People of the Promise:

A Mere Protestant Ecclesiology

Edited by Joseph Minich and Bradford Littlejohn.

Featuring essays by Steven Wedgeworth, Eric Hutchinson, Alastair Roberts, Bradford Littlejohn, Jordan Ballor, Jake Meador and more.

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.

This volume is based on essays which appeared in Issues I.1, I.4, I.7, and I.10 of Ad Fontes. They have been revised and expanded, with a couple of new essays added.

About the Editors

Joseph Minich lives in Texas with his wife and four children. He is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington D.C. and is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Humanities at The University of Texas at Dallas. Some of his writing can be found at The Calvinist International and Mere Orthodoxy.

Bradford Littlejohn (Ph.D, University of Edinburgh) is a scholar and writer in the fields of political theology, Christian ethics, and Reformation history.  He is a regular columnist for a number of online journals, author of several books and articles in historical and political theology, and editor of several more. He lives in Moscow, ID, with his wife and three children.


“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


Table of Contents

Bradford Littlejohn
 Part I: Introduction to Protestant Ecclesiology
1 The Church Question in a Disoriented Age
Joseph Minich
2 The Protestant Doctrine of the Church and its Rivals
Bradley Belschner
Part II: Protestant Ecclesiology in Scripture
3 Finding Zion: The Church in the Old Testament
Steven Wedgeworth
4 Excursus: What is the Church? Etymology and Concept in Classical Antiquity, the LXX, and the New Testament
E.J. Hutchinson
5 Pentecost as Ecclesiology
Alastair Roberts
Part III: Protestant Ecclesiology in History
6 Simul Justus et Peccator: The Genius and Tensions of Reformation Ecclesiology
Bradford Littlejohn
7 “A Heavenly Office, A Holy Ministry”: Ordination in the English Reformation
Andre A. Gazal
8 Excursus: Church Discipline as a Way of Love
Jordan J. Ballor

Part IV: Protestant Ecclesiology Today

9 Protestant Ecclesiology as Good Theory
Andrew Fulford
10 Protestant Ecclesiology Among Contemporary Political Theologies
Jake Meador
11 Conclusion
Joseph Minich
Bibliography 183


The Davenant Institute

The Davenant Institute supports the renewal of Christian wisdom for the contemporary church. It seeks to sponsor historical scholarship at the intersection of the church and academy, build networks of friendship and collaboration within the Reformed and evangelical world, and equip the saints with time-tested resources for faithful public witness. See more at

Davenant Retrievals

Davenant Retrievals seek to exemplify the Davenant Institute’s mission of recovering the riches of the Reformation for the contemporary church, offering clear, concise, and collaborative expositions of a doctrinal topic key to the Protestant heritage and defending its relevance today.