Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals: Why We Need Our Past to Have a Future

By Gavin Ortlund

... Show All

Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals: Why We Need Our Past to Have a Future

By Gavin Ortlund

... Show All

Evangelicalism is not commonly known for mining the rich theological heritage handed down from previous generations. Instead, it tends to follow what, in the worst cases, can look like a "me and my Bible" approach to theology. But lately there has been a restlessness among evangelicals—an aching for theological rootedness that has led some to abandon Protestantism altogether. This book aims to set forth a vision for how engaging historical theology can enrich and strengthen the church today—and highlight how it can be done without abandoning a Protestant identity. By addressing two key doctrines—the doctrines of God and the atonement—and drawing from neglected theologians—Boethius, Gregory the Great, and John of Damascus—this book charts a course for evangelicals eager to draw from the past to meet the challenges of the present.

Read Chapter 1


Gavin Ortlund

Gavin Ortlund (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) serves as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Ojai in Ojai, California. He is the author of several books, including Anselm's Pursuit of Joy and Retrieving Augustine's Doctrine of Creation. Gavin and his wife, Esther, have five children. 

Product Details

Title: Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals
Subtitle: Why We Need Our Past to Have a Future
Published: October 29, 2019
ISBN-10: 1-4335-6526-9
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-6526-7
Category: Theology
History & Biography
Retail Price: $21.99
Binding: Paperback
Trim: 6.0 in x 9.0 in
Page Count: 224

Table of Contents


Part 1: A Manifesto for Theological Retrieval

1. Can Evangelicals Retrieve Patristic and Medieval Theology?

2. Why Evangelicals Need Theological Retrieval

3. Benefits and Perils of Theological Retrieval

Part 2: Case Studies in Theological Retrieval

4. Explorations in a Theological Metaphor: Boethius, Calvin, and Torrance on the Creator/Creation Distinction

5. God Is Not a Thing: Divine Simplicity in Patristic and Medieval Perspective

6. Substitution as Both Satisfaction and Recapitulation: Atonement Themes in Convergence in Irenaeus, Anselm, and Athanasius

7. Cultivating Skill in the “Art of Arts”: Gregory the Great on Pastoral Balance

General Index
Scripture Index


“In an age of head-spinning change, Gavin Ortlund rightly calls evangelicals to stand their ground and recover the theological ground already plowed by earlier generations. When the very foundations are being shaken, it is vital that churches recover their center of gravity by retrieving the past—what Bernard Ramm once called ‘the evangelical heritage.’ Evangelicals are not the first generation to have received the gospel. Accordingly, Ortlund here issues a manifesto about the importance of retrieving theological tradition. He then practices what he preaches in a series of astute case studies that mine the past to fund the present.”
Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“Anyone convinced that evangelical and ancient are opposites should read this book. Gavin Ortlund provides a compelling case for retrieving patristic and medieval theology. Mining the premodern tradition, Ortlund reminds us of neglected and forgotten insights on the creator-creature distinction, divine simplicity, and atonement theology. An excellent contribution to Protestant retrieval theology!”
Hans Boersma, Chair, Order of St. Benedict Servants of Christ Endowed Professorship in Ascetical Theology, Nashotah House Theological Seminary

“Ortlund argues compellingly that evangelicals can and should claim the classic theological heritage as their own. And then he actually does it, opening up the treasury of the great Christian tradition and dispensing theological wisdom with both hands. To look into this book is to look through a doorway into a world where there is such a thing as evangelical theology that is richly resourced, deeply informed, and ready for action.”
Fred Sanders, Professor of Theology, Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University; author, The Deep Things of God

“Gavin Ortlund, a committed evangelical, calls for a robust engagement with the first fifteen hundred years of the Christian tradition, patristic and medieval, East and West. Retrieval, not repristination, is the goal, and Ortlund shows here how this can be done—to the glory of God and the upbuilding of the church. An exciting and important book!”
Timothy GeorgeDistinguished Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

“For those who struggle with whether, how, and why to appropriate the church fathers and medieval doctors within their own theology, piety, and ministry, this book is a welcome resource. Leading us by the hand through a wide range of instructive examples, Gavin Ortlund demonstrates a principled Protestant approach to drawing upon the pastors and theologians of the past for the sake of the church’s renewal in the present.”
Scott R. Swain, author, The Trinity: An Introduction; coeditor, The Oxford Handbook of Reformed Theology