See the Reformation with Fresh Eyes as You Explore Its Historical and Intellectual Origins
The Reformation as Renewal: Retrieving the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is a fresh, holistic, and eye-opening introduction to one of the most significant turning points in the history of the Christian church. Taking into consideration both the historical and intellectual origins of sixteenth century reform, Matthew Barrett demonstrates that the Reformation was at its core a renewal of evangelical catholicity. 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 their fathers, both patristic and medieval. Rather than breaking with the Church, the reformers saw themselves as faithful stewards of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church preserved across history. While Rome depended on innovations that originated in the late medieval era, the Reformers linked arms with the church across all ages, patristic and medieval, to restore true worship and gospel renewal 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
The Reformation’s response to the charge of novelty by an appeal to evangelical catholicity
Common caricatures of the Reformation that mistake the Reformers as Radicals and Revolutionaries
The ecclesiastical and theological milieu of the sixteenth century that motivated Martin Luther’s response in Wittenberg.
The spread of the Reformation across Europe, as seen in first and second-generation leaders from Zwingli and Bullinger in Zurich to Bucer and Calvin in Strasbourg and Geneva to Tyndale and Cranmer in England, and many others
The theology of the Reformers, with special attention to their confessions, catechisms, and church liturgies
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. Over against common caricatures today, readers will discover that the Reformation was not the invention of something new, but the renewal of something very old: the grace and gospel that the church cherished and passed on across every century.
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Matthew Barrett argues that the Reformers did not aim to start a new church but to renew the true “catholic” church—that is, the universal church that Christ is building in all ages and among all nations through his Word. Barrett’s thesis is stimulating and his arguments robust. His evidence ranges from medieval scholasticism to the teachings of the Reformers. Though readers may differ in their approaches to medieval theologians, 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, president, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan
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, showing that in a real sense, the Reformation had profound roots in medieval soil. It was not a movement of sheer novelty but the Catholic faith drawing on its own best resources, reforming its own abuses, and thereby offering a self-corrected and revitalized catholic faith to the church. 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
Far too long Protestants have imbibed from the fountain of the pop history of the Reformation, namely, that the Reformers rejected the “dark ages” and all things medieval. The truth of the matter is: history is more complex than this caricature. Barrett makes a compelling case that the Reformation has more in common with the early church and Middle Ages than most realize. The Reformation has genuinely unique attributes but is also rooted in the catholic, or universal, church. 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 a must-read for all serious Protestants.
—J. V. Fesko, Harriett Barbour Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi
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