A Review of
All Things Made New:
The Reformation and Its Legacy
Diarmaid MacCulloch is Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University and one of the most well-regarded and prolifically published church historians of our era. This newly published volume is a collection of essays, all previously published in various venues over the past 25 years, that reflect MacCulloch’s reflections on the Reformation and its ongoing legacy in England, in Europe, in the West, and throughout the world.
There is a sense of concentric circles as one reads these essays in their currently anthologized form. MacCulloch’s primary focus for research and teaching is in England and so he highlights the English Reformation and English history to a degree that was refreshingly less familiar to this Lutheran pastor who sees the word “Reformation” and assumes Germany. Many of the essays reflect on larger questions that include Europe and “the West,” even spending time contemplating what exactly it is that we mean by “the West” and the role that the Reformation and its legacy has played in defining that concept.
The collection is divided into three parts. Part I is called “Reformations Across Europe.” One of the most interesting aspects of this section are the two essays entitled “The Council of Trent” and “The Italian Inquisition.” MacCulloch argues in these essays, and in other places, that the events that we collectively call the Counter-Reformation were really another Reformation. Just as there was Luther’s Reformation in Germany, Calvin’s Reformation in Geneva, and the English Reformation, there was the Counter-Reformation.
Part II’s “The English Reformation” and Part III’s “Looking Back on the English Reformation” do bring the focus to the British Isles. As stated before, I found this somewhat refreshing as another view of a process that has shaped the Western world and American life, perhaps more than Luther’s German Reformation. Reflections on Bible translation, including the King James Bible, bring that point home. The very English language was shaped through the English Reformation. The place of the individual within the community and in relationship to hierarchy and authority (both secular and sacred) were themes of the struggle of the Reformation which continue to influence our world even today.
The Protestant world especially is spending more and more time reflecting on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, focusing on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on October 31, 1517. Books of history and biography, theology and modern reflection are being published all around this theme of Reformation. This book should find a place on the shelf of anyone reflecting on the modern impact of the Reformation. MacCulloch presents a picture that is wide-ranging and shows the ways in which the reflections and thoughts of the Reformation reverberate throughout our lives today.
Seth Moland-Kovash co-pastors All Saints Lutheran Church in Palatine, Illinois with his wife.