Book Review: Reformation Theology

BLOG Reformation Theology

In Reformation Theology, Matthew Barrett along with a host of reformed scholars offer a summary of the major areas of reformation thought in the sixteenth century. Focusing primarily on the magisterial reformers, the authors paint a vivid picture of the multifaceted dimensions of the theologies of the main reformers such as Luther, Calvin, Bucer, and Melanchthon. However, the authors do also take efforts to interact with the thinking and influences of related parties including the early church fathers, the medieval Roman church, and the radical Reformers along with other reformation movements in England, France, and Scotland. The chapters explore key topics including justification by faith, union with Christ, and the sacraments while also looking at lesser considered areas such as the reformers’ views on eschatology and the image of God. Each topic is prefaced by an overview of the historical, social, and theological contours before delving into the core issues. Moreover, instead of examining all the different nuances of each subject, the authors chose to interact with the most influential voices such as Calvin’s Institutes and the Reformed confessions. In addition to the many useful footnotes at the bottom of each page, there are lengthy lists of primary and secondary resources at the end for readers to access for further information.  The one drawback of the book in focusing so narrowly on the first and second generation reformers is that there is substantial amount of informational overlap in the sources and ideas presented among the different chapters. Nevertheless, this book serves as an accessible introduction to both laypeople and students alike as the authors are largely successful in condensing the material to concentrate on the most essential aspects of each topic.

I would most definitely recommend this book to those who are unfamiliar with the key issues at stake in the Reformation. A good understanding of our Protestant heritage is important for contemporary believers who often are not even familiar with the history of their own denominations. By studying how the reformers worked out doctrinal issues in the sixteenth century, we can gain greater knowledge and perspective in how we can face challenges to those same controversies, albeit in a different form, in the twenty-first century. Furthermore, we can come to a greater appreciation of the massive struggles, tensions, and sacrifices of those who have gone before us to recapture the vital truths of the Christian faith.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Crossway.

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