Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Long Before Luther - By Nathan Busneitz
Long Before Luther by Nathan Busenitz is book that examines history to demonstrate that the concepts of Salvation by faith alone, through grace alone…etc. were not invented by people like Martin Luther and John Calvin in the 16th Century, as some have claimed. Rather these concepts are very old, coming from the Scriptures themselves. As the subtitle of this book indicates, this book traces "the heart of the Gospel from Christ to the Reformation".
The book is divided into four parts, part one is, "The Reformers and Justification", which examines what the Reformers believed and where they discovered those beliefs in the Bible.
Part Two deals with the "Church Before Augustine". "The Reformers looked primarily to Scripture to establish their understanding of justification by grace through faith alone, yet they also claimed secondary affirmation for their position from the writings of Christian leaders throughout church history." This section examines the beliefs of the early church (I don't feel comfortable/Biblical calling them "Fathers") in regard to justification by grace through faith apart from works, the forensic nature of justification, distinction between justification and sanctification and the imputation of Christ's righteousness.
Part Three, "Augustine and Justification". This gives a close look at Augustine's beliefs regarding salvation. There is a whole section devoted to this because "The Reformers looked to Augustine more than any other church father in their defense of the doctrine of salvation by grace."
Part 4 "The Church After Augustine" examines the beliefs of Christians who came in between Augustine and Luther.
Though I think this is a very useful and well written work, I think that there is a more pressing issue in the church today, and that is an elevating the 'Reformers' too much. Actually, when I first decided to review this book, I was hoping that it was a critique of the near worshipful attitude of the reformers that many, in the church, particularly those who call themselves 'reformed', seem to possess. It's no wonder that people think the Reformation was the starting point for the 'doctrines of Grace', many professing Christian act as though the 'fullness of time' climaxed at the Reformation, that the faith we hold to originated at that time. And I critique myself when I say this. When I was younger I loved learning about the 'Reformers', tended to 'hero-worship' them, and what they taught, and collected quotes from them. At one point I ended up in a debate with an 'Arminian', over salvation/election, and he wanted me to stop using quotations by Luther, Calvin and other Christians and just debate by using the Scriptures themselves. I think that that was really helpful to me. And, in thinking back on it, it's rather embarrassing to think how I must have looked, appealing to the writings of many Christians to support my point, rather than primarily using the Bible as the sole authority. Rather than pointing people to the Reformation we should point back to the Formation. I'm not against the reformers and still admire God's work in and through them, but I think we really should start watching ourselves and make sure that we deal with any 1 Corinthians 3 scenarios.
But I still like this book. Busenitz does an excellent job in giving written proofs that the 'doctrines of grace' were not invented by the Reformers. If anyone is struggling with an idea like that I would recommend this book. It's not very long, but it is quite a solid defense of the unoriginality of the Reformers. When it comes to salvation we don't want to be original, we want to be right in our belief - our eternal souls are at stake!
Many thanks to the folks at MP Newsroom for sending me a free review copy of this book! (My review did not have to be favorable).
My Rating 5 out of 5 Stars
This book may be purchased at Amazon.com and Christianbook.com