Reforming the Catholic Tradition

The Whole Word For The Whole Church

Edited By Joseph Minich
About this book

Proceedings from the 6th annual Convivium Irenicum

Cardinal Newman once stated that to be deep in church history is to cease to be Protestant. These essays argue that, on the contrary, to be Protestant is simply to be a principled catholic. In one sense, the Protestant tradition just is the catholic tradition shorn of excess and reduced to truly “universal” doctrine and principle. We embrace God’s calling to maturity by learning to be active participants in the universal church as it grows into fuller understanding of God’s revelation. Openness to reform is not silly submission to the ethos of each age, but is rather the insistence that all of our understanding must submit (in the classic formula of Luther) to the bar of the Scripture and plain reason, which stands above and judges the church in each era. The whole Word stands in judgment over our fractured communities and fragmented understanding.

However, it is the whole church which participates in this motion toward maturity, and which must commit to growing together rather than growing apart. This includes both a deference to our learned forefathers and a willingness to be confronted with new insight into God’s revelation. Taken together, this collection of essays constitute an invitation into this great project, which has its end in the glory of the Lord Jesus, and the freedom of His chosen saints.

Paperback | 221 pages | 6×9 | Published July 12, 2019 | ISBN 978-1949716931

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From the Introduction

“What the Protestant project afforded each Christian was a greater theological, rhetorical, and cultural capacity to self-possess the riches of their own faith and involvement in its expression in this world. Whether or not the Reformers would have liked the modern world, the discourse in which they engaged was uniquely suited to helping us navigate it. Our modern crisis of identity, of course, is not merely due to the influence of Reformation ideas, but the entirely history of modern globalization and trade, the proliferation of modern technologies, and so on. And what has disintegrated in the massive rupture of modernity is any plausibility of outsourcing our ecclesiastical and cultural responsibility to surrogate believers and reasoners (whether church, confession, or community). This has led to all varieties of Pharisaism. Rather, the Christian man lives before God and with his neighbor. And responding to both, he internalizes wisdom and brings it to bear on his small piece of the world. What the modern order affords us, arguably, is not merely a threat to what ought to be the goals of the Christian faith but, rather, a major opportunity for ordinary believers (all priests) to take a more prominent role in the task of dominion. The chaos is a simple fact. But the ordering effect of wisdom is up to all of us (each in our own way).

Arguably, then, the Protestant project is just the human project writ small. Consequently, its challenges and its tools are as wide as the human race and its resources. And if the particular articles of the Protestant faith are indeed correspondent to the Scriptures and to the world, then we should not fear that they lack innate persuasive gravitas. Precisely to the extent that we point persons back to the Scriptures and to reality, we will point them to the law and the gospel as summarized in our doctrine. Only it will not exist as the nomenclature of a team member, but rather as the vital and orienting truth that just is reality for them. Our situation is no tragedy. It is a vital moment for us to cultivate the church and the world.”

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Joseph Minich


Is Christ Divided?: Why Reformed Catholicity Needs Reformed
Bradford Littlejohn


Reforming Catholicity in Tudor England: John Jewel’s Doctrine of the Universal Church

Andre Gazal


Reformed Catholicity and the Analogy of Being
Steven J. Duby


On Eschewing the Labyrinths: Why Protestants Should Not Resurrect
the “Spiritual Reading” of Scripture

Iain Provan


Biblical Interpretation and Natural Knowledge: A Key to Solving the
Protestant Problem

David Haines


What Happened in the Search for Liturgical Catholicity?

Christopher Dorn


Weekly Communion: A Criterion of Catholicity? A Short Survey of
Historical Claims in Reformed Debates

Gregory Soderberg

About the Editor

Headshot of Joseph Minich.

Dr. Joseph Minich (PhD, The University of Texas at Dallas) is a Teaching Fellow with The Davenant Institute and Editor-at-Large for Ad Fontes. He is the author of Enduring Divine Absence and co-host of the Pilgrim Faith podcast. His public writing can be found at The Calvinist International, Mere OrthodoxyModern Reformation, and the Ad Fontes blog. He lives in Garland, Texas, with his wife and four children. Follow him on Twitter @PROTESTANTTONGUE.


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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