"Why the Reformation Still Matters", by Michael Reeves & Tim Chester (book review)

"The reformation is over!", many suggest.  "There is no more need for squabbling over small matters."

Is the Reformation over? 
Is there no more need to dispute? 
And were the protestations really over small matters? 

Authors Michael Reeves and Tim Chester address not only that the Reformation is NOT over (after all, Semper Reformanda -- always reforming), but that it MUST continue.  The true Church must always be about keeping in line with the doctrines of God, and any stray teaching must be corrected immediately before it tailspins out of control.  As Reeves and Chester observed, "It was not the Reformers who had departed from the true church.  It was Rome that had departed from the true gospel" (p.165). 

JUSTIFICATION: Reeves and Chester begin the book with the driving doctrine of the Reformation: Justification.  To be justified is a matter of being declared right by God through the finished work of Jesus Christ, who paid the full penalty for the sins of those who would but trust him.  As Reeves and Chester explain, justification "does not mean to make righteous" (as Catholic theology suggests) "or to change a person, but to reckon righteous, to declare righteous, to acquit" (p.29).  A sinner, apart from Christ, cannot grow righteous and, therefore, become righteous in God's sight.  No.  A sinner is declared righteous, and that forgiven saint now grows in the righteousness that is already his. This is no small matter that must be cherished by the forgiven sinner, for it is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Once grasped, the truly converted can rest assured in being completely at peace with God.

LAYOUT: Throughout the book, Reeves and Chester handle additional doctrines pertaining to Scripture, Sin, Grace, Theology of the Cross, Union with Christ, The Spirit, The Sacraments, The Church, Everyday Life, & Joy and Glory.  The book is packed full with reference quotations from numerous Reformers (Calvin, Sibbes, and Hus to name a few), with the most prominent being Luther, of course.  But it's not merely a book that regurgitates what long-dead Reformers wrote, but a careful handling of the doctrines that make Reformed Theology reformed.

RESONATION: There were so many quotable passages in this book, that I wish I had the print version for easier access to those highlights than my e-reader provides.  In fact, I'll probably purchase the print copy anyway.  Rather than pull any number of quotes from the book to prove that it was worth the read from cover-to-cover, I'd prefer to address an area that resonated with me throughout the book.

Here it is: Many -- far too many -- pastors today have abandoned teaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and too many congregations have allowed it to happen. Solid teaching about the real Jesus Christ of the Bible and what he accomplished seems to have taken a back seat to the jesus of the false Prosperity Gospel, Therapeutic Gospel, Social Gospel, etc.  False teaching has grown rampant, and many sheep in the pews do not realize the danger they face in adopting these "other gospels".  The sheep, instead, desire only to have their ears tickled, rather than be confronted by the truth of the cross.  The Reformation STILL matters today, and it must continue.

RATING: I give "Why the Reformation Still Matters" 5 stars out of 5 for it's biblical handling of crucial doctrines, for its clarity and readability, and most importantly, for its solid presentation of the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you are encouraged by reading any of the Reformers' work, or reading about the Reformation and its doctrines, you'll want to add this book to your library.

DISCLAIMER: I received the e-book version of this title free of charge from Crossway Books in exchange for my unbiased review of it.  I was not required to provide a positive review.  All opinions are mine.


  1. Wow! This sounds like an excellent read! I'm going to add this to my reading list. If you have time, would you care to elaborate a little bit on what's meant by "other gospels"? I'm familiar with the prosperity gospel. I've never heard of the "therapeutic gospel" or the "social gospel". I'd be interested in your brief definitions if you have time. Great to read another post from you, Mike!

    1. Excellent question, J. Here's a brief synopsis:

      Therapeutic Gospel - Jesus is here to help you. You're doing good, but sometimes you just need a little help along the way. It's all your work, but Jesus makes up the difference, so-to-speak.

      Social Gospel - You are a co-creator with God, and you heal and save the world by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, "doing justice", etc. (which are indeed good things), but they do not save.

      There's more to it than that, but you can research it to learn more about them. In short, the Jesus of the Prosperity, Social, Therapeutic gospel is not the Jesus of the Bible. It is a fake, look-alike Jesus who does not save sinners from the wrath of God by his sacrifice on the cross. They'll talk about Jesus (but which one?), they'll talk about being saved (but from what?), but they profess a far different Jesus than the scriptures preach.

      Does this help? Or just muddy it up a little?

  2. Thanks for the explanation, Mike! That all makes sense. It seems like these "gospels" are twisted, hyperfocused facets of the dynamic character of Jesus. Prosperity certainly comes when we accept Jesus but not in a material, earthly sense. And Jesus is certainly a help but not just in times of our deficiencies. And of course, if our lives are patterned after Jesus we'll engage with our communities for the better, but our activism does not save anyone. Thanks again. Always a pleasure to read.