Online: "The New Perspective on Calvin"

This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece of research by the Rev Tom Wenger (MA, Historical Theology), a graduate of Westminster Seminary California on the way Calvin is being presented in some contemporary Calvin scholarship. This piece grew out of his 2003 MA thesis, “An Elenctic Norm: Defining Calvin’s Tertius Usus Legis.”  

JETS published a response to his essay, to which Tom was able to reply but I don’t think those things are online or at least they are not online for those who are not ETS members. Here is the bibliographic info:

Wenger, Thomas. “The New Perspective on Calvin: Responding to the Recent Calvin Interpretations.”/JETS/ 50 (2007) : 311-328.

Johnson, Marcus. “New or Nuanced Perspective on Calvin? Reply to Thomas Wenger.” /JETS/51 (2008) : 543-558.

Wenger, Thomas. “Theological Spectacles and a Paradigm of Centrality: A Reply to Marcus Johnson. /JETS/ 51 (2008) : 559-572.

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  1. I’ve been wondering about this union business for a while, especially as it relates to Calvin. Reading Calvin I couldn’t figure out where they would get the idea that justification doesn’t precede sanctification. This was really helpful. Thanks!

  2. Dr. Clark,

    As a non-theologian, do I have to wonder if this NPC development is a dialectical move to “bridge” the gap between tradional Calvinism and NPP/FV?
    I sensed that there should be a willingness of “bridgeing” the Reformation with N.T. Wright’s visions during his Wheaton visit, but I may be wrong. I would like you to comment on this.

    • Hi Sjoerd,

      This NPC is not really a new problem. It’s been around for a long time. Those who identify with Calvin (and Luther) have a very difficult time distinguishing themselves from their heroes. Frequently the folks who re-cast their heroes in their own image are not historians (though sometimes they are) and are unable or unwilling resist the temptation to let their heroes simply be what they are. This usually comes from using a poor method, e.g., asking a question of their subject that the subject himself isn’t asking and they synthesizing an answer out of the subject’s writings. Thus one can make his hero say anything one wishes. I call it making them sit up and bark. It’s fun and interesting but it isn’t history. Figures can be and must be allowed to be what they were in their own time and place. If we don’t do that then we’re not really doing history are we?

    • It may have that effect but I don’t think that’s the intent. The real source of the problem, I think, is that systematicians have a very hard time doing history. They have a theological point to make and sometimes they think that they need evidence that they’re just doing what Calvin was doing. They probably genuinely think they are being faithful to Calvin but because they aren’t using a historical method they end up asking Calvin to answer questions he wasn’t asking at least not in the way they are asking them. It also comes from the notion that Calvin defines Reformed theology. Of course he doesn’t but that notion dominated Reformed thought in the 20th century and it’s hard to get rid of it without appearing to diminish Calvin’s importance.

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