A few brief observations: First, it was a little hard going in places stylistically. For whatever reason, there were places were it felt a little clunky. Add this to a few places where it felt like some observations were made without much backing or explanation. Particularly, as Lawrence approaches Bucer in the early chapter or two, setting the historical stage, there were a few spots that seemed overstated or merely glossed over. Nothing severe, but it made it a little more difficult to get into the narrative when I was already questioning some of the more general historical analysis.
That said, Lawrence gives us a great collation of much of the available work on Bucer in English. While his emphasis is not on Bucer’s theology per se, he does give attention to the key themes that he addressed throughout his ministry. And much of that is just plain to see in his actual dealings with other pastors, magistrates, and the people he cared for as their pastor. His passion for unity, for mutual submission, his willingness to compromise on secondary issues, and his dogged commitment to the core of the true faith are all there on display in his life as he pursued them enthusiastically in writing, speaking, and preaching.
Lastly, my appreciation of Bucer’s contributions to the Reformed faith continues to grow. Lawrence shows that Bucer is the origin of Calvin’s view of the sacraments, particularly the Lord’s Supper. Bucer was the one who tirelessly devoted himself to uniting the Lutheran, Reformed, and Zwinglian factions of the Reformation, and in the middle of that, he was still meeting with Roman priests and bishops and seeking audience with anyone within the Roman Church who was willing to work toward reunification. It was not Bucer who ever grew tired of trying to establish unity and harmony in the body of Christ. At every point where Bucer moved on to something else, it was the closed door rejection of others who prevented union and communion. And this when many of his friends told him he ought to have thrown in the towel much sooner. And Bucer’s pastoral heart is difficult to miss in all of this. He seems to have understood in a very tangible way what it means to love people in all their complexities, all their flaws, all their personality quirks, and all their sin. He understood something of the messiness of life, and the grace of God that is designed for our every need.
While Bucer hardly began to see any fruit from much of his ministry before he died, his influence on Calvin cannot be underestimated, nor should the last 2 year of his life in England and his work with Cranmer be ignored. The English Church has perhaps more of a Reformed heritage than she might ordinarily care to admit to.
All in all, a great overview of the life of a great man, a faithful husband, father, and pastor, to whom we owe much.