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Hendrix, Scott H.
B>Recultivating the Vineyard. The Reformation Agendas of Christianization.
Louisville-London: Westminster John Knox Press 2004. XXIV, 254 S. m. Abb. gr.8°. Kart. US$ 29,95. ISBN 0-664-22713-9.
Mary Noll Venables
Scott Hendrix has written a lucid and wide-ranging history of the Reformation that will engage beginning students and advanced scholars. In six concise chapters he presents an overview of Reformation history, beginning with a survey of medieval Christianity and ending with an overview of early modern world missions. In addition to summarizing cogently the history of the time, H. also argues an intriguing new thesis. He unites confessional strands by describing the work of Catholic and Protestant theologians and pastors as an attempt to replant Christianity in Europe. His focus on shared intentions to rechristianize Europe, to »recultivate the vineyard« as the book¹s title states, unifies the histories of Catholic and Protestant movements. In H.¹s interpretation, Martin Luther, Jean Calvin, Menno Simons, and Ignatius Loyola all shared a common vision of rekindled European Christianity.
H. starts his study with late medieval Christendom, arguing that by the 15th century Europe was substantially Christian in »breadth« and »depth« (7). He then covers German Protestants, the Reformed movement, radical Protestantism, Catholic reform, and the outcome of the Reformation (for both Protestants and Catholics).
The book¹s unity distinguishes H.¹s narrative from most surveys of the 16th century. He presents details of individual reformers in a way that leads back to his central premise, the recultivation of the Christian vineyard. Thus he discusses medieval Christianity in light of the Christianization of Europe and presents Luther¹s reforms as a return to true Christian community. H. explains Calvin¹s ecclesiastical discipline as essential to Calvin¹s attempts to found a Christian society in Geneva. Radical reformers strove to create Christendom without help from civil authorities. H. sees new religious orders, revived devotion and especially world missions as evidence of Catholic commitment to Christianization. He concludes with a chapter that considers the success of the Reformation, the expansion of confessional Christianity into European colonies, and the suitability of the confessionalization thesis.
With H.¹s division of the subject into Lutheran, Reformed, Radical, and Catholic headings, the histories of religious change in a few countries fall through the cracks. He makes only brief mention of the English Reformation, mostly as concerns Martin Bucer, and France and the Netherlands are almost completely missing. What students lose in geographic scope, however, they more than gain in theological and historical depth. The book gives an overview of the Reformation era and an understanding of major historiographical discussions. Most chapters start with relevant historiography, for example Bernd Moeller on Reformed churches and Gerald Strauss on the Reformation¹s success. To encourage further research, H. provides an extensive bibliography.
H.¹s Christianization thesis has numerous merits. Most importantly in the eyes of this reviewer, it provides a way to study confessions that uses the vocabulary of the 16th century. The cover illustration by Lucas Cranach the Younger, depicting Luther and Melanchthon working a fruitful vineyard while the Pope and his workers destroy their vineyard, demonstrates that the image of cultivation was current (and polemical) at the time. The strength of a contemporary interpretive framework is particularly potent when considering the confessionalization thesis. As proponents of confessionalization have demonstrated, Lutheran, Reformed, and Catholic practice did often stress similar types of social discipline. Historians see that similarity, however, from a distance of several centuries. H.¹s notion of Christianization is one that occurs in the writings of 16th-century theologians. Therefore he can rightly point out that »before creating obedient subjects, the process of confessionalization strove to create wholehearted supporters of the new creed in each branch of Christendom« (157). H.¹s focus on desires for Christianization seems to present a much truer image of 16th-century reformers than their desires for order. H. is to be thanked for an introduction to the Reformation that places Christianization front and center.