The Spirituali and MacCulloch’s book

TalkReformation Era: History and Literature

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The Spirituali and MacCulloch’s book

Edited: Jan 4, 12:11am

I’m still working on The Reformation: A History, Diarmaid MacCulloch. I’m a little over halfway. The book is a survey of the Reformation Era. One of the advantages of a book like this is that it covers much more than just the main story of Luther and the Catholic Church. MacCulloch spends time on Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, Northern Europe and the Atlantic Isles. One thing I just read was his explanation of how England, Scotland and Ireland ended up so very differently - Scotland went Protestant, England Episcopalian, and Ireland Catholic. MacCulloch covers dozens of interesting people, as well.

The big advantage of a book like this is that it covers so many people, so many places, so many ideas, and so many events. Pick any one of them and do a study. In fact, it’s so hard to take in so many related ideas and people, that I’ve had to use some strategies to try to contend with the complexity. One of these strategies, which I will use more, is to go back to the index and follow the individual stories as they go from one place in the book to where they pick up a little later. I did this with the story of Juan de Valdes and the Spirituali. Valdes was from Spain and had a Jewish mother at a time when it was dangerous to be related in any way to Judaism or Islam. He fled to Italy where he and others advocated evangelical reforms for the Catholic Church. They hoped that the Catholic Church would successfully reform itself at a time when the Church was, seemingly very energetically, resisting pressures to do so. People called Valdes and some of the influential Italians that associated with him, the Spirituali. Pope Paul IV vigorously persecuted them though, so that the Spirituali had to flee Italy. Some fled to what is now Switzerland, where they were received favorably. Frankly, I was surprised to hear of evangelicals in Italy. Stories like these show that the Reformation Era was not solely a Luther vs. the Catholic Church phenomenon. The Reformation was complex and affected every locale, and a host of individuals, differently and uniquely.

I am very much enjoying this book. I find I am reading it very slowly, though. I’m taking lots of notes and copying quotes and doing a lot of work on it, too. I’ve been using Wikipedia and religious sites on the net to help reinforce what I’m reading. Since it introduces stories which are taken up later in the book, it helps to have some strategies to help put it all together. I think this book is for anyone who wants to understand the Reformation Era better. I don’t think it would make a good first book to read on the Reformation, though. Most people who would try this as their first book might be overwhelmed. I read Fatal Discord by Michael Massing as my first book, and found that to be helpful. I’m sure that there are many more books that would make a good first book on the Reformation. Let _The Reformation: A History_ be a good second book on the Reformation for you, though. It will challenge you, but with the right approach, it has a plethora of vital information.