THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION, 1517-1559 by Lewis W. Spitz (Harper & Row: $22.95). Stanford history professor Lewis W. Spitz has combined a fine writing style with exhaustive scholarship in presenting still another account of one of the pivotal events of Western civilization. His "The Protestant Reformation" is more than an account of the spiritual revolution sparked by Martin Luther when he nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Spitz offers a penetrating study of the German Augustinian monk who had sought reform, not revolution. He also delves deeply into the social, economic and political turmoil created by Luther's call for a debate on church excesses that for its protagonists dealt with far more than the mere question of life or death that confronts civilization in the Nuclear Age. At issue then was the question of eternal salvation or everlasting damnation, mingled with the mundane struggles between church and state for political power, wealth and prestige. For the scholar, the book--one of a series entitled "The Rise of Modern Europe"--is a valuable study stripped of religious bias. The more casual reader may feel overwhelmed by the avalanche of the exhaustive arguments over papal authority and the interpretation of the Scriptures spilling from its pages.