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 Michael Horton’s prologue, “What Are We Celebrating? Taking Stock after Five Centuries.”
Michael Horton is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California.
Dr. Horton has taught apologetics and theology at Westminster Seminary California since 1998. In addition to his work at the Seminary, he is the president of White Horse Inn, for which he co-hosts the White Horse Inn, a nationally syndicated, weekly radio talk-show exploring issues of Reformation theology in American Christianity. He is also the editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine. Before coming to WSC, Dr. Horton completed a research fellowship at Yale University Divinity School from 1996 to 1998. In 2016, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Grove City College. A member of various societies, including the American Academy of Religion and the Evangelical Theological Society, Dr. Horton is the author/editor of more than twenty-five books, including a series of studies in Reformed dogmatics published by Westminster John Knox.
His most recent books are Rediscovering the Holy Spirit: God’s Perfecting Presence in Creation, Redemption, and Everyday Life; Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story; Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World; Calvin on the Christian Life: Glorifying and Enjoying God Forever; Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples; The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way and The Gospel Commission. He has written articles for Modern Reformation, Pro Ecclesia, Christianity Today, The International Journal of Systematic Theology, Touchstone, and Books and Culture.
Dr. Horton is an ordained minister in the United Reformed Churches in North America and lives in Escondido with his wife, Lisa, and four children.
What is Michael Horton’s prologue about?
Here is the conclusion:
Frankly, I’m a bit ambivalent about this birthday. If it is another occasion for liberals to hail Luther’s “Here I stand!” as the harbinger of modern autonomy, or for conservatives to celebrate Protestant values, or for confessionalists to re-watch the Luther movie and dredge up polemical grudges, then it will be at best a colossal waste of time. If, on the other hand, it is an occasion to allow God’s Word once again to break into our self-enclosed circles with a word of radical judgment and radical grace, then it will be a happy birthday indeed.
This is a time neither for vague celebration nor for hand-wringing, but for sober examination, critique, and fresh ways of engaging our own time and place with God’s strange speech. There is too much evidence of God’s faithfulness to his church. With renewed interest in the truths of the Reformation among younger generations not only in the North Atlantic world but in the global church, there is much to celebrate. But the real reformation of our day is going to happen, as it always has, in the churches. And at some point the “Young, Restless and Reformed” are going to have to study for themselves to see the greater wisdom of the confessions and catechisms of the churches that have struggled, against mighty odds, not only to “stay alive” but to reach their neighbors who are increasingly oblivious to the most basic story-line, beliefs and practices of Christianity. We may be entering a new dark ages in the West. But Jesus told disciples on the verge of persecution, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Lk 12:32). He still delivers the kingdom to us, as a gift, not through our anxious activism but through his Word and Spirit. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). Only confidence in what he has accomplished for us can cheer us for our daunting task. “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Mat 16:18).
With all of these hopes and dreams in mind, I join the reader in exploring the richness of the chapters that unfold in this terrific collection of truly important essays. Many of them stand alone as passionate manifestos for the way forward. Regardless of your own tradition or church experience, give them a willing ear. They are, in the best sense, catholic and evangelical. Go deeper into a tradition that is definitely “not over,” as some suggest, even if the evangelical movement itself may ebb and flow. Regardless, any church that seeks to thrive and become part of the kingdom that Christ is building through his Word and Spirit will sing with Martin Luther,
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also.
The body they may kill,
God’s truth abideth still.
God’s kingdom is forever!
Who else has contributed to Reformation Theology?
Prologue: What Are We Celebrating? Taking Stock after Five Centuries
The Crux of Genuine Reform
Part 1: Historical Background to the Reformation
The Reformers and Their Reformations
Carl R. Trueman and Eunjin Kim
Part 2: Reformation Theology
Mark D. Thompson
The Holy Trinity
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
The Work of Christ
The Holy Spirit
Graham A. Cole
Union with Christ
J. V. Fesko
The Bondage and Liberation of the Will
Justification by Faith Alone
Korey D. Maas
Sanctification, Perseverance, and Assurance
Aaron Clay Denlinger
The Lord’s Supper
Keith A. Mathison
The Relationship of Church and State
Peter A. Lillback
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