People of The Promise

A Mere Protestant Ecclesiology

Edited By Joseph Minich and Brad Littlejohn


About this book

The doctrine of the church is often perceived as the weakest link in Protestant theology.

These essays argue, on the contrary, that the Reformers’ radical re-thinking of the definition of the church is one of the Reformation’s greatest treasures. Not only is “mere Protestant” ecclesiology firmly in concert with the multifaceted biblical witness, but it is also manifestly in accord with natural reason and the lived experience of Christians throughout the ages. As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, this volume seeks to honor the Protestant heritage by remembering, reclaiming, and critically reflecting upon the relationship between the gospel promise and the community which it calls into being.

Paperback | 214 pages | 5×8 | Published September 9, 2017 | ISBN 978-0692942581

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From the Book

“The task of the present volume is, at first glance, a simple one: to present the basic core of the Protestant doctrine of the church, shorn of the distractions of the secondary disputes about polity, ministerial offices, sacramental efficacy, liturgy and more that have so often preoccupied discussions of the church. Of course, precisely because such disputes have often elevated these second-order issues to first importance, this task is not so simple.

Certainly, it cannot claim to be a mere descriptive task, as if we were pretending to function merely as historians, investigating the history and founding documents of the Protestant churches to find the shared kernel concealed in the variegated husks of the Reformation traditions. No, our endeavor here is in large part a normative one, and unabashedly so. We aim to present in at least clear outline form what the basic principles of Protestant ecclesiology should look like, as an offering to a church today bewildered by the myriad of fashionable models on offer.

. . .

No question is approached from nowhere. It always begins with questioners. Who are the we asking the question of ecclesiology? What concerns make up our world? And, likewise, to what sorts of problems do we imagine the question of ecclesiology to provide a potential solution?”

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Introduction – Brad Littlejohn

Part I: Introduction to Protestant Ecclesiology

The Church Question in a Disoriented Age –
Joseph Minich


The Protestant Doctrine of the Church and its Rivals – Bradley Belschner

Part II: Protestant Ecclesiology in Scripture

Finding Zion: The Church in the Old Testament – Steven Wedgeworth


Excursus: What is the Church? Etymology and Concept in Classical Antiquity, the LXX, and the New Testament – E.J. Hutchinson


Pentecost as Ecclesiology – Alastair Roberts

Part III: Protestant Ecclesiology in History

 Simul Justus et Peccator: The Genius and Tensions of Reformation Ecclesiology – Bradford Littlejohn


“A Heavenly Office, A Holy Ministry”: Ordination in the English Reformation – Andre A. Gazal


Excursus: Church Discipline as a Way of Love – Jordan J. Ballor

Part IV: Protestant Ecclesiology Today

Protestant Ecclesiology as Good Theory – Andrew Fulford


 Protestant Ecclesiology Among Contemporary Political Theologies – Jake Meador


Conclusion – Joseph Minich


Praise for this work

“‘I believe in the church.’ You might think this is the easiest article in the Creed to affirm because we see and experience it, but you would be mistaken. It is precisely because we are familiar with the phenomenon that its reality eludes us. The fact that there are so many theories as to what church is and what church is for only complicates the matter. I therefore welcome this first installment of the Davenant Retrievals for its fresh and often illuminating presentation of the magisterial Protestant position to these questions, particularly their insistence that the church is a people assembled by God’s Word and Spirit. The authors use exegesis, church history, and systematic theology to make a compelling case that the church is the people who trust the promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the fellowship of all who, through the Spirit, live out their “in Christ” reality together.”

– Kevin J Vanhoozer

Research Professor of Systematic Theology (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

“Conventional wisdom holds that just as Protestantism supposedly fractured the church into churches, so it fractured ecclesiology into ecclesiologies. This spirited volume argues the opposite: that the magisterial reformers in fact advanced a single, powerful, coherent, and biblical account of the essence of the church focused on the gospel. With remarkable restraint, the authors of People of the Promise decline to be distracted as they retrieve Protestantism’s core ecclesiology. Readers may experience the shock of recognition to find that not only have they seen this ecclesiology before, they are inhabiting it. This retrieval should strengthen us to inhabit it more amply.

– Fred Sanders

Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University

About the Authors

Headshot of Joseph Minich.

Joseph Minich (Ph.D, University of Texas at Dallas) is a Residential Teaching Fellow with The Davenant Institute, and is based at Davenant House, our organizational hub in the South Carolina Blue Ridges. As part of his work, he also co-hosts the Pilgrim Faith podcast. The founding editor of Ad Fontes and former Editor-in-Chief of the Davenant Press, he is the author of Enduring Divine Absence (Davenant Press, 2018) and Bulwarks of Unbelief: Atheism and Divine Absence in a Secular Age (Lexham Press, 2023). His public writing can be found at The Calvinist InternationalMere OrthodoxyModern Reformation, and Ad Fontes.

Bradford Littlejohn (Ph.D, University of Edinburgh) is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Polict Center. He founded and served for ten years as the President of The Davenant Institute. He is the author of numerous books including The Peril and Promise of Christian Liberty (Eerdmans, 2017), The Two Kingdoms: A Guide for the Perplexed (Davenan Press 2017), Why Do Protestants Convert? (2023, with Christ Castaldo) and Called to Freedom (B&H, forthcoming 2025).


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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