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Luther's Legacy: Salvation and English Reformers, 1525-1556.

Carl R. Trueman. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994. viii + 307 pp. $55.

Trueman's study of the soteriological impact of William Tyndale, John Frith, Robert Barnes, John Hooper, and John Bradford on English Protestantism should provoke further inquiry into English salvation ideology. Complete with introduction, bibliography and index, the book distinguishes Luther's influence from that of the Catholic Humanists before him on these five reformers. Trueman convincingly maintains that although "there were few English theologians of any significance who were truly Protestant during the reign of Henry VIII" (2), these men's contact with Martin Luther "radicalized their thinking and changed them from Catholic Humanists to Protestant Reformers" (6).

Part one examines the reformers' historical, biographical, and intellectual backgrounds, including synopses of Reformation and non-Reformation influences on their thought. Discussions of Tyndale's conflict with Thomas More, Frith's translations of Luther, Barnes's intermediary activities between Henry VIII and Luther, Hooper's "Vestment Controversy," and Bradford's association with Ridley all foreground each reformer's progress toward realizations of later Protestant truths, including purification of Church government, justification through faith, the role of works, and the differing arguments concerning predestination. Trueman discusses the potentially seditious nature of reform, comparing it to Lollard rebellions of a century and a half before; his early assertion that reform in the English Church required immense associational distancing from Wycliffian attempts at change reverberates as each reformer examined in this study meets his death by pushing the Church's ability to transform too far. Their own intellectual and spiritual shifts--from patrician and scholastic views to a mix of Luther's and other reformers' more radical doctrines--led to schisms both in English Protestantism and in English society. Even after Edward VI, when "Luther ceased to be a significant intellectual force in England" (56), beliefs regarding salvation never completely harmonized.

Part two explores Tyndale's, Frith's, and Barnes's specific salvation doctrines. Although all reformers agreed in principle that justification came through faith alone and that works remained irrelevant to salvation, these reformers contributed unique attributes to soteriological ideology that never found universal acceptance. Tyndale's belief that "the basic problem in the salvation of man is not his objective guilt before God, but his bondage to sin and to Satan" (85) led to his conjecture that salvation was inherentry Christocentric. Tyndale viewed man's relationship to God as covenental, an idea later picked up by Bradford but ignored by Frith or Barnes. Frith's initial agreement with Tyndale in salvation's Christocentric aspect later propelled Frith to later expand Christ's role by emphasizing both self knowledge and the "element of atonement in Christ's death" (122). Barnes, probably the most politically-minded of these three reformers, stressed Christ's role even farther, stating that "`we need of nothing but of him only'" (159) in achieving salvation.

Part three surveys the efforts of the Reformation under Edward VI and Mary through the works of Hooper and Bradford. Trueman chooses Hooper and Bradford over the more influential Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley because their works concentrate on salvation and its availability to humanity, thus making them the actual soteriological successors of Tyndale, Frith, and Barnes. Trueman astutely traces Luther's decreased influence on these two men, and shows how thinkers such as Bullinger, Melanchthon, and Calvin replaced many Lutheran doctrines.

Although Trueman brilliantly justifies his choice of subjects and adequately confines his study to Reformation soteriological polemics--a little discussed aspect both of the men researched and of the period covered, his division of parts one and two is rather confusing. The difficulty of considering these men's lives and accomplishments without simultaneously consulting their writings demands too much reliance on his research alone. In an attempt to establish himself as an authority on these men, he also arbitrarily undercuts too many other previous studies of Reformation ideology, most notably that of W.A. Clebsch.
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Author:Aspinall, Dana E.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1996
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