Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book Review: The Unquenchable Flame

My pastor brought this book back from the Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference and I gobbled it up in less than 24 hours.  I wouldn't mind being a history teacher in heaven.  History is such a fascinating record of God's dealings with men!

It's a quick but substantive summary of the history of the Reformation.  This book was so encouraging to read! 
  1. First, because as bad as things are in the world and in the church today, they have been worse.  
  2. Second, because when the spark of the Reformation was kindled, God overturned centuries of darkness and error very quickly.  
  3. Third, because Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli (and the other reformers) were all deeply flawed men but God used them to shake the earth. 
  4. Fourth, because it shows just how precious and powerful the Bible is.  The Reformation was essentially sparked by the publication of the Greek New Testament by Erasmus (even though, sadly, Erasmus himself was not converted!).  It was soon translated into French, German, and English.  These common-tongue translations resulted in the rising and falling of kings and nations. 
  5. Fifth, it shows how precious and powerful the gospel is.  It is powerful (as Romans 1:16 says) because the gospel is how God takes a sinner and makes him a saint.  It turns a rebel into a worshipper.  The gospel is the only real way that the hearts of men are changed.  It is precious because it is easily lost.  Even the Protestant reformers at times lapsed back into proclaiming moralism and works-righteousness.  It seems easier up front to change people through law: but this only affects the outside.  Only grace changes the heart.  
  6. Sixth, it shows the dangerous power of culture.  Luther's antisemitism and Calvin's prosecution of Servetus were culturally acceptable in their day.  Their great victories came when they obeyed the Bible rather than culture.  Their great failures came when they went along with the flow of culture.  In another four centuries people will look back on our culture and wonder how we ever got so apathetic about abortion and lust and materialism.
  7. Seventh, it shows the fatal results of mingling religious authority with political authority. 
  8. Lastly, it reminded me that the need for the reformation is not over.  The Catholic church has improved on some peripheral issues (such as the use of languages besides Latin in Mass), but on the core of the gospel, they are still dead wrong.  The difference between justification by faith and justification by faith alone is the difference between life and death.  But it's not just the Catholic church.  To paraphrase Solzhenitsyn, the line between good and evil does not run between Catholic and Protestant, but through every human heart.  We all have the innate tendency to want to add something to the work of Jesus in order to have at least a small excuse for feeling good about ourselves. 
The book is well written, with concision, balance, and wit.  If you enjoy history, you'll enjoy this book.  As a teaser, you can listen to an interview with the author, Michael Reeves, by clicking here.

1 comment:

  1. We listen to a wonderful Bible teacher that always adds to gospel statements on Faith; "Plus Nothing"! It drives home that our salvation can in no way be attributed to us. It is totally the work of God. That we believe is even a work of God. Eph 2:8,9. And we find that simple, yet profound exposition of the Gospel of salvation in 1 Cor 15:1-4. Without Paul as our apostle (to the gentiles) we would still be under the law and worshipping at the synagog.

    Praise the Lord for His mercy.