Michael Reeves is the Theological Advisor for the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, a charity supporting evangelism in higher education throughout the UK. He was previously an associate minister at All Souls Church, Langham Place and holds a doctorate in systematic theology from King’s College, London.
The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation is an important book for our day. Whether you reformed or not, this book shows the importance of the reformation. It shows what Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and many others went through and the sacrifices they made for the advancement and the purity of the gospel.
If your someone who has not read or heard anything about the reformation, this book is for you! Michael Reeves writes with clarity and passion. It is a brief book on the reformation as well. I don’t know of any other book today that is on the reformation, that is so clear, discusses so many different points, and also its not that long. This book is only 207 pages including the index.
Mark Dever writes the foreword for this book. Then Reeves starts with the prologue in which he calls “Here I stand”, which is attributed to Martin Luther as he stood before the council of Worms. Luther was tested for his teachings against Rome, and Luther stands before the court after two days, after being asked to retract his works, Luther responds, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen” (pg. 15).
Spurgeon said of the Bible, “The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself”. This is the thought of Luther, thus he is able to declare my conscience is captive to the Word of God. We can learn from the boldness of Luther, not that Luther was bold in himself, but He knew the Solid Rock on which he stood.
After the prologue, this book is broken into 7 chapters: The first chapter is the background on the reformation, the second chapter discusses the work of Martin Luther and his life, the third chapter talks about Ulrich Zwingli and other reformers, the fourth chapter talks about John Calvin, his work, life, and reformation in Geneva (I love this chapter), the fifth and sixth chapter hits on the reformation in Britain, the work their and the Puritans, and Reeves ends this Fantastic book with a thought provoking chapter Is the Reformation Over?.
There are many things to take away from this book. But I have picked 5 attributes of this book that I enjoyed, but I think that they are very helpful to our walk in the Christian life.
1. We need the boldness of Luther. It is important to learn from historical figures so that these events don’t take place again, but think if we had men in our pulpits who were bold in the proclamation of the gospel of the Lord Jesus. Would that not change the way many of us live our daily lives?
2. The word of God for Luther was of the utmost importance. Interpreting it correctly, and applying it to your life in the correct manner. Man, we need more pastors who were bold like Luther, but also know that we can bank on God’s word. His word is the authority. Be held captive to the word of God.
3. Having Catholic family members, this book is helpful in showing many of the dangers in Catholicism. Its not by your works that you are saved. But by the grace alone through faith alone that is in Jesus Christ alone! It also shows how many lost hope in the papacy. With the corruption in Rome, it made way for the Reformation.
4. This book also discusses men of the reformation one usually does not hear about. More often than not, one hears about Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli but in this book it will be refreshing to hear about more people who sacrificed (22). It shows the courage of men, risking their lives. I was once at a very unhealthy church, but the pastor preached the word courageously and boldly. He was ran off by men and women in the church because they did not appreciate the word. It is sad, that many of our churches today are filled with a best life now mentality, rather than sacrificing and risking your lives, careers and comfortable standing for the sake of the gospel. I am thankful to God for Luther and many other reformers, but I am also thankful for that pastor who boldly, unashamedly, declared the word of God. His mind was held captive, there he stood, and he could do no other.
5. This book is clear and concise. This is a great overview for many aspects of the reformation. If you haven’t read anything on the reformation, buy this book. If you need a refresher, buy this book.
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One Little word shall fell him. –Luther, A Mighty Fortress
For another review of The Unquenchable Flame, check out The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation–A Review.
Evan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.