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The Meaning of Protestant Theology

Luther, Augustine, and the Gospel That Gives Us Christ

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This book offers a creative and illuminating discussion of Protestant theology, helping readers rethink their own theology and its place in the larger story of Christian thought. Veteran teacher Phillip Cary, an internationally acclaimed expert on Augustine and Augustine's thought, explains how Luther's theology arose from the Christian tradition, particularly from the spirituality of Augustine. Luther departed from the Augustinian tradition and inaugurated distinctively Protestant theology when he identified the gospel that gives us Christ as its key concept. More than any other theologian, Luther succeeds in carrying out the Protestant intention of putting faith in the gospel of Christ alone. Cary also explores the consequences of Luther's teachings as they unfold in the history of Protestantism. This work will appeal to professors and students of theology, pastors, and laypeople.


Introduction: Why Protestantism?
Part 1: Spirituality and the Being of God
1. Philosophical Spirituality
2. Divine Carnality
3. Christ the Mediator in Augustine
4. The Augustinian Journey and Its Anxieties
Part 2: The Gospel and the Power of God
5. Young Luther: Justification as Penitential Process
6. Young Luther: Justification without Gospel
7. Luther the Reformer: Gospel as Sacramental Promise
8. Luther the Reformer: Gospel as Story That Gives Us Christ
Part 3: Christian Teaching and the Knowledge of God
9. Scripture: Demanding the Wrong Kind of Certainty
10. Salvation: Faith in Christ's Promise Alone
11. Sacrament: Turning Outward to Divine Flesh
12. Trinity: God Giving Himself in Person
Conclusion: Why Luther's Gospel?
Appendix 1: Luther's Devils
Appendix 2: Gospel as Sacrament: Luther's Sermon on Christmas Day 1519


"Cary gives a clear and concise definition of the meaning of Protestant theology. Luther's sacramental conception of the Gospel is the meaning of Protestant theology; even more, it is the essence of Christianity, the key to the right interpretation of the Bible, and the root of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. Cary has prepared a rich theological feast of many courses, serving consumers of various tastes with plenty to take away and digest."

Carl E. Braaten, professor emeritus of systematic theology, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago; founding director, Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology

"Years ago, Phillip Cary began to suspect that Augustine's inward turn was a false step, that what we sinners need is what Luther said we need--a grace that comes to us from outside of us. Here is the fruit of that suspicion, a fully realized account of the meaning of Protestant theology (and spirituality) centered on the Gospel as a sacramental word that gives us Christ. Cary's account of Protestantism is theological rather than merely sociological; polemical yet ecumenical; and, again and again, surprising. I know of nothing quite like it."

Matt Jenson, associate professor of theology, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University

The Author

  1. Phillip Cary

    Phillip Cary

    Phillip Cary (PhD, Yale University) is scholar-in-residence at the Templeton Honors College and professor of philosophy at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He serves as editor-in-chief of Pro Ecclesia and has written numerous books,...

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