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Biblical Authority after Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity

, 2016
ISBN: 9781493409839
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In recent years, notable scholars have argued that the Protestant Reformation unleashed interpretive anarchy on the church. Is it time to consider the Reformation to be a 500-year experiment gone wrong?

World-renowned evangelical theologian Kevin Vanhoozer thinks not. While he sees recent critiques as legitimate, he argues that retrieving the Reformation’s core principles offers an answer to critics of Protestant biblical interpretation. Vanhoozer explores how a proper reappropriation of the five solas—sola gratia (grace alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola scriptura (Scripture alone), solus Christus (in Christ alone), and sola Deo gloria (for the glory of God alone)—offers the tools to constrain biblical interpretation and establish interpretive authority. He offers a positive assessment of the Reformation, showing how a retrieval of “mere Protestant Christianity” has the potential to reform contemporary Christian belief and practice.

This provocative response and statement from a top theologian is accessibly written for pastors, church leaders, and students.

  • Examines the original meaning and development of the five solas
  • Refutes the claim that the Reformation is responsible for a modern plurality of interpretation
  • Challenges the church to embrace mere Protestant Christianity
  • Introduction: Should the Church Repent or Retrieve the Reformation?
  • Grace Alone: The Mere Protestant Ontology, Economy, and Teleology of the Gospel
  • Faith Alone: The Mere Protestant Principle of Authority
  • Scripture Alone: The Mere Protestant Pattern of Interpretive Authority
  • In Christ Alone: The Royal Priesthood of All Believers
  • For the Glory of God Alone: The Wealth of Holy Nations
  • Conclusion: From Catholic Protestantism to Protestant Evangelicalism

Top Highlights

“What is ultimately at stake in repenting or retrieving the Reformation is the witness of the church, including its visible unity, and hence the integrity of the gospel.” (Page 20)

“The church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs” (Page 2)

“a fruitful church makes disciples (cf. Matt. 28:19–20), a fruitful movement makes disciple-making churches.” (Page 2)

“they are theological insights into the ontology, epistemology, and teleology of the gospel” (Pages 27–28)

“God has the right to command human obedience because he is the Author of human freedom.” (Page 85)

The Reformation was about countering what was wrong in Catholicism, but its central principles, the five solas, are not only negations. Reformational Protestantism is also about being for something. The solas are therefore principles for shaping a robust theology. It is this constructive task that Vanhoozer has undertaken in this book, and he has done so with rigor, vigor, and an infectious enthusiasm.

David F. Wells, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

A fresh appraisal of the core principles of historic Protestant Christianity. Written with conviction, nuance, and wisdom, this is Vanhoozer at his best—a treasure.

Timothy George, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

Are rumors of Protestantism’s demise greatly exaggerated? May it actually be the case that the authority, unity, and mission of the whole church could be served precisely by reengaging with the Reformation solas rather than running from them? While wrestling frankly with the Reformation’s unintended consequences, Vanhoozer makes a penetrating argument that must be taken seriously

Michael Horton, Westminster Seminary California

  • Title: Biblical Authority after Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity
  • Author: Kevin J. Vanhoozer
  • Publisher: Baker
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Pages: 288
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Topic: Theology
Kevin J. Vanhoozer

Kevin J. Vanhoozer (PhD, Cambridge University) is a research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He also served as Blanchard professor of theology at the Wheaton College and Graduate School (2009–2012) and senior lecturer in theology and religious studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland (1990–98). He is the author of ten books, including Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine and Biblical Authority after Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity—both Christianity Today Theology Books of the Year (2015, 2017). He serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Systematic Theology, Journal for Theological Interpretation, and Pro Ecclesia and was the North American consultant for the second edition of the New Dictionary of Theology (IVP). He is married and has two daughters (and his doctoral students). He is an amateur classical pianist and avid reader, finding that music and literature help him integrate academic theology and spiritual formation into his everyday life.


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  1. David Paul

    David Paul


    The sheer nonsensical contradiction of having "five solas" ought to be a klaxon alert that something is amiss in the theology...but alas, centuries of believers soldier ahead...