Book Review: Reformation Celebration by Gordon L. Isaac et al

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With the anniversary of one of the most iconic events of history fast approaching, it seemed quite fitting to review a book celebrating the Reformation. “Reformation Celebration” is a collection of essays compiled from the Reformation Celebration conference in 2017. Each author writes from his or her particular discipline such as homiletics, counselling, history, and new and old testament scholarship, offering the reader a wide range of content all centred on the Protestant Reformation.

The book is organised in 5 different sections. The first takes a more historical approach to the person of Martin Luther and his views on such things as sola scriptura and the other solas descriptive of the Reformation. It speaks of the shift from scholastics to Bible-centred theology and argument utilizing the early church fathers. In this first portion, I found myself reading and learning more Latin than I did taking the language class in high school. Certain phrases were familiar, such as the iconic solas of the Reformation, but there were many gems which I had never encountered such as Sacra scriptura sui ipsius interpres (Holy scripture interprets itself) and Christus plenus est gratia, vita, et salute (Christ is full of grace, life, and salvation). Some may not care so much about Latin phrases they will likely never use in everyday conversation, but they are nonetheless lovely and relevant to the history of it all. While there is much Latin to be read, the first few essays also convey much interesting information about Martin Luther as a man, such as his calling for a confessor in the middle of mass because of his oversensitive conscience.

The focus of the second portion is on the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, scripture alone. One of the essays I was honestly expecting to be less interested in, “Sola Scriptura and the Rise of Global Christianity,” actually became one of my favourites and was extremely informative. I believe one of the reasons it stuck out to me is that I hadn’t been made aware of the growth of Protestantism in the Global South and how Protestantism is often seen as the religion of the Western world prior to reading. As with the rest of the book, the section on sola scriptura contains both informational and applicable essays, for example the use of sola scriptura in spiritual formation.
Third and fourth are Sola Gratia and Sola Fide. These sections explore the implications of grace alone and faith alone on things such as the relationship between grace and works, common grace in Christian counselling of non-believers, and the application of faith alone in sanctification.

Finally is Solus Christus, or Christ alone. Among these essays is my favourite of them all, “How Athanasius and Calvin Championed a High View of Christ with Implications for Today,” which explores the Christology of two of my favourite theologians.
Apologies if this is beginning to sound more like a book report than a review, but I wanted to highlight just a few of my favourite points. The essays can, at times, be dry, however it is never uninformative. Even the essays I felt were rough to read still present useful information. The entire book is grounded in historical doctrine, the historic church and how these relate to the modern day. It is not a mere history book that leaves its readers with only head knowledge but invites the reader to delve into history to see what relevance the church then has for the church today, which is surprisingly quite a lot. I would most definitely recommend this book for its historic and modern significance.

 

 

Many thanks to Hendrickson publishers for a complementary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

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