Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Reformation: a brief guide

TM Lindsay The Reformation: A Handbook, Banner of Truth 2006 ISBN 0-85151-932-6 pbk 277pp £ 7.75

At a time when Rome is claiming to have reversed the Reformation in our land and to have become the dominant religion once more, sound teaching on the history and principles of the Reformation are needed as never before. Originally written for the young, this is a clear summary of the history of the period. It would be hard to find a brief book on this subject that covers so much ground and is so easy to read. The book is valuable even simply for the chronological summary of the Reformation with which it concludes. There are also vital chapters on the principles of the Reformation and the Catholicity of the Reformers.

Lindsay is regarded as one of the foremost historians of the Reformation and this book represents a more manageable and accessible account than his two volume History of the Reformation in Europe. Lindsay is noted for giving attention to the social, political and intellectual context of the history of the Reformation, although this does not detract from his main emphasis upon the Reformation as a revival of religion. Besides the main countries such as Germany, France, Switzerland, England and Scotland; Denmark, Sweden and Holland are also covered.

Far greater space has been given to the Reformation in England than to any other country. We would assume that this is due to the complicated history of the progress of the cause of truth in that country. To a significant degree this was caused by the dependence upon the royal supremacy in ecclesiastical matters. Lindsay's own assessment is that “the royal supremacy gave the Church of England the halting character of its Reformation”.

Lindsay was Free Church professor in Glasgow. This book was first published in 1882 just after Lindsay had been engaged in defending his friend, the heretic Robertson Smith, during his prosecution in the church courts. If Lindsay sympathised with Robertson Smith's higher critical view of Scripture it is not apparent in this work, except where the Scriptures are emphasised solely as a means of grace while avoiding any reference to their infallibility.

We would emphasise, however, that the book is largely a straightforward historical summary and in this it has great value for all ages and levels of interest. It is a blessed thing to “remember the years of the right hand of the most High” and His “wonders of old” (Ps. 77:10-14). Books such as this can greatly help us in this respect.

(This review has been submitted for The English Churchman)