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Where was the gospel before the Reformation?
Contemporary evangelicals often struggle to answer that question. As a result, many Roman Catholics are quick to allege that the Reformation understanding of the gospel simply did not exist before the 1500s. They assert that key Reformation doctrines, like sola fide, were nonexistent in the first fifteen centuries of church history. Rather, they were invented by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others.
That is a serious charge, and one that evangelicals must be ready to answer. If an evangelical understanding of the gospel is only 500 years old, we are in major trouble. However, if it can be demonstrated that Reformers were not inventing something new, but instead were recovering something old, then key tenets of the Protestant faith are greatly affirmed. Hence, the need for this book.
After reading Long Before Luther, readers will:
- Possess a greater understanding of church history and the role it plays in the church today.
- Have a deeper appreciation for the hard-won victories of the Reformation.
- Be equipped to dialogue with Catholic friends about the presence of Reformed doctrines throughout church history.
- Feel renewed gratefulness for the unearned nature of grace and the power of the gospel.
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About the Author
NATHAN BUSENITZ, (M.Div., Th.M., Ph.D., The Master's Seminary) is the Dean of Faculty and Assistant Professor of Theology at The Master's Seminary. He holds a doctorate in church history, with a specific focus on patristic theology. He has served as a full-time member of the pastoral staff at Grace Community Church, director of the Shepherd's Fellowship, managing editor of Pulpit magazine, and as the personal assistant to John MacArthur.
Table of Contents
Part 1 The Reformers and Justification
1 An Invention or a Recovery? 21
2 Regaining Biblical Clarity 31
3 Clothed in Christ's Righteousness 45
Part 2 The Church before Augustine
4 Saved by Grace 63
5 Justification: A Divine Declaration 75
6 The Great Exchange 89
Part 3 Augustine and Justification
7 A Forerunner to the Reformers? 107
8 The Doctor of Grace 117
Part 4 The Church after Augustine
9 Pardoned from Sin 133
10 Reckoned as Righteous 145
11 Coming Full Circle 161
Appendix: Voices from History 165
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was remarkable, well writing and easy to read with that also giving us feel more confidence and clearly understand in this well researched of this book it will helping to find the answers from all the question about biblical and historical defense of the Reformation doctrine of solo fide. With meticulous documentation from primary patristic and medieval sources, the Reformation teaching of justification by faith was a sixteenth century novelty unknown to the prior 1500 years of church history. This is a best book for all time study to the deeper of the gospel. I highly recommend to everyone must to read this book. “ I received complimentary a copy of this book from Moody Publishers for this review “.
I received a free book from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review (Thank you!). All thoughts are 100% my own. Justification, by grace, through faith alone (latin: sola fide) is one of the five solas of the Protestant Reformation. This doctrine is essential for a right understanding of the Gospel, and it sets Christianity apart from every single world religion. Nathan Busenitz refutes those who say the doctrine of justification by faith alone (apart from works) never existed before the Martin Luther’s 1517 Reformation. In less than 200 pages, Busenitz goes over 1,500 years of church history— from Jesus all the way to Luther— and quotes the works of the patristics, Augustine, and post-Augustine theologians. Busenitz shows how church history confirms a forensic, imputed justification by faith alone can be found long before the Reformation. Some early theologians also wrote on the distinction between justification and sanctification. The Reformers weren’t inventing new doctrine, they were going back to Biblical teachings that were corrupted by man-made traditions. This book is straight-forward, organized, and easy to read. This is a great place to start if you’re wanting to research church history and the Reformation. Each chapter has a multitude of quotes. The book itself is around 165 pages followed by 25 pages of quotes, and 40 pages of references. I will be getting a lot of use out of this book.
Long Before Luther, by Nathan Busenitz, attempts to answer the question “Was the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone an invention or a recovery?” The author has done very extensive research to give answer to this question. Using quotes from pre-Reformation writers and scripture from the Bible, the author shows us the doctrine held by the Reformers were not new but rather were taken from the Bible and carried down. This book goes into so much depth that I found myself no able to understand some of it. This book gives a lot of detail about church history as well. The book is broken up into four sections with just 11 chapters and 64 pages. The book give a look into church history, the beliefs of pre-Reformers and Reformers. The book also contains 25 pages of 100 quotes from church history showing salvation by grace alone and the truth that believers are justified through faith in Christ, not by works. This was the part of the book that spoke to me the most. Due to the extensive quotes, I feel this book is far advanced for the person who wants to learn more about the reformation and church history. I feel this book is mean more for the student, scholar, or theologian. For this reason, I give this book a 4. I received a copy of this book from Moody Publishing, this is my honest review.
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Moody Publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.] My feelings about this book when I was reading it were deeply complicated, but mostly positive. The author's approach to looking up historical antecedents of the heart of the Gospel in the Bible and the writings of various Church Fathers is not unlike some of my own similar researches , and this identification certainly makes me feel more positively about the author, even when in my own particular religious background looking at the quotations of church fathers is not something that would help to prove a point. More positively, though, I happen to be in full agreement with the author that not only is "Faith alone" biblical, but that it makes a genuine gulf between biblical religion and the ditches of antinomianism and legalism on both sides . Seeing, therefore, that the author's point is interesting to me even if I do not believe that appealing to Hellenistic Christians is necessarily valuable except that it forms a basis of shared authority between the writer and his largely Catholic opponents in the debate, I read as an interested outsider. The book fully meets the author's expectations. He has clearly done his homework in showing the long chain of belief in justification by faith (alone) from the Bible through the Middle Ages to Luther and the other early reformers. There are page after page of detailed endnotes as well as a lengthy appendix of quotations from thinkers like Anselm of Canterbury and Bernard of Clairvaux among many others that show proto-Reformation beliefs about justification. The author starts from looking at the writings of the early Reformers themselves and who they cited as fellow belivers in sola fide and then proceeds to follow the writings back. While the author is honest in conceding that the writers of the Middle Ages were not as consistent or as precise in their use of language about justification, he manages to find plenty of evidence of belief in justification by faith alone, enough to clearly prove that Catholics err in believing it to be a Protestant innovation. His research is extensive and his analysis is sound, and what started as an internet challenge makes for a compelling volume that defends the legitimacy of the Protestant Reformation and for later groups seeking to restore biblical Christianity. I feel it is necessary to say that while I believe that the author has gone above and beyond what was necessary to demonstrate the biblical and historical pedigree of the doctrine of justification by faith alone in terms of forensics and imputation, for example, I do not think that the author is fully aware of the nature of the argument that he uses to justify Protestant positions in general. Although the author can certainly be taken as a foe of false ragamuffin gospels as well as false legalistic gospels of grace and works, the author's belief that the Protestants were successful in restoring genuine biblical Christianity in all aspects is more than a bit too sanguine. Even so, this was a very enjoyable book and the approach of the author in research and writing is a very welcome one. This is precisely the sort of book that is very useful when one is dealing with polemics regarding the very serious and momentous difference between Catholics and Protestants (as well as Restorationists) with regards to beliefs about justification and sanctification. Coming in at under 200 pages o