Reformation Theology

A Reader of Primary Sources with Introductions

Edited By Bradford Littlejohn and Jonathan Roberts
About this book

Thirty-two original sources from Unam Sanctam to Dordt

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.

Paperback | 761 pages | 6×9 | Published October 27, 2017 | ISBN 978-0692970607

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From the Introduction

“Even for secular readers for whom all these doctrines are frivolous myths and superstitions, the fact remains that for the men and women at the time, they were matters of truth or falsehood, life or death, heaven or hell. 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 this forgetful age, the need to understand these disputed doctrines is all the more imperative. And since ideas do not exist in isolation from one another, but have a logic and coherence that links them together, we can and indeed must identify the ideas that were central and foundational, the core principles which, once articulated or challenged, had downstream consequences in the alteration of many other doctrines and religious practices. That is what this volume seeks to offer.

“This does not mean, of course, that we should stick to some notion of purely theological concepts like the five solas of the Reformation and leave aside all ideas of a practical and political character. On the contrary, the central theological ideas of the Reformation were irreducibly ecclesiological and thus, given the seamless garment of late medieval society, irreducibly political. We have sought to highlight this fact with the selection of texts in this book, particularly in the lead-up to the Reformation. The relative authority of king and pope, and the nature of the church as either a clerocracy or a community of the faithful, were issues just as central to the Reformation as Luther’s discovery of salvation by faith alone—indeed, the latter doctrine would have been incoherent had it not been accompanied with a profound rethinking of the nature of the church.

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General Introduction

About this Edition

  1. Boniface VIII, Clericis Laicos (1296) and Unam Sanctam (1302)
  2. Marsilius of Padua, Defender of the Peace (1324), excerpts
  3. John Wycliffe, Trialogus (1384), Bk. IV, chs. 2–6 (on the Eucharist)
  4. The Council of Constance, Sacrosancta (1414) and Frequens (1417)
  5. John Hus, On the Church (1413), chs. 1–3, 10
  6. Desiderius Erasmus, Julius Excluded from Heaven (1517), excerpt
  7. Martin Luther, Ninety-Five Theses (1517)
  8. Martin Luther, A Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation (1520), Introduction and The Three Walls of the Romanists
  9. Martin Luther, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520), The Sacrament of the Altar
  10. Pope Leo X, Exsurge Domine (1520)
  11. Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (1520)
  12. Michael Sattler, The Schleitheim Articles (1527)
  13. Thomas More, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies (1529), Bk. I, chs. 19-23
  14. Philipp Melanchthon, Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531), Article IV: Of Justification
  15. Thomas Cajetan, Four Lutheran Errors (1531)
  16. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536/1559), Prefatory Address; Book I, chs. 1–6 ii
  17. The Council of Trent, Decree and Canons Concerning Justification (1545)
  18. The Council of Trent, Decree and Canons Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist (1551)
  19. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises (1548), excerpt
  20. Heinrich Bullinger, Decades (1549), II.7: “Of the Magistrate, and Whether the Care of Religion Appertain to Him or No”
  21. Peter Martyr Vermigli, Oxford Treatise on the Eucharist (1549) Preface and Arguments Against Transubstantiation
  22. Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent (1565–73), Topic IX, Section 1 (Concerning the Sacrament of Order)
  23. Zacharias Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (1585), Qs. 86–91
  24. Thomas Cranmer, The Book of Common Prayer (1559), Preface, On Ceremonies, and Order for Holy Communion
  25. John Foxe, Acts and Monuments (1563), The Martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer
  26. John Field and Thomas Wilcox, An Admonition to Parliament (1572), excerpts
  27. Richard Hooker, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Preface, chs. 1, 4; Book III, chs. 2–3; Book IV, chs. 1–4
  28. Robert Bellarmine, Controversies of the Christian Religion (1581–93), Controversy I, Q. 4: On the Perspicuity of Scripture
  29. William Whitaker, A Disputation on Holy Scripture (1588), Controversy I, Q. 4: On the Perspicuity of Scripture
  30. Synod of Dordt, The Canons of Dordt (1619)
About the Editors

Dr. Bradford Littlejohn (Ph.D., University of Edinburgh) is the Founder and President of the Davenant Institute. He also works as a Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and has taught for several institutions, including Moody Bible Institute-Spokane, Bethlehem College and Seminary, and Patrick Henry College. He is recognized as a leading scholar of the English theologian Richard Hooker and Has published and lectured extensively in the fields of Reformation history, Christian ethics, and political theology. He lives in Landrum, SC with his wife, Rachel, and four children. Follow him on Twitter at @WBLITTLEJOHN

Jonathan Roberts, President and Co-Founder of the Ancient Language Institute, hails from Aguascalientes, Mexico. Legend has it that one day, after slaying a chupacabra with his bare hands, a puma granted him the power to teach languages. Whether that’s true or not, he most certainly has enjoyed teaching Latin to hundreds of students over the years, who have ranged from middle schoolers to college professors. Jonathan has previously taught Latin at Great Hearts Academies, Veritas Scholars Academy, and Davenant Latin Institute.

Jonathan graduated from The King’s College in New York City with a degree in Politics, Philosophy, & Economics, and was awarded a Master of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Missouri in 2017. He co-hosts the New Humanists podcast with Ryan Hammill.



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