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The Westminster Assembly: Reading Its Theology in Historical Context
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The Westminster Assembly: Reading Its Theology in Historical Context

4.38  ·  Rating Details  ·  58 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
Drawing on new primary source material, it considers the Assembly's theology in terms of the unfolding development of doctrine in the Reformed churches, in connection with the preceding and current events in English history, and locates it in relation to the catholic tradition of the western church. The book asks exactly what the divines meant at each stage of their task. ...more
Paperback, 399 pages
Published November 1st 2009 by P & R Publishing (first published 2009)
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Douglas Wilson
Mar 28, 2010 Douglas Wilson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
This book cannot be described without superlatives. Letham is fantastically learned, and his is the kind of learning that sheds light on his subject, instead of doing what massive amounts of learning often does -- which is to cover a subject in deep darkness for all but a handful of peers. Letham does wonderful work here. If anyone wants to get a real glimpse into the debates that formed the Westminster Confession, this is the book for it.

I am a Westminster man, and this book describes the histo
Dec 14, 2015 Gary rated it it was amazing
Letham is working on the achievements of Van Dixhoorn, taking the minutes of the Assembly (as newly discovered and edited) to interpret the Standards in context of what we now know about the debates. Letham also looks at the Assembly's work in the light of all we know about the wider historical and theological setting. The result is a major advance in our understanding of the Westminster documents.

Letham is well placed to do this work. His knowledge of historical theology is wide, deep and up-t
Jacob Aitken
With this volume Letham has established himself as the leading English-speaking Reformed theologian.


Letham gives the basic Reformed understanding of Scripture.


It’s there, albeit in a mild form. Letham notes that William Bridge, George Gillespie, and John Knox received (or claimed they did; or others claimed they did) prophetic revelation. Letham is quick to point out this is only “providential” illumination of Scripture (127). Letham is correct that the Assembly felt
Robert Murphy
Mar 03, 2014 Robert Murphy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
I would just about COMMAND anyone proposing to stand for ordination in a presbyterian denomination read this book. For those of you who have been spared the cantankerous rancor of our internecine debates, the Westminster Standards have been co-opted as a hammar with which to crush those who are not as Reformed in their theology as they ought to be. Letham destroys this usage.

First, the credentials of Robert Letham are perfectly suited. He is a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary in Phil
Jun 02, 2014 Daniel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
Outstanding read, chronicling the process of writing the Westminster Confession of Faith. Great insight into the debates of the time, and how it effected the WCF. I think all pastors and theologians should have this as a "must read"!
Jared Mcnabb
Aug 05, 2014 Jared Mcnabb rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. This book should be required reading for seminary students, or any who wishes to have a "confessional" christianity. This book will not only help one to understand the theology of the Westminster documents, but also helps the reader properly appreciate them for what they are.

(The Westminster documents are consensus documents, and often the language is careful to allow various views. We would do well to continue to allow various views on theological topics to exist within the boun
Joshua D.
Mar 21, 2014 Joshua D. rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: pastors and seminary students
This is an incredibly helpful book in understanding the historical context of the Westminster Assembly. Conservative Presbyterians are meticulous in examining context when it comes to reading and teaching the Scriptures. But we often act as if the Westminster Confession and Catechisms dropped from the sky, taking little care to understand the climate of their origination, and the debates that led to the particular language that was ultimately included in the Westminster Standards. Letham's book ...more
Peter B.
Feb 25, 2016 Peter B. rated it really liked it
This book by Letham seeks to shed light on the assembly itself that produced the Westminster Confession and Catechisms and to explain the theology of the standards in their historical context. He does not seek to apply it to current issues, nor does he write it as an exposition of his own theology (though his own theology is not much different). "I cannot emphasize too strongly that this is not a discussion of the theology of the Westminster Assembly as amended by North American Presbyterianism ...more
Nov 02, 2010 Bobby rated it liked it
Letham is clearly a top-notch scholar, and he provides good survey and interpretation of the Westminster Assembly; but he misunderstands TF Torrance's own theological program, and then tries to castigate Torrance's reading of the period through this misunderstanding. If often seems that he is driven, too much, polemically almost, in answering Torrance perceived misinterpretation of this period; in other words he presses the union with Christ motif in the LC in order to say to Torrance: "see, you ...more
Nate Walker
Jul 13, 2014 Nate Walker rated it really liked it
Very helpful overview of the confession especially with regard to its historical context, the diversity present in the assembly, and how the final document made allowances for differences at a number of points.
Apr 19, 2016 Jonah rated it really liked it
Great book and deserves another read. Letham knows his stuff and does a wonderful job placing the Westminster Standards in its historic context.
Jul 05, 2010 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
A must-read for anyone interested in understanding the Westminster Assembly's theology. Incredibly illuminating both because of Letham's expertise in the English background (political, historical, religious, cultural) that framed the Assembly's work and his use of the newly published/translated minutes of the Assembly (by Chad Van Dixhorn). Letham's judgments (when they do appear) seem right on, except perhaps for his over eager and quick dismissal of every single criticism lodged by Torrance, B ...more
Andrew Stout
Aug 07, 2010 Andrew Stout rated it really liked it
Excellent! Letham convincingly makes the case that the work of the Westminster Assembly must be understood explicitly as an attempt to revise the doctrinal basis of the Church of England and that its flourishing in Scottish and North American settings has obscured this fact. He brings out the particular brilliance of the work of the Divines, as well as points out their shortcomings. The Westminster documents are shown to be intentionally inclusive of a wide swath of Reformed positions on a varie ...more
Apr 30, 2012 Shep rated it really liked it
A stellar, balanced historical account of the Westminster Assembly that sheds light on the process by which its theological conclusions were formulated. On occasion I actually wanted MORE of Letham's personal opinion, but I value his decision to exercise restraint and simply portray the facts as accurately as possible. Tough to get through the historically superloaded first few chapters, but overall an enjoyable, intriguing, and informative read.
Mar 03, 2010 Steve rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-of-2010
I only read the first section of the about 130 pages, as the rest is a section by section analysis of the background and shaping influnces on the WCF and catechisms.
But this is first section does a really fresh and interesting job on the formation and background of the assembly. Conclusion: the assembly was English (not scottish!), very much anglican, and catholic in it's commitment to nicene orthodoxy and reformed catholicity.
Justin Andrusk
Apr 05, 2010 Justin Andrusk rated it liked it
Recommends it for: All Christians
I thought this was a very objective view from a historical contextual viewpoint to the the creation of the Westminster standards. The book also gives a good defense for some of the baseless criticisms from Karl Barth and others who don't view all of the standards as a whole. For example there some points expounded by the Larger Catechisms that are not addressed in depth by the Confession of Faith. Very good read.
CJ Bowen
May 04, 2011 CJ Bowen rated it it was amazing
Tremendous study of the Westminster Standards, and one that is much needed today. Letham courageously hammers modern reformed presbyterianism on its failure to appreciate the richness of WCF on the sacraments, its anachronistic application of the CoW as a litmus test, and its general line-drawing spirit in the face of the desire of the Divines to present a generic Calvinism that could embrace diversity of opinion.
Jun 11, 2016 Aaron rated it really liked it
Letham’s work is an excellent summary of the historical background within which the 39 Articles and then the Westminster Standards were forged. At times, the material becomes a bit technical and detailed in the minutia of session transcripts, theological debate, and such (which may be a feature rather a bug for some readers), but the main thrust of the book is excellent.
Dec 14, 2009 John rated it it was amazing
Robert Letham’s work sets the table for further great study on the Assembly. His historical corrections and utilization of new primary source discoveries lay a solid trajectory for helpful scholarship. This is the new standard. It has given Reformed Christians insight into their rich heritage and should enrich our understanding of confessionalism.
Aug 24, 2010 Jerry rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
Outstanding analysis of the Assembly's theology, which turns out accommodated a broad swatch of reformed theology. Today's reformed Christians ought to be as catholic as the divines. Here is a good place to learn about what that means. Other than a mistaken conflation of the FV and New Perspective on Paul, this is top notch.
Feb 11, 2010 Mike rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology, history
Very enlightening look at the Westminster Divines in their historical and theological context. The greatest thing Letham did throughout was to point out many of the points at which modern theologians try to read their own anachronistic theology back into the Westminster documents.
Chris Comis
Jul 19, 2010 Chris Comis rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology, his-story
This was an excellent historical study of the WCF. There is plenty of food for thought here, for both the strict confessionalist, as well as those trying to understand the Confession from a perspective outside the modern American Presbyterian box.
Feb 09, 2011 Jason rated it really liked it
Letham's work gives invaluable insights into the discussions behind the Westminster Confession. Recommended!
David Varney
Jul 29, 2012 David Varney rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
Simply delicious. The last two chapters in particular brought great joy to my heart.
Jon Sedlak
Dec 16, 2012 Jon Sedlak rated it it was amazing
A must read
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