A Protestant Christendom?

The World the Reformation Made

Edited by Joseph Minich & Onsi A. Kamel
About this book

Can there be a “Protestant Christendom”?

Our world is obsessed with stories about Protestantism and modernity.

Are Protestant societies dynamic, progressive, and free? Or are they godless, Erastian, and libertine? Thinkers and theologians once argued we should rejoice in Protestantism’s creation of societies grounded on reason, freedom, and the individual; now, many are quick to pin the blame for modernity’s ills squarely on the Reformation. But these are two sides of the same coin, united by a shared assumption: that Protestantism necessitates revolution, and with it the dissolution of religious and metaphysical bonds which once united generations, nations, a continent, the Church, and even heaven and earth.

But what if these accounts are wrong? What if Protestantism is more than this, or something different altogether? The burden of this book is to illuminate Protestantism’s historic vision of society, culture, and governance, with the aim of applying its rich legacy in our own day. Collecting and expanding essays originally published in the journal Ad Fontes, this book deals with the issues of church and state, politics and culture, and economics and justice, and proposes that Protestantism’s own vision for these things is worth seeing afresh, on its own terms.

If you are wiling to ask “A Protestant Christendom?”, you may be surprised by the answer.

Paperback | 196 pages | 6×9 | Published September 28, 2021 | ISBN 978-1949716085

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From the Introduction

“What becomes immediately apparent in the first section of the book, concerning Church and state, is this: classical Protestantism rejects the secular nation. As Calvin observed, not even pagans denied their civic obligations to the gods, and almost all Protestant confessions assert, in the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the principle that the magistrate ‘hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be preserved in the Church…that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed.’

The Reformers did not reject the claim that society should be ordered to God, and, like their ‘superstitious’ or ‘magical’ Roman Catholic counterparts, they believed that this ordering was of the utmost importance. Crucially, however, Protestants did not claim that this ordering entails the subordination of earthly magistrates to the Church militant. Luther and his heirs foregrounded the fact that the Church is of the world. Word and sacrament are spiritual realities; the church’s exercise of jurisdiction is not. Thus, when the Church passes judgment on temporal affairs, she acts as just one more temporal power.”

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If you’re looking for a thoughtful and accessible volume on Protestant political and economic thought, look no further. Historically and theologically rich, spanning a range of different protestant traditions, and exploring a variety of contemporary issues, A Protestant Christendom challenges many of today’s reigning orthodoxies.

Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center


Onsi Kamel

Part One: Church And State

The Freedom of a Christian Nation
Bradford Littlejohn


Inhabiting the Place of Promise: Martin Luther’s Teaching on the Three Institutions
Michael Laffin


“Nursing Fathers”: The Magistrate and the Moral Law
E. J. Hutchinson


The Promise and Peril of Disestablishment: Baptist and Reformed Political Theology in the New Republic
Miles Smith IV


James Wilson: America’s Natural Law Architect
Ethan Foster

Part Two: Politics and Culture

The Neglected Craft: Prudence in Reformed Political Thought
Adam Carrington


The Art of Protestant Learning
Roberta Bayer


Retrieving John Donne: Poetic Companion for Conflicted Protestants
Rhys Laverty

Part Three: Economics and Justice

Against the Infinite Stimulus of Greed: Martin Bucer’s Reformation of Welfare
Bradford Littlejohn


What is Work For?
Joseph Minich


Martin Luther and Tax: A Protestant Perspective on Redistributive Taxation
Allen Calhoun


Who’s Afraid of Social Justice?
Brian Dijkema


Why We Need the Common Good
Jake Meador

Praise for this work

“Too long have Protestants the world over suffered under strawman caricatures and—worst of all—believed them themselves. Here in this anthology of essays is some much needed antidote to the simplistic historiography of Protestant social and political thought—villain or hero—or, even worse, vacant and listless. What these authors bring us is the magisterial richness of Protestant theology, not merely defended, but put to work on the crucial questions of our day. Here is a tradition with fire and vitality, alive in its genius and catholic fidelity, and urgently needed in this moment.”

– Robert Joustra, PhD.

Associate Professor of Politics & International Studies, Redeemer University College

A Protestant Christendom?: The World the Reformation Made comes at just the right moment for all those who care about the tradition of Christian political thought. With maturity and elegance, the excellent essays untangle, deepen, and reconstruct aspects of Protestant political reflection that will enrich and one hopes enliven conversations too often prone to slogans and shortcuts. I am deeply grateful to the editors and authors for their excellent work that allows, as the introduction says, Protestantism ‘to speak to us anew.’ Catholic political reflection in particular benefits from these analyses that complicate and challenge an over-simplified narrative about Protestantism’s responsibility for the faults of modernity.”

– Joseph E. Capizzi, Ph.D.

Ordinary Professor of Moral Theology | School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America

“Recovering the Reformation is as much about political theology as it is about justification by faith alone. A failure to see this is a failure to understand the public implications of the gospel. The Davenant Institute has played a key role in retrieving the Magisterial Reformation’s political theology with its emphases on the two kingdoms, natural law, and the right relation of church and state. Protestant Christendom? provides a richer and deeper next step in Davenant’s project by showing us that the world that the Reformation made is one we need for today. In this fine collection of essays we are treated to topics like Luther’s doctrine of the three estates, Reformed interpretations of Romans 13, prudence in politics, Protestant classical education, Bucer on the welfare state, Luther on taxation, a right understanding of social justice, an apologetic for the common good and more. Anyone interested in developing a politics that is shaped by the bible, that is informed by theology and history, and is sane, should carefully read this book. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”

– Ian Clary

Assistant Professor of Historical Theology, Colorado Christian University, Lakewood, Colorado

About the Editors

Onsi A. Kamel is Editor-at-Large of Ad Fontes, and is currently a doctoral student in the Religion Department at Princeton. His academic interests lie chiefly in systematic theology, historical theology, and philosophy. His academic writing has been published in The Scottish Journal of Theology, and his popular writing has been published in First ThingsMere Orthodoxy, and elsewhere. He is one of the co-hosts of the Ad Fontes podcast, and lives in Princeton with his wife Elaina, daughter Nora, and son Faheem. Follow him on Twitter at @ONSIKAMEL.

Headshot of Joseph Minich.

Joseph Minich is an Instructor of Philosophy at Mountain View College. He is the author of Enduring Divine Absence (Davenant Press, 2018) and the editor of several books with the Davenant Press. He lives in Garland, Texas, with his wife and four children.


The Davenant Institute endeavors to restore wisdom for the contemporary church. We seek to sponsor historical scholarship at the intersection of the church and academy, build friendships and facilitate collaboration within the Reformed and evangelical world, and equip the saints with time-tested resources for faithful public witness. Below are some of the works we’ve published towards that end.

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