Weekend Reading: Luther and Calvin by Charlotte Methuen
While I am neither Lutheran nor Calvinist (I am Reformation Arminian, or Classical or Reformed Arminian), I still trace the history of my theology directly through Calvin and Luther to the Bible. Luther and Calvin: Religious Revolutionaries (2011, Lion Hudson) by Charlotte Methuen provides insight into the dramatic and lasting influences these men left on Christianity, European society, and ultimately all of western culture.
Charlotte Methuen holds the position of Lecturer in Church History at the University of Glasgow. She teaches in the areas of Early Church, Reformation, the Church in the Twentieth Century, and the history of the ministry of women in the Church. She has written several books, contributed to several others, and published numerous articles.
I really only have one complaint of any significance. The book is difficult to read. It is evident that Methuen is not American and that she typically writes for an academic readership. It is a good book, but it is dry and difficult to digest.
Luther and Calvin checks in at just under 200 pages. At that length it should have only taken me under a week to read with my limited time and outside distractions. Instead, I did battle with this little volume for weeks. And battle is what it sometimes felt like.
The book is divided into two sections of two chapters each. There is a section on Luther and one on Calvin. Each section has a chapter regarding the theologian’s historical context and a chapter covering his theology. It really is quite simple. The trade-off for the simplicity is that the chapters are long and a bit unwieldy, adding to the difficulty of the book.
Where Luther and Calvin succeeds is important. Methuen does a good job of putting each man in his historical context. This is critical to understanding what they taught and why they came to that conclusion.
Like all of us, Martin Luther and John Calvin were products of the times in which they lived. Many of the theological conclusions they drew were determined by the personal and cultural contexts in which they found themselves as the studied the Scripture.
Luther and Calvin is a good primer on these two reformers. While I would not give this volume a strong recommendation, I would not recommend against it. There are likely other resources that are a little easier to digest.