Reformation as Renewal

Retrieving the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church

Matthew Barrett

Hardcover · 1008 pages

A holistic, eye-opening history of one of the most significant turning points in Christianity, The Reformation as Renewal demonstrates that the Reformation was at its core a renewal of evangelical catholicity.

In the sixteenth century Rome charged the Reformers with novelty, as if they were heretics departing from the catholic (universal) church. But the Reformers believed they were more catholic than Rome. Distinguishing themselves from Radicals, the Reformers were convinced they were retrieving the faith of the church fathers and the best of the medieval Scholastics. The Reformers saw themselves as faithful stewards of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church preserved across history, and they insisted on a restoration of true worship in their own day.

By listening to the Reformers' own voices, The Reformation as Renewal helps readers explore:

  • The Reformation's roots in patristic and medieval thought and its response to late medieval innovations.
  • Key philosophical and theological differences between Scholasticism in the High Middle Ages and deviations in the Late Middle Ages.
  • The many ways sixteenth and seventeenth century Protestant Scholastics critically appropriated Thomas Aquinas.
  • The Reformation's response to the charge of novelty by an appeal to the Augustinian tradition.
  • Common caricatures that charge the Reformation with schism or assume the Reformation was the gateway to secularism.
  • The spread of Reformation catholicity across Europe, as seen in first and second-generation leaders from Luther and Melanchthon in Wittenberg to Zwingli and Bullinger in Zurich to Bucer and Calvin in Strasbourg and Geneva to Tyndale, Cranmer, and Jewel in England, and many others.
  • The theology of the Reformers, with special attention on their writings defending the catholicity of the Reformation.

This balanced, insightful, and accessible treatment of the Reformation will help readers see this watershed moment in the history of Christianity with fresh eyes and appreciate the unity they have with the church across time. Readers will discover that the Reformation was not a new invention, but the renewal of something very old.

Praise for Reformation as Renewal

"For a long time, the Reformation has been misrepresented by polemical scholarship. More sadly, modern Protestantism often supports the caricatures. Finally, we have a weighty, passionate, and well-informed riposte. This is a 'must-read' for friend and foe alike."
—MICHAEL HORTON, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California

"A fascinating overview... Matthew Barrett writes directly from the sources and in conversation with the latest in early modern research and does this in an accessible style that stimulates to see how today we can make use all the wealth of insights of the Reformation era. A fine academic work for the classroom and far beyond."
—HERMAN J. SELDERHUIS, Theological University Apeldoorn

"Barrett's thesis is stimulating and his arguments robust... Barrett demonstrates that the Reformers confessed with sincerity their faith in the one, holy, catholic (universal), and apostolic church. Thus, he reminds us that the Reformers were examples of not neglecting the doctrinal heritage of the church but embracing sola Scriptura in a manner that is not radically sectarian but well-informed by historical theology."
—JOEL R. BEEKE, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary

"The reformers were concerned to renew, not overturn, the one true Church. Barrett's study is a tour de force, lending persuasive weight to Luther's brash statement: 'We are the true ancient church ... you have fallen away from us.'"
—SCOTT MANETSCH, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Matthew Barrett offers a rich theological and historical account of catholicity as the lifeblood of Protestantism... Barrett removes the layers of varnish of misunderstanding that have obscured what the Reformation was truly about... This book is a crucial corrective to a historical tradition that has lost its sense of self."
—BRUCE GORDON, Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Yale Divinity School

"The Reformation as Renewal is a tour de force in the history and theology of the Protestantism Reformation. Detailed and yet clearly written, covering both familiar and neglected territory, this massive text will serve for years to come as a rallying point for those seeking to cultivate (or rediscover) a classical Protestant identity."
—GAVIN ORTLUND, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Ojai, California

"Barrett makes a compelling case that the Reformation has more in common with the early church and Middle Ages than most realize... Barrett dispels the darkness of distortion, myth, and legend and shines the light of history, truth, and nuance to create a clear picture of where the continuities and discontinuities lie. This book is must-reading for all serious Protestants."
—J. V. FESKO, Harriett Barbour Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi

"With verve and erudition, writing from the perspective of the vibrant movement of Reformed catholicity, Matthew Barrett has written a stimulating introduction to the figures and controversies of Reformation era."
—MATTHEW LEVERING, James N. Jr. and Mary D. Perry Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary

"This is an impressively comprehensive and compelling account of the Reformation as a movement for renewal and retrieval rather than wholesale revolution, which gives far more than the usual passing attention to important medieval precursors as well as the Roman counter-reformation. A splendid tour-de-force of historical and theological writing."
—LEE GATISS, Lecturer in Church History at Union School of Theology

"This book leaves no stone unturned, and shows us that the Magisterial Reformers had no intention of departing from the Great Tradition bequeathed by the ancient church and transmitted by the best of the medieval thinkers... This book is must reading for all conservative Protestants."
—MARK MATTES, Lutheran Bible Institute Chair in Theology, Grand View University, Des Moines, Iowa

"The Reformation had elements of continuity and discontinuity with the medieval Latin tradition out of which it emerged. In many popular accounts, the elements of discontinuity are emphasized, while the continuities are perhaps ignored. Matthew Barrett has addressed this issue with great skill... Anyone concerned to dig deeper into this story will find many fascinating riches to ponder in this significant work."
—NICK NEEDHAM, church history tutor, Highland Theological College

"With his clear, engaging prose, Barrett provides us with both a splendid textbook for Reformation courses and a strong call to creedal catholicity."
—GWENFAIR WALTERS ADAMS, Professor of Church History and Spiritual Formation, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

"The Reformation has been caricatured as carrier of three viruses, nominalism, secularism, and individualism, which many blame for the downfall of the West. In this volume Matthew Barrett does a fine job of undermining those pernicious narratives and calling attention to the self-consciousness of Reformation (and post-Reformation) churches as heirs of the best of the patristic and medieval church, i.e., as catholic. This volume is a welcome contribution."
—R. SCOTT CLARK, Professor of Church History and Historical Theology, Westminster Seminary California

"In this excellent book, Matthew Barrett has argued for the catholicity of the Reformation... Well-argued and meticulously researched, this volume comes at a vital time for the church and the academy. This book is a must-read for all who are interested in the relationship between the Reformation and catholicity."
—CHRISTOPHER CLEVELAND, Associate Professor of Christian Thought, Reformation Bible College

"This book has the potential to change your understanding of the nature of the Reformation... What Barrett's painstakingly precise analysis shows is that elements of the via moderna found expression both in Roman Catholic and Protestant thinkers but were more formative in the post-Tridentine Roman Church... On this basis, Barrett argues not only that the reformers intended to be more catholic than Rome but also that they largely succeeded in doing so."
—CRAIG A. CARTER, research professor of theology, Tyndale University

"...A deep dive into the self-understanding of those whom we denominate the Reformers of the sixteenth century... It is a splendid work and must reading for anyone interested in the most important event in the last millennium of church history."
—MICHAEL AZAD A.G. HAYKIN, Chair & professor of church history, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary