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  • The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology
  • George H. Tavard
The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology. Edited by David Bagchi and David C. Steinmetz. (New York: Cambridge University Press. 2005. Pp. x, 289. $70.00 clothbound; $24.99 paperback.)

Between an Introduction and a Conclusion written by the two editors, the volume contains fifteen chapters, each by a different author. The Introduction explains that the book is destined both to theologians and to non-specialists who wish to know more about the Reformation. Scholars, however, will not [End Page 280] find it very useful since it has no footnotes, though it has a select bibliography and an index. In fact, the title is rather misleading if the accent is placed on the word "Reformation."

The first four chapters give brief overviews of "late medieval theology" (chap. 1), "Lollardy" (chap. 2), "Hussite theology . . ." (chap. 3), and "the theology of Erasmus" (chap. 4). These topics can certainly fit, though loosely, as background material to the Reformation. "Late medieval theology" provides a fair overview of Thomism, Scotism, Occamism, and Augustinianism. It does not clearly stress, however, that Martin Luther reacted directly against Gabriel Biel's interpretation of Occamism rather than against Occam himself. The other chapters do not attempt to find a direct influence of the Lollards and of John Huss on the Reformers.

The order followed through the book is "roughly chronological" (p. 4). Most of the chapters on the sixteenth century explain the theology, not of the Reformation as a global happening, but of specific Reformers, namely, Luther (chap. 5), Melanchthon (chap. 6), Zwingli (chap. 8), Bucer (chap. 9), Calvin (chap. 10), and Cranmer (chap. 12). Although other chapters broaden the horizon as they explain "Confessional Lutheran theology" (chap. 7), "later Calvinism" (chap. 11), the English reformers (chap. 13), the Scottish Reformation (chap. 14), and Anabaptist theology (chap. 15), the overall focus remains on individual Reformers and their theology in its reforming dimension. Thus Zwingli is rightly depicted as a radical reformer, which he was, but not a word is said about his devotion to Mary, his recommendation of the prayer, "Hail, Mary," or his preaching on the Immaculate Conception. The chapters on Bucer, Calvin, and later Calvinism are fair and will be helpful to non-specialists.

In regard to Anglicanism, it is a pity that Thomas Cranmer is the chief author covered. He was indeed an excellent liturgist, but his theology was not original, mostly borrowed from Bucer and Zwingli. And in any case the Church of England took its distinctive shape under Queen Elizabeth and Archbishop Parker, not under Henry VIII and Archbishop Cranmer. The theologian John Jewel would have been a better choice to explain the Anglican ecclesial sensibility, and Richard Hooker to show how Anglican theology differed from the ideas of the Continental Reformation. The chapter on the Scottish reformation (chap. 14) naturally puts the accent on John Knox, but it also presents other personages who are not so well known. The "introduction to Anabaptist theology" (chap. 15) happily sorts out the many diverse trends that can fit under the label "Anabaptist."

The last two chapters present "Catholic theologians before Trent" (chap. 16) and "the Council of Trent" (chap. 17). The chapter on the Catholic theologians, though short, is well balanced. The chapter on Trent, however, is a general disaster. The author writes: "To describe the dual nature of God's self-revelation the council used the words partim-partim, 'partly-partly.' Explicit Catholic teaching is found partly in Scripture and partly in the church's tradition" (p. 238). The author is clearly not aware of the extensive studies of the fourth session [End Page 281] of the council of Trent that were carried out in the decade preceding Vatican Council II. They clearly showed that the words, partim-partim, featured in a proposed draft, were discarded by the council and replaced by the neutral word, et, "and," which does not imply a partition of revelation in two sources, even if many theologians of the Counter-Reformation interpreted it in that sense. This discussion had a direct influence on Vatican Council II and the constitution Dei Verbum. Moreover, the Council of Trent at the fourth session...


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