Book Review and Giveaway: The Unquenchable Flame
A few years ago, my brother and I had a great idea: Reformation Action Figures. You could have a Martin Luther figure, complete with beer stein and inkwell-throwing action…perhaps a hammer and nail, too. We’d make John Calvin endowed with pen and ink, medicine for his ailments, and a copy of his Institutes. With his great sense of humor, my recent time with Michael Reeve in his book The Unquenchable Flame reignited the plan.
But in all seriousness, one of the most significant chapters in God’s story happened during the time period we call the Protestant Reformation. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Church had, for the most part, lost its way. Priests were sleeping with prostitutes, church offices went to the highest bidder, people were duped into buying indulgences (which were supposed to pay for the sins of their loved ones who had died), and the Bible wasn’t available in the common languages. The light of the gospel seemed about to go out.
Into this darkness, however, the Lord raised up Martin Luther. An imperfect man, he was nevertheless God’s instrument to bring people back to the Bible and back to the gospel, particularly the doctrine of justification by faith. The light that began when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door in Wittenberg shines today and impacts you and me more than we will ever know.
How well do you know this story? If you are a Christian, it is your own history. Some of you, like me, probably had spotty teaching on it growing up. I know the part that stuck with my brother and me was when Luther threw his inkwell at Satan. Perhaps you’ve seen the movie Luther (and if you haven’t, you should!). Or maybe this is the first you’ve heard of the Protestant Reformation. Either way, it will be well-worth your time and the encouragement it will bring to your soul if you spend some time learning from Luther and his compatriots.
Michael Reeves has written the best book I’ve read to briefly teach you about this period in history. It goes all the way from the Middle Ages to the Puritans in England, even touching on how it applies to us today. If you’ve never studied the Reformation before, The Unquenchable Flame is the perfect primer. If you know the Reformation well, it will certainly add to your knowledge. It’s short, to the point, and readable. Even though it’s a history book, it’s engaging and funny. Speaking of Rome, Reeves writes, “There also began to be an air of sleaze about the place, which, coupled with the glitz, made Rome the Las Vegas of its day.” It’s also an honest book. Reeves does not brush over the sinful side of any person involved.
My favorite part of reading it was that it brought me the gospel again. The chapter on Luther broke down justification by faith very clearly. When I read it, those truths ministered to my heart more than anything else that week. He explains what Luther meant by the phrase and what he didn’t. I was encouraged: “The sinner’s hope is found, not in himself, but outside himself, in God’s word of promise.” I felt I was a kindred spirit with Luther: “My temptation is to this, that I think I don’t have a gracious God.” And I was spurred on to read more, like Richard Sibbes’ The Bruised Reed.
Like most books, there are some downsides. There were moments when the history was a bit tedious. And I thought the conclusions that he drew at the end of the book were stated too simply and briefly. He argues that justification by faith was at the heart of the Reformation, and I agree. He believes that the official doctrine of the Catholic Church on this topic has not changed, and I concur. However, I think he leaves out how the Protestant church has also often left behind the central tenant of justification by faith. That said, even if you don’t completely agree with his deductions, it is a fair book and worth the read.
In less than two years, on October 31, 2017, we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing those theses to that door. As Reeves states, the Lord kindled a fire that day that has never gone out. The ripple effect has been that the gospel has gone out to the ends of the Earth. I highly recommend that you get this book, read it yourself and give it to your friends, too. And then plan a Reformation Day party that won’t be forgotten for another 500 years. And be on the lookout for those action figures.
Would you like to read this book?
We have a free a copy to give away thanks to B&H Publishing! Comment on our post about this blog in our Facebook group to enter the giveaway. In your comment answer one of these questions: What exposure have you had to the Reformation? What action figure would you make? Or what makes a great history book?
Or if you don’t do Facebook, comment below. The giveaway will close Monday morning at 8am .