The Devil Behind the Surplice: Matthias Flacius and John Hooper on Adiaphora

The Devil Behind the Surplice: Matthias Flacius and John Hooper on Adiaphora

by Wade Johnston


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Between 1548 and 1551, controversies over adiaphora, or indifferent matters, erupted in both Germany and England. Matthias Flacius Illyricus in Germany and John Hooper in England both refused to accept, among other things, the same liturgical vestment: the surplice. While Flacius' objections to the imperial liturgical requirements were largely contextual, because the vestments and rites were forced on the church and were part of a recatholicizing agenda, Hooper protested because he was convinced that disputed vestments and rites lacked a biblical basis. The Devil behind the Surplice demonstrates that, while Flacius fought to protect the reformation principle of justification by grace alone through faith alone, Hooper strove to defend the reformation principle that Scripture alone was the source and norm of Christian doctrine and practice. Ultimately, Flacius wanted more Elijahs, prophets to guide a faithful remnant, and Hooper wanted a new Josiah, a young reform king to purify the kingdom and strip it of idolatry.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Wade Johnston has masterfully traced two trajectories of the reformation reflected through the lens of adiaphora in the figures of Flacius and Hooper. Solid biographical studies of both men are coupled with a careful study of their respective understandings of the goal of the reformation . . . Johnston has done his historical homework giving readers much to ponder in light of the way that the contrasting trajectories of two reformers continue to manifest themselves in the lives of contemporary Protestant churches. The Devil Behind the Surplice is a welcomed contribution.”

—John T. Pless, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana

“Johnston provides helpful insight into Flacius’ extensive writings, his intrepid spirit as a confessor, and his clear understanding of the doctrinal compromise implicit in accepting the terms of the Leipzig Interim. Perhaps most thought-provoking are the many contrasts he draws between Hooper and Flacius in their approach to clerical vestments. He perceptively observes that Flacius’ primary concern was preserving the gospel of salvation by grace alone, while Hooper’s was obedience to the law.”

—Earle D. Treptow, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781532617720
Publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers
Publication date: 01/16/2018
Pages: 198
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.40(d)

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