Ad Fontes II.3: Luther & Melanchthon

In this issue, Christopher Dorn presents Luther’s thinking on the Lord’s Supper and Jonathan Tomes introduces Luther’s theology of beauty in his review of Mark Mattes’ recent book on the topic. Bradford Littlejohn presents an introduction to Melanchthon’s Apology of the Augsburg Confession, finally followed by portions of the Apology itself.


The Gospel Embodied: Luther’s Theology of the Lord’s Supper

Christopher Dorn

Introduction to Melanchthon’s Apology of the Augsburg Confession

Bradford Littlejohn


Apology of the Augsburg Confession

Philip Melanchthon


Martin Luther’s Theology of Beauty: A Reappraisal, By Mark Mattes

Review by Jonathan Tomes


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Announcing Acquisition of Peter Martyr Library

Peter Martyr Vermigli

We are pleased to announce that The Davenant Institute has just concluded a contract with Truman State University Press to take full possession of the Peter Martyr Library. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, TSUP will transfer all rights, electronic files, and hard copies of the ten volumes of the Peter Martyr Library (including its accompanying Peter Martyr Reader) to Davenant, and Davenant will assume responsibility for their continued distribution as well as the publication of the final volume, Vermigli’s Commentary on Genesis, edited by John Patrick Donnelly, S.J. As part of this extraordinary gift, Davenant will gain possession of over 1,000 copies of the published volumes of the series, which we plan to make available to scholars, students, and libraries at significantly reduced prices beginning early next year. We will also be able to make widely available digital editions of these volumes, reissue them in inexpensive paperback editions, and excerpt from them for anthologies.

Although largely unknown today outside the circle of Reformation scholars, Peter Martyr Vermigli was a true giant of the 16th-century Reformation, a man who left an indelible influence on the churches of Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and England where he spent his pilgrim life, and who through his writings left an even wider legacy. Standing as he does at the intersection of humanism and scholasticism, with a profound concern for Biblical exegesis and the renewal of preaching, but also for linguistic study, educational revival, Christian philosophy, ethics, and political thought, Vermigli sums up the broad and bold mission of the Davenant Institute to renew Christian wisdom through resourcement.

Over the past couple years, we have sought opportunities for closer involvement with Vermigli scholarship, adopting the Peter Martyr Society in early 2016 and beginning a collaborative project to re-translate Vermigli’s Common Places earlier this year. We are thus immensely excited at the opportunity that this acquisition offers us to begin enabling the writings of this great Reformer to finally reach the wide audience they deserve.

Profs. Torrance Kirby and Gary Jenkins, the President and Secretary of the Peter Martyr Society and longtime contributors to the Peter Martyr Library project, had this to say about the acquisition:

“This transfer has been the culmination of efforts by several parties for the future of the Peter Martyr Library and the Society. It grew out of a mutual concern by both the Davenant Trust and the Peter Martyr Society that an established center devoted to the vital importance the Reformation, its thought and heritage, should be found to help nurture the scholarship of Vermigli and insure his rightful place in the continuing historical and theological pursuits of our own day. Placed now fully in the hands of those who not only care about such pursuits as part of an academic life, but value them as proper and virtuous ends in themselves, this can only harbinger good things for research and publishing in all things Vermigiliana. We are happy indeed.”


Stay tuned early in the new year for opportunities to purchase heavily discounted copies of the PML volumes, and for other developments on the Vermigli front.

The Real Presence and the Presence of Reality

On October 16th, Davenant Institute President Brad Littlejohn was invited to give a lecture at Hillsdale College on the doctrine of the Eucharistic real presence in the Protestant Reformation. In the lecture, he argued that contrary to many popular narratives and misrepresentations, the Reformed did hold to a kind of real presence of the body and blood of Christ—only not in the elements outwardly considered, rather in the act of faithful reception. Moreover, he argued, they did this precisely to preserve the integrity of the bread and wine as creaturely means of God’s gracious action. It was, they held, the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, not the Reformed doctrine of the sacraments, that denied that created natures could become sites of God’s presence. Listen to the lecture below! Visit Mere Orthodoxy for the full text of this lecture.

WATCH: Is Biblicism Bad?

With all the Reformation celebrations, many critics of Protestantism pick on the Protestant commitment to sola Scriptura as the source of all kinds of chaos. But does sola Scriptura need to entail biblicism? And why might Protestants want to beware biblicism? Brad Belschner and Alastair Roberts discuss. Watch the discussion below!


00:20 – Biblical and Systematic theology. Is Biblicism bad?

00:33 – Biblicism is being used in reference to a specific distinctive of evangelicals. For many people it had been seen as a positive. Taking scripture as reliable and truthful.

01:18 – The question is what place does the Bible take in the larger framework of God’s revelation. Is it all we have?

01:28 – And how do you define “Biblicism”?

01:31 – Elevation of the Bible to such a high level that it precludes other things that we need to take into account.

01:40 – Example – The Bible doesn’t talk about something such as necrophilia, but none of us really need it to because God has given us revelation in nature.

02:11- To treat the Bible as the Bible ALONE leaves us without attention to these issues.

02:21 – Biblicism forces us to use verses or to force verses to argue things that we don’t really need the Bible to argue for.

02:34 – Take the Necrophilia example: people might get some verses and force them towards the end of arguing against it, because they feel like they need a verse in order to be able to speak.

02:48 – We don’t need a verse for many of these things, but when God gives us a verse, he gives it for a good reason, for things that we need to learn. The question is “What is the Bible here to teach us about?” and what does it assume we already know? There are plenty things that it assumes. Common sense, for example.

03:25 – There is no prudence when you are simply following verses like recipes.

03:49 – This elevation of Scripture eliminates common ground that we should be able to have with unbelievers. We should be able to appeal to “the way things are;” natural law.

04:45 – We can know many things by just reflecting upon nature.

05:00 – We can appeal to nature. There are things that are obvious.

05:20 – When we factor in the sufficiency of Scripture, we see that Scripture is not something in isolation from nature.

06:00 – Scripture reveals things that we would not have known otherwise.

06:25 – So yes to sufficiency of Scripture, yes to sola Scripture, but God gives us a lot more to live our lives by than just Scripture.




PUBLISHED: Reformation Theology

On October 31st, The Davenant Institute published Reformation Theology: A Reader of Primary Sources with Introductions. Edited by Bradford Littlejohn and Jonathan Roberts, this work reflects the clarion call of the Protestant Reformers, “Ad fontes!—Back to the sources!” for our own generation. Just as they recognized that renewal of the church in their era depended upon a clearer understanding of the church’s past through the writings of its greatest early theologians, so renewal of the church in our era depends on grasping anew what the Reformation was all about, why it happened, and why it still matters. The best way to achieve that, we believe, is through reading the primary sources.

Surprisingly, no good resource exists in English to this end, providing a broad and deep primary source anthology of Reformation theology. Our volume aims to fill that gap for pastors, teachers, undergraduates, seminarians, and theologically-concerned laypeople. Formatted with readability above all in mind, the volume contains 32 texts averaging 20 pages or so in length, with lively historical introductions to contextualize each one. The texts chosen include not just the writings that set the stage for the Reformation, and treatises by the leading Protestant Reformers, but also those by their Roman Catholic critics, and snapshots from the Radical Reformation as well.

This volume is the fruit of a co-venture with Roman Roads Media.

Reformation Theology: A Reader of Primary Sources with Introductions

Edited by Bradford Littlejohn and Jonathan Roberts.


Few episodes in Western history have so shaped our world as the Protestant Reformation and the counter-Reformations which accompanied it. The Reformation tore the seamless garment of Western Christendom in two, pitting king and pope, laity and clergy, Protestant and Catholic against one another. But it was also a firestorm tearing through an old, stagnant, and dying forest, sowing the seeds for a burst of new and newly diverse life.

To understand why the Reformation unfolded as it did, we must understand the ideas that were so forcefully articulated, opposed, and debated by Protestants and Catholics. For Protestant or Catholic believers in our own forgetful age, the need to understand these disputed doctrines, and the logic and coherence that linked them together, is all the more imperative. This is what this volume seeks to offer for the first time: a primary source reader focused squarely on the theological questions that drove the Reformation.

Beginning with the first rumblings of conflict in the late medieval period and continuing until the solidification of Protestant confessions in the early 17th century, this collection of thirty-two texts brings the modern reader face-to-face with the key men whose convictions helped shape the course of history. Concise historical introductions accompanying each text bring these writings to life by recounting the stories and conflicts that gave birth to these texts, and highlighting the enduring themes that we can glean from them.


The doctrine of the church, and its relation to the state; the doctrine of the eucharist, and transubstantiation in particular; the doctrine of justification sola fide and the place of works; the meaning of the Protestant commitment to sola Scriptura; and others.


Marsilius of Padua, John Wycliffe, Erasmus of Rotterdam, Martin Luther, Thomas More, John Calvin, The Council of Trent, Thomas Cranmer, Richard Hooker, Robert Belllarmine, and many more.

Reformation 500: Celebrating Is Not Enough

The following letter from the President, Brad Littlejohn, was sent out to all Davenant subscribers on October 31, Reformation Day


There are few enough historical anniversaries that seem to merit even passing recognition in our forgetful age, so we can be grateful for the crescendo of Reformation 500 commemorations throughout the Western world that today is reaching its highest pitch. And while some may sit on the sidelines lamenting the Reformation’s flawed heroes and ambiguous results, these ought rather to remind us of those hard-won Reformation truths, sola gratia (by grace alone) and soli deo gloria (to God alone be the glory).

The Reformation, we contend, is still well-worth celebrating. In it, the two-edged sword of God’s Word was unsheathed again to cut away the cloaks of confusion and the bonds of oppression under which God’s people labored. Through it, a new era was opened in the life of the church, transforming the Western world and renewing many fields of inquiry.

So celebrate we must, and boldly. But if that’s all we do—belt out a chorus of A Mighty Fortress, have a bonfire, knock back a pint of doppelbock, and get on with our lives—the Reformation 500 commemoration will have been in vain. So let’s get busy.


Remembering is not enough, but it’s not a bad place to start. Few Protestants today understand the basics of their history, and the rotten fruits are not hard to see. Cheap sentimentality and nonjudgmentalism, unwilling to draw the most basic doctrinal or ethical lines, dominate our churches, and those who crave more substance totter uncertainly toward Rome and the East. We must recover the depth and breadth of our heritage, and that is at the heart of Davenant’s mission. To this end, we really cannot tell you how excited we are to announce at long last the publication of Reformation Theology: A Reader of Primary Sources with Introductions. ( Thirty-two texts spanning three centuries are brought together, with lively historical introductions, to give the modern reader a sense of what the Reformation was all about, and why it still matters.


We remember our heritage to learn from its mistakes, be inspired by its examples, and retrieve its principles—all so that we can equip today’s pastors, laypeople and Christian leaders for faithful witness and reasoned discourse. This means distilling the fruits of evangelical scholarship into forms easy to understand, share, and apply. The Davenant Institute has been hard at work over the past year publishing a growing library of resources that do just that—and we have a lot more on the way. At the beginning of next year, in partnership with BibleMesh, leaders in online theological education, we plan to launch Davenant Hall: A Virtual Theological Study Center, to keep the candle of the Reformation burning bright.


What is all this for? Just because we like history or find it a convenient stick with which to beat theological opponents? No! A quick glance around at the confusion in our churches and the chaos in our commonwealth is enough to show that we are in urgent need of fresh reformation. This will require retrieving the principles that animated our forefathers’ Reformation, but also creatively re-applying them to contemporary challenges. And this cannot be done by books alone, but requires friendships. Too often we think of Luther as a lone ranger who had a “Eureka!” moment poring over the text of Romans and then took Germany by storm. Hardly. His hard-won insights and harder-won reformation were the fruit of a devoted circle of extraordinary friends, and everywhere the Reformation went it was sustained by intimate friendships of dedicated scholars and pastors. It is such a circle of friendships that we aim to rekindle today with an
ever-growing number of convivial events across the country. Next spring, we hope to see you in Portland, Oregon; in Greenville, SC; in Lincoln, NE; in Minneapolis, MN; in Washington, DC; in Denver, CO; and in Moscow, ID. Stay tuned for details.


We invite you to celebrate the Reformation with us today, but also to do much more than celebrate. We hope you will join our mission of remembering, resourcing, and reforming to carry the legacy of the Reformers into a sixth century. Please consider making a donation for fresh reformation today. And pay close attention to these emails in coming weeks, as we will be outlining concrete things that you can do (financial and non-financial) to help us in our project.

But for now, go ahead and knock back that pint of doppelbock.