Book Review of Nichols’ The Reformation

Nichols, Stephen J. The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007. 159 pp. $10.


Remember the Alamo. Remember the Exodus. Remember Christ and his cross. Remember the Holocaust. The mantra “Remember,” argues Dr. Stephen Nichols in his book The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World, is imperative, not only for Texans or Old and New Testament figures or Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, but also for us. History matters to Christians. And it’s not only biblical history that matters (as some Biblicists contend), but its also church history — “the Reformation matters” (13) in particular. But history is boring, or at least, according to Nichols, that’s what bad history teachers have led us to think. Actually, “history can be fun” (13) so long as we see the people we learn about as people, with their beauty marks and warts and all.

We also learn from these Reformers, namely, “that our faith and trust lie not ultimately in their lives and in their examples, but in the God-man, Jesus Christ” (23). The Reformation matters, and history can be fun: that’s Nichol’s straight-shooting, twofold agenda.

Nichols’ “the classroom of church history” (15) coinage is apt considering that he is president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries. He’s also the author of many other books such as J. Gresham Maachen: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought, Jonathan Edwards: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought, and The Church History ABCs: Augustine and Twenty-Five Other Heroes of the Faith. He refers to some of his books in the endnotes along with an even mixture of primary and secondary sources. In light of his positions and publications, it’s not surprising then that Nichols adheres to the Reformed tradition. This accounts for two things: (1) the fore stated agenda, which is supportive of the Reformation, and (2) the book’s assessments, which we’ll discuss below.

Nichols divides his book into chapters on the central figures or groups of the Reformation and their geographical sphere of influence. Due to space limit, only three chapters will be recounted: The second chapter (the first chapter is a preface) focuses on a monk, Martin Luther to be exact, who nails with a mallet his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of Wittenberg so as to address the unbiblical issue of indulgences. This marks the start of the Reformation. Then Nichols’ frames Luther’s theology in terms of the five solas, “Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria.” For example, the Sola Fide and Sola Gratia principles formulate the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone. Per Luther, these “planks of Reformation theology” centered on the cross (30). After delineating Luther’s theology, there are anecdotes provided that are related to the “unseemly language [that] would spill from his lips” (35).

The third chapter begins with an odd incident: Zurich, a local priest named Ulrich Zwingli joins a group of middle-aged men, some of whom eat sausages (Zwingli refrained) — all this occurred during Lent wherein “such things were not done, especially in the presence of a priest.” Two weeks later, Zwingli preached a sermon that concluded on the basis of biblical evidence (or the lack thereof) that “the Lenten fast stemmed from human tradition.” (39). Thereupon, the Swiss reformation began. Zwingli was patriotic and had “an unbounded love for his country” — he was a “Swiss through and through” (40). He would die on the battlefield, which was not entirely unexpected.

The seventh chapter, the Puritans are described as those who believed that Elizabeth I did not reform the Church of England enough. The Puritans themselves were made up of “Anglicans, Presbyterians, Independents or Congregationalists, and Baptists.” Their theology developed Calvin’s and his contemporaries’. Repeatedly throughout English history, they were exiled: some escaped to the Netherlands, others to the New World. In 1689, the Act of Toleration was issued thereby those exiled were able to return to their homeland.

Nichols by way of recounting and evaluating the persons and events behind the Reformation adequately conducts his agenda, at least the first-part. It seems prima facie that the only way the Reformation would matter to readers is if the readers find points of contact between their beliefs and those of the Reformers. Nichols saliently shows this not to be the case when he implicitly expresses disagreement with the Anabaptists (“Their way of discipleship is not the only way, and good arguments could be made against some of their beliefs and practices.”), yet goes on to say thereafter the following:

But their prophetic voice should still be listened to. They had a way of making those who didn’t quite see things as they did uncomfortable in their assumptions . . . They are a visible reminder that we should not simply adopt the customs of the world. They remind us that we must think through the impact of culture on our faith and on our church and community. They remind us that ultimate reality is the kingdom of God (67).


As for the theological and practical distinctives of the Reformation, those laid out are by no means exhaustive, and in some cases, dare I say, sufficient. We are never told much the contents of The Thirty-Nine Articles “which remains the doctrinal confession for Anglicanism” (92); in fact, we are not even given the selection from the Thirty-Nine Articles in the Appendix as promised (cf. 92)! I am not saying is we are left in the dark as to what makes a Calvinist not an Anabaptist. Yet, the book for all its worth lacks theological rigor, which might be excused due to its elementary nature, for someone who said that “the heart of the matter” is “right theology” (22). Now what ought to have been the evidential thrust for Nichols’ contemporaneity argument is tracing the legacy of each Reformers and their respective reformations to the here and now, which he does albeit briefly. By the end of the book, we indeed did learn lessons, important lessons, from the Reformation. Yet, we did not so much experience a nostalgic tie to the Reformation. There seems to be a missing link so to speak between the reader and the Reformation. The tie or link is to be made by the reader alone from what the reader already knew a priori. For instance, a member of an Episcopal Baptist church who is not a formal theologian would be left feeling, “Where do I fit in the Reformation?” Regardless, there were satisfactory, realistic portraits of the Reformation drawn.

On the other hand, the second part of Nichols’ agenda, the ‘fun’ part, is wanting. Within the progression of book, as if Nichols perchance forgot, the material became increasingly filled “dates and facts” about the Reformers and decreasingly about “their sense of humor, their sense of wonder at life” (22). In terms of humor, the only humor you see is in chapter one with Luther, such as when he calls himself “‘a stupid clod’” (37). On the other hand, the second to last chapter on the Puritans does not contain really anything personable about them (that is not to say there was nothing admirable about them). A case in point is Nichols’ retelling about King James I seeing “the [Puritan] youth were just lulling around when they could have been engaged in the rigors of sports” on one Lord’s Day (109). Ironically this anecdote very much embodies the stereotype that the Puritans were puritanical or ‘not fun,’ a stereotype that Nichols very much wants to avoid: “We need . . . to get beyond the caricatures of the Puritans or we will never appreciate them for who they were and will never appreciate their rich legacy for us today” (100).

As for Nichols’ use of primary sources, the extracts are strategically placed and portioned: They appear not only within the main body of the text, but also appear within topical articles (juxtaposed to the main body). They also range from pithy words and lines to complete paragraphs and stanza. For example, he resourcefully relays the Puritan view of sin via the first five lines of Paradise Lost (108). The topical articles also deserve a further mention: they contain a variety of information that help tremendously to elucidate the subject matter at hand, but would nevertheless be obstructive to the flow of the main text (if communicated therein). The book’s simplistic, but well-written language precludes its induction into the library of academia. However, the book was not intended for bookmen; rather, the book, introductory book I might add, was intended for laymen or the masses (pun intended).

The book is a good introduction to the Reformation. The main strengths of the book are the lessons it derives from the Reformation, the creative use of primary sources, and the simplistic language. The main weaknesses of the book are the lack of theological rigor and its lack of robust portraits of some Reformers. I wholeheartedly recommend this book, particularly undergraduate students of Reformation theology, due to its brevity and clarity. All that being said, I will happily rally alongside Nichols under the banner ‘Remember the Reformation.’

Reviewed by Daniel Park, Biola University



Book Review of Alister McGrath’s Reformation Thought

Alister E. McGrath. Reformation Thought: An Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1988, reprint: 1999, 325. $40


History and theology cannot be divorced. Ideas and people cannot be separate. It is with this perspective that Alister E. McGrath authors Reformation Thought: An Introduction. McGrath seeks to give a comprehensive view of the Reformation from a Christian theological point of view. His main theme in this book is to look at all aspects of the Reformation: historical settings, social systems, political thoughts, reformers, and doctrines through a theological lens. His main aim is to first introduce the leading ideas of the European Reformation during the first half of the 16th century, and then to explain these ideas all within their historical and theological context.

McGrath is himself a product of the Reformation, coming from the Anglican church, thus his possible bias towards reformed thought shall be acknowledged. Additionally, he helpfully writes under the assumption that his audience has no knowledge of Christian theology, and thus clearly explains all terms relevant for his analysis. McGrath is a historian, a priest, a professor, scientist, and apologist for the Christian faith. Thus his credibility lies in his academic framed inquiry into the Reformation, and his overall theological expertise.

McGrath operates under the conviction that all Reformers held the fundamental conviction that the best way to reform the Christian church was to return to beliefs and practices of the early church. Thus, all of their doctrines and reforms flowed. (20). He supports his overall thesis through systematically going through various doctrines of the Reformation and explains how thought patterns developed historically and theologically by each Reformer. He touches on the Medieval Period, highlighting the growing disinterest in religion, anti-clericalism, and intellectual diversification (31). He continues building his foundation by analyzing Humanism’s effects on the reformations, citing Jacob Burckhardt, Kristeller, and Erasmus (43). He follows the influence of Scholasticism in the Wittenberg Reformation, highlighting that the Reformation was influenced by two forms of Scholasticism; the via moderna, ‘the modern way’ (Nominalism) and the schola Augustiniana moderna, ‘the modern Augustinian school’ (Augustinianism). McGrath gives vital historical and biographical information on the major reformers as a backdrop to the theological ideas of the Reformation, and then begins to chip away at the major doctrines wrestled with in the Reformation. In these doctrines, he includes the doctrine of justification by faith, introducing Luther’s idea of forensic justification, the Swiss Reformation under Zwingli, the French Reformation under Calvin, and the major objections of Trent. The Doctrine of Predestination is discussed, as is the formal principle of “Scripture Alone” (145). McGrath concludes that the Reformers considered Scripture to be completely authoritative, and though they valued tradition, it did not overwhelm the authority of Scripture itself. Next, the Doctrine of the Sacraments is surveyed, as is the Doctrine of the Church. The Reformers considered the Catholic church to have lost sight of the church’s function; that it was to be God’s people centered on the gospel, and grace (197). McGrath addresses political thought of the Reformation, contributing to his overall thesis of the Reformation occurring in a line of specific thoughts and theology, and must be observed therein. Lastly, McGrath focuses on the spread of these new thoughts throughout Europe highlighting the entrance of religion into the public square, emphasizing personal internalization of the gospel and expressing one’s faith in every arena of life.

McGrath masterfully connects every chapter to his thesis, framing the book around seeing the Reformation as a series of thoughts developed over time by various Reformers. He proves his thesis by making declarative statements at the end of each chapter, and presents his research to synthesize support for his thesis, especially in his discussion on each doctrine. For example, on the doctrine of predestination he says, “The doctrine of predestination proved to be one of the major distinguishing characteristics of international Calvinism. We shall consider this development in the next chapter,” (130). He beautifully sums up his chapter and transitions to the next section. Every time he makes a claim, he supplements heavily with primary and scholarly sources, quoting Tetzel (30) and Amerbach (32), Calvin’s Institutes, his commentaries, The Collected Works of Erasmus, Luther’s Works, and The Latin Works of Huldreich Zwingli. Additionally, McGrath uses numerous historians, theologians, sociological writers (23) as reference points, (21-22) and to define various terms. An example of this is in his discussion on humanism referencing Baron, Burckhardt, and Kristeller. He quotes directly from Luther in regards to the nature of justifying faith (111). He uses other historical theologians to analyze Calvin’s doctrine of the Knowledge of God (130). He draws directly from Calvin’s Institutes to explain his view on predestination (138).

McGrath gives sweeping ideas and categories, yet gives specific details to build his case such as suggesting, “The rise of Renaissance humanism was widely regarded as providential, in that the great advances made in Hebrew and Greek studies in relation to classical texts in the western Europe paved the way for direct engagement with scriptural text…” (21). He beautifully intertwines historical developments with the developments of the Reformer’s thought. He helpfully sprinkles in the differences between different reformers in respect to the issue being observed. In his discussion of various doctrines, he also compares and contrasts various reformers. This seemed helpful at times, but lent itself to confusion at other times. For example, in his section on the Doctrine of Predestination in regards to Calvin, he continually sprinkles in Luther’s views on election and grace, which don’t seem to advance his discussion of Calvin in particular. Instead, the reader is left trying to sort through these various viewpoints in a section that is supposed to be dedicated to Calvin.

In conclusion, I agree with many of McGrath’s conclusions about the Reformation. He also rightly points out that the Enlightenment rides on the back of the impact of the Reformation. The way in which McGrath presents his work is understandable to most audiences as he commonly defines terms, but not at the expense of good scholarship (such as using original Latin terms or theological concepts). He takes the time to flesh out difficult concepts, but cushions most chapters with summary statements. It seems like many other books on the Reformation are organized either by Reformers themselves, or location of the Reforms. Though not neglecting historical context, this work traces thought, not individuals or locations. Therefore, it contributes to the Reformation works in its field with this unique perspective and can allow people to focus on how the Reformation brought changes in belief and doctrine to the world, and see this impact today in our church doctrine and practice. I certainly would recommend this book to others, especially students of Reformation Theology. He concisely presents various doctrines and influences of the Reformation and clearly indicates various views of the major Reformers themselves. His approach of dealing with these issues per doctrine instead of per Reformer is very helpful. If he would have organized his analysis of the Reformation thought by dealing with every doctrine in one chapter per Reformer, it would be much harder to compare and contrast the varying views of each Reformer. Instead, he does a chapter on the Sacraments, one on the church, etc., and compares each Reformer’s view along the way to get a holistic view of the Reformation thought in its historical, political, and theological setting.

Katie Evensen, Biola University

Jonathan Edwards

Biographical Sketch by Daniel Park, Biola University


63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan. 14 and July 3, 1723. 

Summary of life:

1703: Born on October 5, in East Windsor, Connecticut, to Reverend Timothy and Esther Edwards who had ten daughters (six after Edwards’ birth)

1716-1720: Studies undergraduate (BA) at Yale College

1721-1722: Studies graduate (MA) at Yale College: in spring of 1721, experiences spiritual awakening (cf. Personal Narrative)

1722-1723: Ministers in a Presbyterian church in New York, beginning his “Diary,” “Resolutions,” “Miscellanies,” and writing The Mind

1724-1726: Becomes senior tutor at Yale

1726: Becomes associate minister of the First Church of Northampton in Massachusetts, under influential grandfather, Solomon Stoddard

1727: Marries Sarah Pierpont on July 28, later having 11 children (eight daughters and three sons)

1728: Becomes father to first child

1729: Succeeds Stoddard, now deceased, as pastor of the church in Northampton

1734: Brings about First Great Awakening through series of sermons published as Justification by Faith (1738).

1737: Publishes A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, defending the revival

1741: Preaches “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in Enfield, Connecticut

1746: Publishes Religious Affections, explaining true conversion

1749: Publishes The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, significantly influencing domestic and foreign missionary movements

1750: Dismissed as pastor of the church in Northampton, with 230 males congregants voting for the decision, 23 against

1751-1757: Becomes pastor and missionary to Native Americans in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, pastoring a small English congregation and evangelizing 150 Mohican and Mohawk families, while writing most of his major works

including Freedom of Will (1754) and Original Sin (1758) as well as The Nature of True Virtue and The End for Which God Created the World (published posthumously in 1765)

1757: Accepts presidency at College of New Jersey (later Princeton University)

1758: Assumes presidency on February 16, dying on March 22 following complications from smallpox inoculation (buried in Princeton Cemetery)

Influence and Recognition:

Who influenced Edwards:

  • Isaac Newton in relation to his natural philosophy
  • John Locke in relation to his epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophical psychology
  • Nicholas Malebranche in relation to his metaphysics
  • John Calvin per his Reformed heritage
  • Peter van Maastricht (his works introduced by wife, Sarah): Theoreticapractica theologia, of which he said was “as much better than Turretin or any other book in the world, excepting the Bible.”
    • Francis Turretin
  • John Calvin
  • Augustine
  • Puritans including John Bunyan, John Owen, etc.

Who did Edwards influence?

  • Contemporary theologians including George Whitefield and John Wesley
  • Reformed tradition heretofore
    • Robert Murray M’Cheyne
    • C. Ryle
    • Princeton theologians including B. B. Warfield, John Gresham Machen, Geerhardus Vos
    • Martyn Lloyd-Jones
    • Modern theologians including John Piper, R. C. Sproul, Steve Lawson, Sinclair Ferguson, etc.
    • Reformed seminaries such as Westminster Theological Seminary
  • Missionaries including Francis Asbury, Thomas Coke, William Carey, Henry Martyn, Robert Morrison, Samuel Mills, Fredrick Schwartz, David Livingstone, and Andrew Murray; also Jim Eliott (via The Life and Diary of David Brainerd).

What was Edwards known for?

  • Jonathan Edwards was known for sundry roles, some include: (arguably) America’s first revivalist preacher, America’s first philosopher, Reformed pastor, Reformed theologian — in a word, Puritan.

Key Theological Ideas:

  • Soteriology (Calvinism)
    • Determinism
    • Pietism
    • Covenant of Redemption
  • ‘New Light Calvinism’(as opposed to ‘Old Calvinism’)
  • God’s glory and man’s enjoyment thereof


Types: Mystical, polemical, sermons, treatises, systematic works, etc.

  • Theological and philosophical treaties on determinism, ethics, and metaphysics.
  • Autobiography related to personal conversion
  • Biography on David Brainerd
  • History on the Great Awakening and redemptive history
  • Letters addressed to people such as George Whitefield and John Wesley
  • Sermons

Major Works: What are his/her most famous works?

  • Concerning the End for Which God Created the World — Edwards argues against the claim that human happiness was the end for which God created the world. Instead, the magnification of God’s glory and name was the end. Hereby, Human happiness is an extension of that end, but not the end itself.
  • A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God — Edwards delineates the process of conversion according to examples set in Northampton, Massachusetts at the start of the Great Awakening, which was derived from Edward’s congregation in 1734.
  • Freedom of the Will — Edwards argues that moral responsibility is not inconsistent with God’s determination of all events contra Arminianism.
  • A History of the Work of Redemption — Albeit it was never finished, Edwards sought to trace God’s redemptive work from the fall to the present church age.
  • The Life and Diary of David Brainerd — Edward recounts David Brainerd life, particularly his life as missionary to the Delaware Indians of New Jersey.
  • The Nature of True Virtue (counterpart to Concerning the End for Which God Created the World) — Edwards argues that true virtue is not predicated on self-love or earth-bound selfishness, but a selfless desire for God’s glory.
  • Original Sin — Edward defends the doctrine of original sin.
  • Religious Affections — Edward explains how true conversion occurs. Both emotion and intellect are involved, yet “converting grace” is that which brings about this conversion.

Secondary Works:


  • John Carrick’s The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards
  • John Piper and Justin Taylor’s (editors) A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards
  • John Piper and Jonathan Edward’s God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards
  • George Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards: A Life
  • Iain Murray’s. Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography
  • Kyle Strobel’s Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Light of God’s Love
  • Michael McClymond and Gerlad McDermott’s The Theology of Jonathan Edwards
  • Sang Hyun Lee’s (editor) The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards
  • Stephen J. Stein’s (editor) The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Edwards



  • Lee, Sang Hyun. The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.
  • Marsden, George M. Jonathan Edwards: A Life. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.
  • Murray, Iain Hamish. Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1987.
  • Piper, John, and Jonathan Edwards. God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards, with the Complete Text of The End for Which God Created the World. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006.
  • Stein, Stephen J. The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Edwards. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

John Wesley

Biographical Sketch

by David Park, Biola University 


Summary of life:

  • John Wesley’s father was Samuel Wesley, the rector of their native parish. He and his wife Susanna were raised in Puritan dissent, but they made it back to the Church of England as young people. Samuel was a good pastor, especially in the area of pastoral visitation. He also conducted public worship, was a serious study of not only the Bible, but also in the original languages (which is how John was received knowledge of Latin and Greek). He is known to have ruled his hour with an iron first.
  • 1669: Susanna, John Wesley’s mother is born on January 20th, in London. She has an impressive ancestry – her family members were members of nobility and held leadership positions inside the government. Susanna’s father was a successful pastor in London trained at Oxford. For this reason, home life was very religious and influenced Susanna greatly. She received a good education and studied theology and attacked issues such as Socinianism, Arianism, and questions concerning conformity and non-conformity.
  • 1703: John Wesley is born on Jun 28th (June 17 by the Julian calendar which was used at that time) at Epworth in Lincolnshire. He was the fifteenth child of eighteen or nineteen children.
  • 1709: John Wesley is rescued from burning parsonage in Epworth. Throughout his life he would think of himself as “a brand plucked from the fire” Zechariah 3:2 and Amos 4:11.
  • 1714-20: he began his formal education at the age of 10, at London’s Charterhouse School.
  • 1721-24: by 16, he became a student at Christ Church, Oxford.
  • 1725: began keeping a spiritual journal while he studied for his Masters.
  • 1726: elected to Fellow at Lincoln College in Oxford where he taught Greek and lectured on the New Testament.
  • 1727: awarded Masters in Arts and became a curate at Epworth and Wroot under his father.
  • 1728: he became an ordained priest of the Anglican Church.
  • 1729: he returned to Oxford and takes over leadership of the Holy Club. The group met daily for prayer, Psalms, and reading of the New Testament in Greek. They fasted weekly on Wednesdays and Fridays until 3pm. In 1730, they began visiting prisoners in jail. Additionally, they were committed to putting converts into class meetings. This type of methodological study of Scripture and their devotion to discipleship is how they earned the name “Methodists.”
  • 1735: Samuel dies on April 25th; John and Charles (his brother, the famous Charles Wesley) sail for Georgia to become missionaries. On this trip, the Moravians had deeply impressed John Wesley. He was impressed by how calmly the Moravians would sing their hymnals and pray during a dangerous storm. John wrote that his main motivation for becoming a missionary was: “the hope of saving my own soul.” He also wanted to “learn the true sense of the Gospel of Christ, by preaching it to the heathen.”
  • 1737: John leaves Georgia to return to England.
  • 1738: on his way back to London, he went with the Moravian Peter Boehler to a meeting in Aldersgate Street. It was at this social meeting that he received his personal assurance of salvation and his heart was “strangely warmed.”

“In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

  • 1739: first “open air” preaching in Bristol under the influence of George Whitefield. This is the start of the Methodist Revival and he would go on preaching for 50 years throughout the British Isles. It is estimated that he covered over 250,000 miles, and he preached an average of 3 times per day starting from 5am. It is calculated that he preached over 40,000 sermons.
  • 1740: begins Kingswood School for coal-miners’ children.
  • 1744: begins annual meetings with traveling preachers.
  • 1751: marries Mary Vazeille.
  • 1760-62: controversies concerning Christian perfectionism.
  • 1763: Model Deed adopted.
  • 1765: gave the sermon “The Salvation Way of Salvation.
  • 1769: sends first group of lay preachers to North America.
  • 1771: issues first set of collected works.
  • 1781: Wesley’s wife dies.
  • 1784: “blesses New American church. He ordains Thomas coke and others which eventually leads to break with the Anglican Church.
  • 1788: Charles Wesley dies on March 29th.
  • 1791: John Wesley dies on March 2nd.


  • Co-founder of the Methodists-heritages all over the world: the United Methodist Church, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • Kingswood School, which he founded in 1748 to educate children of the Methodist preachers.
  • Most prominent advocate of Arminianism.


  • Susanna: emphasized the values of meditation in life and thought often on God’s creation, His providence, and the fullness and efficacy of the glories of God and the operations of the Spirit. She was the one who conducted all religious activities and services. Susanna emphasized the practice of holy vigilance and self-control. She constantly warned against the misusing of the tongue as well as anger. She also put much emphasis on exercising control over the fleshly passions and desires, particularly drunkenness. Her counsel greatly influenced Wesley’s decision to enter ministry. Susanna constantly spoke to Wesley about theology and she can be credited for the simplicity his sermons and its directness. Many consider Susanna the real mother of Methodism.
  • Moravians: Peter also influenced both John and his brother Charles to undertake evangelistic preaching which emphasized conversion and holiness. Wesley also adopted the Moravians emphasis on personal experience fostered by small group study for encouragement, and their passion for singing hymnals which can be seen in Methodism today.
  • George Whitefield: invited Wesley to join his evangelism ministry. Whitefield was also one of the leaders of the Methodist movement and some say that he had more influence on the founding of Methodism even more so than John did. Wesley also swept away his ecclesiastical and High Church views and began preaching in the fields at Bristol because of George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards’ successful open-air preaching. George and Wesley parted ways as a result of disagreement on the doctrine of predestination.
  • Charles Wesley: the brother of John and also the co-founder of Wesleyans and the Methodists. He is known as one of the most prolific English-speaking poets, composing more than 6,500 hymns.
  • Jacobus Arminius: John Wesley is known as the most prominent champion of Arminian theology.
  • The Church Fathers: Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Cyprian, Marcarius and Ephraim Syrus. He considered them the foundation of Christianity.


  • Wesleyan Church
  • The Free Methodist Church
  • The Church of the Nazarene
  • Other several smaller groups from which the Holiness movement, Pentecostalism, and parts of the Charismatic Movement are offshoots.


  • Wesleyan Quadrilateral: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.
    • Scripture: The Bible was his primary authority. Christians should focus on what is found in it, and not what is not found. He believed that it was inspired by the Holy Spirit and by men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit.
    • Tradition: He was influenced by German Pietism, English Dissenters, British in holiness (British were chiefly moralists), High Church Anglicism, and the Early Church Fathers.
    • Reason: He was a child of the Enlightenment. He believed that religion and reason went hand in hand. He rejected mysticism.
    • Experience: He emphasized Christian Experience. To him experience was two-fold: a direct experience of God’s love and an appeal to the community of believers for confirmation of conduct and doctrine. He rejected the idea that religion was just doctrine and conduct and substituted faith and feeling. For him, experience was a practical matter. Experience meant the experience of God and the work of the Spirit.
  • The Order of Salvation: Wesley believed in original sin and that salvation from it began with justification, then continued in sanctification, and would end with glorification.
  • Free Grace and Predestination:
  • Total depravity: contrary to common belief, Wesley maintained that man was totally depraved and did not believe that fallen man had inherent free will.
  • Atonement: he believed that it was universal in scope and was sufficient to atone for the sins of the entire world.
  • Prevenient Grace: he believed that it was God’s way of restoring a certain measure of freedom (not libertarian freedom) for mankind so that mankind could respond to God’s grace – this act of God also being grace. Hence, he did not believe that man in its fallen state had inherent free will.
  • Resistible Grace: God’s does not coerce man to believe in him; therefore, his grace is resistible.
  • Predestination: it is based on God’s foreknowledge and not God’s will. Man is predestined only in the sense that he predestines those who will respond to his offer of salvation to eternal life based on his foreknowledge of their choice.
  • Assurance of Salvation: it is given to us by the Holy Spirit who witnesses to us our inclusion into the family of God; confirmation comes from seeing fruit in one’s life.
  • Christian Perfection: he taught that Christians could attain some degree of perfection in the present life.

“…that habitual disposition of the soul which, in the sacred writings, is termed holiness; and which directly implies being cleansed from sin, ‘from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit’; and, by consequence, being endued with those virtues which were in Christ Jesus; being so ‘renewed in the image of our mind,’ as to be ‘perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect’

Wesley said that this perfection is “spoken as receivable by mere faith, and as hindered only by unbelief.” Furthermore, “this faith, and consequently the salvation which it brings, is spoken of as given in an instant… It is supposed that the instant may be now.”

By perfect, it does not mean that a person is perfect in knowledge or free from ignorance or error.


Genres: Wesley wrote and edited the following types of works: poetical, practical, historical, controversial, political, polemical, journals, biography, autobiography, letters, accounts of holy deaths, and sermons. He did not write a book on systematic theology.

Major Works:

  • A Plan Account of Christian Perfection (1777)
  • The Desideratum; or, Electricity Made Plain and Useful (1760)
  • Thirteen Discourses on the Sermon on the Mount (1746)
  • Explanatory Notes on the New Testament (1755)
  • Hymns and Sacred Poems (1739)
  • Explanatory Notes upon the Old Testament (1765)
  • The Arminian Magazine (1779)


  • Baker, Frank, ed. The Works of John Wesley. Bicentennial ed. Vol. 25: Letters I. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1980.
  • Outler, Albert C., ed. John Wesley. The Library of Protestant Thought. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964.
  • A Christian Library (London: T. Blanshard, 1819-1827)

Secondary Works:

  • Abelove, Henry. The Evangelist of Desire: John Wesley and the Methodists. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1990.
  • Collins, Kenneth J. Wesley on Salvation: A Study in the Standard Sermons. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Francis Asbury Press of Zondervan Publishing House, 1989.
  • —. A Faithful Witness: John Wesley’s Homiletical Theology. Wilmore, Kentucky: Wesley Heritage Press, 1993.
  • —. The Scripture Way of Salvation: The Heart of John Wesley’s Theology. Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1997.
  • —.A Real Christian: The Life of John Wesley. Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1999.


Bryne, Herbert W. John Wesley and Learning. Salem, Ohio: Schmul Pub. Co., 1997

Collins, Kenneth J. A Faithful Witness: John Wesley’s Homiletical Theology. Wilmore,       KY: Wesley Heritage Press, 1993.

—. The Theology of John Wesley: Holy Love and the Shape of Grace. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2007.

—. A Real Christian: The Life of John Wesley. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1999.

Hammond, Dr. Peter. “John and Charles Wesley – Evangelists Extraordinary.” Accessed December 5, 2016.        index.php/history/270-john-and-charles-wesley-evangelists-extraordinary.

Maddox, Randy L., and Jason E. Vickers, eds. The Cambridge Companion to John            Wesley. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Pedlar, James. “John Wesley on Predestination.” Last           modified February 16th, 2012. Accessed December 5, 2016. https://jamespedlar. 2012/02/1 6/john-wesley-on-predestination/.

United States History. “John and Charles Wesley.” Accessed December            4, 2016.

Vial, Ted. “Methodist Influences.” Patheos. Accessed December 4, 2016.



Francis Turretin

Biographical Sketch 

by Yuma Takei, Biola University


Summary of Life

  • Francis Turretin was born on October 17, 1623 in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • His father was Benedict Turretin and his mother was Louise Turretin.[1] Turretin’s wife’s name is Isabelle de Masse but not much is known about her.
  • Turretin’s father was an impactful influence early on in Turretin’s life because of the father’s theological credentials. His father was a Professor of Theology at Geneva, pastor of the Italian church in the city, and a joint author of the Canons of Dort as an advocate of the Calvinism of the Synod.[2]
  • On Benedict’s deathbed, Turretin receives a blessing from his father: “This child is sealed with the seal of the living God.”[3] His father passes away on March 31, 1631.
  • Turretin receives educational training in philosophy at the Academy in Gerit Keizer, where he would advance to the study of theology, sitting under John Diodati, Theodore Tronchin (members of the Synod of Dort) and Frederic Spanheim. He would also learn Greek under the Professor of Greek, Alexander Morus.[4]
  • After completing his studies in 1644, he would go on a reformed, theological journey to many locations, gathering and formulating his thoughts (later recorded in his Institutes).
  • Near the end of his journey, Turretin encounters conflict with the uprising controversy of Amyraldianism in Saumur. Turretin listens to the “Triumvirate” of Amyraldianism: Moise Amyraut, Louis Cappel, and Jouse de la Place where they taught hypothetical redemption, i.e., that Christ has purchased redemption for each and every human being provided they themselves do not reject this salvation. Louis Cappel also rejected Adamic federal headship. Turretin would reject these doctrines as unorthodox because it skews imputation and the atonement of Christ.
  • This uprising of Amyraldianism was known as the Protestant “Civil War” because it created many polemic synods, books, and formulae.
  • Turretin was then appointed as the pastor of the Italian Church in Geneva in 1648.[5] Low and behold, Amyraldianism was problematic for the venerable company there. The Swiss thought this doctrine was dangerous and their concerns escalated to the demand that Amyraut be silenced, because his theology was Arminian or worse.[6] This controversy dies down by 1659.
  • In 1653, Turretin succeeds the place of Theodore Tronchin and is seated as Professor of Theology alongside his pastoral duties.
  • His last years were spent formulating and developing his theology. He was recalling his career by summarizing what he had taught and defended for years: Genevan orthodoxy.[7]
  • In these last few years, Turretin would produce one of his most remarkable works, The Institutes of Elenctic Theology.
  • Volume 1 was written in 1679, volume 2 in 1682, and volume 3 in 1685. Turretin planned on a major revision of his work but he died on September 28, 1687, forever missing his opportunity for revision.
  • Turretin’s Institutes was written for instruction to the church and denies major controversies that occurred in his life time, the main controversy being any form of Amyraldianism.
  • Turretin was 64 years old when he died, and left a legacy of theology for future generations.

Influence and Recognition

Who influenced Turretin?

  • Turretin had many influences but the most obvious influence is John Calvin. John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion would prompt Turretin to write his own Systematic Theology in the form of question and answer.
  • Theodore Beza, a successor of Calvin, would also influence Turretin for his development of Calvinism.
  • Another major influence is Benedict Turretin. It is rare to see a father figure to be so theologically reformed and orthodox. Because of Bendict’s contributions to Geneva and the Synod of Dort, Turretin would receive what his father would pass down.
  • Turretin’s mentor, Theodore Tronchin, played a major role in the development of Turretin’s theology. Theodore Tronchin was a Genevan representative at the Synod of Dort.
  • Lastly, Moise Amyraut was an indirect influence, for Turretin’s theology was developed thinking about how Amyraldianism tweaks the doctrine of atonement and his foundational view of covenant and grace.[8]

Who did Turretin influence?

  • Turretin would influence many at Princeton Theological Seminary, particularly Archibald Alexander who launched Princeton in 1812. Archibald taught Systematic Theology at Princeton and he used Turretin’s Institutes as the course curriculum.
  • Charles Hodge, the student of Archibald, would be heavily influenced by Turretin’s Institutes, creating his own Systematic Theology in 1872. Charles Hodge’s work would be another resource that impacts the theological world in drastic ways.
  • Jonathan Edwards was also extremely influenced by Turretin, considering him the “great Turretin” placing him next to the Bible.[9]

What was Turretin known for?

  • Turretin is most known for his three volume Institutes of Elenctic Theology.

 What were Turretin’s key theological ideas?

  • Turretin’s Doctrine of Grace was a highlight in his theological reflections as he battles Amyraldianism and Arminianism. Specifically Turretin’s defense of limited atonement is of great importance.
  • Turretin’s twofold covenant theology is another key framework of his theology as his understanding of the covenant of works and the covenant of grace would support his defense of the doctrines of grace.[10]


  • Turretin wrote a variety of works, but he mainly wrote polemics, theological treatises, and systematic works.
  • Turretin wrote a variety of works such as The Atonement of Christ and other small theological treatises.
  • His most famous work is the Institutes of Elenctic Theology. Key beliefs of this work can be summarized as all areas of orthodoxy. His work is separated into three volumes and each volume has its own systematic categories.
  • These volumes deal with theology, God’s decrees, creation, providence, angels, man, sin, free will, the law, the covenant of grace, the person of Christ, the mediatorial office of Christ, calling and faith, justification, sanctification and good works, the church, sacraments and eschatology.
  • There is mainly one edition of the Institutes of Elenctic Theology and that is the Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company edition. The original language was in Latin but it has been translated by George Musgrave Giger and edited by James T. Dennison. This publisher publishes reformed works in modern scholarship as well as reformed scholarship in the past.

Secondary Works

  • The key secondary sources that are used for Francis Turretin is Francis Turretin’s nephew’s biography of Francis Turretin recorded in the Evangelical Guardian and Review as wells as Dennison’s summary of Turretin’s life in the back of volume 3 of the Institutes of Elenctic Theology.
  • I would use Dennison’s articles in the back of the Institutes because it is comprehensive and gets to the core events and theology of Turretin.


 Beach, J. Mark. Christ and the Covenant: Francis Turretin’s Federal Theology as a Defense of the Doctrine of Grace. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007.

Dennison, T. James Jr. “The Life and Career of Francis Turretin.” In Institutes of Elenctic

Theology Volume 3, 639-648. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1997.

 Lillegard, David. “Funeral Oration of Benedict Pictet Concerning the Life and Death of Francis

Turretin.” In Institutes of Elenctic Theology Volume 3, 659-676. Phillipsburg New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1997.

Phillips, Ross Timothy. Francis Turretin’s Idea of Theology and its Bearing upon his Doctrine of Scripture. 1986.

The Evangelical Guardian and Review 2, no.12 (April 1819): 529-541.


[1] The Evangelical Guardian and Review 2, no.12 (April 1819): 530.

[2] James T. Dennison Jr, “The Life and Career of Francis Turretin,” in Institutes of Elenctic Theology Volume 3 (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1997), 641.

[3] Ibid, 642.

[4] Ibid.

[5] The Evangelical Guardian and Review, 532.

[6] Ibid, 644.

[7] Dennison, 647.

[8] Mark J. Beach, Christ and the Covenant: Francis Turretin’s Federal Theology as a Defense of

the Doctrine of Grace (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007), 13.

[9] Dennison, 657.

[10] Beach, 13.

Thomas de Vio Cajetan


Biographical Sketch

by Lidia Rivas, Biola University


Summary of his life

1468/69- Cajetan was born Feb. 20 in Italy

1483– entered the Dominican order but he decided to do that on his own and against his parents will.

1492– March 19 he received his bachelors of theology and received his masters from the university of Padua.

1494-became the professor of metaphysics. He also conducted a dispute against Pico della Mirandola.

1501-1508– he taught theology at Rome. He wrote his commentary called Summa theologiae. This was regarding St. Thomas Aquinas.

1507- Master General, John Clérée died and he became the vicar-general

1508- named Master-general of the Dominican order.

1511– defended papal authority against the schismatic Council of Pisa

1512-1517– advised the church to reformat the fifth council of the Lateran

1517– He became a Cardinal presbyter of Saint Sisto in Rome by Pope Leo X. He also wrote his treatises.

1518– started look into Marin Luther

1519- made a bill that excommunicated Luther.

He also represented the pope at the Diet of Frankfort

1522- he dedicated the third part of Summa to pope Adrian VI.

1527- he was imprisoned and had to pay 5,000 Roman crowns of gold. He also retired. He also wrote a commentary on Psalms.

1534– he was a cardinal and he rejected Henry VIII

He passed away on August 9th.


  • Thomas Aquinas- he for the most part believed the things that Thomas Aquinas believed in. He wrote a commentary about him which was called Summa Theologiae.
  • Aristotle- he wrote commentaries about him.
  • Saint Augustine- he also believed in the Augustinian doctrine of justification.
  • Martin Luther- He studied his work really closely and thought that Martin Luther and his followers were going against the authority of the church and their customs.
  • Erasmus- He studied Erasmus’ notes regarding the New Testament.


  • 1492- after his bachelors in theology and his success against Pico della Mirandola, many students became attracted to his writings and lectures; thus assigning him master general.
  • Cajetan’s positive teaching, integrity, and honesty served as guidance for many individuals including his enemies. He also got along with him.
  • He was seen as the “lamp of the Church” by Pope Clement VII
  • Within the nobility, universities, and cardinals he was considered the “theological light of Italy”

Cajetan’s Theology

  • He believed that the Pope was someone that represented God and did all the things that he commanded.
  • He also played a role in reviving scholasticism and also wanted to keep some of the elements of the humanist revival that was in sync with the Catholic church.
  • “Cajetan did not believe that there existed philosophically demonstrable argument for the immortality of the soul, and that it was instead something to be believed by faith alone.”. (newworldencyclopedia)
  • He wanted the church to come together and they would be able to do it by communion.
  • All his theological beliefs go against Martin Luther; Cajetan strongly believed Luther had to retract from his mistakes and give full submission to the Pope. It was also the whole protestant reformation.
  • His theology for the most part reflected Aquinas’s views.
  • He was also known for prioritizing and providing for what the church needed.
  • He also strongly believed in the monopsychism (one immortal soul).
  • He tried to stay true to the bible and make the proper interpretations. He also did not want to cause any conflict with the church so he made sure that there was no problem with what the church believed in.
  • He was also a strong believer that the indulgences were wrong and that whoever wanted to participate in the sacraments needed to have faith if not they wouldn’t be able to partake in it.

Cajetan’s Writings


  • For the most part, he wrote a lot of commentaries of different parts of the bible such as the Old and New Testament. In addition to writing commentaries about the bible, he also wrote commentaries about some of the Theologians that were well known during the medieval period.
  • He is more known for the commentary about Thomas Aquinas.


Major Works

  • Opera omnia (5 vol. 1639).
  • Opuscula omnia (1530)
  • Commentary of Saint Thomas’ Summa theologiae (1540)***
  • De dvina institutione Pontificatus Romani Pontificis (1521)
  • In Porphyrii Isagogen (1934)
  • De comparatione auctoritatis papae u. Apologia (1936)
  • De Anima (1938)
  • Scripta philosophica


Original Publications

  • “Opuscula omnia tribus tomis distincta” (fol., Lyons, 1558; Venice, 1558; Antwerp, 1612), a collection of fifty nine treatises;
  • “Commentaria super tractatum de ente et essentiâ Thomae de Aquino; super libros posteriorum Aristotelis et praedicamenta”, etc. (fol., Venice, 1506);
  • “In praedicabilia Porphyrii praedicamenta et libros posteriorum analyticorum Aristotelis castigatissima commentaria” (8vo, Venice, 1587, 1599);
  • “Super libros Aristotelis de Animâ”, etc. (Rome, 1512; Venice, 1514; Paris, 1539);
  • “Summula de peccatis” (Rome, 1525, and in many other corrected and augmented editions);
  • “Jentacula N.T., expositio literalis sexaginta quatuor notabilium sententiarum Novi Test.”, etc. (Rome, 1525);
  • “In quinque libros Mosis juxta sensum lit. commentarii” (Rome, 1531, fol.; Paris, 1539);
  • “In libros Jehosuae, Judicum, Ruth, Regum, Paralipomenon, Hezrae, Nechemiae et Esther” (Rome, 1533; Paris, 1546);
  • “In librum Job” (Rome, 1535);
  • “In psalmos” (Venice, 1530; Paris, 1532);
  • “In parabolas Salomonis, in Ecclesiasten, in Esaiae tria priora capita” (Rome, 1542; Lyons, 1545; Paris, 1587);
  • “In Evangelia Matt., Marci, Lucae, Joannis” (Venice, 1530);
  • “In Acta Apostolorum” [Venice, 1530; Paris (with Gospels), 1536];
  • “In Epistolas Pauli” (Paris, 1532);
  • “Opera omnia quotquot in sacrae Scripturae expositionem reperiuntur, curâ atque industriâinsignis collegii S. Thomae Complutensis, O.P.” (5 vols. fol., Lyons, 1639).
  • (All of those original works was found through my sources)

Secondary Works

*Organum Deitatis: Die Christologie des Thomas de Vio Cajetan. Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought 62


“Cardinal Cajetan.” Cardinal Cajetan- New World Encyclopedia. April 8, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2016.

Haas, William P. “Hands Respectful and Clean: Cajetan and the Reformation.” Providence College. January 1, 2004. Accessed November 20, 2016.

O’Mailey, J Steven, 1999. “Organum deitatis: die Christologie des Thomas de Vio Cajetan.” Church History 68, no. 4: 1001-1004. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed November 22, 2016).

O’Meara, Thomas F. “Thomism Theology.” Encyclopedia Britannica. November 9, 2009. Accessed November 21, 2016.

“Tommaso De Vio Gaetani Cajetan.” Catholic Encyclopedia: Tommaso De Vio Gaetani Cajetan. Accessed November 22, 2016.