Y100B: Reformations

Carlos M.N. Eire, Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 (Yale University Press 2016, 920pgs.)

What can I say about Reformations that Eamon Duffy didn’t cover in his outstanding review, “The End of Christendom“?  Despite its considerable heft, one thought ran through my head after I finished each chapter: I have to read this again. Eire’s prose is neither dense nor intentionally complicated; but the sheer array of material he draws effortlessly together cannot be digested in a single run through a book which, I pray, every thoughtful Catholic sits down with in this, the 500th sorrowful anniversary of Martin Luther’s revolt against the Church. Why these reform movements broke out across Europe and what they left in their wake are at the heart of Eire’s analysis, as his sobering account of the decrepit state of the Church in the 16th Century. Catholics, particularly traditional Catholics, are unlikely to be comfortable with much of what Eire has to say about that. Good. Romanticizing the past cannot help anyone prepare for the future or, for that matter, deal with the present.



  1. gregorystackpole
    January 23, 2017

    Having read much of Luther, I can assure you that he did not “revolt against the Church”, but merely settled on one set of options that were then available within the pre-Counter-Reformation Catholic Church. In many ways, his opponents forced him into anti-papal positions through their rhetoric about Luther’s positions born of their hostility to his points about indulgences.

    1. professorzaius
      January 23, 2017

      That’s simply not true. At his 1519 disputation with Johann Eck, Luther said “I assert that a council has sometimes erred and may sometimes err” and finally “I will confidently confess what appears to me to be true, whether it has been asserted by a Catholic or a heretic, whether it has been approved or reproved by a council.”

      Quotes above are from Eire’s Reformations. The 95 Theses themselves may or may not have been outside the range of theological opinions available before the Counter-Reformation, but he had moved into open revolt against established dogma prior to his excommunication in 1620.

      1. gregorystackpole
        January 23, 2017

        You’re gonna make me look through my notes, aren’t you…

    2. Andrew
      January 25, 2017

      It’s difficult to read Luther’s three treatises of 1520 and not conclude that he was nothing if not revolutionary. The entirety of the Church’s sacramental system is attacked.

  2. Ryan
    January 24, 2017

    I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommend it. My only real complaints are stylistic; eg at least once very chapter he uses the word “literally” in some place it doesn’t fit or is unnecessary.

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