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Reformation Christianity: A People's History of Christianity Volume 5.

Reformation Christianity: A People's History of Christianity, Volume 5. Edited by Peter Matheson. General Editor Denis R. Jans. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007. xviii + 306 pages. Hardcover. $35.00.

Within Protestant circles, much is known and discussed regarding the Reformation, with Martin Luther and John Calvin standing out in most accounts of the period. In Reformation Christianity, different scholars present essays that describe this era from the perspective of the broader population. In the series A People's History of Christianity, authors write about church history from the viewpoint of the laity of a given period. Volume five presents the Reformation.

The text is divided into three sections and eleven chapters, following the introduction by the editor, Peter Matheson. Part one is entitled "The Life of Faith" and includes three essays, "The Piety of Townspeople and City Folk," "Rural and Village Piety," and "A People's Reformation?" Part two is entitled "From Cradle to Grave" and includes four essays. The descriptor for this section is truly represented in the titles of these essays, "Entering the World," "Baptism and Childhood," "Women and Men, Together and Apart," and "Leaving the World." The final section, part three, is entitled "Finding Their Voice" and includes four essays, "The Dream of' a Just Society," "The Emergence of Lay Theologies," "Insiders and Outsiders," and "The Language of Common Folk." These eleven essays give another perspective of the Reformation beyond the overarching theologies of the noted reformers.

The details of Christian life are revealed in this text through various aspects of the average person's existence. It should also be noted that the Reformation was not only a period of Protestant reformers breaking from Rome, but also a time of reformation for the Roman Catholic Church. This text does focus on the Protestant aspects of the Reformation, but mention is made of the Catholic side of things, which could definitely be expanded. Various points of interest will differ from reader to reader, but the text as a whole offers enough diversity as to give readers a peek at belief systems and families in ways that other texts do not. A brief review like this cannot do justice to the plethora of topics located in the volume, but from birth to death, this volume engages topics that affected daily life, especially in part two. Also notable is the beautiful two-page print of Werner Tubke's depiction of the Peasants' War contained in the center of this book (Plate E).

As with other books in this series, the text is laid out efficiently and is quite readable. Pictures and quotations are smattered throughout the book, increasing the ascetic and practical dimensions of the volume. Because the Reformation is central to Protestant theological formation, this text helps to give a fuller picture of the cultural milieu from which this theology developed. This book is accessible for use by academics, pastors, and educated laypeople. The series A People's History of Christianity is a triumph in providing a richer account of church history. Reformation Christianity is no exception.

George Tsakiridis

Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
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Author:Tsakiridis, George
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2009
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