Today is Reformation Day, the reason all our staff picks for the month were all chosen around the theme Our Favourite Reformers. There are loads of other recommended books on the reformation — happy reading!
Recall that for October we chose books by our about our favourite Reformers in honour of Reformation Day, October 31.
Connor’s Pick: The Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus
Erasmus didn’t seem to care about making friends through his writings. His work shows a desire to reform from within the Church, and to recognize the value of tradition. This spirit is wrapped in witty and sharp writing, which I find interesting to read for its form and its content.
Sheila’s Pick: Windows of Faith: Prayers of the Holy Hildegard
St. Hildegard of Bingen was a wonderous reformer. The Benedictine abbess founded two monastaries. A writer, composer, polymath, and mystic, St. Hildegard came up against a clash between obedience and conscience when she disagreed with the clergy of Mainz. She decided to pray with her sisters for six months to seek God’s guidance as to how to proceed. The issue was finally resolved to the thanksgiving of all the sisters.Hence, looking at the prayers of St. Hildegard strikes me as a profound way of thinking through reformation for oneself, for the church, and for the world. Windows of Faith: Prayers of Holy Hildegard allows the reader to pray alongside St. Hildegard.
Ryan’s Pick: Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, Third Edition ed. Timothy F. Lull and William R. Russell
Remember that our October Staff Picks are books by or about Our Favourite Reformers.
Ed’s Pick: John Wesley: A Preaching Life by Michael Pasquarello
Cindy’s Pick: Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life by Nancy Koester
In an age when women could not vote, go to university or speak in public to a mixed crowd (i.e. men and women), Harriet Beecher Stowe had a reforming influence on both the political and religious landscape of her time using her pen.
Harriet Beecher Stowe is best known for Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), a book that brought the issue of slavery in America with all its cruelty and injustices to the center of public discussion. No one could read this book and not be affected by it. In addition to her many novels, Harriet also wrote religious essays, devotionals, magazine articles and other works that commented on and interpreted scripture.
In her book, Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life, author Nancy Koester provides a biography not only of Harriet’s “exterior life”, i.e. growing up, where she lived, who she married, etc. but also provides us with a biography of Harriet’s “interior life”. We see her spiritual journey, watch as her theology develops and grows beyond her Calvinist upbringing. We see her burning desire to know God and live the life God had called her to live, to use the gifts that God gave her for the glory of God and for His purposes.
Through Harriet’s correspondence with family and friends (and some foes) and her published works, we are given a spiritual insight into the woman who forced people of her time to make a choice. The Bible was being used by both sides in the issue of slavery with most churches and clergy failing to oppose slavery. Harriet took the fight to the average man and woman. As Harriet wrote in one of her articles, “The problem is not that the Bible contradicts itself. The problem is that slavery corrupts Christians and poisons the way they read the Bible.” (pg. 134).
Reading this book has given me great insights into the woman as well as the history of the time in which she lived. It also showed me that in many ways we still face the same type of struggles as she did even though we live in a so-called “modern” era. In the quote above, simply replace the word “slavery” with “technology”, “science”, or “power” (social, economic or political)and her statement is as true and relevant today as it was then.
Dr. Heather’s Pick: Heretic Queen by Susan Ronald
Queen Elizabeth I was a key figure in the English Reformation. She was the daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, able to inherit the throne because her father broke with Rome over his marriage to her mother. She skated along a middle line, establishing the Church of England’s position between Rome and more radical protestants.
Unlike the rest of the world, for whom October is Scary Month, at Crux we celebrate Reformation Day on October 31. In honour of this day, our picks for the month reflect our favourite reformers. We didn’t limit “reformers” to those associated with the Reformation — rather we thought about reformers of the church more broadly. Here are the first few Favourite Reformers:
Carolyn’s Pick: Training in Christianity by Søren Kierkegaard
Carolyn is our resident Kierkegaard scholar. She says:
When Kierkegaard wrote this book, he was aware that it would likely be interpreted by many of his readers as a polemic against the established Danish Lutheran church. However, his hope was that some would recognize it for what it was—a call for reform from a man with a deep love for his national church. Frustrated by the way in which becoming a Christian was considered as easy as becoming a Danish citizen, Kierkegaard calls attention in this book to the ways in which the paradox of Jesus Christ the God-man calls for faith and passion in the face of complexity and doubt.
Rev. Heather’s Pick: Heretics by G.K. Chesterton
Rev. Heather is our local preacher and pastor. This is what she has to say about Chesterton:
Does it bother you when people pride themselves on being smarter than those who came before them? When what used to be an insult becomes synonymous with courage and cleverness? Do you hate it when people think they’re clever for tearing others down? You’re not the first one to find this irksome! It bothered the hilarious and wise G.K. Chesterton as well and he wrote about it. And don’t worry if his deconstruction without reconstruction crawls up the back of your neck like a cat that’s noticed a canine intruder – fear not! Chesterton will respond to your desire for reconstruction in his follow up text: Orthodoxy (also on the shelf in Crux). There is so much yet to read!
Our Favourite Reformers will be continued in the next few days. Watch for it.