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20 Days with Reformation Theology: The Church, by Robert Kolb

It’s October and the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is underway! For the next 20 days Credo Magazine will be highlighting chapters (one a day) from the new Crossway book Reformation Theology: A Systematic Summary, edited by Matthew Barrett.

Today we highlight Robert Kolb’s chapter, “The Church.”

Dr. Robert A. Kolb is a professor emeritus of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Kolb retired in 2009 after 16 years of distinguished service as missions professor of Systematic Theology. He also previously served as the director of the Seminary’s Institute for Mission Studies. Before joining the Seminary, he served as director of the Center for Reformation Research (1973-77), and in various teaching roles in the religion and history departments at Concordia College in St. Paul, Minn. (1977-93, acting president 1989-90). From 1994 to 2010, he taught abroad, chiefly in post-Soviet Europe, for three months of the year. He received his Master of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology from Concordia Seminary (1967, 1968). He also earned a master’s and a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin–Madison (1969, 1973). He received the honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Valparaiso University (2000); Concordia University in St. Paul, Minn. (2005); and Concordia University in Irvine, Calif. (2008).

He is the author of several books, including The Christian Faith: A Luther Exposition (Concordia Publishing House); The Genius of Luther’s Theology: A Wittenberg Way of Thinking for the Contemporary Church with Dr. Charles Arand (Baker Academic); Studies of the Interpretation of Holy Scripture in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century (de Gruyter); Lutheran Ecclesiastical Culture, 1550-1675 (editor) (Leiden: Brill); A Booklet of Comfort for the Sick, and On the Christian Knight by Johann Spangenberg (Marquette University Press); Luther’s Way of Thinking. Introductory Essays (Luther Academy India); Bound Choice, Election, and Wittenberg Theological Method from Martin Luther to the Formula of Concord (Eerdmans); Sources and Contexts of the Book of Concord, co-edited with James A. Nestingen (Fortress Press); Teaching God’s Children His Teaching, a Guide to the Study of Luther’s Catechism (Crown Publishing); Speaking the Gospel Today: A Theology for Evangelism (Concordia Publishing House); Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher and Hero (Baker Academic); Martin Luther: Confessor of the Faith (Oxford University Press); Confessing the Faith: Reformers Define the Church, 1530-1580 (Concordia Publishing House); Anderae and the Formula of Concord: Six Sermons on the Way to Lutheran Unity (Concordia Publishing House); For All the Saints: Changing Perceptions of Martyrdom and Sainthood in the Lutheran Reformation (Mercer University Press); Nikolaus von Amsdorf (1483-1565): Popular Polemics in the Preservation of Luther’s Legacy (Bibliotheca Humanistica & Reformatorica) (Brill Hes & De Graaf Publishers); and Luther’s Heirs Define His Legacy: Studies on Lutheran Confessionalization (Collected Studies Series) (Variorum Publishers). Many of his books also have been translated into other languages. He also has written more than 100 articles and a collection of essays.

What is Robert Kolb’s chapter about?

All Protestant Reformers rejected the ritual-centered, hierarchically-controlled definition of Christ’s church that prevailed in medieval theology and piety, defining the church instead as God’s creation through his Word.  They characterized the relationship of the sacraments to God’s Word in varying ways, but all emphasized the place of the sacraments as marks of the church.  The term “marks” was also used in varying ways among the Reformers, with the Word of God at the heart of the concept.  Protestants organized the church with different forms of polity: Lutherans with some variety, Calvinists with Calvin’s four offices in Presbyterian form, Anglicans with an episcopal system, and Anabaptists a congregational system.  All centered worship on preaching with sacramental rites as an important part of the public life of the congregation.  Each insisted on discipline of public sinners, practiced with varying degrees of seriousness.  With the exception of the Anabaptists, Protestants associated their churches with secular governments, which exercised varying degrees of control over their territorial churches.

Who else has contributed to Reformation Theology?

Prologue: What Are We Celebrating? Taking Stock after Five Centuries

Michael Horton


The Crux of Genuine Reform
Matthew Barrett

Part 1: Historical Background to the Reformation

Late-Medieval Theology
Gerald Bray

The Reformers and Their Reformations
Carl R. Trueman and Eunjin Kim

Part 2: Reformation Theology

Sola Scriptura
Mark D. Thompson

The Holy Trinity
Michael Reeves

The Being and Attributes of God
Scott R. Swain

Predestination and Election
Cornelis P. Venema

Creation, Mankind, and the Image of God
Douglas F. Kelly

The Person of Christ
Robert Letham

The Work of Christ
Donald Macleod

The Holy Spirit
Graham A. Cole

Union with Christ
J. V. Fesko

The Bondage and Liberation of the Will
Matthew Barrett

Justification by Faith Alone
Korey D. Maas

Sanctification, Perseverance, and Assurance
Michael Allen

The Church
Robert Kolb

Aaron Clay Denlinger

The Lord’s Supper
Keith A. Mathison

The Relationship of Church and State
Peter A. Lillback

Kim Riddlebarger

Praise for Reformation Theology?

“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, Chancellor’s Professor of Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary–Washington, DC

“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, Director, Refo500; Professor and Director of the Institute for Reformation Research, Theological University Apeldoorn, the Netherlands; author, Calvin’s Theology of the Psalms

“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; author, Loving the Way Jesus Loves

“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; author, Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought and The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World

“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, founding dean, Beeson Divinity School; general editor, Reformation Commentary on Scripture

“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, distinguished senior research professor, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; author, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-Lovers, Marketers and Emergents in the Postmodern World

“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, president, Trinity International University

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, Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church, Franconia, Pennsylvania; author, The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary and Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel

“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–Jackson; author, Charles Hodge: The Pride of Princeton

“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

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