To read this book is to enter into two worlds that I am unfamiliar with. First, the world of the reformation. Avis carefully places the reader back into 16th & 17th and tries to get us to understand how they thought. Second, the world of a scholar. Avis’ scholarship is excellent. He brings a thorough knowledge of the subjects. His writing is clear and logical as he moves through the various topics, which shows his grasp of the topics. With any good scholar you always feel like he knows way more than he is saying. This was true with Avis. All of this is to say that the book is a must read for pastors or theologians who want to understand the Reformers view of the church.
Avis relies heavily on Luther, Calvin, and Hooker to develop his points. He shows what was central throughout the theology of the reformers and what was secondary. Christ and his Word, the Gospel are at the center and are the only thing necessary for a church to exist. He explains how the borders of the church were eventually formed through an emphasis on church discipline and how this became more extreme as time moved on. He rightly critiques the separatist movements, which unfortunately look like most of modern Christianity including the reformed kind.
He lays out how the reformers could hold to the priesthood of all believers and yet still have a high view of the ministry. His sections on polity were very helpful in understanding the historical backdrop to the development of the episcopate in England,as well as showing that polity was a secondary, though still very important issue. He also showed how the the reformers’ view of “two kingdoms” informed their approach to the magistrate.
A rich and rewarding study that changed my views on the reformation and on current ecclesiastical issues.