Skip to content

Barrett’s Book Notes: Reformation works for scholarship and the church

It’s Reformation Day and although the 500 hundredth anniversary may have been last year, there are still loads of books to commend.

Eric Landry and Michael S. Horton, eds. The Reformation Then and Now: 25 Years of Modern Reformation Articles Celebrating 500 Years of the Reformation. Hendrickson, 2017.

If you’ve been around me very long, then you know what appreciation I have for the ministry and theology of Michael Horton. His Modern Reformation magazine and White Horse Inn radio show have been instructive to the church, helping pastors and churchgoers understand why theology matters and why reformation is still necessary today.

For that reason, how fitting it is that Hendrickson has recruited some of the best articles from Modern Reformation over the last 25 years to not only remember what the Reformation was all about, but to apply its theology in the church today. While every article deserves your attention, some that you may want to pay special attention to include:

The Shape of the Reformation, by Michael Allen

The State of the Church Before the Reformation, by Alister McGrath

Pelagianism, by Michael S. Horton,

Calvin the Transformationist? David VanDrunen

Christ in the Heidelberg Catechism, by W. Robert Godfrey

Was Geneva a Theocracy? by Michael Horton

Is the Reformation Over? by Michael Horton

Luther on the Freedom and Bondage of the Will by R. Scott Clark

Calvin’s Form of Administering the Lord’s Supper, by Keith Mathison

The Reformation and the Arts, by Gene E. Veith

Against the Weber Thesis, by Diarmaid MacCulloch

Let’s hope Hendrickson will published yet a second volume for the next 25 years as well.

If you enjoy this book, check out the recent Credo podcast where Horton and I talk about the relationship between justification and union with Christ. You won’t want to miss Horton’s insight.

John Calvin. Sermons on 1 Timothy. Banner of Truth, 2018.

The sermons of the Reformers are one of the best ways to identify the pulse of the Reformation on the ground. While polemical works give you a taste for how the Reformers are reacting against Rome, their sermons will help you see their positive reform at work within their own congregations. Banner of Truth has released Robert White’s translated edition (from the French, 1561) of Calvin’s sermons on 1 Timothy. Not only does this large volume give readers a window into Calvin the pastor, but it puts one under Calvin’s pastoral care. Calvin walks you through the text exegetically, but he also brings out the implications of the text for the church. His prayers at the end of each sermon are nearly worth the price of the book itself. I use them all the time, both in my classes at MBTS and at the family dinner table.

Gary W. Jenkins. Calvin’s Tormentors: Understanding the Conflicts that Shaped the Reformer. Baker Academic, 2018.

I recently taught a PhD seminar on the Reformation at MBTS. We studied Gordon’s biography of Calvin and spent a lot of reading time in the Institutes. In discussions over Calvin’s Geneva, it became apparent to me that students need a resource that introduces them to the context of Calvin’s many debates. One book I sent students to is Gary Jenkins’s new release, a book that studies the way Calvin’s “tormentors” (what an appropriate label!) shaped Calvin’s theology and reformation agenda. Some of his tormentors included du Tillet, Caroli, Sadoleto, Servetus, Castellio, Berthelier, Baudouin, Bolsec, Westphal, and the Italian antitrinitarians. (p.s., I have written a little on Calvin’s debates over trinitarianism here should you want to jump into these deep waters.) All that to say, what is but a short book proves to be a needed entryway into Calvin’s many controversies.

Also, don’t miss today’s post where I engage Calvin’s famous debate with Sadoleto over justification.

Ulinka Rublack, ed. The Oxford Handbook of the Protestant Reformations. Oxford, 2017.

This was my Credo Book of the Week not long ago for good reason. Rublack has recruited an impressive array of scholarly articles on the different reformations. I appreciate how the book doesn’t just look at theology but ventures into geography, culture and society, and the arts. The book also has chapters on each reformation and the consequences and influence they all had. Chapters you may want to explore include:

Geographies of the Protestant Reformation, by Graeme Murdock

Protestantism in an Age of Catholic Renewal, by Philip Soergel

The Reformation Liturgy by Susan C. Karant-Nunn

Education in the Reformation, by Charlotte Methuen

Music by Christopher Brown

Commerce and Consumption by Christine Johnson

History and Memory by Bruce Gordon

All in all, there are countless other chapters that add insight from angles not typically explored. Students of the Reformation will benefit in unexpected ways.

Erasmus. Collected Works of Erasmus: Paraphrase on Luke 1-10. Translated and annotated by Jane Phillips. Toronto, 2016.

When studying the Reformation, nothing can replace direct engagement with primary sources. Though Erasmus never joined Luther’s reformation, he was a humanist whose literary output had enormous influence on the reformers. Erasmus and the reformers never could agree theologically, as evident in Erasmus’ debate with Luther over the bondage of the will. Nevertheless, Erasmus produced a Greek New Testament that would, whether he intended this or not, provide ample fuel for the reformation fire. As reformers went back to the biblical text itself, it became clear how out of step Rome was with the scriptures.

A new addition to University of Toronto Press’s Collected Works of Erasmus is volume 47, which provides Erasmus’s paraphrase on Luke 1-10. As I mentioned with Calvin, it is commentary and interpretation of the biblical text itself that provides students with an in-depth view of each sixteenth century figure’s hermeneutic and application of the text. That is true here with Erasmus. Plus, this paraphrase is a great example of Erasmus’ moral, theological, and allegorical methods of interpretation. Also worth the purchase are the annotations, which are extensive and detailed. Jane Phillips’s scholarship shows; PhD students, pay attention!

The Reformation Study Bible. Concise Edition. English Standard Version. Reformation Trust.

I am a fan of study Bibles. One of the first articles I wrote was on the Geneva Bible and the notes it provided as commentary for the average Christian. They serve an important purpose, helping Christians understand the text through a concise format, which may be all they have time for in life. However, I do worry that the proliferation of study Bibles today, seemingly on any and every possible theme or topic, will lesson their value in the long run. But if so, the Reformation Study Bible is not one of those detractors. Using the ESV as its text, Ligonier ministries via Reformation Trust, has now made available a concise version of their longer RSB. This is an attractive Bible; in a far more manageable size, Reformation Trust has still included extensive notes on the text, drawing from the best of the original notes. Its single column format is easy on the eyes as well. This is a study Bible that I hope to see more and more in the hands of churchgoers and students.

Matthew Barrett

Matthew Barrett is the author of Simply Trinity: The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Baker), coming this March (2021). He is the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine and host of the Credo podcast. He is associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the author of several books, including Canon, Covenant and Christology; None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God; and God’s Word Alone.

Back to Top