Acton Institute Powerblog

Recommended Post-Reformation Day Reading

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Light for the CityIn connection with the worldwide celebrations of the quincentenary of John Calvin’s birth in 2009, the Acton Institute BookShoppe recently made available a limited stock of the hard-to-find Light for the City: Calvin’s Preaching, Source of Life and Liberty (Eerdmans, 2004). In this brief and accessible work, Lester DeKoster examines the interaction between the Word proclaimed and the development of Western civilization.

“Preached from off the pulpits for which the Church is divinely made and sustained, God’s biblical Word takes incarnation in human selves and behavior, creating the community long known in the West as the City. Calvinist pulpits implanted the Word even now flourishing in the great democratic achievements of the Western world,” argues DeKoster.

And in the wake of Reformation Day this past weekend, check out some reflections at Mere Comments, which include even more recommended sources for study of the Reformation.

Finally, while it’s often the case that the blogosphere breaks news before the official announcements are made, I can report that the Meeter Center’s Post-Reformation Digital Library (PRDL) is now publicly available. The PRDL is a select bibliography of primary source documents focusing on early modern theology and philosophy, spanning publicly-accessible collections from major research libraries, independent scholarly initiatives, and corporate documentation projects.

The PRDL editorial board includes representatives from institutions from North America and Europe: Dr. Richard A. Muller (Calvin Theological Seminary); Jordan J. Ballor (University of Zurich/Calvin Theological Seminary); Albert Gootjes (Calvin Theological Seminary/Institut d’histoire de la Réformation, Geneva); Todd Rester (Calvin Theological Seminary); Lugene Schemper (ex officio/Calvin College & Seminary); and moderator David Sytsma (Princeton Theological Seminary).

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the VU University Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary.


  • Both John Calvin and Martin Luther on their own recognizance defied Holy Mother Church. The Council of Trent is the definitive response of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church to the heresies of the Reformation, including John Calvin’s flawed doctrine of predestination and Martin Luther’s flawed doctrine of consubstantiation.

    The texts of the various sessions of the Council of Trent are to be found here:

    The complete text is here:

    We also need to consider the flaw in the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Holy Mother Church and Sacred Tradition came BEFORE the Books of the Sacred Canon were decided upon in the late 300s. And the Church placed within the Canon all the Deuterocanonicals found in the Greek Septuagint that the Apostles and Early Church Fathers used in the 1st Century AD. BUT Martin Luther and John Calvin on their own personal authority rejected the Books of Wisdom, Sirach, Tobit, Judith, Baruch, 1st & 2nd Maccabbees, and the Greek parts of Daniel and Esther. Luther even tried to go further and reject the Epistle of James (because he didn’t like the idea of justification by faith AND works that St. James preached in his epistle), the Epistles to the Hebrews and of St. Jude, and the Apocalypse (or Revelation) of Jesus Christ given to St. John. But he eventually relented.

    This whole Protestant heresy thing simply falls apart when you begin studying exactly what Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp and the rest of the Early Church Fathers said. They BELIEVED that the REAL presence of Jesus – His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – was in the Holy Eucharist. I think it was Polycarp (maybe I am mistaken) who declared as heretics those who do NOT so believe, and today that’s the majority of Protestants.

    Guys, Calvin isn’t the one whom I would look to for any kind of spirituality. Rather, Pope Paul III and Pope Pius IV under whom the Council of Trent was convened are the correct sources for information.

    I suspect now this comment will be deleted. But before it is, ask yourselves this: are you guys going to restore the Deuterocanonical Books to the Bible as the Church had St. Jerome translate it so long ago, or will you continue with an NIV that’s missing Sacred Scripture? What gives you authority to defy 2000 years of Sacred Tradition? Just curious……

  • Roger McKinney

    Paul: “What gives you authority to defy 2000 years of Sacred Tradition? Just curious……”

    Reason. That’s all.

  • Neal Lang

    Paul: “What gives you authority to defy 2000 years of Sacred Tradition? Just curious……”

    Roger: “Reason. That’s all.”

    Reason based on what? The “Word of Man” or the “Word of God!” As I recall the “Word of God” tells us:

    “‘Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.’ Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.’ Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, always give us this bread.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.’

    “Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven.’ They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’? Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.’ Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.’

    “These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, ‘This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?’ But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, ‘Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.
    And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.’

    “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’ Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.” John 6:31-71

    Those “Disciples” who witnessed the miracles of Jesus, the Christ, and heard His words, put their “reason” ahead of those words, and walked away. Just as did those who relied on their reason and walked away from His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

  • Roger McKinney

    Neal: “Those “Disciples” who witnessed the miracles of Jesus, the Christ, and heard His words, put their “reason” ahead of those words, and walked away.”

    That’s a pretty poor interpretation of the passage. Clearly, those who walked away did not rely on reason. Reason would have told them to follow Jesus because of his miracles. The irrationality of the Jewish leadership caused them to ignore his miracles or attribute them to Satan. Irrationality caused many listeners to take Jesus’ words about eating his flesh literally. And as the passage makes clear, many of Jesus’ followers were devoted to their stomachs and merely wanted him to feed them. The disciples who followed Jesus and rebelled against Jewish tradition and leadership were the ones using reason, not those who walked away.

    Reason always leads to the truth. But as Hayek wrote in “Fatal Conceit” there is a pseudo-rationality that is actually arrogance and leads to all kinds of error. Sometimes it’s hard for people to tell the difference.