Christ Alone & Catholic Sacramental Theology: A Reformation Response
In order to understand the nature of the Reformers’ disagreement with Rome, you have to understand the nature of two intertwining ideas that anchor Catholic sacramental theology: the “nature-grace interdependence” and the “Christ-Church interconnection.”
Stephen Wellum traces the contours of this main point of disagreement and the Reformers’ response in his new book Christ Alone—The Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior. In it, he explores what the Reformers taught about the exclusivity and sufficiency of Christ—and why it still matters.
For the Reformers, solus Christus entails the confession of Christ’s exclusive identity and his perfect, complete, and all-sufficient work as our covenant head and mediator (258).
Below, we’ve briefly outlined Wellum’s engagement with these ideas to help you understand the Reformers’ solus Christus response to…
Grace Is Profoundly Existential, Beginning With the Church
“Grace is a profoundly existential matter” (157).
That’s the verdict in Carl Trueman’s new book Grace Alone, a tour de force through the biblical, historical, and existential conversations surrounding salvation as a gift of God. How is grace existential?
[Grace] does not simply explain how the Creator and his fallen creatures are brought back into communion with each other… Grace should hold us in its grip in such a way that our whole being is affected. That which brings us from being under God’s wrath to being his beloved children is surely something that we cannot contemplate in a dispassionate manner. (157)
This is why Trueman culminates his book with an extended conversation on the means of grace through the church, preaching, the…
[Common Places]: 9.5 Theses Concerning Our End
Common Places has been a regular column on the Zondervan Academic blog with a focus on systematic theology. The loci communes or “common places” of Christian theology, drawn out of the Scriptures and organized in a manner suitable to their exposition in the church and the academy, have functioned historically as common points of reference for theological discussion and debate. This column has focused upon the classical loci of systematic theology, not as occasions for revision, but as opportunities for entering into the ongoing conversation that is Christian systematic theology. After a three-year run, this final post concludes Common Places. Thank you for joining the dialog.
1. We live in a day and age marked by the active life. In theological terms, this tendency manifests itself in a proclivity to focus upon conversational theology wherein theological concerns are put to…
Was Katie Luther Spiritual? The Piety of the Reformation’s First Lady
In Katie Luther, Ruth Tucker introduces us to Katharina von Bora, wife of Martin Luther and First Lady of the Reformation.
This is not the sweet and submissive, subdued and godly woman many assume the great Reformer married. Instead, we discover a strong, independent woman whose voice echoes among modern women, wives and mothers who have carved out a career of their own.
Last week we learned five notable things about Katie—including that she was a nun who escaped her convent and a businesswoman who ran a brewery and inn. But what about her faith? When we consider her husband Martin’s profound spiritual nature imbued by a deep love for theology and the Bible, does Katie’s piety come up short?
As one person put it, “Her piety is more…
5 Things You Need to Know About Katie Luther
They say behind every great man is a great woman.
The same holds true for Martin Luther. And Ruth Tucker wants to introduce her to you in her new book, Katie Luther, First Lady of the Reformation. In it, she shows how, save for Martin Luther himself, Katharina von Bora was one of the most indispensable figures of the German Reformation:
Take her and their twenty-year marriage out of the picture, and his leadership would have suffered severely. Had it not been for the stability she brought to his life, [Martin] may have gone off the rails emotionally and mentally by the mid-1520s…Only Katharina von Bora—no other woman—could have accomplished what she did with this most unstable man. (11–12)
So who was this great woman behind the great Martin Luther? Here are five…
How Does the Holy Spirit Operate in the Believer’s Life?
Which is why Michael Horton offers an entire chapter on “How the Spirit Gives” in his new book Rediscovering the Holy Spirit.
I’m glad he does. Because as a former pastor I’ve found Horton’s view to be true: people struggle to understand how the Spirit ordinarily operates in their life. After explaining the relationship between the Spirit and the means of grace, Horton helps us understand how the Spirit gives by getting specific:
Hearing Christ preached, being baptized, and taking Communion are not substitutes for faith but are the means through which the Spirit gives us faith and confirms our faith to the…
[Common Places] Sanctification: Sanctification Made Strange
Our current series, Sanctification, looks at elements of the forthcoming volume by Michael Allen in the New Studies in Dogmatics series.
The harder part of theology can oftentimes take the form of bringing into relief that which we are most likely to overlook. We miss things for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we miss things because they are so foreign or odd to us, whether they are literarily odd or culturally exotic. We may even know that they are baffling and, therefore, avoid them altogether. Sometimes we miss things because they seem so straightforward and familiar. We presume that a word in the Bible means just what it might in our ordinary experience, as if the fact that it was written in koine…
Are We Misreading the Bible When It Comes to Gender Roles?
In politics, so-called “third-rail issues” are policy subjects so combustible, so electric that touching them leads to sure-fire political ruin.
Today, the issue of gender roles within marriage and within the church is as equally combustible and electric. Yet in her new book Gender Roles and the People of God, Alice Mathews grabs it with both hands in order to help us rethink what we were taught about men and women.
What can we learn from Scripture and from history that will help us reach the clearest understanding of gender difference in God’s purposes for us? The journey may drive us to rethink what we’ve been taught. It may help us see what we might otherwise have missed. (16)
She begins the conversation with a…
Five Intriguing Insights About Grace and the Old Testament
The language of grace so permeates the Bible and all traditions of Christian theology that to claim that salvation is by grace alone is, in itself, to claim very little at all (17).
So begins Grace Alone, Carl Trueman’s tour de force examining the doctrine of salvation as a gift of God.
He examines the development of this theme in the early church, through the Reformation, to the Protestant confessions that still shape the church in the present day. Trueman also explores the biblical means of receiving God’s grace—with a highly informative engagement of grace in the Old Testament.
Below we’ve highlighted some of his material to help you better understand what the Old Testament says about this doctrine, in order to help the church recover it in the face…
5 Reasons Why “Christ Alone” Is at the Center of the Five Solas
These so-called solas were the rallying cry of the Reformers nearly 500 years ago. And binding them together was a fifth: Christ alone.
That’s the thesis of Stephen Wellum’s new book by the same name on the uniqueness of Jesus as Savior.
Solus Christus stands at the center of the other four solas, connecting them into a coherent theological system by which the Reformers declared the glory of God. (19)
Wellum offers five reasons why Christ alone came to form the center of gravitational force of the Reformation—and why it’s also the heart of Christian theology.
It’s the Lynchpin of Reformation Theology
First, Christ alone is essential for coherent Reformation doctrine. Wellum summarizes how Christ is at the center of the five Reformer solas in…
[Common Places] The Five Solas: Soli Deo Gloria
This year we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation, looking back to Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and the theological debates kick-started by their posting. The Reformation continues to be lauded, cajoled, and debated in circles of all sorts today. At Common Places we will begin the year by focusing on some of the central principles and most relevant texts that shaped early Reformation theology and that have continued that conversation in the centuries that followed. Each month we will begin with a post related to an ongoing book project from Zondervan Academic that addresses the five solas of Reformation theology. We will then conclude each month with an annotated reading guide on classic and contemporary works that address that particular principle.
Soli Deo Gloria—Glory to God Alone—in some ways seems the odd man out…
One Concern with Renewed Interest in the Holy Spirit: Depersonalization
In Rediscovering the Holy Spirit, Michael Horton encourages us to refocus on the person and work of the Spirit, in order to recognize him as someone other than Jesus or ourselves—or as something in creation.
Although the Holy Spirit has made something of a comeback in recent years, Horton bears a word of caution:
As with the revival of interest in the Trinity, renewed interest in the Spirit does not always mean clarity or consistency with respect to historic Christian teaching. It is not to be assumed that the Spirit whom people have in mind is the Spirit identified in Scripture. (20)
Horton has one particular concern in mind: the Spirit’s depersonalization.
His concern arises from both the culture and the church. Horton explores why, in order to help us rediscover the…