Chemnitz, Martin. Examination of the Council of Trent. Volume 1. Translated by Fred Kramer. Saint Louis: Concordia, 1971.
I first discovered Chemitz in a class on Reformation era literature in which we were required to read primary sources from several different streams of the Reformation. Since Luther was taken by another student, I chose Martin Chemnitz as my Lutheran representative and have enjoyed reading him ever since. His section on tradition is one of the best in print. This volume also contains sections on original sin, justification, and good works (with regard to both the regenerate and unregenerate). I highly recommend this work.
Bavinck, Herman, John Bolt, and John Vriend. Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.
Bavinck, Herman, John Bolt, and John Vriend. Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation. Vol. 4. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.
I value Bavinck’s dogmatics because (1) he gathers a comprehensive list of Scripture passages pertaining to each doctrine, (2) he surveys that doctrine’s place in the history of theology and philosophy, and (3) he synthesizes the whole into an orthodox doctrinal statement. His historical surveys are valuable because Bavinck is recent enough that they reach into the twentieth century. His gathering of the relevant Scriptures are not bare lists; he weaves these passages into paragraphs that delineate the Scripture’s teaching on the doctrine.
O’Donovan, Oliver. Resurrection and Moral Order: An Outline for Evangelical Ethics. 2nd edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994.
O’Donovan provides a solid theological foundation for ethics. Though he says a great deal in his own careful but dense way, his basic thesis is found in the title. Ethics must be rooted in the moral order which is part of God’s good creation. However, in a fallen world, an evangelical ethic (or an ethic that arises from the gospel) must be oriented by the resurrection of Christ which is the first fruits of our resurrection (which entails the restoration of creation). O’Donovan skillfully explains how this relates to the gospel, the kingdom, history, Christ’s authority, the Christian’s freedom and more.
Leeman, Jonathan. Political Church: The Local Assembly as Embassy of Christ’s Rule. Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2016.
Leeman’s own summary of the book:
This book set out to establish that Jesus grants Christians the authority to establish local churches as visible embassies of his end-time rule through the “keys of the kingdom” described in the Gospel of Matthew. By virtue of the keys, the local church exists as a political assembly that publicly represents King Jesus, displays the justice and righteousness of the triune God, and pronounces Jesus’ claim upon the nations and their governments.
To that end, we considered the reigning liberal paradigm and how it is reinforced in Christian circles by a concept of the church’s spirituality. The problem with both perspectives is that they treat the human being as divisible between a political part and a religious part, which humans are not. There is no such thing as spiritual neutrality in the public square and no such thing as political neutrality among the saints. In the biblical (and Augustinian) perspective, people either worship God or worship idols—on Sunday and every day.
Yet the fact that all of life can be viewed through both a religious lens and a political lens does not mean that God has not established different institutions for different purposes. Therefore, we began the project of building a broader political conceptuality that included God within its horizons by seeking a more precise understanding of political institutions. A political community, we saw, is a community of people united by a common governing authority possessing the power of life and death according to some conception of justice. And political membership, by extension, is a relationship in which an individual is subject to a governing authority and in which the authority affirms the individual. This institutional hermeneutic was then applied to the Bible’s covenantal storyline, which showed us that politics is nothing more or less than the mediating of God’s covenantal rule.
Life is broadly political in that it should be lived in accordance with the mandates of the Adamic and Noahic covenants to represent or image God in all the activities of human dominion. Yet life is narrowly political (politics as people typically conceive of it) through the Noahic covenant’s provisions for a justice mechanism and the various institutions established by the line of special covenants.
We also saw that God intended to use a special people to model for the nations what a true politics looks like. When Israel failed at this task, it was handed to the divine Son, who came to do what Adam and Israel could not do. This second Adam, new Israel and Davidic son came to rule obediently by laying down his life for the sins of the nations and rising from the grave. In so doing, he offered a new covenant in his blood, so that all who would repent and believe might receive a pardon from sin and a share in his kingly authority. To that end, he granted them the keys of the kingdom, enabling them to fulfill their covenantal responsibilities to identify themselves with God and one another, distinguish themselves from the world, fend off any serpentine intruders and pursue together the life of righteousness and justice that rightly represent the Son, the Father and the Spirit.
As such, a local church publicly administers the office responsibilities of the new covenant. And a local church exists wherever a group of saints regularly gather to preach the gospel and exercise the keys by publicly affirming and submitting to one another through baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The life of the church, among other things, is a citizen’s life, whereby the saints share in kingdom rule together, jointly exercising the keys of the kingdom in one another’s lives. By this token, a church’s faith and order are linked through the gospel word and the power of the Spirit. The gospel word not only gives life to a people, it restores them to their covenantal job responsibilities, the ones that humanity possessed at creation but had forsaken. keys of the kingdom authorize them to fulfill these job responsibilities individually and corporately.
In all this, the local church exists to display the righteousness, justice and love of the triune God. It is to exemplify for the nations what a true politics looks like. And in so doing it represents the King who possesses all authority on heaven and earth, and who therefore lays claim upon the nations. All humanity is called to repentance and faith, fealty and honor” (389-90).
Horton, Michael S. Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ. Louisville: WJK, 2007.
In part 1 of this book Horton provides the best theological critique of the New Perspective on Paul that I’ve read. In sum, he grants E. P. Sanders’s characterization if covenantal nomism as being active in Second Temple Judaism. But then he argues that such a view is precisely what Paul was opposing (and was also akin to what the Reformers were opposing in Roman Catholicism). As part of this argument, Horton makes the case for distinguishing between the Sinai Covenant and the New Covenant. I think his case is exegetically compelling, though he does seem to have trouble integrating his exegetical insights into traditional Covenant Theology (sometimes he seems to indicate that the Sinai Covenant is a covenant of works and at other times he seems to include it as part of the covenant of grace).
The second part of the book, while containing an excellent critique of Radical Orthodoxy and the Finnish interpretation of Luther, seemed a bit muddled in its discussions of union with Christ. On the one hand, Horton wanted to see justification as the forensic basis for every other aspect of the ordo. In this way he sought to hold together the forensic and transformative elements of soteriology. The latter are grounded in the former. Thus union with Christ is founded on justification. On the other hand, he seemed to also acknowledge that union precedes justification. In one paragraph he identified both justification and Christ as the engine that pulls the train cars that make up the ordo.
I understand why Horton wants to keep the forensic and transformative elements of salvation united, but I’m not convinced that he has the right formulation.
[I am about to finish People and Place: A Covenant Ecclesiology, the final volume in this series. While it contains some helpful insights about the impact the doctrine of the ascension should have on Roman Catholic and incarnational ecclesiology, I’ve not found this book to rise to the same high standard of the previous volumes. Horton is going after some of the same targets as in his popular level writings: pietism and revivalism. But in doing so he writes off the entire free church tradition. While his targets are appropriate for his popular-level critiques of evangelicalism, Horton needed to interact more with the best of free church arguments in this book. (It was also interesting how many of his foils are already irrelevant, just a decade after the book was written.) In the end, his Reformed ecclesiology is so narrow that it excludes Reformed Baptists and even Presbyterians of a Banner of Truth bent.]
Horton, Michael. Justification. Two Volumes. New Studies in Dogmatics. Edited by Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018.
In his first volume Horton undertakes a historical survey of the doctrine from the church fathers through the Reformation. However, Horton is not merely surveying history; he is mounting an argument against the claim by Roman Catholic and Radical Orthodox theologians that the Reformation was suffused with nominalism and that this shift from realism to nominalism accounts for the rise of secularism. In general, I think Horton provides a sound refutation of this thesis while also effectively documenting patristic, medieval, and Reformation views of justification.
In this second volume Horton provides and exegetically-grounded defense and formulation of the Reformation doctrine of justification. He meets the challenges posed by the New Perspective on Paul, particularly the version advanced by N. T. Wright, the apocalyptic reading of Paul championed by J. Louis Martyn, and the radical reading of Douglas Campbell.
Too often exegesis, church history, and theology are held apart, with different writers emphasizing one of these three disciplines (sometimes almost in opposition to the others). Horton helpfully models theological writing that brings all three together.
I also found Ryan McGraw’s review of Horton’s two volumes insightful (WTJ 81, pp. 321-32). McGraw’s overall assessment of Horton’s work is positive. He notes that speech-act theory, theosis/deification/ and Barth are either “absent” or “subdued” in this work. I agree with McGraw that this makes these volumes stronger than some of the Horton’s other writings.
- Does not define nominalism clearly enough; equivocates on the term real, and ascribes to post-Reformation Roman Catholicism Biel’s views.
- Continues to be confusing in his statements about Union with Christ, sometimes making union the ground of justification and others making justification the ground of union. McGraw cannot completely make sense of the contradiction, but he notes there may be a confusion between redemption accomplished and applied.
- Makes anachronistic statements about historical figures and makes some overstated claims.
- Identifies the Sinai covenant as a law covenant in contrast with the gracious Abrahamic covenant. McGraw notes, “The only other place that this author has encountered this kind of reasoning historically is in classic Baptist covenant theologies, which sought to drive a similar wedge between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants.”
I too have been puzzled by Horton’s seemingly conflicting statements regarding union with Christ. However, when it comes to the covenants, I find Horton’s exegetical and theological arguments more compelling that McGraw’s objections. Further, as a Baptist, I find the fact that Horton’s view is found most prominently among early Baptists a recommendation of the view.
Wellum, Stephen J. God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016.
Wellum structures his Christology in four parts. In the first part he deals with epistemology and philosophy. The first chapter of part two deals with the storyline of Scripture and the biblical covenants. This introductory material means that the reader doesn’t get to strictly Christological material until 150 pages into the book. While that felt like too long, Wellum does make important points in these opening chapters, and he rightly justifies his approach to doctrinal formulation in them. Part 2 is focused on the biblical data that testifies to the deity and humanity of Christ. It also addresses issues such as the virgin conception, sinlessness, and the purpose of the incarnation. Part 3 traces the doctrinal development of Christology throughout church history. Part 4 opens with a summary of modernist and evangelical kenotic Christologies. Following this comes a critique, a positive summary of historic, orthodox Christology, and a defense of orthodox Christology against criticisms.
Harmless, William. Augustine in His Own Words. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2010.
Augustine wrote so much that it is helpful to have an entry point into his work. This volume provides the reader with selections of Augustine’s writings in ten chapters: 1. Confessions, 2. Augustine the Philosopher, 3. Augustine the Bishop, 4. Augustine the Preacher, 5. Augustine the Exegete, 6. Against the Manichees, 7. Against the Donatists, 8. On the Trinity, 9. On the City of God, Against the Pagans, 10. Against the Pelagians. The excerpts are of sufficient length to be valuable, and the effect is to gain a taste of the full range of Augustine’s writing.
Abernethy, Andrew T. The Book of Isaiah and God’s Kingdom: A Thematic—Theological Approach. Edited by D. A. Carson. Vol. 40. New Studies in Biblical Theology. Downers Grove, IL; London: Apollos; InterVarsity Press, 2016.
This book helpfully surveys the kingdom there in Isaiah, and it makes the case that this theme is central to the book. Given the importance of the kingdom theme in Scripture, and given the importance of Isaiah, this is a significant book. I found the structural and thematic arguments compelling. I’m not convinced that Isaiah himself failed to identify the Davidic Messiah, the Suffering Servant, and God’s Messenger as the same person. I was also disappointed to find a NSBT volume fuzzy on authorship and composition.
Kennedy, Rick. The First American Evangelical: A Short Life of Cotton Mather. Library of Religious Biography. Edited by Mark A. Noll. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015.
This brief biography of Cotton Mather effectively raised my interest in Cotton Mather and his extensive writing. He had a mind to capture and catalog all that he could learn. But all this learning was in service of a warm evangelical piety.
Kennedy also makes the case that Cotton Mather was situated at a historical hinge between Puritanism and the evangelical movement that would follow.
This biography also provides an effective window into Boston at the beginning of the 18th century.
Sheldon, Garrett Ward. The Political Philosophy of James Madison. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
This is a brief (~150 page) study of Madison’s political philosophy. He makes a good case for coherence within Madison’s thought while also allowing for change on some issues. He also pays attention to the way Madison’s schooling among theologically conservative Presbyterians affected his political philosophy. Sheldon holds that Madison’s political philosophy emerged from the combination of three influences: “Calvinist Christianity, classical republicanism, and Lockean liberalism” (15). The first of these influences meant that Madison had a lively awareness of human sinfulness and the need to take it into account in political matters. Sheldon also covers Madison’s concern for religious liberty, which was rooted both in has familiarity with the persecution of ministers in dissenting denominations (Anglicanism was the established church in Virginia), his belief that established churches become corrupt, and his belief in freedom of conscience (here, reflecting more the Lockean than the dissenting Christian tradition, the latter of which would have argued against established churches on the grounds that they involved divinely unauthorized government intrusion into the church). On the debated issue of federalism, Sheldon maintains that in general Madison held that the national government should deal with international affairs (war, trade, tariffs, etc.) while the state governments dealt with internal matters. However, Madison was not as ideological as Jefferson and he operated with a good understanding of the conservative virtue of prudence.