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, Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Today we highlight Gerald Bray’s chapter, “Late-Medieval Theology,” as he introduces the historical and theological background to the sixteenth-century. Gerald Bray is Research Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School. He teaches in the areas of church history and  historical theology.  A prolific author, Bray has published many scholarly articles and books, including The Doctrine of God in the Contours of Christian Theology series (of which he is also the general editor) and Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present. He edited Galatians, Ephesians, the first volume of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture. His systematic theology God is Love was released by Crossway in 2012, and his historical theology God has Spoken was published in 2014.

What is Gerald Bray’s chapter about?

Late medieval theology was characterized by two major areas of discussion that were to influence the Protestant Reformation. The first of these was the debate about the nature and reception of divine grace. Peter Lombard had developed the scheme of seven sacraments, through which saving grace was mediated by the church to its members. Of these, two (penance and the Eucharist) were meant to be repeated frequently, but even so, most people died with a burden of unforgiven sins which they then had to work off in purgatory. It was possible to lessen this punishment by obtaining indulgences, which the church even offered for sale. Christians could obtain grace by their own merit and receiving the sacraments which imparted it was the closest a believer could come to being assured of his salvation. Behind this sacramental scheme there lay a hierarchy of authority, which the church claimed derived from God and had been given to the church. In practice, this authority was exercised by the pope and the bishops, but it was debated whether the pope could act on his own or whether he had to follow the dictates of church councils. Secular rulers also played a part in this, because only those church pronouncements which they agreed to implement actually took effect. The Bible was a source of authority, but it was interpreted by the church’s hierarchy and supplemented by additional canons and decrees that formed an extra-biblical “tradition”. A few commentators noticed how the church had been corrupted by the use and abuse of this system, and they advocated the principle of sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”) as the foundation of the church’s authority. The Protestant Reformers picked up on this, often subconsciously, and by rejecting the claims of non-biblical tradition, sought to establish the church on what they regarded as its ancient base of Scripture alone.

Who else has contributed to Reformation Theology?

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

Michael Horton

Introduction

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

Baptism
Aaron Clay Denlinger

The Lord’s Supper
Keith A. Mathison

The Relationship of Church and State
Peter A. Lillback

Eschatology
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 ForsterDirector, 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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