the Western world apart. Acclaimed as the definitive account of these epochal events, Diarmaid MacCulloch's award-winning history brilliantly re-creates the religious battles of priests, monarchs, scholars, and politicians—from the zealous Martin Luther and his Ninety-Five Theses to the polemical John Calvin to the radical Igantius Loyola, from the tortured Thomas Cranmer to the ambitious Philip II.Drawing together the many strands of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and ranging widely across Europe and the New World, MacCulloch reveals as never before how these dramatic upheavals affected everyday lives—overturning ideas of love, sex, death, and the supernatural, and shaping the modern age.


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At a time when men and women were prepared to kill—and be killed—for their faith, the Protestant Reformation tore the Western world apart. Acclaimed as the definitive account of these epochal events, Diarmaid MacCulloch's award-winning history brilliantly re-creates the religious battles of priests, monarchs, scholars, and politicians—from the zealous Martin Luther and his At a time when men and women were prepared to kill—and be killed—for their faith, the Protestant Reformation tore the Western world apart. Acclaimed as the definitive account of these epochal events, Diarmaid MacCulloch's award-winning history brilliantly re-creates the religious battles of priests, monarchs, scholars, and politicians—from the zealous Martin Luther and his Ninety-Five Theses to the polemical John Calvin to the radical Igantius Loyola, from the tortured Thomas Cranmer to the ambitious Philip II.Drawing together the many strands of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and ranging widely across Europe and the New World, MacCulloch reveals as never before how these dramatic upheavals affected everyday lives—overturning ideas of love, sex, death, and the supernatural, and shaping the modern age.

30 review for The Reformation: A History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Frank Stein

    At times this book seemed like the most magisterial and thoughtful work I'd ever read on religion or early modern Europe. MacCulloch's descriptions of the Catholic Church before Luther, and of the monumental changes in life and society after Luther, are clear and beautiful examples of the history of culture and of thought, simply unparalleled in any work I've read on the subjects. The middle third of the book, however, is an impossibly confusing welter of names and dates. First, however, the good At times this book seemed like the most magisterial and thoughtful work I'd ever read on religion or early modern Europe. MacCulloch's descriptions of the Catholic Church before Luther, and of the monumental changes in life and society after Luther, are clear and beautiful examples of the history of culture and of thought, simply unparalleled in any work I've read on the subjects. The middle third of the book, however, is an impossibly confusing welter of names and dates. First, however, the good. MacCulloch does a great job rehabilitating the image of the church in the 1400s. Far from being corrupt and in decline, he shows how people across Europe were creating new forms of worship. Catholic writers like Thomas Kempis, in his "Imitation of Christ," claimed for the first time that laypeople could have direct access to Jesus's wisdom and even mimic his spirituality, and they helped inspire the "Devotio Moderne" movement, which allowed average citizens to become more involved in church practices. New "gilds" or "confraternities" like the Oratories of Divine Love, first in Genoa in 1497 and then in Rome in 1517, allowed non-priests to express their spirituality through care of the poor and sick in original ways. Priests, too, began to try to reach out to their flock. They took note of friars' (Franciscans and Dominicans) success in preaching, and started to buy and exchange handy primers on how to sermonize. They tried to become more than mere illiterate ciphers from Rome, but real counselors to their parish. Luther, in this version, was just one more offshoot of this combined professionalizing and, paradoxically, democratizing tendency. As MacCulloch shows, his great "break" with Rome, over his belief of justification by faith alone, was really just a cribbing from the 4th century bishop Augustine of Hippo, who was also inspiring other Catholic writers of the time like Dean Colet of London. The church's harsh reaction to Luther and his doctrine therefore inspired the Reformation more than Luther's ideas did. It then became a battle over Augustine's celebration of discipline to the holy church versus Augustine's celebration of "sole fide." As one writer remarked, the Reformation was after all just an extended battle inside the mind of Augustine. MacCulloch demonstrates how these misunderstandings and some geopolitics turned a possibly innocuous moment into a revolution, but as he explains how this revolution played out, he gets lost in explaining every minor prince, duke, bishop or earl who said or did anything about religion over 100-odd years of European history. They are then all mashed together with a bewildering series of cross-references. Returning to the social effects of the Reformation, however, the book becomes more sure-footed. The fascinating debate over the celibacy of the clergy, and how Protestant's reactions against it both ended up celebrating the family and denigrating the more medieval ease with the body, is well told. The displacement of Mary in Protestant iconography with the biblical patriarch Abraham is one clear example of a new emphasis on male prerogative, and of celebrating aged wisdom over physical presence. A similar example was the new-found love of beards among Protestant ministers. A myriad of other facts help explain how how life large and small was changed by this crucial period in religious history. So this book will tell you a wealth of interesting things bout Europe and religion, but you might do best to just skip out the middle part.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b087pr2y Description: 500 years after the Reformation, Diarmaid MacCulloch examines how the announcement of a university seminar in Germany led to the division of Europe. He examines the ideas of Martin Luther, where they came from and why they proved so revolutionary, tracing their development and influence, and reflecting on what they mean for us today. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b087pr2y Description: 500 years after the Reformation, Diarmaid MacCulloch examines how the announcement of a university seminar in Germany led to the division of Europe. He examines the ideas of Martin Luther, where they came from and why they proved so revolutionary, tracing their development and influence, and reflecting on what they mean for us today.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Adam Snider

    This is simply put the best popular history book I've ever read. The subject is the Reformation, but MacCulloch goes far beyond the traditional "Luther to Westphalia" timeline, using the first few chapters to flesh out the world of Latin Christianity as it existed during the century or so before Luther arrived on the scene. Geographically the book also extends well beyond the borders of what we often view to be the main sphere of the Reformation - Germany, France, and England - to explore how th This is simply put the best popular history book I've ever read. The subject is the Reformation, but MacCulloch goes far beyond the traditional "Luther to Westphalia" timeline, using the first few chapters to flesh out the world of Latin Christianity as it existed during the century or so before Luther arrived on the scene. Geographically the book also extends well beyond the borders of what we often view to be the main sphere of the Reformation - Germany, France, and England - to explore how the same forces for reform and spiritual experimentation were alive in Italy, Spain and other countries usually seen as solidly (and stolidly) orthodox Catholic. The lands east, north and south of Germany, including Transylvania, Bohemia, the Balkans and Scandinavia are also given a much more detailed examination than usual. Nor is this at all accidental. MacCulloch is clearly determined to eliminate what he sees as blank spots and misinterpretations in the popular conception of what the Reformation was and how it came to be. The role of such famous characters as Erasmus and Loyola, Bethlen Gabor and Archbishop Laud, are reexamined, and pains are taken to give those who are often dismissed as bit characters or historical peculiarities - Zwingli, for example, who is so often overshadowed by the more well known Calvin - are given back their true significance. The book is thick with detail - if there is a flaw to it, it's that some readers may well be exhausted by the book, but it's all put together so skillfully that most readers will, I think, end up working their way through the whole massive tome in record time. Despite all this detail within the main text, MacCulloch sets aside a few chapters at the end to deal with specific questions - gender roles and sexuality, for example - in a more specific manner. These are excellent resources, and ones which would have been difficult to include in the main text without either having to dilute them considerably in order to fit with the more chronological narrative of the rest of the book or breaking up the flow. All in all, an excellent piece of work. Considerably better, in my opinion, than his (nevertheless quite good) History of Christianity, which suffers from the sheer vastness of the subject set into a single volume. The Reformation, on the other hand, shows what MacCulloch can do with a rich but temporally more limited subject, and the result is a thing of beauty.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jo Walton

    This was excellent -- readable, smooth, as comprehensive and unbiased as one can hope for. I now understand a whole lot of things more clearly, and know about a host of other things of which I was ignorant. I recommend this to anyone with an interest in European intellectual and social history. I especially recommend it to anyone who ever thought the Reformation was boring but that they ought to know more about it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    The story of the Reformation is long and complex, and so are many of MacCulloch's sentences, but never mind. This is a rich and full account of the Reformation, in which the motivations of faith and feeling, power and practicality are woven fine, the players in the drama are presented as whole people, and the meaning of this chapter of Western cultural history is modeled "in the round." Rakow and Torda are meaningfully placed in it, as are Calvin's two foils: Michael Servetus and Marguerite de N The story of the Reformation is long and complex, and so are many of MacCulloch's sentences, but never mind. This is a rich and full account of the Reformation, in which the motivations of faith and feeling, power and practicality are woven fine, the players in the drama are presented as whole people, and the meaning of this chapter of Western cultural history is modeled "in the round." Rakow and Torda are meaningfully placed in it, as are Calvin's two foils: Michael Servetus and Marguerite de Navarre. The effort of concentration sometimes demanded is relieved by memorable and meaningful stories, and richly rewarded in the end. MacCulloch gave me a better understanding and appreciation of two figures active in Italy during the Reformation: Juan de Valdes and Reginald Pole. Valdes "developed a circle of friends and admirers, wealthy or talented or both, who shared his passion for humanist learning and his deep commitment to promoting a vital, engaged Christian faith." It included Bernardo Ochino, Peter Martyr, Vittoria Colonna, Giulia Gonzaga, Gasparo Contarini, and Pole. (Pole, a cousin of Henry VIII with a better claim to the English throne, was in Italy because he sided with the king's wife, Catherine of Aragon, and was exiled.) "Divergent themes naturally emerged from such a creative and articulate group, yet central was a renewed emphasis on the grace which God sent through faith, together with a consistent urge to reveal the Holy Spirit as the force conveying this grace – so that associates of the movement were soon characterized as Spirituali. ... Valdes ... believed that some favoured children of God would be led to ever deeper union with Christ, and the Scriptures might not be the only or the chief illumination on the way." He died in 1541; the next year the Roman Inquisition was created, and many in his circle fled Italy to influence the Reformation in Switzerland, southern Germany and eastern Europe. Pole remained in Italy and was a papal legate to the Council of Trent. When the death of Pope Paul III offered an opportunity "to turn the tide of authoritarianism in the Roman Church, [Pole was] one of the favourite candidates to succeed [him] ... a tribute to the continuing respect in which he was held... There were many diverse hopes invested in him – too many and too diverse for his own good. Even the dying Paul III had recommended him. The [Holy Roman] Emperor [Charles V] approved of him because he had ... championed Charles's aunt Catherine of Aragon..., because he was of royal blood, and because he was not Italian. Pole's upbringing linked him to the high-minded, tidy-minded clergy and their royal admirers who had made early Tudor England one of the best-run parts of Christendom... His cosmopolitan education made him a humanist scholar at the centre of a cultured international circle worthy of Erasmus. His patronage and friendship had attracted some of the most creative minds of southern Europe ... and ... he was generally recognized as one of the most thoughtful churchmen of his day. Perhaps only Marguerite [de Navarre] could rival him as a magnet for reformers who wished to remain true to the old Church... Yet Pole failed. ... the proceedings became drawn out (it was one of the longest conclaves in papal history) and Pole did not have the stomach for a face-to-face fight in such atmospheres of bitterness. Once more he drew back from the brink instead of seizing the hour [and] the last chance passed away for a Reformation such as Erasmus had sought." Who knew? In portraits like these are food for thought about today's leaders and the import of their choices. And of yours.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Comprehensive, but dry.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Henry Sturcke

    Confronted with the challenge of writing about an era too well-known, Lytton Strachey advised how the explorer of the past would proceed: “He will row out over the great ocean of material, and lower down into it, here and there, a little bucket, which will bring up to the light of day some characteristic specimen, from the far depths, to be examined with a careful curiosity.” This magisterial history of the Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch is a prolonged exercise in doing just that. This is a s Confronted with the challenge of writing about an era too well-known, Lytton Strachey advised how the explorer of the past would proceed: “He will row out over the great ocean of material, and lower down into it, here and there, a little bucket, which will bring up to the light of day some characteristic specimen, from the far depths, to be examined with a careful curiosity.” This magisterial history of the Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch is a prolonged exercise in doing just that. This is a subject I know a thing or two about, yet his text is liberally sprinkled with facts, insights and interpretations new to me, all of it told in an off-hand style that makes it seem as if he’s just sitting and chatting with you in a diffident way. Yet never did I feel that his examples were mere curiosities; invariably they illuminated the topic under discussion. The section of New Possibilities: Paper and Printing (70–76) is a case in point. Many have made the connection between the invention of movable type and the rapid spread of the ideas of Luther and other Reformers. But MacCulloch thinks further. The rapid proliferation of (affordable) books made it worthwhile to learn to read—this, before 1516. In turn, the proliferation of profitable printers created an opportunity for new texts. The modern concept of “author” had its birth then. And it surely wasn’t accidental that it was only then that the Index was created: an attempt to control which of the new flood of books should not be read. I also found enlightening his assertion that the Reformation can be seen as a conflict within the legacy of Augustine, with Luther emphasizing the inability of a human to work toward his or her own salvation, making him or her utterly dependent on God’s grace, while his opponents oriented themselves on Augustine’s stress on the need for obedience to the church to attain salvation. The author shows throughout how much can be gained by considering how social, economic and political aspects of life then factored into the Reformation yet at the same time maintains the centrality of theology. People then were in dead earnest about matters of belief. One feature of the book is its continent-wide scale. Too often, an emphasis on German-speaking Europe obscures the interesting developments to the east. Another is that after 500 pages of roughly chronological treatment, the author adds a section entitled Patterns of Life dealing with a variety of topics such as the use of images, the frenzy with regard to witches, and matters related to family and sexuality, focusing both on aspects that remained the same despite the split in Western Christianity, as well as what changed. This is a thick book: my paperback copy has 700 pages of text set in small type, supplemented by suggestions for further reading, notes and an index. It may be more than the casual reader cares to digest. But with the 500th anniversary of the outbreak of the Reformation rapidly approaching, I say with confidence that if you read only one book on the topic, this would be an excellent choice.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    Magisterial. MacCulloch's scholarship is formidable. It took me a month to read and yet I never felt the urge to put it away. He gives in depth coverage to areas I've read little about despite having read a lot of books about the Reformation. One example I remember is a solid review of the Reformation in the Netherlands. It is not an easy read but it is a worthwhile one.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Achord

    Lengthy and somewhat informed. I'm no expert on the Reformation, hence my reading of the book, but I have read around in theology and history. Social Backdrop: MacCulloch provides extensive social and civic background to the Reformation that is invaluable. He draws a confluence of courses all converging upon this varied yet singular event. As a social history, it is superb. He also, very wonderfully, shows how, prior to *The* Reformation, there were thousands of tiny little reformations. Monks, p Lengthy and somewhat informed. I'm no expert on the Reformation, hence my reading of the book, but I have read around in theology and history. Social Backdrop: MacCulloch provides extensive social and civic background to the Reformation that is invaluable. He draws a confluence of courses all converging upon this varied yet singular event. As a social history, it is superb. He also, very wonderfully, shows how, prior to *The* Reformation, there were thousands of tiny little reformations. Monks, priests, friars, nuns, bishops, lords, barons, princes, kings, and so on; all of whom formed so many various organizations and institutions of reform in their own ways, that it is difficult to study *The* Reformation without them. In narrating this account, MacCulloch has done us all an excellent service. For instance, Luther was not the only one disgusted with the sale of indulgences: “There was therefore a ready audience for anyone who cared to speak out against what was happening.” Explaining the social and civil workings of the Reformation has got to be MacCulloch's strongest suit. The book is chocked full with social details and facts. In fact, it can become overwhelming going back and forth between minute details all over Europe. One may even say that this book represents MacCulloch's attempt to interpret what is seen popularly as a religious/divine movement in terms strictly as a civil/social movement. Areligious bias. Perhaps the book's greatest deficit is lack of the author's eye to God's providence, the absence of true belief, and lack of love for his subject. Take not my words for it. At the beginning of the book, MacCulloch notes his passing indifference to any one sect of Christianity, and hints at his removed coolness to the religion as a whole. He retains a warm affection for quaint memories of the Church of England, but excuses himself from actual adherence to any dogma. This attitude comes off in his retelling of the history of the Reformation; a story in which nothing very good on either side (Catholic or Protestant) is mentioned, as measured in religious, civil, moral, academic, or economic terms. The majority of his narrative varies from mild amusement to uninvited criticism; the church on either side in the West was in a series of civil blunders, moral failings, intolerance, greed, ignorance, insincerity, superstition, soft exploitation, power grabs, and impious compromise. So subtle but persistent is MacCulloch's detached air, one gets the felling that not even the Church believed in Christianity. The church could neither tolerate nor understand itself, the civil or natural world, nor even other churches such as the Eastern Orthodox. 1400s Muslims, however, who invaded, slaughtered, and conquered formerly Christian Eastern lands receive such warm treatment as follows: “By comparison the Turks were remarkably tolerant of non-Muslim faith communities; once they had taken Constantinople and adapted its greatest church of Hagia Sophia as a magnificent mosque, they did much to enhance the Patriarch of Constantinople’s position against his various rivals in the eastern Churches, considering this a good way of controlling their Christian subjects. When eastern scholars fled west after Constantinople’s fall, western Christians showed a notable lack of interest in finding out about Orthodox theology and liturgy; they really only esteemed these refugees for the hitherto unknown classical manuscripts that they might bring. It was not surprising that many eastern Christians were more willing to acquiesce in Ottoman rule and preserve their faith intact than to accept help on very unequal terms from western Europeans.” Notice, the Muslims were "remarkably tolerant", they "adapted" the Hagia Sophia. They didn't invade, slaughter, conquest, destroy, pillage, overthrow. They "adapted". Christians in the West, however, didn't even care to welcome fleeing Eastern Christians. But MacCulloch does not address why, if the Turks were so tolerant and adapting, Christians were fleeing. Luck vs. Providence: Instead of God's providence, mentioned above, MacCulloch sees "luck" at play in history: “There were many elements of luck which came together in Luther’s position in Wittenberg.” The hand of God almighty is replaced with sociological developments to explain the Reformation in a sort of inexorable sense: it arose as the natural evolution of society at the time. Ehrman-esque textual criticism and erudite mockery: MacCulloch thinks little of the middle ages transmission of texts and truth by monks: “In earlier centuries, monks cheerfully forged documents on a huge scale for the greater glory of God, particularly charters proving their monastery’s claim to lands and privileges. They lived in a world where there were too few documents, and so they needed to manufacture the authority to prove things which they knew in their hearts to be true.” He uses the statement to illustrate their forgery and mistransmission of biblical texts. One wonders of MacCulloch's views on the truthfulness and inerrancy of Scripture - a marked tenant of the Reformation. Lack of Theological Awareness. I think this stems from MacCulloch's disinterest in religion. He does not describe with sufficient detail the theological and doctrinal ideas of the Reformed movements, but shallowly. When he does describe them, such as Luther's view on indulgences, Zwingli's view on the Lord's Supper, Calvin's view on civil government, or Cranmer's view on the English church, he characterizes them in the worst possible light; often as having developed from ill-begotten motives. Luther wallowed in his paradoxes, Zwingli was two-faced with the anabaptists, Calvin was a destructive radical, and Cranmer was motivated by expediency. Nor are the consequences of ideas discussed. Or, when they are, nothing positive AT ALL is mentioned. Society was the worst off for the Reformation. At very least, reading this book, one does not come to any attachments to the Reformation. At most, one comes to view it with a despised condescension. Tangled writing. MacCulloch's writing is ambling and at times incessantly stringed. Each sentence leads to another idea whose reasoned connection one traces like a bottle rocket without a tail. Added to the difficulty is that his syntax compiles too many thoughts on top of themselves so as to make reading like climbing a mountain of clam shells. This is a typical sentence pair: “We have already encountered the charismatic Franciscan Giovanni di Capistrano; when the Turks first tried to capture Belgrade in 1456, Capistrano’s preaching stirred thousands of humble crusaders from central Europe in a successful effort to beat them off. The Magyar vojvoda (military prince) János Hunyadi, whose personal army was also prominent in relieving Belgrade, was uneasy about these hordes, and dismissed them as soon as victory was won, preventing a full follow-up of the Turks’ defeat.” How do the two sentences follow one another? Such is his retelling of the entire era. It is painting with two hands on two different canvases at the same time. Here's another example of an outstretched *single* sentence: “It was an imitation of the many local inquisitions of the Church, which under Dominican leadership had investigated heresy in Europe since the thirteenth century, but now it was organized by the monarchy, and after complicated royal haggling with Pope Sixtus IV between 1478 and 1480 to create its legal framework, it settled down to work against ‘Judaizers’ in the kingdom of Castile, burning alive around 700 of them between 1481 and 1488.” Whew. Historical balance. MacCulloch leaves out important detail in his historical narrative. The background to the Reformation included the Crusades and the Inquisition, granted. MacCulloch goes into detail how the Spanish Christians violently treated the nondescript Jews and Muslims who just happened to be living there passively. “Thus disoriented, leaderless, and caught between the enthusiasms of two conflicting religions while trying to deal with their crisis, the conversos (Jews) were easy prey...” He does not discuss the atrocities committed by the Muslims bent on conquest of Christian lands. Nor does he suggest motives for Christian *reaction* to said invasions other than political posturing, power, and money. No theology is discussed, nor are the Jewish or Muslim actors described in equal detail. Reading MacCulloch, one gets the idea that, again, Christians did only or mostly wrong at every turn. Anachronistic bent: “After official Spain decisively rejected the peninsula’s multicultural past, it is not unfair to see Spanish Christianity as a major exponent and practitioner of ethnic cleansing.” The invasion of Muslims through war and battle is not "multiculturalism", a term whose concept emerges centuries after this period. Spain was not "multicultural" in any modern usage of the word. It was Christian and Spanish, and from those pillars rejected foreign intrusion. Update: I've discovered the key to reading MacCulloch's book: Read him like you read Barth - either the first sentence of each paragraph or the first clause of each sentence, but no more. The rest is convolution. This makes for enjoyable reading, and nothing of substance is lost.

  10. 4 out of 5

    J. Dunn

    I picked this up because I knew almost nothing about the Reformation, and I felt like I should at least have the basic history straight for events which were so vital to the shaping of the modern world. And, it mostly covered me for that. He did an excellent job of putting you inside the very alien worldviews and socio-cultural arrangements of the time, and illustrating just how revolutionary and sudden a change the Reformation really was. He gave engaging and detailed sketches of most of the mai I picked this up because I knew almost nothing about the Reformation, and I felt like I should at least have the basic history straight for events which were so vital to the shaping of the modern world. And, it mostly covered me for that. He did an excellent job of putting you inside the very alien worldviews and socio-cultural arrangements of the time, and illustrating just how revolutionary and sudden a change the Reformation really was. He gave engaging and detailed sketches of most of the main actors involved in the religious, political, and cultural arenas. He covered enough of the intricate theological problems which developed and were fought out, but not so much as to make my eyes glaze over. And he did an excellent job of taking you down to the level of everyday people and looking at how and why they embraced such a sudden change in such a vital part of their existence, and what the consequences were for their way of life going forward. Where he fell down just a bit was in connecting the ground-level with the elite, and the religious with the political and especially the military. He did a good job on the elites insofar as they related to religion, but the political history was pretty thin. He also certainly covered all of the major conflicts of the time, but they always seemed like something that happened in the background and only flashed into full view at a few crisis points. I came in with a vague idea of how and why the French Wars of Religion, the English Civil War, and the 30 Years’ War were fought, and left with a not much clearer one. Of course, any one of those conflicts can and has merited many an extensive history of its own, but I think he could have done a better job of fully describing them and linking them more thoroughly and organically with the political, social, cultural and religious turmoil that caused and sustained them. The 30 Years’ War especially seemed to be elided over. Constraints of space were probably a big concern, as the book still came in at over 700 pages, but I would have rather read another 100 or so and been left with a more complete picture. Still, pretty minor quibbles for a book that taught me lot about a subject I came in with little background on, and that had plenty of major strengths to outweigh that one notable weakness. Definitely read if you want a solid social, cultural, religious, and basic political history of the Reformation from a modern point of view. If you’re more interested in the military history or in any of the specific conflicts, pick up a more specialized history of the case in question.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Xander

    In Reformation: Europese House Divided (2004), Oxford theologian Diarmaid MacCulloch gives a deep and broad historical sketch of the reformation. The reformation has always intrigued me: how could people rally against each other, and commit the most horrible acts, for ideas. Hence, I was an easy prey for the mainstream scientific hypotheses, which explain the reformation as a (geo)political, social and economical phenomenon. MacCulloch breaks this delusional spell, and he does this with a magnifi In Reformation: Europese House Divided (2004), Oxford theologian Diarmaid MacCulloch gives a deep and broad historical sketch of the reformation. The reformation has always intrigued me: how could people rally against each other, and commit the most horrible acts, for ideas. Hence, I was an easy prey for the mainstream scientific hypotheses, which explain the reformation as a (geo)political, social and economical phenomenon. MacCulloch breaks this delusional spell, and he does this with a magnificent book. The author argues that social, economic and even (geo)political explanations are insufficient to explain the origin of the Reformation. True, princes and statesmen - especially in Germany and France - quickly saw the potential of these religious storms to increase their power or even change the whole game (as in the case of many German regions), but this only proves how people with power can jump on anything that might be beneficial to them. So how did the Reformation start? To understand this, you have to go back to fourth century Hippo (in North Africa). The bishop of this Roman town, better known as Saint Augustine, came up with a sort of Christian philosophy which quickly became one of the foundations of the Western Church. Augustine meticulously studied the Bible, as well as contemporary sources on the Roman Empire (especially its history), and he was familiar with the Greek philosophical schools. The results of this? The doctrine of predestination. Augustine argued that God created the universe, and then he created man. At the moment of Creation, God already knew the sinfulness of human beings, and out of love for us (since God is supposedly all-loving), he selected a few of us who were marked for salvation. What about the rest of us? Well, most of us will burn in eternal hellfire, where our skins will burn, new skins will grow so they can burn again, etc. etc. In other words: the moment a human being is born, it is already determined - by God, at the moment of Creation - if that particular person is marked for salvation or will go to hell. MacCulloch clearly explains how this doctrine is inhuman, and this is the reason that the Western Church, through the Middle Ages up to 1517, put gradually more emphasis on salvation and God's grace. For starters, if it is already determined at birth if you will burn forever or not, why should you follow God's commandments? Next, priests who helped people in their dying days saw human beings in intense agony and fear - of course they stressed that there were alternatives to Hell. This humane boundary between rigid doctrines and human lives, turned into official Church doctrine: Purgatory was invented. People don't go to Hell, they simply go to a temporary Hell - based on how many sins you committed you have to be purged in this temporary firing place. But even the idea of thousands of years of burning alive wouldn't really soothe people's minds. So next came the indulgences and rewards for charity. The Church claimed that people who do good, for example donating money to hospitals after their death or giving alms to beggars, would be rewarded. The patients in the hospitals and the beggars would pray for you - this would give you time off in Purgatory. You could also buy an indulgence from the local priest and shorten the time of skin flaying in Purgatory. Anyways, when Martin Luther went to university, he stumbled onto two problems. First, he couldn't stand Aristotle, and since Aristotelian philosophy was official Church doctrine (ever since Thomas Aquinas), this led him to an aversion to official Church teachings. Second, Luther found - when reading the works of Saint Augustine - that the practices of the Western Church, like selling indulgences and pronouncing the possibility of salvation through good deeds, had seriously run off course throughout the centuries. We all know what came next. Luther started to proclaim that the Pope was Antichrist and that the Church was delusional. People should just read the Bible for themselves and then the Holy Ghost will see to it that people will be inspired and learn for themselves what's true. This idea was, of course, a serious threat to the power and authority of the Western Church, so swords would likely be drawn. According to MacCulloch, the rise of Luther - and later Zwingli, Melanchton, Calvin, and others - came at a time when Europe was in a very bad state, and mood, so to speak. The Turks were continuously attacking Christian borders and capturing European slaves at the coasts of Europe. This was seen as punishment of God for bad Christian behavior. Second, there were famines, plagues, natural disasters, and man-made wars. This was also seen as punishment of God. In other words: during the 16th century there was much to worry about for Europeans and many people believed the end-times were coming. Another catalyst for the later problems was the shape of the German territories. The Holy Roman Empire was superficially a huge force, but there was much internal strife and power play between different princes, dukes, etc. In short, the 16th century was a bad moment for a split in the Western Church. All these troubles culminated in the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), in which entire Europe became a battlefield for religious strife. An illustration: current estimates point to 30-40% of the inhabitants of the German lands dying of warfare, or subsequent famine and disease. Think about what this means: every third person you know and care about dropping dead. MacCulloch, as a Christian and a theologian, is very honest when he writes how the Thirty Years' War was, in essence, a religious conflict. It is all too cozy to explain it as power play of European princes and nobility - the alliances were religiously motivated, the frontiers were caused by (earlier) religious fracture, and in the end people killed in name of their religion. He clearly explains, throughout the whole book, how very abstract discussions about even more abstract ideas would culminate in broken relationships at best, and open war at worst. Just a few examples to illustrate the key point of the book (the Reformation was about ideas), which probably sound absurd to modern day human beings, but try to imagine this was a matter of life or death for most people involved. 1. Do the wafer and wine at the Mass really contain the body and blood of Christ? Or is this just a metaphor? And if so, how does this happen? Isn't it the case that when an essence changes, the substance is different? The idea of transubstantiation was an inflammatory issue, not just in academic circles. 2. Is Jesus Christ of the same nature as God? Or is he of a different nature? If of the same nature: what is the relationship between Christ's human body and God's infinite spirit? If of a different Nature: should Christ then still be regarded as God, or should we see him as a 'mere' prophet? Once again, this debate was far from settled after the early Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon. To end this review, let me, once again, say that Reformation: Europe's House Divided is a magnificent book, written by a very eloquent and able writer. The only drawback is its length: it is more than 700 pages, which makes it a huge investment - so I can recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about Christianity and/or one of the most important historical epochs of Europe.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    500 years after the Reformation, Diarmaid MacCulloch examines how the announcement of a university seminar in Germany led to the division of Europe. He examines the ideas of Martin Luther, where they came from and why they proved so revolutionary, tracing their development and influence, and reflecting on what they mean for us today. Producer: Dixi Stewart. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b087pr2y 500 years after the Reformation, Diarmaid MacCulloch examines how the announcement of a university seminar in Germany led to the division of Europe. He examines the ideas of Martin Luther, where they came from and why they proved so revolutionary, tracing their development and influence, and reflecting on what they mean for us today. Producer: Dixi Stewart. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b087pr2y

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Ozab

    An excellent overview of the cataclysmic splintering of Western Christianity, The Reformation is long (700 pp) and intricate in detail, but the narrative never drags. Diarmid MacCulloch is thorough and almost always balanced in his view of both the Protestant and Catholic sides of the struggle. The only time his biases seem to show are when he discusses the English Reformation. He seems to have very little patience for the more conservative and, to be honest, catholic side of the Church of Engla An excellent overview of the cataclysmic splintering of Western Christianity, The Reformation is long (700 pp) and intricate in detail, but the narrative never drags. Diarmid MacCulloch is thorough and almost always balanced in his view of both the Protestant and Catholic sides of the struggle. The only time his biases seem to show are when he discusses the English Reformation. He seems to have very little patience for the more conservative and, to be honest, catholic side of the Church of England, treating the Elizabethan settlement as an anomaly and Richard Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity as idiosyncratic, and he calls Caroline Divines either "avant garde conformists" (what does that mean?) or "Arminians" (what their Calvinist Puritan opponents called them, even though they had no direct connection to Jacob Arminus). At one point, MacCulloch makes an intriguing connection between William Laud's efforts against the Puritans and the Catholic Counter Reformation, but he never pursues this idea beyond a few sentences. Deep down, I sense an evangelical sympathy that can't quite let go of the myth of a truly "Reformed" Church of England. That is my one and only complaint, though. MacCulloch does an excellent job discussing the Continental Reformation. He covers both the major and at least some of the minor figures on both sides and shows how the events of this period have forever shaped the world for both better and worse. The Reformation is great tragedy, a lost opportunity, and the foundation of the modern world. It is the stuff of epics, and MacCulloch tells the tale magnificently.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    This is another book that has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for some time. Now, I've finally finished reading it and I am glad that I did. Mr. MacCulloch sweeps through the Reformation with an energy and verve that is not found in many similar, one-volume accounts of history. And he is quite adept at switching between the historical, theological, and social aspects of the period that tore Western Europe apart. For those who have taken a course on modern Western history, the basic outline of This is another book that has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for some time. Now, I've finally finished reading it and I am glad that I did. Mr. MacCulloch sweeps through the Reformation with an energy and verve that is not found in many similar, one-volume accounts of history. And he is quite adept at switching between the historical, theological, and social aspects of the period that tore Western Europe apart. For those who have taken a course on modern Western history, the basic outline of the Reformation will be familiar to the lay reader. But because he doesn't tie himself down to one particular historical figure or theology or even interpretation of events, but endeavors to explain everything, there will be countless historical nuggets that will surprise many. The lack of corruption, as portrayed by Protestants, in the Catholic church is just one of many. This book also shows the beginning of things that still profoundly impact our world today: the marketplace, and competition, of ideas; proto-public education as begun in catechisms and Sunday schools; missionary and evangelical movements (which explains why there is a revivalist-evangelical "crusade" going on next door to me for the next three weeks) and the ever-present question of how to interpret the Holy Bible and worship God and his Son, Jesus Christ. For those who are interested in the Western world and how it came to be, this is a book not to be missed.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lu Tsun

    "A learned, enlightening and disturbing masterwork."---Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World. Very fun to read, good very political interpretation of the Reformation history, but don't expect to find providence or love for Church there.

  16. 5 out of 5

    CJ Bowen

    MacCulloch knows the words, but not the tune. Brilliant and sad.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450 -1650 by Eire is a better book than this one. It is one of the few books I didn’t review because I thought it was perfect and anything that I would mumble about it would have only distracted from its superior history telling. Overall, I don’t feel that way about this book whatsoever. I did like the line in this book the author quotes somebody saying that ‘one Dutch man is a theologian, two are a church, and three are a schism’. That was a good line. Unf Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450 -1650 by Eire is a better book than this one. It is one of the few books I didn’t review because I thought it was perfect and anything that I would mumble about it would have only distracted from its superior history telling. Overall, I don’t feel that way about this book whatsoever. I did like the line in this book the author quotes somebody saying that ‘one Dutch man is a theologian, two are a church, and three are a schism’. That was a good line. Unfortunately, well told history needs more than just well quoted lines it also needs the realization of explaining the past in terms of itself and MacCulloch forgets that from time to time and strays from seeing the past within its own terms and at times removes the reader from the actual story that is unfolding. Eire, in his superior book, never strayed from the meaning of the past as its meaning was being revealed in its own time period. I was surprised that the author generally referred to the Protestants and the Reformers as ‘Humanist’. Partly, he defined Humanist as those who look beyond authority for truth, a somewhat slippery and misleading definition in my opinion. I think of Luther as the start of anti-humanism and Erasmus as a seminal Humanist (I have no problem adding Plutarch, Petrarch, and Dante to the list of seminal Humanist and perhaps Pelagius). Bondage of the Will by Luther a book mentioned multiple times in this book lays out the Protestants disagreement with Pelagius and Erasmus; cutting to the chase, they both believe that prayer makes a difference and good works matter. Luther does not. Calvin does not. Anyways, overall I was surprised by how the author would describe people who I would consider as anti-Humanist characterized as Humanist. Calvin just doesn’t strike me as a Humanist as the author clearly states multiple times within this book that Calvinist was a Humanist. (I think the start of Fascism would start with the start of the anti-Humanist and I would definitely put Calvin and Luther in the anti-Humanist camp. I don’t want to connect all the dots since that would make this review too prolix, but I will say Hitler gives a special shout out in his monstrous auto-biography to Luther and his anti-Humanist beliefs for a reason, and Trump is also most easily and accurately described as an anti-Humanist or Fascist because in the end for him truth emanates from where the self anointed leader says it does and is interpreted through his privileged identity lens. Tell me again why Luther did not support the peasants’ revolt? Or why Trump forbids all Muslims or brown people to immigrate or why he spouts all that hate at his Nuremberg Rallies which the archetypal anti-Humanist, fascist or equivalently white supremacist, would be in sympathy with). I enjoy this time period as much as the next person, after all who amongst us does not love esoteric discussions on theological fine points which led to killing others based on nothing more than ideological beliefs only within their own minds or unanswerable questions such as how many natures does Jesus have? I would also recommend reading Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind by Massing before reading this book. It is more narrowly focused than this book, but it too covers some of the topics in this book albeit superiorly. I like almost all history books. I liked this one. I would recommend this one especially since it’s free from Hoopla. Though if you can’t get a free copy I would definitely recommend one of the other two books I mentioned above because there is remoteness in the way the author writes which makes his story telling less compelling than the time period warrants and besides Eire’s book is near perfect in its telling.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    I've owned a copy, maybe since 2013. Haven't read it yet.

  19. 4 out of 5

    P

    The most impressive popular history book I’ve read to date. MacCulloch covers western European religious movements from roughly the Avignon Papacy (1309) through the conclusion of the Thirty Years War (1648), and does so with neither confessional bias nor the typical modern cynicism. Catholics, Protestants and secularists would do well to devour and learn from this work. Hopefully I’ll get around to a better review, but in any case this will stay on my shelf for a long time as a useful refresher The most impressive popular history book I’ve read to date. MacCulloch covers western European religious movements from roughly the Avignon Papacy (1309) through the conclusion of the Thirty Years War (1648), and does so with neither confessional bias nor the typical modern cynicism. Catholics, Protestants and secularists would do well to devour and learn from this work. Hopefully I’ll get around to a better review, but in any case this will stay on my shelf for a long time as a useful refresher when reading specialist and/or more narrow histories.

  20. 5 out of 5

    James

    When deciding on the rating to give to the books I've read, I'm always torn between giving it a score reflecting how I enjoyed the book subjectively and a score reflecting how good I recognised the book to be objectively. Frequently I'll find these two perspectives agree (it's certainly easier to enjoy a book that you recognise to be a literary achievement than to enjoy one you don't), but that really wasn't the case here. Let the record show that I didn't enjoy this book. It is long, dense and c When deciding on the rating to give to the books I've read, I'm always torn between giving it a score reflecting how I enjoyed the book subjectively and a score reflecting how good I recognised the book to be objectively. Frequently I'll find these two perspectives agree (it's certainly easier to enjoy a book that you recognise to be a literary achievement than to enjoy one you don't), but that really wasn't the case here. Let the record show that I didn't enjoy this book. It is long, dense and comprised of a seemingly endless string of names and locations. It's my own fault: I wanted to school myself on the history of the Reformation (a period of history I've always been a little foggy about) and perhaps I should have waded into something shallower first before diving into the dark, deep waters that Diarmaid McCulloch has formed here. I'm comfortable with longer, denser books normally, but I must say that completing this one was something of an ordeal, and I was a little relieved when I finally completed it. But perhaps I'm being a little negative: the trajectory of the narrative (and the text does largely take the form of a narrative, spanning the years 1490-1700) is clear and consistent, and McCulloch's style is always readable. Those who expecting a thorough account of these tumultuous years will not be disappointed, and I can't imagine that there is a more authoritative account of the Reformation currently available on the market. The chapters dealing with the religious situation prior to the Reformation are particularly informative and worth reading, as are the sections dealing with the early schisms that existed within Protestantism from the beginning (i.e. the disagreements between Luther and Zwingli, the constantly shafting sectarian battles in 16th-17th England and so on). If you are prepared for the level of detail, this book really does stand tall as a work of quality scholarship that manages to remain eminently readable throughout. But its that degree of detail that represents this book's biggest problem. Since this book intends to examine the effects of the Reformation in its entirety, we are treated parallel accounts of religious developments in almost all of Europe's countries during the period described. Some of these developments - such as those in England, Holland, France, Germany, Italy etc. - were genuinely important, and there is little doubt that the ramifications of these developments in such countries have left a deep impression in the course of global history. But did we really need dozens of pages of detail when describing the course of the Lithuanian church? Or the politics of 17th century Denmark? Or the plights of minor Bohemian religious sects? Did these developments in any way shape the course of the Reformation - let alone subsequent history - outside of these countries? And let it be noted that I'm not simply complaining because I find such detail to be tedious or time-consuming, I think it really does detract from our ability to grasp the bigger picture. It becomes impossible to see the forest for all the trees and McCulloch only rarely raises us upon his great shoulders to get a better view. The spread of Protestantism and fate of Catholic Church is spelled out in great detail for (as I mentioned) almost every country in Europe, comprising a disorienting blur of minor names and locations, but we are never given a broader overview or explanation as to why, for instance, northern Europe came to be dominated by Protestantism while the south remained largely Catholic. An entire chapter (of over 50 pages, from memory) is devoted to the 30 Years War, and I'm still left almost completely unaware of what role religion might have played in the conflict. For those with a solid background understanding of the period this mightn't be such a problem, but it left me feeling like I'd learned little from the best part of a month of committed reading. But, as I said, I must blame myself for much of this. I should have started with something simpler, and McCulloch can hardly be blamed for failing to tailor his work to my needs. If you have the kind of time, patience and knowledge that I don't, you're not going to find a better narrative account of the Reformation than this. Objectively, I cannot deny that this is an incredible book. I just really didn't enjoy reading it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    David

    Excellent but it's, occasionally, difficult to see the forest for the trees. Too much detail and written too close for comfort. A little on the dry side as well. But if you can persevere then you will learn a very great deal about the Reformation (1490-1700). Doesn't matter whether you are an atheist or one of the faithful baboons this will be a useful contextualizing history. Brilliant. Highly Recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Moses

    I should have read this years ago. Full review to come.

  23. 4 out of 5

    June

    This is a comprehensive history of the Reformation, rich in detail, and even-handed, teasing out the strands of the many varieties of both Catholic and Protestant Christianity that developed in Europe over the 15th to 17th century, and connecting this history meaningfully to our modern religious, national, gender identities. Something very special about MacCulloch's book is that he is able to synthesize many perspectives - theology, politics, social changes - putting it all together in a narrati This is a comprehensive history of the Reformation, rich in detail, and even-handed, teasing out the strands of the many varieties of both Catholic and Protestant Christianity that developed in Europe over the 15th to 17th century, and connecting this history meaningfully to our modern religious, national, gender identities. Something very special about MacCulloch's book is that he is able to synthesize many perspectives - theology, politics, social changes - putting it all together in a narrative that makes sense. I have always found this period of history confusing, and as a result, I had an oversimplified concept. This book is illuminating, both a challenge and a joy. Well worth the effort to read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Melody Schwarting

    I had the privilege of attending MacCulloch's lectures on Reformation personalities when I studied abroad. His eloquence, wry comments, and impeccable research are on display here as they were in person. I don't really enjoy studying the Reformation period, honestly (more. drama. than. eighth. grade.), but MacCulloch makes it engaging and memorable.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Carl

    I found this to be much more of a slog than the authors History of Christianity. While I learned plenty, the sea of names and dates confused and frustrated me. And I read large-scale books like this all the time. Do not go in without a decent background on the Reformation already established.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Wesley Kavanagh

    Excellent history of the Reformation. Current and accurate, MacCulloch's style is both scholarly and engaging, making him accessible to both academic and layman alike.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Edward C.

    I'm effectively done at page 515. The text covers culture and morality (marriage, sex, etc.) that I may read later, but a brief skim suggests mainly author's bias from this point forward. And I've read the developmental history that I needed from it. Overall, I'd say the book is a well-written, although some times dry, history of the Reformation. As a Catholic reading this text, I have to say that the author was generally fair, treating both sides equally for the most part. I think he may have f I'm effectively done at page 515. The text covers culture and morality (marriage, sex, etc.) that I may read later, but a brief skim suggests mainly author's bias from this point forward. And I've read the developmental history that I needed from it. Overall, I'd say the book is a well-written, although some times dry, history of the Reformation. As a Catholic reading this text, I have to say that the author was generally fair, treating both sides equally for the most part. I think he may have fallen into the trap of too readily making of Catholicism a kind of legalism through and through–while some may have treated it as such, and no one can send the abuses that occurred among clergy and especially popes–there are plenty of writings and accounts of a far more "evangelistic" Catholicism. One example: he shows just how non-Catholic an English parish had become by pointing out the sign on the gate to "Repent and believe the Gospel." Protestants surely don't have a monopoly on that verse! One other negative critique: the author admits he was raised in the Anglican Church in Scotland, but he argued his current lack of creed made him the best historian for the job. I understand his argument, but I'm not sure it worked. He was, I think, too ready to assign cynical or selfish motives to Christians of every stripe rather than allow that maybe, no matter what we think of the situation today, in the midst of 16th century belief, the person acted out of true faith. Again, I thought the book very interesting, and it is certainly full of so much data that your head will spin. I am thankful for the way the end notes are divided (by chapter and page), and while the story is sometimes dryly told, it also has the feel of Grandpa telling a story of yesteryear, describing places long gone and naming friends long passed on to their reward, be it what it is.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rindis

    MacCulloch’s book on the Protestant Reformation is a huge work on a huge subject. Everything you might expect is in here, and much, much, more. He starts with a fairly good overview of western Christianity at the end of the Middle Ages, and moves on to the expected history of the reformation. This covers the Reformation in terms of both thought and politics, and I’m not entirely sure that I really understand much more than I did before. Some of it is just me (I find philosophical/theological argu MacCulloch’s book on the Protestant Reformation is a huge work on a huge subject. Everything you might expect is in here, and much, much, more. He starts with a fairly good overview of western Christianity at the end of the Middle Ages, and moves on to the expected history of the reformation. This covers the Reformation in terms of both thought and politics, and I’m not entirely sure that I really understand much more than I did before. Some of it is just me (I find philosophical/theological arguments tough going at the best of times), but MacCulloch’s writing is dense, and not the easiest reading. The book is extensively crossreferenced with itself (and these are all links in the Kindle version), which also points up how many balls he’s trying to keep in the air. For all the scenery that goes by, I don’t feel like I know the period any better, or have a good sense of what any of the principles were like. The last major section of the book is more of a social history of the period, and I have to think the main text might have benefited from this being right there. On the other hand, it has a focus that the earlier sections lack, so maybe the book would have been better if it had all been more split up than it is. This section goes into the witch hysteria, the status of marriage, sex and the ‘Reformation of Manners’, and a number of similar subjects. I can’t really recommend this this book except as being thorough, and the only book I’ve read on the subject. It certainly should make a good general reference when dealing with something more specific.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    A wonderful and complete overview of the Reformation and a good section of 14th-17th century church history. It was pretty long as an audiobook (considering that the paper copy is only about 800 pages), but worthwhile listening once I got used to the slower narration style. The book is a useful starting place for understanding the Reformation and inspired me to keep reading church history and medieval-renaissance writings.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Gaile

    I've only read about a quarter of this (about up to the Council of Trent), but it is a fabulous book that I recommend at every possible opportunity. The author is Anglican, which gives him a reasonable claim to be in the /via media/ between Catholic and Protestant, and what I most appreciated about his perspective is that he gives the benefit of the doubt to all participants. He assumes that both sides were by and large acting in good faith -- an assumption which neither side made about the othe I've only read about a quarter of this (about up to the Council of Trent), but it is a fabulous book that I recommend at every possible opportunity. The author is Anglican, which gives him a reasonable claim to be in the /via media/ between Catholic and Protestant, and what I most appreciated about his perspective is that he gives the benefit of the doubt to all participants. He assumes that both sides were by and large acting in good faith -- an assumption which neither side made about the other at the time! He also pauses periodically to wonder, "If something at this point had happened differently -- if a key player had chosen a different action -- might the schism of the Reformation have been avoided?" Which is a terrific question, because it's not like there weren't any disputes over doctrine or authority in the previous 1500 years of the Western church, so why did this one end up so differently? A particular treat is the first chapter of the book, in which he gives a flavor of the late medieval Catholic church: basically the "Before" picture of the Reformation.

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