I really was not sure what to expect from The Roots of the Reformation. Truth be told, as much as I love church history, I had not read anything by G.R. Evans before this book. So, I really didn’t have a frame of reference by which to evaluate this title.
What I liked about the approach of the book was the attempt to tie the theological convictions and trends in the early church to what was taking place in the Reformation period. The recapturing of early church conviction is really at the heart of the Reformation story. Evans attempts to demonstrate this reality with mixed results. The fact that she is even attempting to connect the early church to the Reformation is a big deal because, sadly, many historians fail to make the connection. However, due to space constraints, some of the early church material is a little overly simplistic. In other words, some nuances of early church conviction are not given their due attention but this is understandable. Had Evans dedicated the necessary space to covering these connections she would have been bogged down in the first four centuries for literally hundreds of pages. So, even though it is not perfect, her effort is very useful and well-written.
Moving into the Reformation narrative, Evans really shines. She masterfully traces the issues and controversies that gave rise to the Reformation throughout Europe. Furthermore, she provides a wonderfully crafted mosaic of the varying theological approaches taken by the reformers. In short, it is specifically (and expectedly) in discussing the Reformation period where The Roots of the Reformation really standouts.
In conclusion, if you love church history…you need to pickup this book!