As visitors to ‘At the BookShelf’ would know, I have been reading ‘Reformers and Their Stepchildren,’ by Leonard Verduin. I have now started chapter four and progress through the book may appear slow and you may think this is a reflection on the quality of the book. That would be a mistaken assumption however.
In reality I am finding the book a brilliant treatment of the differences between the ‘partial reformers’ (such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc) and the more ‘radical reformer’ who sought a complete transformation of the church to that which more accurately reflected the New Testament model.
The ‘slowness’ of my reading is more a reflection of my reading half a dozen or so books at the same time. Reading so many books at any given time is fairly normal for me – in fact, I would call normal (for me) reading far more books at any given time, but I am trying to reign myself in a little here. I just love reading – I am a bibliophile and bookworm remember 🙂
The third chapter of Verduin’s work has to do with the lack of true church discipline in the churches of the Reformers and their indifference (generally speaking) to ungodliness in the church (remembering that their churches basically included all in a given location or region).
The third chapter presents a very clear case of the real time contradiction of the Reformers and the reform they were bringing to bear on such places as Geneva, Zurich, etc. To a large extent their work of reform didn’t go anywhere near far enough to satisfy their ‘stepchildren,’ who when they tried to go further were branded as heretics, with their efforts at a more thorough reform being identified by the reformers as evidence of their heresy.
It is a very engaging chapter I believe and one that is helpful for shedding light on Christianity even to this day.
I have been reading ‘The Reformers and Their Stepchildren,’ by Leonard Verduin, in the last week or so. It is not the first time that I have read this book, having read it some time ago – probably 10 years ago now I would say.
This is a book that I would recommend to any believer, but particularly to a Reformed believer, whether he be Paedobaptist or Baptist. Verduin seeks to analyse the Reformation and the relationship between the Reformers and their ‘stepchildren’ from a Biblical standpoint, rather than any particular denominational standpoint. Though he does defend the stepchildren, he does so only when they are in line with Scriptural teaching on the point being discussed within that particular chapter.
Who are the stepchildren? The stepchildren or the ‘second front,’ as Verduin also describes them, are those believers who sought a complete reforming of the church. In fact, it may be fair to say that these believers sought a complete break from the Romish church, and a new church built on the teachings of Scripture and modelled on the New Testament church alone.
The frustration for these nonconformist believers was that the reform movement only went so far and did not result in the complete renewal that they desired and that the situation required.
Thus far I have read only the first two chapters of the book and once again I am finding it a very worthwhile read. I find myself in substantial agreement with the position of many of the stepchildren and with Verduin. With as much respect as I have for the Reformers, such as John Calvin, Martin Luther and John Knox, I too would have found myself frustrated at the level of reform achieved by them (though they were better men than I). A complete break and renewal would have been the way forward I believe.
The first two chapters deal with the joint secular-religious church-state that was set up at both the time of Constantine and then at the Reformation in the various Protestant nations that embraced the Reformation. They deal with the all-embracing religion that was constructed in such centres as Geneva and the ‘unified’ approach to it, as well as the reaction of the stepchildren and their withdrawal from it.
This book is as close to a must read for believers as there is I think – especially of the Reformed persuasion.
My copy of the book (paperback) is by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. and was printed in 1964.
By Melchior Kirchhoffer
This book by Melchior Kirchhoffer seems to be an honest dealing with the life of the sometimes volatile Reformer. William Farel was a man greatly used of God in his own right, but his greatest contribution to the Reformation within the Providence of God, was to convince John Calvin to go to Geneva and head the work of reformation in that city. Through this meeting with Calvin, Farel brought the greatest of the Reformers out of relative isolation and into far greater public usefulness.
Kirchhoffer follows Farel from his early days in the Roman communion, to his days as a faithful servant of God used tremendously in the work of reformation in and about Switzerland.
This is a very easy book to read and gives a very good account of Farel’s life and work. It does not gloss over the weaknesses of the Reformer, clearly detailing what they were and the impact they had upon his ministry. Neither does it gloss over the contribution that Farel made to the progress of the Reformation.
To follow my progress in getting this work online and to read the book itself, visit: