Which Kind of Protestant?

***Disclaimer: I received this book from InterVarsity Press (IVP) in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are mine.

“Exploring Protestant Traditions: An Invitation to Theological Hospitality” by W. David Buschart is by far a wonderful primer treating the differing Protestant traditions with which we find ourselves intertwined with today. From Lutheran to Reformed, to Pentecostal and Baptists, Buschart treats the following traditions within Protestantism:

  • Reformed
  • Lutheran
  • Wesleyan
  • Baptist
  • Anglican
  • Anabaptist
  • Pentecostal
  • Dispensational

To be perfectly honest, I did not know what to expect from this book. I suppose I anticipated a brief historical and theological summary of each tradition. Buschart far exceeded my expectations.

In a broad perspective, he employs a specific method to dividing the chapter on a particular tradition. First, he recovers the historical foundation. He is looking at the “origins of development.” Second, he examines the specific theological method for each tradition. He explains this as discovering “the importance of formal theological reflection and the role of theology in that tradition” (introduction, p.21). Finally, he examines the theology within the tradition. Now, to cover all doctrines and doctrinal differences would require more than the space he has written in. Instead, he took key-specific doctrines important to the foundation of each tradition and expanded on them in their specificity (i.e. the sovereignty of God in all things for the Reformed tradition, or soul-competency of the believer [commonly called the priesthood of the believer] for those in the Baptist tradition). I am under the impression that, through this method, he is able to fairly treat other traditions differing from his own with the same respect as one might expect from someone examining their own tradition.

A key word for Buschart in the title is “hospitality.” Often times, as I am sure we all can attest, is we can become defensive or boisterous (depending on the scenario) in our own tradition; as if we have the most biblical, most accurate position for understanding the God of Scripture. The key for Buschart is hospitality amongst believers who disagree with one another shows the love of Christ amongst each other. He states in his conclusion:

“In addition to the awareness of being recipients of God’s initiating hospitality, those who use their ecclesio-theological home as an occasion for hospitality have an awareness that they continue to stand in need of God’s gracious hospitality, an awareness that they continue to be a stranger in this world.” (p.269)

Being gracious to those with whom we disagree is key in dispensing God’s good grace as He has dispensed with us. It is key to remember the grace of God in everything we say.

If there is a book on Protestantism and its various traditions, this one is certainly a top one to be on a bookshelf. Understanding the history of one’s tradition is helpful, and in fact significant, in understanding how one can participate now. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone who is curious and ready to learn more about the traditions within Protestantism!

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