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So what is the truth about the Reformation? To mark the 500th anniversary, historian Benjamin Wiker gives us The Reformation 500 Years Later, a straightforward account that rejects the common distortions of Catholic, Protestant, Marxist, Freudian, or secularist retellings of this world-changing event.
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By David Schutz on 11-18-17
A Curate’s Egg, rather than an Accurate Account
Bits of it are excellent, as the Curate said to the Bishop regarding his egg. So here, wicker’s aim is excellent, and he covers much of the territory that a book on this topic should cover. But Wiker is not an historian of the Reformation, and this shows in many inaccuracies. I will highlight just one: his claim that Luther was an unhappy monk, and invented the Sola Fide doctrine as a get out of jail free card from his monastic vows. In fact Luther’s “thunderstorm” vow to enter religious life as a friar (not a monk) should be taken with a grain of salt. Luther’s successful career in the order of Augustinian Hermits plus his continued wearing of the habit and residence in the Wittenberg friary beyond his stay in the Wartburg and his hesitation to marry put the lie to this. Also Wiker is shamelessly anti-Islamic, missing no opportunity to attack the second largest monotheistic faith on earth. Like many “historians” of his ilk, he calls the Arabs and the Turks “the Moslems”, thereby privileging their faith ambitions rather than their political/national identity. This is precisely what the author himself warns against in regard to the 30 years War. And he oddly omits to tell the reader that the Most Catholic King of France happily allied himself with the Turk agains the Holy Roman Emperor. To include this bit of information would have strengthened his case that nationalism rather than religion was the driving force of the actual violence of the 16th/17th Century, but it would have undermined his narrative of Christian vs Muslim. Furthermore the picture he paints of Luther gives no space to the authenticity and originality of his spirituality, and no good word is said even of Luther’s championing of grave and christocenticity and Eucharistic devotion. Again, this is odd for a book that purports to be eirenic. Finally, there are a number of anachronistic claims. While there were most definitely anti-Christian intentions in some Italian humanism, it seems a bit of a stretch to say that anti-Christians in the 16th Cent were a reality to contend with.
But Wiker nevertheless less makes many good points, and any future work on this topic will follow much the same outline as he has sketched but with more historical accuracy and depth.
Finally i must complain about the pedestrian nature of the reading. While the speaker was clear and had few errors of pronunciation, it was as if he were reading a scientific text book of which he had no personal comprehension. Everything was spoken with the exact same to of mild disinterest.