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Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary Hardcover – March 31, 2017
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“Dr. Barrett has gathered a full stable of blue-ribbon theologians for this winning volume. All the essays are carefully contextualized, the Reformers judiciously selected, and the bibliographies thoughtfully assembled. Some chapters are especially notable for the breadth and depth of the author’s research, others for their adroit summaries of complex themes. There is little doubt that Reformation Theology will ably serve the church and academy as a textbook for students and a reference work for scholars. It is already reshaping my own teaching on late-medieval and early-modern theology, and I commend it heartily.”
―Chad Van Dixhoorn, Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary; author, Confessing the Faith and God’s Ambassadors
“This delightful volume is a breath of fresh air in Reformation studies, putting theology back at the center. It shows with crystal clarity how the Reformers expounded the heart of the Christian faith, and why these evangelical doctrines still matter so much.”
―Andrew Atherstone, Latimer Research Fellow, Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford
“This rich book takes up the challenge to think beyond 2017 and does so in a very stimulating manner. Each of the contributors is an expert in his field and knows that the Reformation is a highly relevant treasure for both the church and theology. They convincingly encourage the readers to think through this treasure and adopt it. Everyone eager not just to look back at five hundred years of reformation but also to look forward finds here the perfect material.”
―Herman Selderhuis, President, Theological University Apeldoorn, the Netherlands; Director, Refo500; President, Reformation Research Consortium
“Dr. Matthew Barrett has assembled a first-rate team of pastors and scholars to write an anniversary volume of the Reformation that promises to receive a welcoming readership across a wide spectrum of the evangelical community. At a time when some are suggesting that for all practical purposes the Reformation is ‘over,’ Barrett’s Reformation Theology offers a needed corrective by showing the relevance of the Reformation for healthy church ministry and the Christian life today.”
―Philip Graham Ryken, President, Wheaton College
“This collection of essays is both necessary and appropriate. It’s necessary because the issues addressed mattered then and matter now. It’s appropriate because this is how we best remember our past and honor the Reformers. The Reformation is our pivot point in the past, and the issues it addressed remain the pivot point for church life and discipleship.”
―Stephen J. Nichols, President, Reformation Bible College; Chief Academic Officer, Ligonier Ministries
“A superb collection of first-rate essays on Reformation theology―one of the best I have seen. A welcome addition to the swell of literature in this year of Reformation remembrance.”
―Timothy George, Distinguished Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
“An anniversary is a great moment to do a book like Reformation Theology. And with the passing of time, Reformation truths and the importance of the Reformation as a milestone in church history get forgotten―incredible as that sounds. But it is true. Perhaps we should not be surprised. How many times in the Old Testament do we read that the Israelites ‘forgot’? So I am enthusiastic about Reformation Theology.”
―David F. Wells, Senior Distinguished Research Professor of Theology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
“Matthew Barrett is certainly to be congratulated on bringing together this outstanding group of top-tier theologians and Reformation scholars to produce this wonderful resource. Not only are readers given a masterful survey of historical theology illuminating the key reformational themes of the sixteenth century, but also we are provided thoughtful and insightful guidance to wrestle with the important theological issues facing the church in the twenty-first century. I am delighted to recommend this comprehensive work.”
―David S. Dockery, Distinguished Professor of Theology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Reformation Theology promises to be an influential book indeed. Written by recognized historians and theologians, this volume aims to clearly articulate the teaching of the Reformers according to traditional theological categories. It is a genuine contribution and a great read besides.”
―Fred G. Zaspel, Executive Editor, Books at a Glance; Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church, Franconia, Pennsylvania
“Nothing would benefit American evangelicals more than a real rediscovery of the Reformation―not a superficial regurgitation of the familiar talking points but a powerful, experiential encounter with the learned depth, wisdom, humility, piety, and practical know-how of our Reformation forefathers. A volume like the one Dr. Matthew Barrett has put together is a big step in the right direction.”
―Greg Forster, Director, Oikonomia Network at the Center for Transformational Churches, Trinity International University; author, The Joy of Calvinism
“The lineup of authors in Reformation Theology and their respective topics reflect the very best in Reformed evangelical scholarship. The book should be of widespread interest. Not only would seminary and college students find the volume profitable in their studies, but all informed Christians would benefit from the essays.”
―W. Andrew Hoffecker, Professor of Church History Emeritus, Reformed Theological Seminary
“A clear articulation of one’s Reformed faith requires familiarity with the ideas and events in which that faith is rooted. Unfortunately, there are few books on the subject currently in print that are both learned and accessible. Thankfully, this volume offers an outstanding solution to this problem.”
―Chris Castaldo, Pastor, New Covenant Church, Naperville, Illinois; author, Talking with Catholics about the Gospel; coauthor, The Unfinished Reformation: What Unites and Divides Catholics and Protestants after 500 Years
About the Author
- Hardcover : 784 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1433543281
- Item Weight : 2.51 pounds
- ISBN-13 : 978-1433543289
- Dimensions : 6 x 1.56 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Crossway (March 31, 2017)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #284,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The book starts off with a prologue and an introduction and is followed by two essays on the historical background of the Reformation. The essay on the historical background focuses on the late medieval understanding of grace and authority in the church. The second background chapter spends just under 30 pages summarizing the following Reformations: Lutheran, Swiss/Geneva, English, and Scottish.
The bulk of the book is devoted to summarizing the major Reformers’ positions on the basic headings of theology: Scripture, the doctrine of God, predestination, creation, Christ’s person and work, the Holy Spirit, union with Christ, the bondage of the will, justification, sanctification, the church, the sacraments, church/state relationship, and eschatology.
Each chapter of this 750+ page historical theology book more or less follows this outline: 1) A short section on the medieval understanding of the doctrine, 2) Luther, Melanchthon, and/or the Lutheran teaching of the doctrine, 3) Calvin’s teaching of the doctrine, 4) Zwingli, Bullinger, Knox, and/or other Reformers’ teaching, 5) Reformed confessions on the doctrine, and 5) opposing views (such as Arminian, Socinian, etc.).
For one example, the chapter on justification is outlined like this: 1) Justification in Its Late-Medieval Context, 2) The Lutheran Breakthrough, 3) Adoption and Adaptation of Justification Sola Fide (Calvin’s view, a comparison of the Lutheran view, Roman Catholic responses and some modern controversies).
This book isn’t really a systematic theology, although it does give a general summary of how major Reformers and early Reformed and Lutheran confessions talk about the main headings of systematic theology. It doesn’t really get into details of later Reformed theology, such as the scholastics or the Westminster Confession or Princeton (etc.). It also isn’t a resource for the exegetical grounds of Reformed and Lutheran doctrine. I’m not being critical here, I just wanted to explain what the book is not (for those interested).
Many of the articles in this book are very good and helpful. The articles are technical, detailed, and scholarly, so the book is for advanced readers. There are a lot of names, dates, philosophical and theological terms as well as longer quotes from various medieval and Reformation theologians. I have to admit that for me it does read like a textbook at times (a little dry). I’d say it is written at an upper college or seminary level, give or take.
I do appreciate and enjoy this book; it’s a nice addition to historical Reformation theology resources. However, I do have other books with much of the same information. If you own some of Luther’s writings, Calvin’s Institutes, a few Reformed systematic theology books and a few historical theology books from a Reformed perspective, you might not need to invest in this one. On the other hand, if you’re interested in a detailed, scholarly introduction to the theology of the major Reformers, you’ll for sure want to get it!
In spite of the title, the book is not a theology text, per se. It fits most closely under subject heading “historical theology”, but it does not quite fit there either. When I consider the topic of “historical theology” I expect to find the book or paper to follow the development of a theological theme over time - from the original scriptures and early church, to the church fathers, through the middle ages and the reformation, to its current understanding within the church. This book does not do that. Rather, this book takes a snapshot of the broad areas of theological study (from the doctrine of scripture to eschatology) as they were understood during the formative years of the reformation. Written as a series of essay, each dealing with a specific theological topic, the various authors attempt to examine the doctrinal issues through the eyes of major players in the reformation. As an example, let me draw from the “Abstract” on the essay entitled “Sola Scriptura” by Mark D. Thompson:
[See Attached Image]
The reader will notice that the author attempts to draw from the thoughts of Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingly, Bullinger, Calvin, and Cranmer. Other writers may draw from a subset of these individuals or extend their writing to include elements of the Counter-Reformation and other contemporaneous groups. Interestingly, Wesley’s name is mentioned only once, in the Prologue, which sort of serves as later limit of the book’s coverage.
I found the reading to be a bit uneven - the Prologue was very difficult, formal, scholarly; some essays followed the same pattern, while others were more readable by the typical seminary and graduate student. They were still scholarly and well-researched, but not so formal as to hinder the reader’s understanding. The book was not written as a defense of Reformed theology, but as an explanation of the reformers' theology at the time they lived. Some authors simply echoed the reformers' ideas, others tried to place those ideas into their cultural settings. Speaking of authors, the only name familiar to this Wesleyan reviewer was that of Michael Horton (who wrote the Prologue) - I expect that this is more a result of this reader’s background than the quality of the scholars chosen to be part of the project.
Though the Advanced Readers Copy did not include indexes, a Name Index, a Subject Index, and a Scripture Index are scheduled for inclusion in the final edition of the book. These will add significant value to the book.the
This book does belong on the shelf of all scholars coming out the reformed church or having an interest in historical theology. Having said that, I would recommend the book be read by Christian scholars of all stripes - whether a personal copy or one borrowed from the library. Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingly, Bullinger, Calvin, and Cranmer, each contributed to the protestant reformation in their own way. Understanding that contribution will be important to all of us.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.