A Review, Response, and Rejoinder (and Surrejoinder)

Recovering the Reformed Confession-FeaturedIn the June/July 2009 issue of Ordained Servant Alan Strange published a surprisingly negative review of Recovering the Reformed Confession. The editor kindly invited me to reply and that reply appears today in the August/September issue. According to editorial policy, Alan gets the last word in the Ordained Servant. The HB, however, isn’t the Ordained Servant and thus I want to reply a bit to Alan’s final criticisms.First, it is apparent in the rejoinder that Alan’s real problem with RRC is with my criticisms of Jonathan Edwards and the First Great Awakening (hereafter 1GA). Unfortunately, instead of being explicit about this he couched his criticism in the review in global terms so as to give the impression that I was arguing things I did not. It would have helped the discussion had Alan been more explicit about his concerns. Indeed, even in the rejoinder Alan gives the impression that I ignore or distort the Zurich (and related) elements of the Reformed Reformation in the 16th century. Again I wonder whether Alan actually read the sections of the book where I discuss Zurich and Basel.

Second, the nub of our disagreement then is how to evaluate the 1GA. My point in that chapter is mainly to call attention to some of the discontinuities between the theology, piety, and practice of some 18th-century colonial Reformed folk and that of the 16th and 17th centuries. I also want to call attention to the modern work done on colonial congregationalism and presbyterianism and thereby to cause folk in the NAPARC world to re-assess the reigning mythology about the glorious golden age that prevailed in the 18th century. If anyone doubts that such a view of colonial Christianity persists in our circles one had only to go to Geneva to hear a notable teacher in a notable American Presbyterian college call for a return to the 18th-century  revival pattern. It was in view of this frequent use of the 1GA as a paradigm for contemporary theology, piety, and practice that I offered a re-contextualization of the period in light of the 16th and 17th centuries and in light of the Reformed confessions.

Further, judging by the literature and by my experience few readers will be aware that there was a confessionalist and rather less exotic alternative to Edwards and co. Few readers will be aware of the “Old Side” Presbyterians of the 18th century because their existence has been virtually hidden from view and where the Old Side does receive attention it is usually marginalized as “dead orthodoxy.”  Strange complains about my treatment of the 1GA (and Edwards in particular) but he cannot refute the fact that it was in the 18th century that American Presbyterianism lost its hold on the understanding and practice of the RPW as articulated in the Directory for Public Worship and that there is a direct connection between the theology, piety, and practice of the 1GA and the movement away from the DPW. Whatever the benefits of the 1GA one of the more considerable costs was the practice of Reformed worship.

marsdenedwardsHere is another reason I dared offer some mild criticism (and re-contextualization) of the 1GA and of the influence of Jonathan Edwards: because, despite the general orthodoxy of Edwards’ theology, the evidence is that he was influenced deeply by some of the philosophical currents that underlay the Enlightenment. Those who are personally devoted to Edwards may find this a difficult pill to swallow. I understand. I only ask patience. I ask that before the Edwardsean reader reacts that he take the time to read the same modern literature on Edwards, which is not as hagiographical as that which is perhaps more familiar to some readers. I ask that those deeply influenced by and sympathetic Edwardsean theology, piety, and practice at least take the time to read George Marsden’s brilliant study in Edwards. I don’t claim that my account of Edwards is comprehensive. It is only suggestive. I understood that it would be controversial and I wrote it with fear and trembling if only because one could predict the firestorm of reaction by fans of Edwards. My experience suggests that such are, shall we say, intolerant of criticism of America’s Greatest Theologian.

In fact I wrote the book, in part, to highlight the division of opinion that exists between confessionalists and revivalists (i.e. those committed to the QIRE). As I showed in the book, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and J. I. Packer and others are convinced that orthodox Calvinism must be tempered with, to use the Doctor’s word, “methodism” lest it become dead orthodoxy. The great historical difficulty I have with this analysis is that there is precious little evidence to support it. I do not see Strange engaging this argument. It was the Enlightenment, not orthodoxy, that weakened and finally marginalized orthodoxy. It was pietism (the father of revivalism) that almost did in Reformed orthodoxy (i.e. confessional theology, piety, and practice). Indeed, Reformed orthodoxy as it came to expression in the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards had just under 200 years to get going, and that under severe strain of violent persecution wherein virtually the entire French Reformed Church was wiped out in a single stroke, and to come to ecclesiastical expression.

In contrast, the theology, piety, and practice of the 1GA has had since the 1720s to establish itself and to flourish and that without massive persecution. What has revival brought us?  Is there not a substantial connection between the New Haven Theology and Edwards? Would there have been a Second Great Awakening without the First? Are these connections really controversial from a historical point of view? I don’t think so but it is considered impolite in some circles to bring them up.

Let me begin to close with an account of a conversation I had recently with a reader of RRC. He said that one of the things he appreciated most about RRC was its account of Edwards and the 1GA. He recounted how for years, when reading Edwards, in light of the almost universal approval Edwards and the 1GA seems to receive in NAPARC circles, he could not understand why it seemed to him that there was such a discontinuity between what he was reading in Edwards and what he read in the older writers and between what he read in Edwards and what he found in the Reformed confessions themselves. Until he read RRC he had always assumed that he must be missing something, that, as he put, “there must be something wrong with me.” No, dear reader, there it’s not you. You’re not alone. Others have had the very same experience.

Strange’s reaction to RRC hinges on his rejection of my account of colonial American religion. He uses this lever more or less to dispense with the entire book. His reaction, however, seems to vindicate the chapter and the concern than animated it. When we remember the 18th century, we do not discuss “the due use of ordinary means.” I don’t know anyone who treasures 18th-century colonial religion because of its emphasis on “the due use of ordinary means.” What folk tend to value in the 18th century is precisely the opposite of “the due use of ordinary means.” No, what most people tend to value about 18th-century colonial religion is the extraordinary and it is that for which they pray: another outbreak of the same sort of extraordinary phenomena. If so, why am I wrong about the QIRE?

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  1. Scott — I am reading the book now. I did read Marsden’s account of Edwards a few years ago, and was struck by the contrast between the “old side” (represented by Edwards’s father-in-law) and Edwards’s own “new lights” (is that the term)? There was a big difference in the method of operation. (Though as I understood it, Edwards spent a lot of his time and energy merley following, cataloguing and trying to understand the 1GA phenomenon, as much as he was “trying something new.”)

    I haven’t gotten to this chapter yet, and not coming from a Presbyterian (rather a Roman Catholic) background, I don’t really have a dog in the fight.

    But it seems to me that you are fighting an uphill battle with this concept; somewhere along the line I came under the impression that the Reformation was merely a theological break with Rome, until the 18th century piety was able to really add the fire to the light.

    As you say, the earliest generations of Reformers were suffering terribly at the hand of the Romans, in more ways than one, and my admiration for the Christians of that period has no limits.

    Given the state of Reformation-era churches today, I admire your courage (and your erudition) to, as you say, “re-contextualize the period in light of the 16th and 17th centuries and in light of the Reformed confessions.”

    Readers should not forget that you begin with the notion that “all is not well in the Reformed churches,” and the purpose of the work is to argue that “the confessional Reformed tradition provides a model for us as we seek to engage honestly and carefully the questions which we face in our time.”

    You take a lot of heat from a lot of quarters, but I for one admire your courage and ability to take this on. I think it is much needed.

  2. Yes, I did wonder what you made of some of the speakers in Geneva. 😉

    It’s a minor point, but Strange’s argument at the end is, well, nominatively determined. He cites the WCF saying that prayer is to be offered in all times and at all places as though it is teaching something about prayer as a means of grace. Surely the divines did not intend that paragraph to teach that private prayer is a means of grace, since their wording expressly includes the sacraments (“neither prayer, nor any part of religious worship”), and we don’t believe in private sacraments–do we?

  3. John, thanks for the encouragement.

    Philip, this is another place where I don’t think Alan paid close attention to what I wrote. I addressed this question specifically in RRC. I don’t mind that he disagrees, but as you say we should be wary of making private prayer into a means of grace in the same way that say baptism and the supper are means of grace.

  4. Dr. Clark:

    Yes, I do have a problem with your treatment of Edwards. Along with all the other things that I mentioned. My differences with RRC cannot be reduced to an Edwards’s obsession, however. The rest of my review and rejoinder are not “cover” for my Edwards’s infatuation, as you imply.

    I will say this about Edwards, though. Scholarship on Edwards is considerably broader than you claim. The precise nature of the relationship of Edwards and the New Divinity/New Haven theology is hotly disputed by a wide range of scholars.

    And your continual citation of Marsden is a puzzle to me. I have read Marsden and find him to be a far more balanced scholar on Edwards than most. His biography is superb and does not have in any measure a dismissory tone about it. It is not, as I am not, hagiographic in approaching Edwards (various articles and reviews on and about Edwards that I have written make this clear), nor does he have some evident axe to grind in discovering a “usable” Edwards who can play either the hero or villian. Marsden’s is an Edwards in context, an Edwards who appears different than what I find in your description. Why have I so focused on Edwards here? Because you did!

    And just this word about prayer. Chapter 21 is not only describing public worship. It is headed “religious worship and the Sabbath.” 21.2 defines “religious ” worship as that given to God alone (other uses of worship, giving respect to someone, like a member of the nobility or royalty, were common in the 17th c.). Religious worhip is to be given, as 21.6 directs, “in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself,” as well as in the public assemblies. Some means, like prayer, are common to all of these venues. Other means, like preaching and the sacraments, occur only in the public assembly. One may differ with Westminster on this and wish to restrict prayer as a means of grace to the public assembly, but please don’t twist Westminster in an attempt to deny that it teaches that prayer is a proper means both in private and public (note that in 21.3 the proof texts for prayer, said to be “required of all men,” include Phil. 4:6 and Col 4:2, which cannot properly be taken in an exclusively public sense).

  5. Alan,

    I think we agree in substance about prayer as a means of grace. You and I both think that what occurs in private may be distinguished, as you do above, from what is done in public. I don’t think I’m twisting the confession of faith. I’m sorry that you think I’m doing so. If I may say, I think “twist” is a quite unfortunate choice of words.

    As to being dismissive of Edwards, I don’t see how the chapter in RRC, to which you apparently object, is in any way dismissive or dismissory. To be dismissive would be to take him lightly. I did not and do not. Indeed, it was the Edwards/QIRE chapter that caused the book to be delayed. As you know, I wrestled long and hard with this chapter if only because of the overwhelming nature of the primary and secondary literature.

    I can easily understand someone coming to different conclusions from the data but I don’t think it’s a reasonable to accuse the chapter of being dismissive. That’s just patently unfair and a misrepresentation of what I wrote.

    It’s true that I don’t think that Edwards is a good pattern for the church today and it’s true that I tried to re-contextualize him but Edwards will remain a massive literary and theological figure on the American landscape long after you and I are gone.

    As to Marsden, upon reading it I removed a number of footnotes in favor of simply citing Marsden who documents much of what I was trying to say. I don’t claim in the book or my responses that Marsden is trying to make exactly the same points at every turn but I do believe that we came to similar conclusions in many instances. I think those who read RRC and and who read Mardsen will see that.

    As important as the past is (and it is most important) even more important is the future of the NAPARC world. What do we use as the paradigm for the future of our churches, for our theology, piety, and practice.

    As much as we may disagree about the role of 18th-century colonial religion and revival in forming that paradigm I hope that we can agree that the Reformed confessions (which were blessedly written before the outbreak of revival) should become and continue to be the baseline for the Reformation of Reformed theology, piety, and practice and I hope that you and I can disagree without being disagreeable. I think Edwards would want that, don’t you?

  6. I’m not sure I can get past this phrase, “fear and trembling.” Come on, now, Dr. Clark–is there a hidden side to you?
    I appreciate your assessment of Edwards–it shouldn’t be a surprise that any remnants of Reformed theology disappeared with his descendants.

  7. Thanks Richard.

    For the record, I did not and do not blame Edwards entirely for the New Haven Theology but I cannot imagine how anyone could exculpate Edwards completely from any connectio to it. As I said in the book, I think Mark Noll has a point (RRC, 82, n. 38) that Old Princeton was ambivalent about “President Edwards.” He was revered more in memory than in theological substance.

  8. Hi Scott,

    Do you disagree with John Murray’s assessment and analysis of Edwards in his attempt to sever the connection between Edwards and the New Haven theology (in his work on the imputation of Adam’s sin)?

  9. Hi Martin,

    As I understand it from Charles Hodge (ST 2.205ff) (I might be wrong about the volume, I don’t have it before me) President Edwards taught and contradicted mediate imputation.

    Hodge wrote:

    Although the doctrine of mediate imputation was thus generally condemned both by the Reformed and Lutheran Churches, it found some distinguished advocates beyond the pale of the French Church. The younger Vitringa, Venema, and Stapfer, in his “Polemical Theology,” gave it their sanction. From the last named author it was adopted by President Edwards, in one chapter of his work on ” Original Sin.” It appears there, however, merely as an excrescence. It was not adopted into his system so as to qualify his theological views on other doctrines. Although President Edwards does clearly commit himself to the doctrine of Placaeus, as he says, ” that the evil disposition is first, and the charge of guilt consequent,” nevertheless he expressly teaches the doctrine of immediate imputation formally and at length in other portions of that work. He argues through a whole section to prove the federal headship of Adam. He holds that the threatening of death made to Adam included the loss of original righteousness and spiritual death. That that threatening included his posterity, and that the evils which they suffer in consequence of his sin are truly penal. If this be so, if the loss of original righteousness and inherent depravity are penal, they suppose antecedent guilt. That is, a guilt antecedent, and not consequent to the exist- once and view of the depravity. In his exposition of Rom. v. 12—21, he expressly teaches the common doctrine, and says, “As this place in general is very full and plain, so the doctrine of the corruption of nature, as derived from Adam, and also the imputation of his first sin, are both clearly taught in it.

  10. Dr. Clark:

    In reference to “twisting,” there is a commenter on this blog who wrote “Surely the divines did not intend that paragraph to teach that private prayer is a means of grace.” And it is precisely the intention of the divines to teach that very thing. Just as it is their intention to teach that reading the Word of God is a means of grace even as is preaching (WLC 154-157). As much so, and in the precise same way? No, WLC 155 declares, the Spirit makes the preaching of the Word especially effectual. But it is twisting to say that the Standards, and I have just barely developed this here, teach that private prayer (or reading) is not a means of grace.

    And I hear that more and more these days, Scott, from those who favor “liturgical renewal” of some form. I myself am heartened by much that has gone on in the last two decades in this respect (we have witnessed something of, at least, a minor recovery of the doctrine of the real presence of Christ in preaching and the sacraments). But I hear more and more folk, whether FV or not (as you most surely are not!), sadly tending to pit off public piety against personal piety. Because public piety has been shunted aside in evangelicalism and so much emphasis placed on private piety does not mean that we should in any measure respond by marginalizing private piety.

    I would encourage you to see, Scott, that whether you intend to do that or not, it is having that effect among many newly awakened to the glories of Reformed liturgy. I hear over and again among those thus sensitized, “God works in the preaching, and the emphasis should be there and not on the private reading of the Word.” I am not suggesting that you have pitted these off against each other, but I do think that such a face-off is occuring among some and it is incumbent on us as leaders not to adopt an either/or approach but a both/and (and yes, I read every word of your book; still this sentiment is out there:we need to be aware of it).

    Just as it is tempting in a sentimentalized culture like ours to dismiss pulic piety in favor of the private (my New Horizons article on preaching, June 2009, shows clearly that I view the public as crucial), so, too, it is easy for us who know the importance of the public ever so slightly to low-rate the private and not tend to the state of our hearts.

  11. Thanks Scott,

    You are right about the volume and your extract is on p. 207-8.

    With regard to this bit from Hodge:

    ‘Although President Edwards does clearly commit himself to the doctrine of Placaeus, as he says, ” that the evil disposition is first, and the charge of guilt consequent,” nevertheless he expressly teaches the doctrine of immediate imputation formally and at length in other portions of that work.’

    Murray works hard to exonerate Edwards on this very point, what Edwards meant by ” that the evil disposition is first, and the charge of guilt consequent” (see Murray, Chapter 4. The Nature of the Imputation, 1. ii. b.) Murray notes the interpretations of Hodge (and Cunningham) and then cites Warfield to the contrary. Murray sides with Warfield.

    I could go into the details but here in the UK it is getting late…suffice to say that Murray, following Warfield, was not convinced by the claim that Edwards’ teaching provides the first step toward the New Haven theology.

  12. Martin,

    As little as I understand the mediate/immediate imputation debate it seems to me that it it’s at least hyper-realist, if not rationalist, to posit (implicitly or explicitly) that God can only say what he says (e.g., “guilty”) on the ground of intrinsic corruption. I wonder if there’s any connection between Edwards’ attraction to Placaeus’ position (which was rationalist) and the influence of the Cambridge Platonists on him? Remember that there is at least ambiguity in Edwards’ doctrine of justification also. These are two areas where Edwards was at least internally conflicted and verbally confusing. The fact that Edwards was confusing and perhaps confused himself on these two points does seem to illustrate the difference between Edwards’ theology and that, e.g., of Wollebius in whom there is no confusion on these points. Perhaps these issues are symbolic of a methodological shift in Edwards, a shift which opened the way for the New Haven Theology?


    Relative to prayer as a means of grace it seems to me that the divines distinguished at least implicitly between the nature and function of prayer as a means of grace and the sacraments as a means of grace. In this space, just recently, I have defended prayer as a means of grace.

    As to your concern about ignoring private piety, I guess we have different experiences and different concerns. I certainly share your concern about the FV-types who are playing at high church, who cannot distinguish a sacrament from the thing signified and who fail to understand the nature of a “sacramental union” (to borrow a phrase from the Standards).

    I have also argued that public worship and the public, ecclesiastical means of grace must have a logical priority in the Christian life.

    This doesn’t mean that I support, in any way, shape, or form the neglect of private piety. I do not. I anticipated that some would read an argument for the priority of the public over the private as a denigration of private piety—so identified have “piety” and “private” become. As I wrote in the book, when elders come on house visitation what’s typically (in my experience as a pastor) the first thing they ask? “How is your prayer life?” Why don’t they ask “How is your attendance to the means of grace?” Why should they begin with the private as their first and most important index of piety and spirituality? I submit the answer is pietism.

    I tried to signal my commitment to private piety and to the importance of prayer in RRC. Just for fun I counted the occurrence of the nouns “prayer” and “pray” and the verb “to pray.” I find about 79 occurrences in RRC. I don’t know whether such raw data means anything except that I did pay some attention to the topic in the book. More materially, I discussed the meaning and importance and use of prayer in the Christian life. See e.g. pp.110-116, 329-30, 334 among other places.

    At the same time, I understand why the FV boys react to the low-church influence of evangelical revivalism in contemporary Reformed practice. To the revivalists and to the high-churchers and to the FV-boys playing at church I say: there is a third way, a confessional way. SC 88 and HC 65 point us to the “due use of the ordinary means.” Reformed piety is a Word and Spirit piety but it is also a Word and sacrament piety. The Spirit, though free to operate as he will, has bound himself (promised) to operate through Word and sacrament. We don’t have to apologize (in the sense of saying “I’m sorry”) for that. It does need to be defended. Where you seem to see high-churchers sweeping the field, I look at the various manifestations of neo-evangelicalism in the NAPARC churches I see the much more influence of revivalist evangelicalism.

    • Dr. Clark,

      I must say, my experience is like yours. Revivalistic pietism is the bent of the most “Reformed” churches I know. Even in the most consciously confessional circles, it seems as though “prayer life” almost exclusively refers to private exercises done in a closet (which are fine, but not the “ordinary religious worship” in “public assemblies,” right?). I would love for a family I visit to say, “My prayer life was great this week! The elder who led us in public prayer during worship did an outstanding job representing us in praying God’s Word back to him.” Sadly, instead I tend to hear believers, under the burden of the law, responding as they should under the law, “My greatest efforts are never enough!” I think you are right, the problem goes deeper than the question we ask (“How’s your prayer life?”), to the theology we have swallowed without necessary correction according to our confessions.

      Thanks againFix

  13. Martin,

    I don’t know if it would be any help for your question, but I know that Bavinck criticizes Edwards in his chapters on the Principia in the volume I of the Reformed Dogmatics. I seem to recall that it is along similar lines. I don;t have it with me at the moment but thought it might bear some light.

    Hope that may be of some help.

    • David: it is true that Bavinck was moderately critical of Edwards. Though he doesn’t take pains to explain, he does mention Edwards several times in a critical manner. Here are a few quick quotes (for you and others interested, of course).

      “By his [Edwards’] metaphysical and ethical speculations he attempted to strengthen Calvinism but actually weakened it by the distinction between natural and moral impotence – a distinction that already occurs in John Cameron – and by a peculiar theory concerning freedom of the will, original sin, and virtue. Thus he became the father of the Edwardians, New Theology men, or New Lights as they are called, who, though they maintained the Calvinistic doctrine of God’s sovereignty and election, combined it with the rejection of original sin and the universality of the atonement, just as the theologians of Samur had done in France” (RD, I.201).

      “…the denial by Jonathan Edwards of immediate imputation in the case of Adam and Christ had the effect of increasingly leading New England theology along the lines of Placaeus” (RD, III.534 – see also p 100 of vol III where similar statements are made).

      Bavinck had “serious objections” to the Saumur school’s and Placaeus’ (and hence Edwards’) view that pollution is anterior to guilt and flat out says it is not Reformed (RD, III.109).

      Another interesting critique by Bavinck comes in III.122, where he wrote that Edward’s attempt to defend moral impotence (against Taylor) was not helpful. “By his refusal to call this disinclination toward the good ‘natural impotence,’ he fostered a lot of misunderstanding and actually aided the cause of Pelagianism. The Reformed, therefore, consistently spoke of natural impotence.”

      It is too long/complex to quote here, but be sure to also read p.381 (bottom) in RD III., where Bavinck notes another frightening door that Edwards opened, so to speak, concerning the atonement and Christ’s solidarity with all men.

      Thanks for the note, David – it was helpful.

      shane lems

      • Thanks Shane,

        On this:

        ‘“…the denial by Jonathan Edwards of immediate imputation in the case of Adam and Christ had the effect of increasingly leading New England theology along the lines of Placaeus” (RD, III.534 – see also p 100 of vol III where similar statements are made).’

        John Murray, following Warfield, takes issue with the claim that Edwards denied immediate imputation and claimed that the New England theology diverged from Edwards and misunderstood his position.

        But if Bavinck, Hodge and William Cunningham “misunderstood” it…you know you are in trouble and should work on your communication skills. Of course, by then, it was too late chronologically and the damage had been done.

        • Sorry, should also have mentioned that Hodge and Cunningham both draw attention to what they perceived to be the inconsistencies in Edwards’ presentation–that there were passages where the found the Reformed doctrine of immediate imputation and those where they understood him to have taught mediate imputation.

  14. Dr Clark

    You wrote “As I showed in the book, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and J. I. Packer and others are convinced that orthodox Calvinism must be tempered, to use the Doctor’s word, “methodism” lest it become dead orthodoxy. The great historical difficulty I have with this analysis is that there is precious little evidence to support it.”

    Just because you are ignorant of the rather vast amount of evidence that supports this point doesn’t mean the evidence is not there. The origin and maintenance of the Calvinistic Methodist Church of Wales from 1735 to 1885 is enough to prove the point amply. Sources in English are not in great supply, but Eifon Evans’ two volumes “Daniel Rowland and the Great Evangelical Awakening in Wales” “Revival Comes to Wales” and the chapter “Previous Awakenings” in his “The Welsh Revival of 1904” give the best picture of what is the largest single work of God that I have seen documented. It is estimated that on two occasions during this period 1/4 of the Welsh population was soundly converted, the majority of these converts remaining in the churches for decades.

  15. Tim,

    You misunderstand. The question is not whether there was a Welsh revival (or other parallel events) but whether it really is the case that without a touch of methodism that Reformed theology, piety, and practice tends to dead orthodoxy. I don’t see the evidence to support this oft-repeated claim. Have you read RRC?

    • No I haven’t yet read RRC but you have misunderstood my point. Let me try to make it clearer. The Welsh revivals of 1735 -70 and 1859 both saw 1/4 of the population soundly converted i.e. 100,000 people (evidenced their joining the churches and living godly lives lasting over decades) and the latter of these events took place in a single year. If you can show any instance of Old Side Presbyterianism producing similar results without landing in dead orthodoxy that MLJ documents, as I cite below, one might agree that the “Methodist” touch is unnecessary.
      You have also misunderstood how MLJ uses the term Methodism. Given his somewhat unknown religious background in the Calvinistic Methodists of Wales, for him the position Calvinistic Methodism is both true Methodism and true Calvinism. I refer you to his paper “William Williams and Welsh Calvinistic Methodism” in “The Puritans: their Origins and Successors” esp pp. 208 – 214

      • Tim,

        You’re simply assuming the conclusion. The question is whether there is such a thing as “dead orthodoxy.” As widely assumed as this phenomenon is I fail to see the evidence for its existence.

        As I argue in the book, by definition one is either orthodox or one is dead but one cannot be both.

        You’re dismissive approach to the Old Side is typical of revivalists and mainliners.

        What the Doctor means by methodism is not hard to discern in context.

        You should give the book a read.

        • The question is whether there is such a thing as “dead orthodoxy.” As widely assumed as this phenomenon is I fail to see the evidence for its existence.

          Humanly speaking I can say I am envious that you’ve not seen any evidence of “dead orthodoxy”, since I’ve seen my share. While it’s anecdotal, never the less it is real. Unless one has lived with preaching that was quite orthodox and confessional, by a minister who has subsequently been excommunicated from a NAPARC church, one well might question the existence of dead orthodoxy. Once one has, even the most steadfast old sider (at least this one) gains a great deal of appreciation for the dangers of an unconverted ministry (with apologies to Gilbert Tennent)

          • Andrew,

            If the minister was excommunicated, doesn’t suggest that he wasn’t as orthodox as you say?

            The real question here is whether the piety and practice taught in the confessions and by the mainstream of Reformed orthodoxy is inherently defective. That’s what the Doctor said and that’s the claim to which I’m responding. I argue that confessional Reformed theology, piety, and practice is not inherently defective, that it doesn’t need augmentation with Pentecostalism or pietism or Anabaptism or anything else. Did the Doctor’s appropriation of elements of neo-Pentecostalism serve his congregation well? The history since his retirement suggest that the answer is no.

            • Orthodox(y) is a specific term. It is limited to doctrine. One can teach orthodoxy but not believe it. The lack of belief ultimately gets expressed in heteropraxy and sin. Even the demons know orthodoxy. yet they hate it.

              Perhaps you were saying that to be really orthodox one must believe it in his own heart? Since we cannot see the heart we must go on what is confessed and lived. What he confessed and taught and preached was orthodox, that’s what could be heard. I don’t think I can go along with an idea of orthodoxy that requires a look
              into someone’s (other than my own) heart.

              The individual was excommunicated not for believing or confession the wrong thing but for being unrepentant of violence.

              I agree it’s not the confessions or the orthodoxy that’s the problem, it is rather the men (not all, but at least some of them) of the ministry itself that are the problem. The good old boy network in the ministry is counter productive to the purpose of the ministry.

              Why do reformed ministers think their ranks are immune from
              what’s described in Ezekiel 34?

              Perhaps the fault of the 1GA is that instead of using the proper mode of discipline for weeding out unconverted ministers it is that it tried to just end-run them and get the gospel out to the people, while leaving those men in place.

              Medical malpractice law suits are out of control not only because of trail lawyers, but because fundamentally the medical profession fails to discipline bad doctors. Ministers in the reformed churches don’t seem to be much better.

              So unless your solution fixes the original problem, the best you can achieve is something akin to the reformation of Jehu. Ignoring or denying the problem isn’t going to fix it either. You are trying to address a problem in the church, and that is a good thing. However, it seems to me that you’re addressing a symptom, a symptom caused no less by a wrong solution to a root problem. I just don’t see why it’s necessary to claim the original problem of “dead orthodoxy” didn’t/doesn’t exist in order to prove your point. Admit the root problem, fix it and the symptom you (QIRE) don’t like will go away.

              Lest you think that all is well because the individual in question was finally excommunicated, I would suggest otherwise. It took more than 48 months and the presbytery had to be basically dragged though the process. When it comes to the discipline of ministers, the church doing the right thing is more of the exception not the rule.

              • Andrew,

                So we’re not really talking, in this case, about “dead orthodoxy” at all but about unbelief. In both the cases you cited that’s the issue.

                I agree entirely that it’s possible to mouth formally correct things. If that’s what people mean by “dead orthodoxy,” okay, I understand but the problem I see is that often as not what people don’t distinguish between mere outward formalism and orthodoxy.

                As I see it the problem cuts two ways. I see evidence that a lot of enthusiastic pietist types are guilty of a sort of dead orthodoxy. They mouth the confession but deny by their QIRE-ish praxis. They mouth affirmation of the confession but act like Pentecostals. They send the message to their children that what we confess has no connection to our piety and practice.

                Why isn’t that dead orthodoxy?

                • I guess I’ve always simply understood the term of dead orthodoxy to mean unbelieving with an outward form of orthodoxy and practise. I guess I can’t escape the idea that faith in Christ = life, and unbelief = death/dead.

                  I guess what you are reacting to is that the charge of dead orthodoxy is thrown around quite a lot, especially in the direction of those of us self consciously try to be Reformed as defined in the Reformed Confessions. Of that I am quite aware, being EP.

                  They mouth the confession but deny by their QIRE-ish praxis. They mouth affirmation of the confession but act like Pentecostals. They send the message to their children that what we confess has no connection to our piety and practice.

                  Why isn’t that dead orthodoxy?

                  I would say it is because while it not ortho, it’s not really dead either, rather let’s just say “dying”. Perhaps that’s why the statistics show that high-school and college age children of believers leave the church. While that might be the immediate cause, the underlying reason, I think, is found in the reason annexed to the second commandment.

                  Don’t get me wrong, I agree there is a big problem in the Reformed churches, and I think that the doctrine, piety and practice as defined in the Reformed Confessions is correct, and really recovering them and having them be our personal confession would be helpful to the church. I don’t merely subscribe to the system of doctrine in the WCF/LC/SC, but instead they are my confession. It’s going to take a lot of discipline on the part of those who do recover the Reformed Confessions. Humanly speaking it is rather hopeless, since the overwhelming majority of the leadership of the Reformed Churches is very happy with the status quo. Perhaps God will have mercy on the Reformed Churches yet.

                  I think our major disagreement is that I think the “problem” is many orders of magnitude bigger, broader, deeper, and longer lasting than you describe.

                  Just because the charge of “dead orthodoxy” is thrown around to easily (and mostly unjustly) by the QIRE people towards confessionalists, doesn’t mean we should be oblivious to it in, pardon the expression, “our own ranks.”

        • Dr. Clark
          No I am not assuming the conclusion. For, although both you and MLJ would both agree that it is not true Calvinism, there is such a pheonomenon as “dead orthodoxy” found within reformed circles.
          MLJ saw at first hand how some “Reformed” circles in Britain and the Continent evidenced the following tendencies, which when allowed to run rampant produced “dead orthodoxy”: to wit a degeneration of a faithful life to an intellectualized philosophy, a practical placing of the Confessions above Scripture (which practice the confessions themselves condemn), and a practical de-emphasis if not active discouragement of prayer in some congregations.

          Now MLJ’s point was that there was a particular element in his formative denomination’s emphasis on spiritual experience (which can also be found in other places in church history BTW) that countered these tendencies.

          I am not necessarily dismissive of Old Side Presbyterianism: I asked for proof of its fruit. If you can document a case where OSP turned around 1 in 4 citizens of a country to Christ twice within 150 years, I will withdraw pointing out that your claim suffered from the error of ignorance of the refutation.

          And I’ll be happy to read RRC when you have read the Evans volumes already mentioned together with MLJ’s paper.

          • Tim,

            The Old Side was arguably crushed before it had a chance to flourish. It was attacked as unregenerate for daring to raise the same questions I’ve raised in the book and here. I hope you’ll read the book as I don’t want and won’t rehearse it all here. I think that Alan’s insinuation that I’m tending toward practical deism (and the more blatant charge made by some a few years back that I’m simply unregenerate) smacks of the same spirit as those earlier charges.

            In short my reply is: when, since the Enlightenment has anyone tried Old Side theology, piety, and practice? Old Princeton is about as close as one can find and it was not exactly Old Side.

            What do you make of the results of the Doctor’s dalliance with neo- Pentecostalism? How has that worked out in his former congregation?

            • Dr. Clark

              You need to get your facts straight. As the Murray biography makes abosutely clear, although MLJ rejected the canard that all of the “charismatic gifts” have necessarily ceased since the apostolic age is no more and allowed that the Holy Spirit remains sovereignly free to deploy those gifts as seems good to him, he never dallied with neo-Pentecostalism: the differences between him and neo-P are that the Doctor never encouraged or promoted the active manifestation of any gifts in contrast to continuationists as Piper, who has critiqued him for his caution, nor did he ever fall for the idea that the biblical tongues are “angelic” languages i.e. glossolalia.

              MLJ had been gone from Westminster Chapel almost 10 years and his congregation had largely scattered before RT Kendall was named minister there and the Doctor was dead before Kendall began the swing to the Kansas City-Toronto Airport variety of charismania – a particular subgrouping that is rejected by the Vinyard and everybody to the right of them. So I think what happened illustrates one of Edwards main points in Religious Affections – when somebody tries to correct a doctrinal error there is a great temptation to overreact and land in equal or greater error on the other side of the question.

              And I will also commend MLJ’s paper on “Sandemanism” and the sources he cites in the volume I cited earlier. I do not know Old Side theology at all, except perhaps as it is reflected in some of the questions Edwards addresses in “Religious Affections” but if it was attacked as being necessarily unregenerate, then you will need to know the reasons why MLJ might have been open to considering the validity of such attacks.

              • Tim,

                That “canard” to which you refer is Reformed orthodoxy.

                If the Doctor rejected the orthodox of view of the canon and the Spirit and the uniqueness of Scripture and the sufficiency of Scripture why should I listen to him?

                You’ve not addressed the problem of the can of worms the Doctor opened in his own congregation. He opened the neo-Pentecostal can and the Toronto Blessing Worms eventually crawled out. The Doctor is not directly responsible for it but he made it possible by the way he argued in the last two books.

      • Tim,

        As someone who as read MLJ on the Puritans (and a lot of his other works) long before I met a single old-sider, I understand the initial system shock of discovering people who still argue that revivals are not the way to go.

        I encourage you to have patience and overcome enough prejudice to listen to the old-side case. MLJ asserts that Calvinism needs Methodism else it is (or at least tends towards — which is not an argument for necessity since with our sin, everything tends towards something damnable) a joyless, prayerless intellectualism. Try telling that to those I’ve known in old-school congregations who are not highly educated handymen and surf dudes; to those whose marriages were rescued through nothing more spectacular than the gospel over and over again; to the discouraged and melancholic who as far as emotionalism is concerned have been there and done that, but now cling to the preached word and the sacrament.

        Granted, MLJ writes that true Calvinism is never dead, but it’s strikes me as a bit of a stretch to equate true Calvinism with true Methodism. I’m sure most Methodists will object. And I’m not so confident that 200 years of Calvinism that preceded the Methodists would agree either.

        Plus, isn’t counting heads an overly simplistic measure of a ministry’s spiritual health?

        • Darren – What MLJ calls Methodism is not Methodist denominational distinctives and I well know the gospel has power in OSP circles where the tendencies to dead orthodoxy (his real foe in that attack) are resisted. The element that MLJ labeled Methodism is (and MLJ specificially identified it as) an element of true Calvinism: that is the giving of equal justice to the subjective as well as the objective side of the faith.
          Personally I am a melancholic and how I cling to word and sacrament you have no idea! Belive me, I know the dangers in the area of Christian experience.

          And if praying for biblical visitations of the Holy Ghost in coverting power far greater than he is presently displaying in the North American scene where the churches (speaking broadly) are barely holding their own if not declining, can you show both biblical truth and historical results that match those of the Calvinist Methodist in Wales between 1735 and 1885 who, by the way, were not “revivalists”. These men never tried to work up a revival.

          • Tim,

            I think the most hard-core stereotypical so-called “dead orthodox” would love to see the Holy Spirit bring more growth in faithful churches and increasing faithfulness in churches towards true religion (no, not speaking of the jeans). No one is disputing that desire and prayer.

            But the question is one of means. Are we to abide by ordained, and darn ordinary means of preaching and darn ordinary bread and wine, or do we seek to pull off something extraordinary? I’ve always associated Methodism with the extraordinary whether in its Arminian or Calvinistic forms, often extra-ecclesiastical to point of undermining ecclesiology (who wants ordinary church when you’ve got more exciting things to pull off?).

            And as much as I admire MLJ, I think he leans to much that way. It’s a strange redefinition of “Methodism” simply to mean the kind of joyful experimental religion that Calvinism arguably always was. Methodism is not just evangelistic zeal; it’s an extraordinary channel for that zeal… and Whitefield himself regretted that he never “penned the sheep.” Methodism is not just zeal for holy life, but it’s about some kind of higher life whether in Holy Clubs or a baptism of the Holy Spirit separated from new birth (MLJ is pretty clear on that in Joy Unspeakable). I would argue that old-side Calvinist piety can be zealous for evangelism, holiness, prayer; in faith, hope and love without being Methodist (even as MLJ has identified it). Indeed, I’d argue that it would be better to be Calvinist without being Methodist.

            If God brings about something spectacular, that’s his prerogative, as I believe you’ll entirely agree. Then how do you fault old-siders for not trying to work up a revival; for expecting the Holy Spirit’s work in ordinary means, even if the results seem dreadfully ordinary to the eyes of the world filled with glitz and glamor and shiny things? We live by faith, not by sight.

            Now I’m not saying the old-side just sits around waiting for people walk into their doors to avail themselves to Word and sacrament. We need to get out there. I’ve been working out of bounds with Chinese churches for years (if you ever want to see the devastation left in the wake of pietism and methodism….). But I have nothing to offer but ordinary preaching and teaching of the word. A single message won’t turn everyone all warm, loving and reformed. Even a couple of years of teaching won’t likely do it. Nothing magical or spectacular here; no second Pentecost. In fact, I’m trying to turn eyes away from those shiny illusions towards Christ and an ugly cross. Just a lifelong need to be formed by the Word week after week; hearing the gospel to drive away the unbelief that clings to our hearts until the day we die. Ordinary stuff for ordinary people who are exhausted from pointy-haired bosses, from having the change diapers and clean vomit, from having to care for a young mother dying of cancer. Ordinary stuff.

            • Darren
              If anyone wants to “see the Holy Spirit bring more growth in faithful churches and increasing faithfulness in churches towards true religion” such a person is not “dead orthodox” by definition, he or she is alive to Christ. I quite agree with you that the issue is one of means to be employed.

              On Holy Spirit baptism always and only occurring subsequent to conversion, I think people easily talk past each other here. Although it is clear that although all Christians receive the Holy Spirit at conversion, all the saints are commanded (Eph. 5:18 to go on being filled with the Holy Spirit and Acts 4:31 is explicit that such refillings occur subsequently to conversion. That measurable increases in power for service occur subsequent to conversion in many cases cannot be denied, although I wish they were not identified as HSB.

              Edwards and those who follow him including MLJ and myself, cannot justly be accused of “working up” revivals. We are simply obeying the commands in the Scripture to pray that the preached word might go forth to achieve the salvation of souls now bound for hell.

              To your question of means, with MLJ, I answer “Almost both” . We abide by the ordained means of grace and instead of trying to pull off something extraordinary,we face our shortcomings and sins in prayer and ask God to do the extraordinary as seems good to Him, as these are as commanded and exemplified in the Scriptures. When our present levels of gospel growth are orders of magnitude less than God has given in the past, it is incumbent on the church to ask why. Have we sinned and grieved the Holy Spirit? Or are we not asking God to do what only He can do?
              After all we are commanded to pray
              Hallow your name
              Your kingdom come
              Your will be done
              and qualifying all three of these imperatives

              on earth as it is in heaven.

              If there is any love in us for our neighbours at all, we will want to see the Gospel proving as frutiful among us as it has been in the great extraordinary works of God which proved a blessing to so many people. Since this is far beyond the current effect of the gospel in North America, churches would be well advised to continue their regular work while encouraging heart searchings and prayer for increased effects of Gospel preaching and gossipings as one of their “ordinary things”. I promise no extraordinary results; God will do what seems good to him.
              But if we do what we are commanded there is the blessing of being obedient in ordinary things.

              • Tim,

                Are you arguing for a “second blessing” view, for the Doctor’s view of “sealing”?

                Surely you can’t blame us “dead orthodox” types for resisting that can you? Very few in the mainstream of Reformed orthodoxy have supported the Doctor’s view.

                In my experience as a pastor, the “second blessing” view has done a great lot of damage. It’s quite contrary to Paul’s intent and teaching in 1 Corinthians. It brings in the very sort of divisions to which he was stoutly opposed.

                There aren’t two kinds of Christians. There are various stages of maturity, but one is either a believer and united to Christ sola gratia, sola fide, or one is not. There are not two kinds of Christians, those that have the blessing (sealing/baptism) and those that don’t.

                • Dr. Clark

                  I am not necessarily arguing for an unbiblical second blessing view. But such “second blessings” do occur church history whether or not they were complicated by being called Baptism in the Holy Spirit – as some were and some some weren’t.

                  What I insist on is that the contemporary churches better recognize the scope of what God did in this event, measure our own churches effectiveness by it and not cease asking God to give equivalent power in the preached word today.

                  NB. Discussion of the problem of low spiritual power in preaching is not restricted to Edwards and his disciples. Preaching in 1678 and .ooking back to the great days of the Puritan commonwealth, John Howe told his congregation.

                  “When the Spirit shall be poured forth plentifully…I believe you will hear much other kind of sermons than you are wont to do now-a-days. …
                  It is plain, too sadly plain, that there is a great retraction of the Spirit of God even from us. We [preachers] know not how to speak living sense [sensus, a living felt reality] unto souls, how to get within you: our words die in our mouths, or drop and die between you ad us. We even faint when we speak, long experienced unsuccessfulness makes us despond. We speak not as persons that hope to prevail, that expect to make you more serious, heavenly, mindful of God, and to walk more like Christians…When such an effusioin of the Spirit shall be as here signified…ministers shall know to speak to better purpose, with more compassion and sense, with more seriousness, with more authority and allurement, than we now find we can.” (John Howe, Works, London 1832, p.575).

                  The easiest example to hand for me is the strange case of David Morgan the semi-educated and initially earnest but not very fruitful Welsh minister who was the principal figure in the 1859 revival. He went to bed one night in 1858 an average backcountry preacher and woke up the next morning able to preach on a level that his contemporaries recognized as being utterly beyond his norm. He was the man humanly responsible for most of the 100,000 converts of that revival. This ability lasted for the peoriod of somewhat less than two years and disappeared the way it had come.

                  I have said before that the remedy for abuse of a biblical truth is the application of the corresponding biblical truth, not the application of a diktat that cannot be biblically supported. That adage comes out of my own experience in pastoral dealing as a church lay leader with “second blessing” advocates. I have found that when the biblical remedies to abuses (usually I run into glossolalia and false prophecy) are suppplied, the people involved have accepted correction, unlike attempts to maintain a total denial of the gifts. Where that denial has been tried, and the “promoters” of second blessing theology ask for biblical proof that they have ceased, they have always been able to demonstrate holes in the cessationist logic given them whether that logic was provided by Budgen, Gaffin, or McArthu to name 3 contemporary examples or any any earlier one you might name.

                  I agree there aren’t two kinds of Christians and I also agree that anybody who boasts in his gift or thinks it exalts him above other Christians is in violation of Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians about they were to manage the gifts they had been given. Paul’s entire point in 1 Cor. 12-14 is that the gifts are not to be used to lift one Christian above another but to serve the church as the “natural” talents are – without fuss or drawing attention to oneself.

                  • I accidentally edited a line out of my previous post. The last line of the 1st pp. should read “and some weren’t. The 1859 Welsh Revival was a case of “second blessing” that was not called Holy Spirit Baptism.”


            • Edwards and those who follow him including MLJ and myself, cannot justly be accused of “working up” revivals.

              Personal anecdotes rightly carry little weight, except for those who experience them. Recently, I visited a “crummy” little PCA in south Florida with an exquisite Reformed liturgy (and weekly communion to boot). However, the guest pastor was a visiting revivalist from England. The sermon, which was actually more an unorganized and understudied diatribe against all we were doing inthe liturgy, was punctuated by braggish references to the fact that the man had been the Doctor’s protege. The screed went on for well over and hour-and-half, with lots of pulpit punding and, at times, screams.

              The irony of undermining the ordinary means of grace was matched (outpaced?) by the regular pastor looking on with reverence and awe. If this man was any measure, which he made clear he was (harrumph), I respectfully demur: followers of MLJ certainly DO mean to “work up revivals” and in the process recklessly undercut Refomed theology, piety and practice.

              Scott and Darren, you have your work cut out for you. Persevere.

  16. Dr. Clark, the exchange between you and Dr. Strange has been rather stimulating. I think, for the most part, that I am in agreement with you that Edwards is not the best model for the Church (he was a Congregationalist, after all :), though I know you are refering to revival). I’ve been doing a little thinking about this whole exchange about Edwards, so I picked up Warfield and reread his essay on Edwards and the New England Theology. There were two things about it that caught my attention. The first is what he says on p. 530-1, “[Edwards] develops, in opposition to the view that all virtue may be reduced ultimately to self-love, an eccentric theory of virtue as consisting in love to being in general. But of this again we hear nothing elsewhere in his works, though it became germinal for the New England theology of the next age.” (Studies in Theology, BOT) This does imply, of course, that at least one of Edwards’ eccentric views did have an influence on the New England Theology. This may also imply, though I am not in the position to prove, that there are other eccentricities of his theology that my be an influence. How extensive was that influence is a question for better students of New England Church History than myself, but I think it is safe to make somewhat of a linkage between Edwards and the direction the New Divinity took. Secondly, he goes on to say that “the inheritance of the party from Edwards showed itself much more strongly on the practical than on the doctrinal side.” (532) He shows that they followed him in his “revivalist zeal,” “awakening preaching,” and “his attempt to purify the Church.” Though these things are said to be practical, yet is it not true that practice follows theology? Again, what is the connection here? I am not in a position to answer, but I think it is safe to say there is a connection. This is not the same situation as Francis Turretin and Jean Alphonse Turretin where we can safely blame the successor and not the predecessor (unless you want to make the case for bad parenting). Anyway, both you and Dr. Strange have really got my synapses firing in my brain; this really makes me want to do much more research on Edwards.

  17. Dr. Strange, I fear you mis-read me. You have taken me to be asserting that “the Standards teach that private prayer is not a means of grace.” In fact I wrote, with reference to your specific citation of 21.6 and not to the whole teaching of even the WCF, that the divines were not teaching that prayer is a means of grace (an absence of positive teaching); I did not write that the divines were teaching that prayer is not a means of grace (a presence of negative teaching). I briefly argued that this must be the case because “private sacraments” are not to be countenanced (you will know the references better than I), and therefore we cannot make the argument that the divines were teaching that things done in public worship as means of grace are equally means of grace in private worship.

    I did not preclude, and quite specifically did not preclude, the possibility that the divines taught something elsewhere in the Standards.

    (As for your later argument, of course the divines teach (WLC 155) that private reading is a means of grace. But even in that, they give a certain priority to preaching, since “the Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means”. So in fact, where the opportunity arose the divines were quite specific in saying that public worship is not a means of grace in the same way as private devotions, and that the public takes the priority.)

    I trust that un-twists my comments sufficiently.

  18. Warfield made the following observations about Edwards’ writing on original sin and the matter of mediate imputation:

    ‘In answering objections to the doctrine of Original Sin, he appeals at one point to Stapfer, and speaks, after him, in the language of that form of doctrine known as “mediate imputation.” But this is only in order to illustrate his own view that all mankind are one as truly as and by the same kind of divine constitution that an individual life is one in its consecutive moments. Even in this immediate context he does not teach the doctrine of “mediate imputation,” insisting rather that, Adam and his posterity being in the strictest sense one, in them no less than in him “the guilt arising from the first existing of a depraved disposition” cannot at all be distinguished from “the guilt of Adam’s first sin”, and elsewhere throughout the treatise he speaks in the terms of the common Calvinistic doctrine.’

    Warfield, in that same article, goes on to say that:

    ‘It was Edwards’ misfortune that he gave his name to a party; and to a party which, never in perfect agreement with him in its doctrinal ideas, finished by becoming the earnest advocate of (as it has been sharply expressed) “a set of opinions which he gained his chief celebrity in demolishing.”’

    That Hodge and Cunningham should strongly differ with the interpretations of Warfield, and later John Murray, on this point does show that their was an ambiguity of langauge in Edwards. Can we hold Edwards accountable for what others did in his name after his death? On this Warfield wrote:

    ‘It is a far cry from Jonathan Edwards the Calvinist, defending with all the force of his unsurpassed reasoning powers the doctrine of a determined will, and commending a theory of virtue which identified it with general benevolence, to Nathaniel W. Taylor the Pelagianizer, building his system upon the doctrine of the power to the contrary as its foundation stone, and reducing all virtue ultimately to self-love. Taylor’s teaching, in point of fact, was in many respects the exact antipodes of Edwards’, and very fairly reproduced the congeries of tendencies which the latter considered it his life-work to withstand. Yet Taylor looked upon himself as an “Edwardsean,”’

  19. What Warfield seems to be basically saying is that the followers of Edwards were ‘Edwardsean’ except in his Calvinism. Warfield, though, makes no assessment of Edwards’ practice, which is really crux of the issue in RRC. I think though, too, that we should be studying his theory behind the practice. Warfield does offer some hints, I think, that it might have been a little more than practice.

  20. Something interesting that an Edwards’ scholar (who is sympathetic to him as being ‘Reformed) pointed me to was Edwards view of confessions, even his own the Savoy Declaration. He said in Misc. 17 that they were divisive to church unity and only useful in seeing what a candidate believed (para). He said this because the professors and presidents had to subscribe to the Savoy Declaration in order to teach.

    I find this troubling for those who want to maintain a very high view of confessions. If those who want to bend over backwards to bring Edwards into the camp and yet maintain a high view of confessions, they must overlook his own views of a Reformed confession which he thought deleterious to the unity of Christ’s body. This idea runs in the face of the language we have for the Reformed confessions as what unite us in a holy, catholic, and apostolic witness in this present evil age. We even have a body of confessions called the Three Forms of UNITY.

    One need only read his Dissertation Concerning the Nature of True Virtue to see his aberrant Philosophical theology. IF one recalls, he totally annihilates the archetypal-ectypal distinction at the get-go with his term “Being in General.” This idea is the heart of his understanding of primary and secondary beauty and virtue.

    In one of his explanations on ethics and how this view would ‘strengthen’ the Christian cause of good, Edwards outlines what it would look like for a person to love his neighbor. Being in General includes the vast created world and God Himself. Not only does he reduce virtue to self-love, but he qualitatively puts God and man in the idea of Being in General. God is the majority, something like %99.9999 of Being and the created order is the %.0001. It would be in his idea perfectly virtuous for a man to love God when the whole world is up in arms against Him. In this discussion Edwards shows how a person cannot love God and not his brother nor can he truly love his brother and not God. But in the end it is siding with the majority of Being In General. Not that the end results are wrong but his justification for them is.

    This idea of God being qualitatively on the same plane as man fits well into the idea that Edwards was influenced by Cambridge Platonism. God is the most virtuous and harmonious being which we can become ‘like’ by staring into His glory, visio dei.

    If this idea does not run against every notion of the Creator/Creature distinction, I do not know what does. These terms and ideas are all easily available online and in his works. It is a short read.

    So, Edwards had a terrible view of Confessions, one that I know would be comfortable among modern Evangelicalism, and he had a terrible philosophical understanding of ontology, which in turn affected his understanding of the Trinity welding the psychological and relational models (see Amy Plantinga Pauw’s book).

    – Timothy M.

  21. Dr Clark
    I call it a canard because nobody has ever shown that cessationism of all gifts is either directly affirmed by Scripture or required or by GNC therof as the WCF requires.

    And once again you need to get your facts straight. To assert that the Spirit remains sovereignly free to deploy charismatic gifts is not to reject the biblical view of the Spirit, the nature of Scriptures, nor their uniqueness and sufficiency for the church.

    Those who assert that some form of non-canonical prophecy may yet continue, usually limit it to guidance or foretelling addressed to localized situations, not new doctrines for the church as a whole. When they occur claimed “prophecies” are not automatically authoritative. Nowhere in Scripture are believers told to place themselves in automatic subjection to claimed prophecy, instead believers are Scripturally required to test all claimed prophecies by Scriptural requirements (including a 100% accuracy rate for foretellings).

    • Tim,

      You keep saying “get your facts right” when the difference isn’t over facts it’s over the meaning of facts.

      The Doctor’s appropriation of neo-Pentecostalism was about as well done as can be done and I admit to having been sorely tempted by it many years back but the Reformed view (as I argue in the book) have always rejected the very things the Doctor argued. He knew that. I think you should follow his model and admit that this is an area where you think classic Reformed theology is defective. It’s disingenuous to argue that a view which the Reformed faced in the Anabaptists (read the book) and rejected squarely is consistent with Reformed theology. If the Doctor had tried to sell his view to Calvin he would have faced relentless opposition.

      There’s no question about the freedom of the Spirit. The question is about the nature of the promises in Scripture and the relation between the Spirit and the Word.

      Here I agree with Iain Murray when he links the developments at Westminster Chapel under RTK to the latter’s shared commitment with the Doctor in the Second Blessing/sealing of the Spirit theology. The Doctor’s dalliance with neo-Pentecostalism opened the door for the other spirits to come in. This has always been the trajectory of such approaches. There’s no such thing as a little Pentecostalism. Either the apostolic era is closed or it isn’t. If it isn’t then Rome has a claim, doesn’t she and so does Thomas Muntzer. The Reformed churches have always opposed both of them on the same ground.

      • Dr. Clark

        I say again get your facts straight. While canonical revelation to the entire church militant is closed with the homegoing of the Apostles, prophecy in Scripture clearly consists of two classes: canonical revelation always recorded and non-canonical communication from God which is mentioned but not always recorded. Huldah was somehow known as a prophetess before Josiah inquired of the Lord through her, yet her earlier prophecies which earned her that reputation, were not recorded and hence not canonical.

        The fact that “no other foundation can be laid”. doesn’t necessarily mean that God has foreclosed all communications or guidance outside Scripture. Nor does it mean that any claimed “prophecy” whether by Muntzer, Rome or anybody else can stand above Scripture for Scripture itself requires that all claimed prophecies be tested by the Apostolic word (1 Cor 14:36, 1 Thess. 5:19,20) which is Scripture.
        The answer to unbiblical practice is biblical practice rather than enforcing a position that can’t be established as biblical. If pastors theologians spent half as much time pointing out the clear biblical remedies for claimed prophecy run amok (testing against Scripture and 100% accuracy for starters), nobody could gainsay.

        And I’m not so sure that the Doctor disagrees with the early Reformed and the WA men. Certainly the Scots commissioners knew first hand that men in their history had experienced accurate foretellings (see Dean R. Smith, ³The Scottish Presbyterians and Covenanters: A Continuationist Experience in a Cessationist Theology,² Westminster Theological Journal 63 (Spring 2001), 39-63.) So I am not sure that they would have intended WCF 1:1’s last clause to foreclose all such.

        • Tim,

          You’re entitled to your view, but your repeated assertion of your view of prophecy isn’t a “fact” by any stretch of the imagination. It certainly has not been accepted as such by the Reformed churches and it certainly isn’t a view confessed by the Reformed churches even if there have been individuals who’ve entertained such (in my opinion, Anabaptist) views.

          • If you can demonstrate by citation that the intial Anabaptists required all that claimed to be prophecy to be tested by Scripture you will be justified in calling MLJ’s views Anabaptist. Absent such demonstration you will be committing exactly the same form of error as the man who lumps your teaching in with official Roman Catholic doctrine because you and RCD both teach the Nicene creed.
            It is differences that differentiate between positions, not the commonalities.

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