The title of this book was what initially drew me in. Being a bit of a book nerd, I typically catch wind of newly published books and remain vaguely familiar with most relatively well-known evangelical authors. However, I was completely unacquainted with both this book and its author, Nathan Busenitz. Having its foreword written by John Macarthur is what sealed the deal for me, convincing me to give it a read.
And I’m grateful that this book found its way into my library. Busenitz, in this book, seeks out to combat what he calls a common objection to Reformational theology, which is that the Reformers essentially invented their “5 solas,” and most notably, “sola fide,” the doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone, which Busenitz often refers to as “forensic justification.” He goes on to emphasize two additional points of supposed contention: 1) the distinction between justification and sanctification and 2) the imputed righteousness of Christ. So, as the book progresses we see Busenitz systematically visiting and re-visiting these three major points of contention in an effort to cite these doctrines/views all the way back through the Medieval period and its prominent theologians, through the early church fathers, and eventually back to Scripture itself. All of this is done precisely to plead the case that the Reformers in no way invented what has come to be known as Reformational theology, but rather recovered what had been lost as a result of corruption creeping its way into the church. Though I’m sure there are other questions that need to be answered in order to convince naysayers of his conclusion, Busenitz presents a strong case in Long Before Luther.
Considering all that’s been mentioned above, I’m convinced that the real value of this book comes in the form of the massive amount of quotes and citations that he includes in his work. From Chrysostom, to Melanchthon, to Edwards, Augustine, and others, this book is teeming with rich theological truths splashing off page after page. About mid-way through the book, I found myself deeply encouraged by the sheer amount of these quotes the author forced me to read through repeatedly. Busenitz is a competent writer, and while there is no poetic or particularly artistic style to the way this content reads, the pages don’t quite drag by either. It’s an enjoyable book in that regard. But the real bang for your buck here is the centuries-old troves of theological wisdom he’s throwing onto these pages. He even includes a glossary of meaningful quotes from church history in which 100 notable theologians speak specifically to “salvation by grace alone and the truth that believers are justified solely through faith in Christ.” It’s incredibly rich.
For anyone interested in the topic of the Reformation, I would recommend this book for all of the above reasons. I can’t say that it exhaustively answers all of the questions in this particular debate, but I think Busenitz makes a really compelling case. I’m convinced he’s right.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.