Why the Reformation Still Matters

by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester, Inter-Varsity Press, £9.99

Who is this book for? Not Catholics, it seems. Michael Reeves and Tim Chester are out to fortify fellow Protestants in their historical convictions: the Reformation “is our story. If you are Anglican, Baptist, Brethren, Congregational, Independent, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal or Reformed, then these are your roots.”

But actually Catholics could profit from reading this book. Two intelligent, sincere, articulate men make their case for the Reformation and its continuing, all-consuming importance. They are not in the mood to pussyfoot around. The differences between Protestants and Catholics “cannot be ignored”. At stake in the Reformation was “our eternal future, a choice between heaven and hell. And it still is.”

Chapter by chapter, Reeves and Chester work through the dividing lines. First up is the doctrine of justification. Nothing, the authors argue, matters more than justification by Christ through faith alone. If this doctrine does not stand, then every person on earth faces a problem that “dwarfs all the other problems we face”: the problem of God’s judgment.

Luther constructed his way out from this dilemma through studying St Paul’s Letter to the Romans: “The just person lives by faith.” Justification, write the authors, “is a deeply personal doctrine. Every time I sin I create a reason to doubt my acceptance by God and I question my future with God. But day after day the doctrine of justification speaks peace to my soul.”

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