The Fork in the Road for the "New Calvinists"

Thanks to Darryl Hart for pointing us to this challenging essay by Dale Coulter, who self identifies as a “Classical Pentecostal” in the holiness tradition. He writes on the official blog of the Regent University School of Divinity. He favors the Edwardsean piety and is highly critical of B. B. Warfield’s critique of cessationism—which he takes as an attack on the piety (or pietism) of the New Side revivalists and particularly Edwards. According to Coulter, the problem only intensified in old Westminster Seminary, which perpetuated the errors of old Princeton.

He complains about the fixation of old Princeton and old Westminster with doctrines such as forensic justification, penal substitution, and what he calls “positional sanctification.” He alleges that old Westminster has had evangelicalism in a sort of stranglehold, from which it needs to break free. He believes that evangelicalism needs to get back to more “experiential dynamic of conversion” like that taught by “first-generation Reformed thinkers like Martin Bucer and Ulrich Zwingli, neither of whom really embraced forensic justification, but both of whom were concerned to articulate a theologically and experientially robust account of conversion centered on the Spirit.” He traces this lineage through Bullinger and Bucer.

His challenge to the “New Calvinists” (the Young Restless and Reformed fellows) is to take up the experiential stream of Reformed Christianity. He says they need to be “recovering the Reformed emphasis on conversion as an experientially-driven encounter and this, in turn, allows for the on-going role of the charismatic….” If they do, such “emphases will allow for greater continuity between Reformed and Wesleyan branches of the evangelical movement rather than continually reviving the antagonism of Old Princeton/Westminster.”

I’m sure I don’t agree with Coulter’s analysis of the Reformed tradition. I agree that Zwingli was not as clear about justification as Luther or Melanchthon, or Calvin but his implicit juxtaposition of Bucer with Luther and (I assume, Melanchthon and Calvin) is far from the mark. I do not understand why folk think Bucer diverged from Luther on justification. Bucer became a Protestant by hearing Luther. Bucer never saw himself as diverging from Luther on justification and Calvin never identified Bucer as a problem child on justification. I honestly wonder how much of Bucer folk have actually read? I’ve read sections of his untranslated commentary on Romans and he was quite Protestant there. Read his Common Places compiled after his death, drawn from his various writings, and his doctrine of justification is quite clear. Yes, he had a doctrine of double justification wherein the “first justification” is for acceptance with God and the second is really only sanctification as evidence of the first, not a second ground of acceptance with God.

The doctrine of duplex iustitia (double justice) was not, pace David Wright’s comments, particularly unique to Bucer. He learned it from Luther who taught it in 1518! Further, Bucer’s doctrine of double justification was not substantially different from Calvin’s doctrine of “double grace” or Olevianus’ doctrine of “double benefit.” The Reformed orthodox continued to use these categories through the 17th century. For more on this see “The Benefits of Christ: Double Justification in Protestant Theology Before the Westminster Assembly,” Anthony T. Selvaggio, ed., The Faith Once Delivered: Celebrating the Legacy of Reformed Systematic Theology and the Westminster Assembly (Essays in Honor of Dr. Wayne Spear). (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2007), 107-34. As a matter of fact, Luther, Bucer, Melanchthon, Calvin, and Olevianus all taught that the ground of justification is nothing other than the obedience and death of Jesus imputed and received through faith, resting and receiving, alone. Zwingli is a more difficult case but the best reading is probably that he intended to hold and communicate the evangelical doctrine of justification sola fide. The notion that there are two streams in magisterial Protestant theology, implicit in Coulter’s analysis, is highly dubious. Lyle Bierma debunked that historiography decades ago. See Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant.

I see no evidence of the captivity Coulter sees. Where is the influence of “old Westminster” today? I wonder if Coulter is swinging at ghosts? Which publishing houses does old Princeton/Westminster control? Which influential magazines? Which radio networks? Which institutions of higher learning? If we were any more obscure it would take a quantum physicist to find us!

Nevertheless, I agree with him that Edwards represents a turn toward pietism (see RRC on this) and that the YRR fellows do have a decision to make. Do they want to be confessionally Reformed? It’s interesting that Coulter also sees the current state of the YRR movement as transitional. I agree with Coulter that they have a choice to make and I agree that the choice is between Warfield (and Hodge and Turretin and Owen and Polanus and Perkins and Ursinus and Calvin and Bullinger and Bucer) and pietist and revivalist revisions of Reformed theology. The real choice has always been between the Reformation and Anabaptist enthusiasm. I am increasingly impressed by the Anabaptist nature of North American theology, piety, and practice since at least the early 19th century and in light of that history Coulter’s challenge to the YRR movement is apt. He’s offering them the tempting apple of religious experience (QIRE) and all they have to do is repudiate that nasty doctrine of forensic justification and its corollaries. Coulter has another spirit and it is the spirit Thomas Muntzer.

Is that really where the YRR movement wants to go?

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. Thank you for the interesting analysis, Dr. Clark.

    I’ve written previously on your blog that I do think there are aspects of the YRR movement which are much more Edwardsean, with a focus on personal piety and personal experience of total depravity and unconditional election, than aligned with Old School Presbyterianism.

    I personally think that’s a good thing, but I fully understand that you’ll disagree.

    I suspect that the influence of Al Mohler and Southern Seminary has a lot to do with merging traditional Baptist piety with classical Calvinist categories of TULIP, and generating the movement that’s become YRR. What’s your take on that?

    However, to argue that Edwards was a proto-charismatic doesn’t make any sense to me at all. How can someone read his work on the religious affections and argue that Edwards would make miracles, speaking in tongues and other “extraordinary gifts” into marks of true conversion — let alone wild animal sounds out of Toronto, or the Kansas City prophets, or any of the more exotic but very popular streams of modern Pentecostalism?

    Also, considering the furious attacks of Edwards and Tennant on the rise of Arminianism in New England, it’s hard for me to see how a renewed focus on Edwards would “allow for greater continuity between Reformed and Wesleyan branches of the evangelical movement.”

    Yes, I understand that modern Wesleyan/Holiness people make a major distinction between classical rationalist Arminianism and Wesleyanism or what in the 1700s was called by Wesleyans “evangelical Arminianism” — but I am not at all sure the leaders of the First Great Awakening made that distinction, or when they did, considered it to be anything except distinguishing between damnable heresy and serious error. From what I’ve read, most of them considered the rise of Arminianism in New England as a sign of God withdrawing his blessing on New England as a rebuke for the unfaithfulness of its people and its preachers.

    Now having said that, speaking as someone who drives past Evangel College and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary every Lord’s Day on the way to church, I do know a fair number of Calvinists within charismatic circles, both the AG and independent charismatic churches. They’ve even got their own quasi-denomination with (if I understand correctly) one church close to Westminster Seminary. There’s also a lot of that within Korean Presbyterianism, as I know far too well, and through the Koreans, a fair amount of that has entered the PCA.

    I think Calvin would scratch his head and ask how these people could possibly consider themselves to be followers of his theology, but I guess I’d rather have charismatics teaching TULIP than have them telling people “God voted, Satan voted, you cast the deciding vote.”

    • However, to argue that Edwards was a proto-charismatic doesn’t make any sense to me at all. How can someone read his work on the religious affections and argue that Edwards would make miracles, speaking in tongues and other “extraordinary gifts” into marks of true conversion — let alone wild animal sounds out of Toronto, or the Kansas City prophets, or any of the more exotic but very popular streams of modern Pentecostalism?

      How about this:

      “From about that time, I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ. and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him. An inward, sweet sense of these things, at times, came into my heart; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. And my mind was greatly engaged to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ, on the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation by free grace in him. I found no books so delightful to me, as those that treated of these subjects. Those words Cant. 2:1, used to be abundantly with me, I am the Rose of Sharon, and the Lilly of the valleys. The words seemed to me, sweetly to represent the loveliness and beauty of Jesus Christ. The whole book of Canticles used to be pleasant to me, and I used to be much in reading it, about that time; and found, from time to time, an inward sweetness, that would carry me away, in my contemplations. This I know not how to express otherwise, than by a calm, sweet abstraction of soul from all the concerns of this world; and sometimes a kind of vision, or fixed ideas and imaginations, of being alone in the mountains, or some solitary wilderness, far from all mankind, sweetly conversing with Christ, and wrapt and swallowed up in God. The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were, a sweet burning in my heart; an ardor of soul, that I know not how to express.

      Not long after I first began to experience these things, I gave an account to my father of some things that had passed in my mind. I was pretty much affected by the discourse we had together; and when the discourse was ended, I walked abroad alone, in a solitary place in my father’s pasture, for contemplation. And as I was walking there, and looking up on the sky and clouds, there came into my mind so sweet a sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express. I seemed to see them both in a sweet conjunction; majesty and meekness joined together; it was a sweet, and gentle, and holy majesty; and also a majestic meekness; an awful sweetness; a high, and great, and holy gentleness.

      After this my sense of divine things gradually increased, and became more and more lively, and had more of that inward sweetness. The appearance of every thing was altered; there seemed to be, as it were, a calm sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost every thing. God’s excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in every thing; in the sun, moon, and stars; in the clouds, and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water, and all nature; which used greatly to fix my mind. I often used to sit and view the moon for continuance; and in the day, spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to behold the sweet glory of God in these things; in the mean time, singing forth, with a low voice my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer. And scarce any thing, among all the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and lightning; formerly, nothing had been so terrible to me. Before, I used to be uncommonly terrified with thunder, and to be struck with terror when I saw a thunder storm rising; but now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me. I felt God, so to speak, at the first appearance of a thunder storm; and used to take the opportunity, at such times, to fix myself in order to view the clouds, and see the lightnings play, and hear the majestic and awful voice of God’s thunder, which oftentimes was exceedingly entertaining, leading me to sweet contemplations of my great and glorious God. While thus engaged, it always seemed natural to me to sing, or chant for my mediations; or, to speak my thoughts in soliloquies with a singing voice.

      I felt then great satisfaction, as to my good state; but that did not content me. I had vehement longings of soul after God and Christ, and after more holiness, wherewith my heart seemed to be full, and ready to break; which often brought to my mind the words of the Psalmist, Psal. 119:28. My soul breaketh for the longing it hath. I often felt a mourning and lamenting in my heart, that I had not turned to God sooner, that I might have had more time to grow in grace. My mind was greatly fixed on divine things; almost perpetually in the contemplation of them. I spent most of my time in thinking of divine things, year after year; often walking alone in the woods, and solitary places, for meditation, soliloquy, and prayer, and converse with God; and it was always my manner, at such times, to sing forth my contemplations. I was almost constantly in ejaculatory prayer, wherever I was. Prayer seemed to be natural to me, as the breath by which the inward burnings of my heart had vent. The delights which I now felt in the things of religion, were of an exceeding different kind from those before mentioned, that I had when a boy; and what I then had no more notion of, than one born blind has of pleasant and beautiful colors. They were of a more inward, pure, soul animating and refreshing nature. Those former delights never reached the heart; and did not arise from any sight of the divine excellency of the things of God; or any taste of the soul satisfying and life; giving good there is in them.”

      I don’t know about you, but being “almost constantly in ejaculatory prayer” sounds pretty proto-Pentecostal to me.

      • Zrim, I think you’re taking Edwards out of context with “ejaculatory prayers”. He’s not going around casting out demons or being “slain in the Spirit” here, but only speaking as the Psalmist did, using descriptive words to express his inward thoughts about God’s wonderful creation.

      • I agree with Michael. I see no evidence of Edwards advocating tonguespeaking, miraculous healings, or anything of that sort as a mark of true Christian experience. I’m quoting from memory here, but the practice during the First Great Awakening in least one church where people were wildly carrying on was to walk into the meetinghouse and shout in a loud voice, “What means this nonsense?”

        ZRim, have you read Edwards’ treatise on the religious affections? Edwards obviously advocates personal conversion, but Edwards also makes extremely clear that the Devil can mimic many sorts of external “religious affections” so they are not to be relied upon — they may be present, or they may not, in a truly converted person.

        Somebody such as Dr. Clark could make a reasonable claim that the spirit of Edwards is not that of Old School Presbyterianism, though I think it’s more accurate to say that Edwards would have been just as much opposed to Charles Finney as he was to Charles Chauncy. To say someone supported the New Side in the 1700s is not the same as saying someone would have been New School in the 1800s — just as the Old Side in the 1700s contained both anti-revivalist traditional conservatives and anti-revivalist proto-Unitarians, the people who opposed the East Coast ecclesiastical leadership of New England Congregationalism in the 1700s included men who looked back to the faith of the Puritans, men who in the next generation became Methodists, and men whose secession from the established Congregational parish church system in Massachussetts eventually turned them into Baptists after the “Separate Congregational” movement died out.

        We need to evaluate dead theologians on the basis of the questions they were asked that were actually burning issues in their day and on which they chose to write extensively, rather than taking secondary items out of their theology that they didn’t choose to develop extensively. It simply is not fair to ask a dead theologian how he would have answered a question he was not asked, or which he gave an answer that may or may not have spent much time thinking through the consequences of his answer.

        • Michael and Darrell,

          I really like nature, too. A high view of creation can nothing less. But what is the difference between the inward experientialism of the Edwards quote here and the inward experientialism of garden variety Pentecostalism/broad evangelicalism? Is it the same difference between revival and revivalism instead of the difference between reformation and revival, because that former distinction never really seems to work.

          For my part, I’m not so sure these fuzzy, un-careful distinctions do much more than say, “Your inward experientialism is bad because you’re you, ours is good because we’re us.” Some might call that Reformed narcissism, as in “I am Reformed; I think X; therefore X is Reformed.”

          P.S. In case anyone was wondering, the quite of from The Works of Jonathon Edwards, 1.xiii.

          • Zrim, you’re missing my point.

            Being charismatic means you believe the charismata continue and have not ceased.

            All you’ve done is shown that Jonathan Edwards believes in the importance of personal Christian experience. Well, what else is new?

            You haven’t shown that Jonathan Edwards denies cessationism and believes the extraordinary “gifts of the spirit” continue past the age of the apostles, let alone that they should be routinely expected today.

            Furthermore, not only have you not shown that Edwards denies cessationism, you haven’t even yet interacted with Edwards’ strong rebuke of those people who, during the First Great Awakening, believed that extraordinary experiences were proof of Christian conversion.

            What kind of charismatic is it who doesn’t speak in tongues, doesn’t conduct healing services, doesn’t expect miracles, and doesn’t believe extraordinary experiences are even necessary, let alone proof of conversion?

            We also need to remember that far from being a hellfire and brimstone preacher as we usually understand those words today, Edwards’ delivery was so dry and monotonous that it was said of him that he looked over the heads of his congregation at the bell rope at the back of the meetinghouse until he “looked it off.” He preached in a meetinghouse bereft of all musical accompaniment, using a precentor to “line out” very slow and dirge-like melodies to psalms and (probably) a very small number of hymns and New Testament canticles. He did not tolerate any audible response from the congregation during what most modern hearers would consider to be his very long sermons except a corporate “amen” at the end. Virtually everything a charismatic would consider to be essential to emotional exciting of the soul toward greater religious experience was absent from worship in Northhampton and Stockbridge.

            I strongly suspect any real charismatic who somehow could visit an Edwards worship services would condemn Edwards as a dead and dull preacher.

            • Darrell,

              The thing about being proto-anything is that one isn’t full-on something at the same time. But you make a good point. Admittedly, it’s overtstatement to say Edwards was proto-Pentecostal, properly speaking (though overstatement can be useful to make a point loosely). And likely, as you point out, any self-respecting Pentecostal would have plenty of reservations about claiming Edwards. But plenty of broad evangelicals or experimental Calvinists wouldn’t. And maybe that’s the more relevant point here, since these camps don’t really distinguish between revivalism and reformation like the old school does. So if one wants to question the pietism of evangelicalism, and at the same time hold for Edwards, it doesn’t seem to work very well. But something tells me you’re good with the pietism of evangelicalism in the first.

              Re all this 2K stuff and DGH, the Anabaptist jazz is clearly out in left field. But it’s not that surprising, at least not to me. I inhabit ground zero for Dutch Reformed neo-Kuyperianism, and my 2K peso has a really bad exchange rate. One of the most common charges, right after Lutheranism, is that Anabaptism and even Dispensationalism lurks. Next is public square antinomianism. But the more interesting question to me is what distinguishes the 2K/SOTC critics from the liberals and evangelicals of the 20th century? Both may apply the rule in vastly different ways, but the principle remains shared: the church is called to play some sort of civil role. 2K/SOTC says the church is only called to the ecclesial role of Word, sacrament and discipline.

    • Actually, no one has driven past Evangel College in more than 12 years.

      I would invite you to stop by and visit Evangel University one of these days, though. I would love to show you around our new, state-of-the-art campus, introduce you to some of the brilliant professors and perhaps chat over a cup of fairly decent coffee.


      Paul K. Logsdon
      Director of Public Relations
      1111 N. Glenstone Ave.
      Springfield, MO 65802
      (417) 865-2811

      • Blessings to you as well, Mr. Logsdon, and my apologies for the wrong name for Evangel. I’d already noticed the error but as far as I know there’s no way to edit our posts after we hit “enter.”

        BTW, I’ve known a number of your graduates over the years due to their role in various elected positions and in the military, and also a few of your current students. It’s pretty hard to be a reporter in southwest Missouri and not see the good work Evangel is doing in this part of the country, even if I don’t agree with Evangel on everything. And if you’ve been reading other parts of this thread and Dr. Clark’s blog, you know I probably agree more with the stances of a lot of people at Evangel on the role of the church in civil affairs than with certain stances by certain professors at certain conservative Reformed seminaries … 😉

        • I read this exchange with amusement. I graduated from Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God in 1991. The school is now known as Southeastern University. The name change is a significant one but not for the reasons you might think. First of all, Southeastern College of the A/G was at that time primarily a “Bible” college to prepare men and women for pastoral ministry or to become school teachers in the public arena. The name change for Evangel and Southeastern as well as other A/G schools is that practically all of the colleges are now liberal arts colleges. The children of A/G families were going to secular universities for liberal arts because most did not want to enter the ministry.

          The name change is mostly a sociological phenomenon in other words. Good news: attendance is up at almost all the A/G colleges which went in the liberal arts direction. The bad news? Probably there is less enthusiasm and less biblical knowledge, although there are still required bible classes for all students.

          I’m wondering how many generations it will take for the A/G colleges to go liberal and independent? If Erskine College in South Carolina is any indication it might not be too far in the future.



  2. For what it is worth, I came from the classical Pentecostal movement and the Charismatic movement. I also graduated from an Assemblies of God bible college and Asbury Theological Seminary. I concur with Dr. Clark’s analysis here. I would add, however, that Pentecostals and Charismatics in general only mention justification by faith alone in passing. The emphasis of the charismatic and pentecostal movement is sanctification, not justification. For all practical purposes their Arminianism deteriorates into a semi-pelagianism not that different from Roman Catholicism.

    This also explains why charismatics have less problems with accepting Roman Catholics as brother and sisters in Christ. After all, the Roman Catholics have embraced the classical Pentecostal doctrines of Spirit baptism and the ongoing gifts of the Spirit today. Doctrine divides and the Spirit unites is the mantra you hear from the pulpits of charismatic ministers and even modern “classical pentecostal” ministers. The emphasis on an ecstatic or enthusiastic experience trumps both Scripture and doctrine in practice, even though they have their own doctrinal spin on most things.

    At best the entire movement can be called “heterodox.”

    Regarding the Wesleyan-Holiness movement, the situation is not much better. There are practically no “fundamentalist” Wesleyans around anymore. Asbury, for all practical purposes, is a combination of Evangelical piety and neo-orthodoxy. It is only a matter of time before Asbury goes complete liberal, especially since the focus of Arminian theology is man and not Christ or God. Having graduated from Asbury in 1995 I can tell you that practically no one in the OT department there adheres to the historical existence of Adam and practically no one thinks Genesis 1-11 is anything other than “inspired story.” I am willing to be corrected if someone from Asbury wants to challenge that view.

    The whole focus on reason above revelation winds up back in the experimental/experiential realm where spiritual experience trumps the propositional truths revealed supernaturally in Holy Scripture. While I agree that at least the charismatics who teach the Reformed doctrines are teaching the truth in that respect, they are inconsistent. Essentially the charismatic movement emphasizes what can only be described as a synergistic view of the operation of spiritual gifts and Spirit baptism. This is not Reformed theology but Wesleyan theology. Even the higher life movement or the Keswick holiness movement, which is supposed to be more Reformed in its basic formation, is drawn from the Wesleyan holiness movement with its emphasis on “something more” or a “higher life” rather than simply being justified by faith alone.

    Donald Dayton’s book, The Theological Roots of the Pentecostal Movement, Hendrickson Press, clearly lays out the beginnings of the charismatic movement. Something Dayton does not mention, however, is the influence of Christian Science on the early Pentecostals and their fascination with producing miracles through faith healing. D. R. McConnell’s book, A Different Gospel, was a real eye opener for me when I read it in college in 1988. I had already noticed similarities in the doctrinal positions taken at my A/G church and what I knew about Christian Science. McConnell merely confirmed for me what I already saw.

    I think is called “charismatic” and “reformed” are completely incompatible. Folks like Wayne Grudem and John Piper are doing the classical Reformed movement no good service. I hate to include Albert Mohler here, but Mohler has recently compromised by signing the Manhattan Declaration and speaking to “conservative” Anglo-Catholic conferences on “moral issues.” When moral issues take precedence over the doctrines of grace, then the line has been crossed over into something that is no longer Reformed.

    Sincerely in Christ,

    Charlie J. Ray, M. Div.

    • Charlie,

      That was the most clearly written defense of Reformational theology from a former charismatic that I have read. You really understand both positions and realize that the two positions cannot be reconciled or synthesized together. It took me many years of reading Modern Reformation magazine and good reformed and lutheran theologians before I came to that conclusion too. When arminians and charismatics are first confronted with the differences between the two systems of theology they usually respond in a defensive manner. Some come around and join the ranks of the reformed. Others, like Dale Coulter dig in and then seek to reconstruct theology according to their bias and claim it is still more biblical. They always appeal to the book of Corinthians to defend their charismatic position. The whole tone of Paul’s letter is to downgrade the charismatic experience but in order to relate to them on their level he appeals to charismatic experience. This is obvious in the conclusions he draws in the books.

      I enjoy reading your comments and you obviously have thought through the differing positions very thoroughly.

      • Charlie,

        Keep reading about two-kingdom theology. You seem to a bit confused about this, common grace and natural law. It takes awhile to sort through those issues. I am not sure how much you have thought or read about those issues but it certainly took me a long time to get what the reformed and lutherans were talking about in this regard. Unfortunately, a lot of reformed and lutherans are confused about these issues too.

        I would recommend reading David Van Drunen’s Two Kingdom theology and Natural Law. It is clearly written and he draws from the best sources in his research.

  3. Rev. Ray wrote: “When moral issues take precedence over the doctrines of grace, then the line has been crossed over into something that is no longer Reformed.”

    True, but the phrase “take precedence” is key.

    Can we not work with Romanists, rabid holy rollers, secular conservatives and anybody else who wants to help fight evils like abortion, gay marriage, and other morally corrosive issues in the civil realm?

    Abraham Kuyper, as Prime Minister of the Netherlands and as a member of the Dutch lower house of parliament, was certainly willing to work with people outside the ecclesiastical sphere who shared his moral values if not his theological values. There are lots of people I don’t want coming to communion in a Reformed church who I do want coming to the ballot box.

    • Darrell, sorry I missed this earlier. But the answer is no. I do not hold to the doctrines of common grace or the idea that we are “co-belligerents” with those who openly attack the Gospel or those who attack it in subtle and dissimulating ways. I think common grace opens the door to Amyraldianism. Anyone who has read Charles Hodge will note that he says that Christ died for the reprobate in some sense, i.e. restraining evil, etc.

      However, this not only undermines particular atonement but total depravity as well. I don’t agree that Calvin taught common grace or that the atonement applies to the reprobate. Sufficiency simply means that from below we do not know the number of the elect or who they are.

      Co-belligerency, imo, compromises the two kingdoms theology of the Bible. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world.

      Sincerely in Christ,


      • Thank you for your note, Rev. Ray. This moves the discussion into quite an interesting direction that I had not previously considered.

        Dr. Clark, what are your views on common grace, particularly with regard to the Three Points of Common Grace of Synod 1924? How do you believe the “two kingdoms” theology relates to the Three Points of Common Grace?

        Since I know I’ve just lobbed a hand grenade into the discussion, let me be clear up front that I am far from being an uncritical supporter of Abraham Kuyper. I have a lot of respect for the Protestant Reformed position on this issue, as well as the historic Christian Reformed stance. My own preferred theological categories are more those of New England Puritanism, not the ones first laid out in the Afscheiding churches and then clarified and detailed in subsequent synods and secessions.

        But it’s a fair question, given the history of the United Reformed Churches and their origins, what a URC minister believes on the issue of common grace and how he interacts with the key synodical decision on that issue. Perhaps the reason the whole “two kingdoms” theology sounds so foreign to me is that it’s not part of the consensus position of most Dutch Reformed churches since Kuyper on how church and society should relate.

        • I’ve defended the Three Points as quite traditional. Charlie is quite wrong about this. See the essay in the Strimple Festschrift on the well-meant offer.

      • Charlie,

        If you’re right then Reformed believers not only mayn’t join Romanists in the abortion problem, but they also mayn’t join Mormons who want lower taxes or pagans who want to keep Wal-mart from going up in their neighborhood. And if that’s true, they also mayn’t do a whole lot of ordinary things with a whole lot of ordinary people simply because they don’t extraordinarily confess what we do. But if you’ve ever agreed with a false religionist of any stripe on a civil matter then you’ve just undone your own thesis.

        The problem with co-belligerency isn’t that it compromises the two kingdoms; the problem is that it presumes warrior mode instead of worker mode. Amongst the differences, one doesn’t know how to live with loss, while the other knows a little something about proximate justice.

  4. i also see virtually no evidence of the captivity Coulter sees. Where is the influence of “old Westminster” today? I wonder if Coulter is swinging at ghosts? What publishing houses does old Princeton/Westminster control? What magazines? What radio networks? Which institutions of higher learning? If we were any more obscure it would take a quantum physicist to find us!

    That made me laugh out loud- at least Coulter does see the threat of Old Princeton on his theological beliefs. I have to give him credit for that. Most do not see this as clearly as he does. Perhaps he is making ghosts in his head that really are not a threat in the culture at large but really are a threat if one is honestly seeking the truth. His experience centered theology is the definite majority report today- the real problem though is is it the truth.

  5. Reading that Coulter article was just like reading Roger Olson; we don’t need pesky doctrinal fences, just a shared experience of the Spirit.

  6. Judging that Reagent is overwhelmingly New Evangelical and is open to the anti-Protestant idea of “spiritual formation”/ “spiritual disciplines”, I doubt even the “revivalist stream” of Reformed thought would want to be associated with the New Mysticism pioneered by the quaker Richard Foster.

  7. In further support of the article, while the Reformers certainly emphasized them more than some of their predecessors, the concepts of forensic justification and penal substitution were not new to the Reformation era. For example:

    His anger did not blaze carnally for a carnal observance and sustain the penalty set for those who did not keep it, but that believers might be in themselves entirely free from fear of such penalty, to which applies what he now added as follows: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having been made a curse for us, since it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.'” A man’s death belongs to the nature of penalty for sin; wherefore it is also called sin. Not that a man sins when he dies, but that it is because of sin that he dies. In other words, the tongue properly so designated is that fleshly part which moves between the teeth and under the palate, yet that also is called a tongue which results because of the tongue, as the Greek tongue or the Latin tongue. Moreover, that member of the body which we use for work is designated the hand, but in Scripture that is called a hand which is brought about by the hand. We say, “His hand is stretched forth … His hand is observed by him … I hold your hand,” all referring to the hand as a part of a human being. Now I do not deem writing a part of a human being, yet it also is called a hand because it is done by the hand. So not only is that great evil which is worthy of punishment, sin itself, called sin, but also death, which comes because of sins. Christ did not commit that sin which renders one liable to death, but for us he underwent that other, namely, death itself which was inflicted upon human nature by sin. That which hung on the tree was cursed by Moses. There death was condemned to reign longer and was cursed to die. Wherefore by such “sin” of Christ our sin was condemned that we might be set free, that we might remain no longer condemned by the rule of sin.

    – Claudius of Turin (flourished 810 – 827), Commentary on Galatians, at Galatians 3:16 (Translation by Allen Cabaniss in Early Medieval Theology volume IX of the Library of Christian Classics, p. 229-30)(see also his iconoclastic comments)

    And similarly:

    For He did not die as being Himself liable to death: He suffered for us, and bore in Himself the wrath that was the penalty of our transgression, even as Isaiah says, Himself bore our weaknesses. [Mt 8:17] So in Psalm 138 we say, The Lord will make requital for me; and in the 72nd the Spirit says, He shall save the children of the poor and bring the slanderer low, for from the hand of the mighty He has set the poor man free, the needy man whom there was none to help.

    – Athanasius, Letter to Marcellinus regarding the Psalms (More interesting quotations on other topics like Sola Scriptura from that work)

    The Reformation is better viewed as a restoration and revival of the best portions of historical Christian theology: a castle built on the ruins of the Middle Ages, and incorporating the good stones found there. There is little new there, for Reformation theology is quintessentially Scriptural and consequently is seen in lesser or fuller form down through the ages wherever Christians have obtained their theology from the Holy Scriptures.

    While precise formulations like double justification may find increasingly concise and clear explanations from Bucer to Turretin, if the doctrine is Scriptural it is not surprising that we may find it expressed (in some form or other) in writers from whom the Reformers learned so much.

    There is also an ancient stream of error (and more than one such stream) that attempts to remove focus from the Word of God and place it instead in subjective feelings and experiences. Both asceticism and enthusiasm are two examples. Indeed, it is hard not see much of the modern “charismatic” movement as anything other than a resurgence of the enthusiasts.

    – TurretinFan

  8. An aside: I’m amused that you consider D. Hart “Reformed” and not an example of the “the Anabaptist nature of North American theology, piety, and practice.” You’re missing the obvious.

      • Dr. Clark, I’ve had similar thoughts before, but I haven’t voiced them because to accuse somebody of being an Anabaptist is, according to Dutch Reformed standards, to accuse them of some pretty serious sin. However, a person with a Kuyperian view of the role of Christians in society could very easily see some formal similarities between the world-flight approach of Anabaptism and the positions that Dr. Nelson Kloosterman accuses Dr. Hart of advocating in his series of articles in Christian Renewal.

        I’m carefully qualifying my words because I’ve read Dr. Kloosterman’s critique of Dr. Hart and I haven’t read Dr. Hart himself. While it may or may not have roots in the Southern “spirituality of the church” position, this whole “two kingdoms” theology is totally foreign to anything I was taught by either liberal or conservative professors at Calvin College or Calvin Serminary, or saw in years of Dutch Reformed and broader Reformed church life since then.

        My guess is that Dr. Hart’s views of the relationship between the church and the state are radically different from his views of the relationship between Christians and the state, and if that’s true, it means his views only **APPEAR** similiar to Anabaptism.

        But I can very easily see how a Dutch Reformed person could think some very bad things about Dr. Hart’s views, since the way Dr. Kloosterman described them certainly makes them look pretty horrible.

        • By Anabaptist I’m referring to their, theology, piety, & practice: their denial of justification sola fide, thier Christology etc

          Hart is no AB. To suggest that is ignorant or malevolent or both.

          Hart doesn’t advocate world flight.

          I’m almost speechless.

          Sent from my iPhone

          • Dr. Clark, I really am surprised that you are shocked.

            What you said about Dr. Hart’s views is pretty much what I expected I would hear. Just because something looks and smells like something doesn’t mean it **IS** that thing. Otherwise, we need to agree with the Baptists who say Reformed and Lutheran believers are quasi-Catholic because we baptize babies. There are **HUGE** differences between why we baptize babies and why Romanists baptize babies, despite the formal similarities between the two.

            I don’t remember reading that Dr. Kloosterman ever accused Dr. Hart of being an Anabaptist. However, while reading Dr. Kloosterman’s articles in Christian Renewal attacking Dr. Hart, the “anabaptist” thought came to my mind more than a few times. Again, I am **NOT** saying Dr. Kloosterman made that accusation; I have no idea what Dr. Kloosterman thinks on that subject and maybe the idea never occurred to him.

            However, for those people who were raised to believe that cultural transformation is a critical part the mission of Christians in this world, this whole “two kingdoms” theology looks **VERY** much like what we were taught was the essence of the Anabaptist rejection of the legitimacy of Christian involvement in the civil government.

            I am assuming that Dr. Hart believes that Christians should be involved in the civil government, just that the church as institute should not be.

            If Dr. Hart still believes that Christians should be involved in civil government then obviously he’s no Anabaptist — even though the picture painted of him in Christian Renewal sounds a lot like one.

            • Darrell,

              1. You admit you don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to Hart, that you haven’t read his work. Well I have. I know what I’m talking about. I also know what the Anabaptists said and did– I teach this stuff.

              2. You’re relying on a highly prejudiced and prejudicial account of Hart, an account that Hart does not recognize as a faithful account of his own views.

              3. Thus I suggest that, before you continue to comment, you do what Christian charity requires and read Hart extensively before you comment. Don’t you think charity requires that much?

              4. Hart may be wrong, but he is NOT advocating Anabaptist withdrawal from society. It is one thing to argue that the church as church should not be engaged is social issues it’s another thing to argue that Christians should not be involved in civil life. Hart has not argued the latter and the latter is the Anabaptist view, generally stated.

            • Dr. Clark, you are quite correct in encouraging me to read Dr. Hart directly.

              I think I began this thread by saying that I know Dr. Hart’s views only from secondhand accounts, and I also wrote that “My guess is that Dr. Hart’s views of the relationship between the church and the state are radically different from his views of the relationship between Christians and the state, and if that’s true, it means his views only **APPEAR** similiar to Anabaptism.”

              My point is that for the category of people who believe that we must be involved in culture transformation as part of the creation mandate, and that a transformational world view is a Reformed distinctive, not just Dr. Hart’s views but also this whole “two kingdoms” theology looks very much like what we have been taught is an Anabaptist attitude.

              And that’s a pretty big segment of the Dutch Reformed world, along with much of the modern American conservative church world.

              Let me repeat — just because “A” looks like “B” doesn’t mean “A” actually **IS** “B.” You’ve made clear what I already guessed to be the case, namely, that Dr. Hart believes Christians (even if not the Christian church as institute) need to be involved in civil life.

              Fair enough.

              In circles familiar with the “Spirituality of the Church” doctrine, Dr. Hart’s views may not sound too strange. For a lot of other people, they could easily be misunderstood.

              Of course, just because something can be misunderstood doesn’t mean it’s wrong — but we shouldn’t be surprised by the misunderstanding and need to be prepared to explain, as you have done, why the misunderstanding is wrong.

            • Darrell, when you said Calvin College and Calvin Seminary two thoughts
              occurred to me. One is common grace and two is Amyraldianism. The Christian
              Reformed Church adopted the three points of common grace in 1924, which
              in turn led to the acceptance of theistic evolution and higher criticism. Today
              the CRC and the two theological schools associated with it are a mix of liberal
              and conservative theology. Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary is also a product
              of Calvin Seminary and the CRC. He is a leader in the Neo-Evangelical movement
              which is for all practical purposes going in the neo-orthodox and even liberal
              direction. It would be more in character to describe Neo-Evangelicalism as
              Anabaptist than to associate D. Hart with that radical side. Modern liberalism is
              essentially without boundaries.

          • I’m saying Hart is an Anabaptist. When he goes on and on about how the church
            has nothing to say to the outside world except on matters of salvation, he certainly follows typical American thinking about religion. Much of this is the legacy of the bad guys in Reformed churches.

            If anything, Hart reminds me of the old Scottish moderates — in form, not content.
            Those guys wanted a dignified, soft conservatism that didn’t become pious offend the Enlightenment elites.

            • James,

              Are being deliberately thick or just provocative?

              Have you read Secular Faith?

              The visible, institutional church, as such isn’t charged with commenting on monetary policy. Christians as private persons should and must bring their faith to bear in every aspect of life.

              This is why Ursinus distinguished between general providence (the KOG broadly defined) and special providence (the KOG narrowly defined). The latter, he said, is concerned with spiritual matters. Christians, as such live in both realms simul. Was Ursinus (see his commentary on HC Q. 123) Anabaptist?

              What about this writer, is he Anabaptist?

              Therefore, in order that none of us may stumble on that stone, let us first consider that there is a twofold government in man (/duplex esse in homine regimen/): one aspect is spiritual, whereby the conscience is instructed in piety and in reverencing God; the second is political, whereby man is educated for the duties of humanity and citizenship that must be maintained among men. These are usually called the “spiritual” and the “temporal” jurisdiction (not improper terms) by which is meant that the former sort of government pertains to the life of the soul, while the latter has to do with the concerns of the present life—not only with food and clothing but with laying down laws whereby a man may live his life among other men holily, honorably, and temperately. For the former resides in the inner mind, while the latter regulates only outward behavior. The one we may call the spiritual kingdom, the other, the political kingdom. Now these two, as we have divided them, must always be examined separately; and while one is being considered, we must call away and turn aside the mind from thinking about the other. There are in man, so to speak, two worlds, over which different kings and different laws have authority.

              James, have you ever actually read any of the Anabaptists? Do you have any idea of what you’re saying or are you simply assuming that anyone who dares dissent from transformationalism must, ipso facto, be an Anabaptist?

            • Sorry! Correction.

              I’m NOT saying Hart is an Anabaptist.

              Whoops. Insert the word “not” in that first sentence.

      • Like I said, Lutherans have traditionally supported state churches that have been backed by the elite. They didn’t do this in America, but the certainly did so all over Europe. So, no, Hart is not Lutheran. My explanation earlier disappeared.

  9. If Old Princeton/Old Westminster had a strangle-hold on anyone we wouldn’t have the confusion among Reformed folks that we have today on the days of Creation and other science/faith issues. It’s a pity they don’t.

    • Is this Terry Gray, who was put on trial in the OPC over evolution? Does this mean you haven’t recanted? Old Princeton said that the modern theory of evolution held by the scientific establishment today is atheism.

      • It is I. Nothing about evolution in general or the age of the earth in my trial. Hodge’s declaration that Darwinism is atheism flows directly (and correctly) from Hodge’s definition of Darwinism. Warfield (or Asa Gray) didn’t accede to Hodge’s definition and neither do I. Hodge claims we’re not Darwinists. Warfield, Asa Gray, and myself do not think that Darwinism as a biological theory addresses the question of teleology in the exact way that Hodge claimed it did. But, if it makes you happy, I’m content merely to talk about biological evolution (rather than Darwinism) and think of it theistically as I do other sciences (not only is there theistic evolution, but there is theistic chemistry).

        This is probably a hijacking of this discussion, so I will not pursue it further. You’re welcome to contact privately if you want to continue the conversation.

  10. Darrell,

    Is this view Anabaptist?

    Therefore, in order that none of us may stumble on that stone, let us first consider that there is a twofold government in man (/duplex esse in homine regimen/): one aspect is spiritual, whereby the conscience is instructed in piety and in reverencing God; the second is political, whereby man is educated for the duties of humanity and citizenship that must be maintained among men. These are usually called the “spiritual” and the “temporal” jurisdiction (not improper terms) by which is meant that the former sort of government pertains to the life of the soul, while the latter has to do with the concerns of the present life—not only with food and clothing but with laying down laws whereby a man may live his life among other men holily, honorably, and temperately. For the former resides in the inner mind, while the latter regulates only outward behavior. The one we may call the spiritual kingdom, the other, the political kingdom. Now these two, as we have divided them, must always be examined separately; and while one is being considered, we must call away and turn aside the mind from thinking about the other. There are in man, so to speak, two worlds, over which different kings and different laws have authority.

    • You’re using the term and concept of two kingdoms out of historical context. Like I said, Lutherans traditionally backed Christian states, government-backed churches and enforced morality. So whatever “two kingdoms” means, it does not mean what Hart claims.

        • Yes, I’m familiar with DVD. Just because one accepts the term and concept of natural law does not mean that there is no Biblical mandate over all areas of life. In fact the term “natural law”means completely different things, depending on the writer.

          Calvinist opposition to Natural Law only dates to the late 19th Century with the Nadere Reformatie and those who came after. It’s not central to the argument over the cultural mandate.

          • James,

            I didn’t ask if you are vaguely familiar with DVD’s work. I asked if you’ve read the detailed historical evidence he provides? You wouldn’t be criticizing something you don’t understand or haven’t taken the time to learn, have you?

  11. Oh, wait. That’s Calvin. The same principle holds. Ask Michael Servetus. You are reading your own ideas back into history, as if Calvin anticipated Meredith Kline.

    • Kline has nothing to do with it!

      Calvin distinguished between two spheres/kingdoms in just the way YOU SAY that a Reformed writer cannot do. Evidently Calvin did not have the benefit of hearing from you before he made the distinction between what the church AS church can do and what Christians as Christians can do.

      Nothing’s been taken out of context.

      This distinction was taught throughout the 17th century by orthodox Reformed writers.

      Unless you’re a theocrat, in which case — virtually no one in the NL or N. America has agreed with you since the 18th century — then DVD and Hart are completely within their rights to appropriate Calvin’s distinction for a post-theocratic setting.

      Indeed, if you’ll read VanDrunen, you’ll see that A. Kuyper himself (an ardent anti-theocrat!) made some of the very same arguments you now call Anabaptist.

  12. You didn’t read what I wrote.

    1.) I said Hart is not actually Anabaptist. Scroll up.
    2.) The point is not two kingdoms per se, but the radicalization of the doctrine promoted by Kline and his followers. It confuses the issues. So if anybody in history talks about two kingdoms, then you think it supports your view. This is like when high churchman read the Reformers and think any mention of grace in baptism points to baptismal regeneration.
    3.) There is the Church as an institution and the Church as the people of God. The Institution exists to serve the people on spiritual matters, yes. The People of God must deal with both spiritual and profane matters in a Biblical way, which includes plowing and foreign policy.
    4.) The term and concept of “theocrat” is a left-wing insult, like “racist,” “sexist” and “anti-Semite.” It means nothing. American Presbyterians certainly did want an Anglo-Saxon, protestant, Christian society in America minus an established church. Read Witherspoon.

    • James,

      I understand you don’t think Hart is Reformed. I’m saying you don’t know the tradiiton or you wouldn’t say that.

      Theocrat isn’t an insult. It’s a historical category. Do you think that the magistrate should enforce the first table of the decalogue? If so, you’ve disqualified from participating in the discussion by taking a view that isn’t on the table.

      When we talk about the spirituality of the church we’re talking about the church as institution. Obviously, as I’ve said repeatedly, God’s people live in both spheres and have civil obligations, which they must discharge under the Lordship of Christ.

      Did you miss the distinction between general and special providence? Have you read Ursinus on Q. 123?

  13. On the Anabaptist thing: Historic Anabaptists escaped from the world into communities that remind me of the old Jewish communities. They were a society unto themselves. They escaped from mainstream Europe into a world of their own creation.

    Hart isn’t trying to escape from the mainstream so much as he wants a rapprochement with it, For example, this would allow him to support a “right” to gay sex and abortion in public while going to a church that condemns the practice.

    So that’s the difference between Hart and the Anabaptists. Both want to break the bonds of church and society, but for entirely different reasons. So, no, Hart is no Anabaptist.

    • You know Hart’s political views? I’ve known him for 20 years and I know him to be a libertarian and pro-life. I don’t know what his views on homosexual “rights” are but if you’ve paid any attention to this space you’ve seen that I’ve offered extensive argumentation against homosexuality on the basis of natural law.

      • Concession here, Dr. Clark: My understanding from secondary sources is that J. Gresham Machen was a libertarian.

        I disagree, obviously, and believe not just individual Christians but the church as institute has a God-ordained calling and command to take stances on moral issues in the civil realm. In most cases specifics should be outlined by Christians as individuals since they are not biblically ordained, but the general principles are matters of Christian teaching on which the churches, in a free republic such as ours, cannot, should not and MUST NOT be silent.

        But the last thing I want to do is say J. Gresham Machen’s position was un-Reformed. There are certainly legitimate differences of opinion within the Reformed world on some subjects. For example, I also disagree with Machen’s views on church polity, and he would disagree with mine, and both of us disagree with Archbishop Ussher, but all three of us apply a Reformed hermeneutic to our views on church government and come up with different conclusions.

    • James Vandenberg wrote: “Hart isn’t trying to escape from the mainstream so much as he wants a rapprochement with it, For example, this would allow him to support a “right” to gay sex and abortion in public while going to a church that condemns the practice.”

      I need to part company with you based on this post.

      I have read nothing about whether Dr. Hart believes homosexuality and abortion should be criminal as well as ecclesiastical offenses, but since he’s a conservative Reformed minister, I think I can assume he believes that abortion should be a crime, and at the very least that he is not a supporter of gay marriage.

      But especially in light of highly publicized ecclesiastical proceedings a few years ago in a NAPARC denomination’s presbytery on related matters, I think it’s important to avoid implying that Dr. Hart or any other conservative Reformed minister would “support a “right” to gay sex and abortion in public while going to a church that condemns the practice.”

      I think I know what you’re trying to get at — i.e., saying that many evangelical two-kingdoms theology advocates aren’t willing to be consistent because (fortunately) their practice is often better than their theology — but because Dr. Hart is an ordained minister of a confessionally Reformed denomination, and because I’ve been agreeing with you elsewhere on this subject, I can’t stand by and let people think I might agree with your comment in the way it has been worded.

      Gay sex and abortion are hot-button issues in the modern evangelical world because they seem to be the current focus of the Devil’s attack on what is left of a Judeo-Christian consensus in America, and for that reason, apart from clear evidence, I don’t think we should imply that ordained ministers might hold a position that could in any way be viewed as supporting those views.

  14. Maybe I should be more clear:

    I’m not saying that Hart believes gay sex is OK in the public sphere. I don’t know if he has said so one way or another. Lee Irons, on the other hand, shows how things can go bad quickly.

    My point is that Hart wants a system in which some Christian can support liberal ethics (feminism, gay rights, multiculturalism, whatever) in public while being a “confessional Reformed Christian” at church and in private. Church morality need not necessarily be applied in the civil sphere. That would be a covenant of works or theocracy or whatever label is applied at the moment.

    (BTW, Hart isn’t a minister. He’s an historian. In fact, he’s spent lots of time as an historian within movement Evangelicalism.)

    • Darryl is a ruling elder in the OPC.

      James, you’re assuming what has to be proved (petitio principii), namely that the 2 kingdoms analysis of Christ and culture leads to certain social antinomianism. This doesn’t follow. Just because the church as institution is limited doesn’t mean that Christians as citizens are free from God’s law. God’s law is just that. Applying it in every case may not be as easy as you think. N T Wright says that “They kingdom come” = debt relief of third world countries and he says that if you deny his conclusion you’ve disobeyed the Law of God. How do you like it when a social leftist calls you antinomian?

      The 2K analysis of Christ and culture is NOT quietism. To say so is simply ignorant.

      You keep alleging these things against Hart without a shred of evidence and in the face of evidence to the contrary. You want to make a bogey man because you seem to be unwilling to learn or even consider a different point of view. I really think you should take a break and do a little reading before you continue to comment.

      • On social antinomianism, there’s a simple test:

        Do you believe in blue laws respecting the Sabbath? Does McDonald’s have a right to be open on Sunday? Should the NFL be allowed to desecrate the Lord’s Day?

  15. How did a post on the so-called “New Calvinists” end up being about Hart and the 2K anyway?

    We’ve gotten way off track here.

    No more Hart/2K posts on this thread. There are many posts on the HB under which this discussion would be more relevant. Search “two kingdoms” or use the category cloud.

  16. … fascinated and dismayed as I read. Two things jump out regarding the criticisms of D. Hart… presumption and lack of charity… and to what purpose? To prove a point of argument? If so, no matter the importance of the point, the argument rings hollow.


  17. … and, I would add, besides lacking charity… the argument against DH is flawed due to its flawed presumptions regarding two kingdom theology (let alone Hart’s own positions).

  18. Dr. Clark,

    How do you interact with Pentecostal theologians like Veli-Matti Karkkainen, Amos Yong, Frank Macchia, James K.A. Smith? You’ve must of at least come across the finnish guys work above. I believe he carries more degrees then you and has written more books. Do you interact with any of the scholarly work that is coming from the pens of these guys or do you just pick up bread crumbs from guys like in the post? The guy you quote in the post is an easy picking for you to make a point, but I don’t know if you could get away with the Anabaptist charge so quickly with Vali-Matti or other serious Pentecostal theologians. It’s something for you to think about. The majority or if not all the recent Pentecostal scholars have great knowledge of other traditions inside the church and a number of have both Reformed and Pentecostal heritage’s. In India the Pentecostal outpouring pre-dates azusa street missionaries and it goes back to the Orthodox church there. It’s just staggering when the data is shown it’s opposite of euro-centered history of the West.


  19. Frank Macchia and the Finnish scholars you mentioned all think the New Perspectives on Paul are an opportunity to further undermine “The Westminster Captivity of Evangelicalism.” Pentecostals, because they were at first rejected by Evangelicals as heretics, still wage war against Reformed theology in general and the historical-grammatical method of exegeting Scripture as an attack on their experiential and allegorical method of interpreting Scripture. They also see sola Scriptura as a threat since it means that supernatural and ecstatic experiences are to be tested by Scripture. For most Evangelicals that would rule out the extraordinary doctrines taught in popular Charismatic circles.

    For more on this angle, see my article at:

  20. I come from a Pentecostal background and we never put experience over the written Word of God. I have books by all those scholars and I plan on reading through all of them to see what they say myself just like I did with all my reformed books. Are you a cessationist now?

    • Ken, I’m a cessationist and post pentecostal. However, that does not mean that I do not believe that “GOD” cannot intervene supernaturally. What I disagree with is the idea that somehow we still need the sign gifts today to authenticate the Bible or Christianity. Also, I do not believe than anyone has control over what God Himself sovereignly distributes. That is inherently synergistic if not outright idolatry. How can man control God? That really has more to do with magic than with biblical Christianity.

      God does what He wants to do when He wants to do it. He was here long before any of us were here and He will be around long after you’re dead. It’s a bit arrogant to think God needs us to do anything at all. We’re simply instruments in His hand to do what He has decreed from all eternity.

      Of course that does not excuse us from prayer, evangelism, outreach, worship, and all the other Christian duties commanded under the moral law. But it does place the emphasis where it ought to be: God and Jesus Christ.

  21. Could someone give an example of a movement that has more often, more rigidly, and more publicly affirmed Imputation and Justification sola fide than the YRR crowd?

    If there was a fork (not convinced), the correct spine has been chosen on that issue.

  22. Zrim, I’m not saying that Christians cannot actively participate in the worldly kingdom. What I am saying is that “co-belligerency” is the disguise for compromise in the spiritual kingdom. All too often the two kingdoms are confused and thus doctrinal purity and the Gospel are compromised. If the Evangelicals and Catholics Together statement means anything or the Manhattan Declaration, then my thesis is correct. Co-belligerency is not possible simply because the lines get blurred.


    • Charlie,

      A better term, then, might be ecumenism instead of co-belligerency. In which case, I agree. Ecumenism precludes non-religious views, co-belligerency includes them; ecumenism compromises doctrinal precisionism and presumes a worldly implication of the gospel (contra confessional Reformed orthodoxy and the spirituality of the church, respectively), co-belligerency doesn’t account for any of that in the first place. Again, I don’t care much for the term co-belligerency (maybe triadalism?), but to the extent that it says there is a whole swath of perfectly legitimate space for believers and unbelievers to share and work together, it sure beats ecumenism.

      • Zrim, if Christians consistently followed what you’re describing as “co-belligerency” that would be great. The trouble is the lines between what you describe as “co-belligerency” and “ecumenicalism” are fuzzy at best. Even Albert Mohler signed the Manhattan Declaration and Gerald Bray, the Evangelical Anglican, signed Evangelicals and Catholics Together. I see no need for any “organized co-belligerency” with unbelievers. Even the Moral Majority was a dismal failure so what would make anyone think that cooperating with the heathen or with false religion in political matters is going to solve anything?

        There is a tension between the separation of church and state and which religious philosophy is dominate in society. But if the Protestant Reformation proves anything at all it is that religion and state combined together equals oppression for the other churches.

        The problem with religious pluralism, otoh, is that secularism takes over. Somewhere in the middle there has to be a compromise. Personally, I don’t think the C.S. Lewis analogy of the village green that Mike Horton appeals to is any sort of solution.

  23. Dr. Clark,

    I enjoyed the read, as I did with many others on your blog. Just one caution: don’t use “Anabaptism” as a derogatory term, without defining it at all, link it with Munzer (as if that was THE Anabaptism), and employ it as if it was THE defining behind American evangelicalism. It obviously isn’t. Whoever says so underestimates the origins of Anabaptism and the profound effect of American culture (in which Anabaptists have taken a very tiny sidekick role) on American evangelicalism.
    I don’t know if you know any actual Anabaptists, but perhaps some research in this direction would be helpful… just saying.

    • Hi Jan

      Have you read any of the AB’s? Do you realize that every one of them rejected the Reformation doctrine of justification? Most held a heretical Christology (“celestial flesh”) & the movement mainly rejected sola scriptura. For the most part it was composed of spiritualist fanatics and that’s being polite!

      • You are correct, Dr. Clark. Unfortunately, this is not unique to Dale Coulter. The Pentecostal/Charismatic movement as a whole is going in this Anabaptist direction and with great pride. Although officially the doctrine of justification by faith alone is still part of the doctrinal statements of the Assemblies of God and the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee, the truth is their seminaries and theologians are beginning to chip away at the “official” doctrine. Oneness Pentecostals are embraced as brothers in spite of the fact that they deny the trinity. The trinity is still part of the official doctrinal statements in the A/G and the COG but both are in fellowship with Oneness scholars through the Society for Pentecostal Studies, etc.

        Classical pentecostalism is more openly Anabaptist now than it ever was in the past. This is in fact one of the issues that forced me to move out and move in a more reformed direction. I was reading Pneuma and the Church of God School of Theology’s theological journal. Both journals openly attacked sola scriptura, confessional theology, and the doctrine of justification by faith alone.


  24. Charles with all respected the charismata were never “sign gifts today to authenticate the Bible or Christianity”, but for edification. Are you saying the believers in Acts or other places who prophesied were writing scripture after being converted? Cessation is postmodern in thought and it undercuts the clear Trinitarian nature of God’s presence and undercuts sola scriptura, because it is forbidding and despising something that scripture alone clearing commands not to!

    As for experience, I experience repentance every week when confession of sin and pardon. Sometimes even deeper feeling of sorrow over my own breaking of the law and joy and the realization of God’s forgiveness.

    But with all that said, I no longer go to a pentecostal church, because it’s on shaky soil and needs the historical church, but I’m not post-pentecostal! Somehow I’ve learned and learning to appreciate both sides of my heritage which are reformed and pentecostal.

    Anway, it would be nice to keep in contact with you,


  25. Ken, I don’t believe Pentecostalism is compatible with the Reformed faith. First of all, Pentecostalism is inherently Arminian and therefore semi-pelagian. Secondly, why do we need signs for edification when the Bible is all we need? (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Hebrews 1:1-3).

    I know there are a few charismatics who claim to be Reformed. But the Charismatic movement is heterodox at best. So who would want to be a Charismatic and Reformed?

  26. I’ve read all of those before and commented on some of them. I draw from my background being Pentecostal and Reformed. The Apostle Paul himself was charismatic in the life of the church and yet he is what we’d look back and call Reformed. So who are you to say that both don’t fit together? You can argue all day that reformed must be a cessationist, but I don’t buy it. I didn’t like dispensationalism when I was a Pentecostal and I’m sure not on earth going to adopt it now to be Reformed and deny direct commands of the Lord by some kind of deduction of scripture and not to desire the charismata as the Lord commands(1 Cor 12:1, 14:1, 39-40).

    The other ignorant teaching that runs with cessationism is that when one prophesies that they are writing new scripture when the canon of scripture is closed. Now look at the logic of that??? Do you think the Apostle Paul was teaching that when he told the church to desire prophesy? We are commanded and taught in 1 cor 12 not to be ignorant like that, but the opposite is true in cessationism because it is a deduction of clear commands to desire the charismata.

    But the Charismatic movement is heterodox at best. So who would want to be a Charismatic and Reformed? Luke, the apostle Paul, myself, my wife and our kids. But your notions of cessationism is heterodox itself when examined and postmodern at best.

    Secondly, why do we need signs for edification when the Bible is all we need? If I wanted to deny Sola Scriptura and become ignorant of the working of the third person of the Trinity in the church, I could do so, but after reading my bible I can’t do so. Even in the Pentecostal church(assembly of God), I was taught that that scripture was authoritative and that we don’t live life by feelings or goose bumps. Re-read scripture and you will see what the church needs!

    If justification by faith alone was rediscovered by Luther and the Reformers why is it shocking when the church rediscovers other things like the charismata. They are scandlist to man’s wisdom like the message of the cross itself!

    So at the end of the day your post-pentecostalism is postmodernism. Only liberal theology would deny clear commands of the Lord or don’t you think that it was scripture alone when Paul commanded to earnestly desire to prophecy and not to forbid the speaking in tongues? Paul clearly said this this was a commanded of the Lord right before that and if anyone “thinks” he is spiritual should acknowledge it. 1 cor 14:37-40.



    • Ken, show me a miracle and I’ll show you the Bible. The Bible is sufficient in and of itself. We do not need anything in addition to Holy Scripture. That would include modern “signs”.


  27. John, I don’t have a problem with natural law since that would be part of natural or general revelation. It is also part of the divine image. However, I do have a problem with the doctrine of common grace, which I think is really a form of incipient Arminianism. Common grace also detracts from particular redemption.

    I also have a problem with the so-called “co-belligerency” thing because I see where that led in the Anglican Communion. Ecumenicalism.

    • Charlie,

      What if what was meant in 1924 by “common grace” was really only what was meant in earlier generations by “general providence”?

      There’s no evidence whatever that Synod Kalamazoo meant by “common grace” what the Arminians meant by it. Ditto for Van Til and Kuyper.

      • Well, no one has said that the advocates of common grace are Arminians. The argument is that is an implicit form of Arminianism. Amyraldianism could also be a source of the doctrine. There is a complicity between common grace, Amyraldianism and Arminianism. The common root between the three is a difficulty with the absolute predestination implied in God’s decrees to election and reprobation.

        How can God offer a well meant offer if He knows He has already decreed many to reprobation? This is a biblical argument based in Romans 9. It’s not speculation into the mind of God. While we can present the Gospel in a general call, we have no control over who responds. The PRC argues that the general call is a command to repent, not a begging of dead men to rise from the dead.

        Of course, there is a drawing of the elect through the kindness and mercy of God.


    • Charlie,

      I really have not heard a good argument against common grace- that is a new one on me. I am not sure how the concept of common grace would detract from particular redemption or how you can call it arminian in any way. How do you account for some of the more stunning insights that the best Greek and Roman philosophers came up with in their writing and some of the better founding American political theorists? Truth is God’s truth no matter where it is found. Perhaps I am confusing the concepts of common grace, general revelation and natural law here. Please enlighten me.

  28. John, I understand the pentecostal theology because I spent ten years as a pentecostal/charismatic. I graduated from an Assemblies of God college and from Asbury Seminary. Ironically, I became a Calvinist while I was a student at Asbury.

    Jerry Walls had a Christian philosophy class where he tried to demolish the compatibilism of Calvinism. I also took a seminar on the Institutes while at Asbury. The Arminian arguments seemed weak to me. I finally saw that Romans 9 and the other sovereignty passages were plainly against the Arminian position and the Arminians really cannot answer them with taking them out of context.

    In Christ,


    • Charlie,

      Your insights are certainly provocative and interesting in this regard. I see the charismatics, revivalists, dispensationalists, etc. as a much greater threat than many reformed and lutheran theologians I read do. They seem to ignore them and not really answer a lot of their questions. Many charismatics are very aggressive and can be quite obnoxious. You seem to think the way I do in this regard. Please respond.

  29. “The Apostle Paul himself was charismatic in the life of the church and yet he is what we’d look back and call Reformed. So who are you to say that both don’t fit together? You can argue all day that reformed must be a cessationist, but I don’t buy it.”


    The problem the reformed have in buying this POV is that the Scripture is pretty clear on the connection between the apostolic signs, wonders and miracles and apostles. You can’t have one without the other and you at least insist on the continuation of the apostolic sign gifts.

    But the S,W&M accompanied and inaugurated the transition to the new economy and covenant. That transition was accomplished upon the death of the apostolic generation and the close of the Scriptural canon. We can’t go back to it.

  30. Hi Bob,

    The scripture below never says the “last days of the apostles”. Referring to the New Covenant, the passage speaks of God’s people and not the apostles or is Luke account not in your canon? Read 1 Cor again and you will see that Pauline theology addresses the church and not a group of apostles regarding the charismata. You cannot be honoring the authority of sola scriptura with your deduction regardless if cessation history is on your side……scripture clearly isn’t.

    Acts 2:17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
    that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
    and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;
    18 even on my male servants [3] and female servants
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
    19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
    20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
    before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
    21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

  31. Dr. Clark, I beg to differ. I was trained in two Arminian schools and I fully understand the Arminian doctrine of common grace. What I am saying is that I agree with the Protestant Reformed Church in America in their rejection of the three points of common grace.

    First of all, God loves the elect and “hates” the reprobate. The idea that there is a general love for the reprobate whom God foreknows to be condemned is self contradictory.

    Secondly, there is no need for common grace in matters of civil or natural law since the divine image and likeness explains this just as well.

    And thirdly, there is no need for common grace in matters of general revelation since this can be explained equally well by the divine image and likeness.

    Common grace is discussed in Charles Hodge’s Systematic theology and on the atonement Hodge specifically says that Christ only died for the elect in regarding their salvation. But in a “secondary” sense, Hodge says that Christ died for all men, i.e. restraining of evil, civil good, and propagation of the arts and sciences, etc. These ideas can all be traced directly to the influence of Kuyper and Bavinck on the Old Princeton theologians. The PRCA traces this to the Stone Lectures at Princeton.

    At any rate, I might not have all the details exactly right but that’s the gist of it.


    • Charlie,

      Like the PRs you do not distinguish properly between what is meant by Gemene Gratie (common grace) and what the Arminians meant by it. They mean two entirely different things by it. This is the dumbest part of this argument. The 3 pts of 1924 mean by it exactly what the older Reformed writers meant by “general providence” and the like. Further, I’ve shown that the PR denial of the free offer, one of the three points, is rooted in a rationalist agreement with Arminius in the rejection of the archetypal/ectypal distinction! On that point, it is the PRs who are “Arminians” not the Three Points. See this essay:

      “Janus, the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel and Westminster Theology,” in David VanDrunen, ed., /The Pattern of Sound Words: A Festschrift for Robert B. Strimple/ (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2004), 149-80.

      • Thanks for the resource information, Dr. Clark. I will try to obtain a copy of that. I live near RTS Orlando so maybe they have it in their library.

        I’m not sure what you’re referring to as far as the PRC being Arminian. I’ve not heard that charge before. However, I would like to know why modern Reformed folks seem to take a somewhat modified view of the atonement? Is this also taught in John Gill or any of the other Puritans? Just asking, because at this point I have not read that widely in the classical Puritans.

        I have been reading the standard Reformed systematics, however… Berkhof, the 2 Hodges, Robert Reymond, Wayne Grudem, etc. I’m also reading Hoeksema and a Reformed Anglican systematic, David Broughton Knox, who was an Amyraldian. The Amyraldian view winds ups sounding almost Arminian, imo.

        I have tried to make myself a life long student of the Scriptures and Reformed theology but I also have sense enough to know that even “conservative” Reformed scholars are sinful men and have an impaired ability to reason rightly. The situation with Bruce Waltke should be evidence enough of that.

        I must say, however, that the Reformed tradition, despite all its imperfections and impurities, still makes Arminianism look like a weak version of the Gospel if it is a gospel at all.

        Sincerely in Christ,


  32. John, regarding the militancy of the charismatic movement, you are correct. This is part of the reason for their success. The militant language and the extreme authoritarian mode of operation sometimes crosses the line into what can only be called spiritual abuse.


    • Charlie, most definitely. They are arrogant and they abuse their authority in drastic ways at times. They are very much involved in the goings on in third world countries like Africa and Latin America where revivals seem to break out like Easter eggs. Supposedly, Apostles are being raised up in these areas of the country with signs and wonders following them. Demon exorcisms, miraculous healings, supernatural manifestations like gold dust sprinkled everywhere are so called everyday events. They advocate things like having the boldness to proclaim the gospel in movie theaters when God moves on them. The more bizarre things you do the more boldness you are showing for God and the Gospel. You prevent the moving of God in your life when you do not have the courage to step out and do silly things like they instruct you to do. They get many people to actually believe this stuff who do not know any better. They spend hours in intercessory prayer and fasting seeking breakthroughs with God by their willful efforts at spiritual ladder climbing. Their praise and worship is centered in “breaking through” so God will move on them. They give testimony of the great breakthroughs that God does through their efforts at their worship services. I get tired just thinking about the extreme efforts they make in their spiritual disciplines. The leaders in these church’s stand and call on the Holy Spirit to move and breakthrough in on their services. It is the exact opposite of what the creedal theologians are saying what worship services should be. What actually takes place in these church’s is bizarre to say the least. I have tried to talk with these people and they always get bogged down in the concept of the will, choosing and surrendering to God. YOu have to choose and surrender before God will move on you. The altar is the main means of grace. The sacraments mean next to nothing to them.

  33. Hodge says in the section, For Whom Did Christ Die?:

    “In view of the effects which the death of Christ produces in the relation of all mankind to God, it has in all ages been customary with Augustinians to say that Christ died “sufficienter pro omnibus, efficaciter tantum pro electis;” sufficiently for all, efficaciously only for the elect. There is a sense, therefore, in which He died for all, and there is a sense in which He died for the elect alone. The simple question is, Had the death of Christ a reference to the elect which it had not to other men? Did He come into the world to secure the salvation of those given to Him by the Father, so that the other effects of his work are merely incidental to what was done for the attainment of that object?” (Paradigm 1, The State of the Question).

    Now, obviously Hodge wants to have it both ways, which really implies Amyraldianism or Arminianism. Did Christ die only for the elect or not? Hodge is only able to say that Christ died “specially” for the elect, not ONLY for the elect:

    “This follows also almost necessarily from the doctrine of election. Indeed it never was denied that Christ died specially for the elect until the doctrine of election itself was rejected. ….. If God from eternity determined to save one portion of the human race and not another, it seems to be a contradiction to say that the plan of salvation had equal reference to both portions; that the Father sent his Son to die for those whom He had predetermined not to save, as truly as, and in the same sense that He gave Him up for those whom He had chosen to make the heirs of salvation.” Paradigm 2 Argument from the Doctrine of Election. [From Systematic Theology, Volume 3]

    While a superficial reading may miss this, it is clearly an indication of the influence of Kuyper and Bavinck and the doctrine of common grace. Prior to Kuyper I don’t believe you will such double speak. If Christ died only for the elect, then why add that Christ in some sense died for all? That’s not the classical reformed position but the doctrine of common grace read back into Calvin and classical reformed theology.

    However you look at this, it seems to me that Hodge opens the door wide open for the Amyraldians and maybe even an incipient Arminianism. If the PCUSA is any example, it seems to me that this is a legitimate concern. There might even be links to the Federal Vision issue.

    Sincerely in Christ,


  34. kenbrec,

    I think it is a bit of a stretch to make Acts 2:17 normative for all Christians in every culture and time subsequent to the Apostles. That really begs the question since obviously the prophecy was directed to what was happening then and not now.

    Second of all, making that prophecy normative for today would mean that you’re basically taking the Roman Catholic position that the Bible is insufficient in matters of faith and doctrine and that something in addition to Scripture is needed. This is where all the charismatic talk of “something more” comes in. What really happens is that for all practical purposes the charismatic movement assumes the same emphasis on experience and tradition and power which the Roman Catholic Church uses.

    In other words, the charismatic movement is inherently papist.


  35. Ken,

    Sola Scriptura = Tota Scriptura.

    IOW you need to read at least the rest of Acts, keying in on the mentions of “signs, wonders and miracles”, much more Rom. 15:19 and deal with the implications.

    Until then you are not going to get a hearing from the reformed, but rather will be considered a troll.

    Sorry, but this theological conversation has been going for at least a couple hundred years and is considerably more sophisticated and involved than a literal wooden appeal to Act 2:17 and 1 Cor. 14 for rebuttal presumes.

  36. “Further, I’ve shown that the PR denial of the free offer, one of the three points, is rooted in a rationalist agreement with Arminius in the rejection of the archetypal/ectypal distinction! (in Janus, the Well-Meant Offer /The Pattern of Sound Words)”


    I was under the impression that the PRC’s objected to the well meant offer as it relates to amyrauldianism; that God does not sincerely desire the salvation of the reprobate in anything other than a preceptive sense. There is no decretive/archetypal desire for their salvation.

    Thank you.

      • Dr. Clark,

        I’ve read the essay.
        We’ve corresponded on this before.
        I’ll grant that Clark and Hoekesema deny archetypal/ectypal theology, but if one objection to Murray’s version of the FO, contra the confessional FO, is that of amyrauldianism, which is not even discussed in the article, it would seem to be less than thorough treatment of the question.

        FTM I was somewhat surprised there was no discussion of amyrauldianism in RRC. Arminianism is on the reformed radar screen, but not so amyrauldianism (though Beisner does mention it briefly in the foreword to GP Waters’s FV and Cov. Theology).

        Thank you.

    • Bob, that was my understanding as well. I know the PRC case may be a bit overstated. However, having read their website, I think they make some legitimate critiques of the common grace position. Also, their tracing of the doctrines of common grace to the Stone lectures at Princeton fits with Charles Hodge’s equivocation on the doctrine of particular atonement and even with his compromise on the issue of Roman Catholic baptism as a “valid” baptism against his own denomination’s condemnation of that view.

      I’m not familiar with the argument Dr. Clark is making so I won’t comment on that. However, just using my own observation and looking at the deterioration of both Old Princeton and the Christian Reformed Church and their associated seminaries into higher criticism and other views, it seems to me that the connection to the three points of common grace is a valid one.

      I think charging the PRC with Arminianism is a bit much. The Canons of Dort say nothing like what Hodge says about the atonement being both particular and general. That is an Amyraldian argument at best. The PRC as far as I can tell are trying to be faithful the Three Forms of Unity and the Scriptures.

      Perhaps I’m being a bit reactionary because I’ve seen the extremes of the Arminian view taken to their logical conclusions. In my opinion, Arminianism leads to liberalism and to Rome.


      • I forgot to mention that the debate between Richard Mouw and David Engelsma is enlightening as well. If you have not read or heard that debate you might want to go over to the PRC site and hear it.

        Mouw comes off as a liberal and Engelsema is a bit reactionary. However, clearly Engelsma raises an insightful critique of Mouw’s position. Fuller Seminary is no bastion of the Reformed faith and that’s putting it mildly.


  37. “Until then you are not going to get a hearing from the reformed, but rather will be considered a troll.”

    Bob that’s fine, but you are denying the history that you and I are part of being Reformed.

    Read the historical account of the Westminster Assembly and its members talking about the Reformers and the charismata. It’s part of our history! And who says that I am not going to get a hearing? I sit in an Anglican church and follow the book of common prayer every Lord’s Day with my wife and children. They are reformed and you mean they aren’t going to hear me? If your talking about you and this blog, that doesn’t mean to much to me, because my family and raising them confessionally is an important part of my wife’s and my life.


    • Ken, being Anglican, unfortunately is questionable these days since Anglicans are even more confused than the Presbyterians. Which prayer book are you using? If it is the 1979 book, then you’re in real trouble.

      I attend an Episcopal church where the 1979 book is used and it is horrible. The 1928 book is compromised as well. Probably the only Reformed prayer book is the 1662 but Americans won’t use it.

      The longer I study Reformed theology and the denominations within that tradition the more I realize that even the Reformed denominations are a confused mess. Heterodoxy of one sort or another is everywhere. The common grace issue and the Federal Vision/New Perspectives on Paul is proof enough of that. And even certain Presbyterians think they can be charismatics and still remain Reformed.

      It seems to me that the noetic effects of sin takes its toll on even the most systematic among the Reformed scholars.

      However, in Calvin’s prefatory address he deals with the papist position on ongoing miracles and personally I think Calvin’s argument applies equally to charismatics and pentecostals who wish to assume the Roman Catholic ecclesiology of authority from the top down. Ironically, even the Anabaptists chose that option.



  38. Dr. Clark said: Like the PRs you do not distinguish properly between what is meant by Gemene Gratie (common grace) and what the Arminians meant by it. They mean two entirely different things by it. This is the dumbest part of this argument.

    Dr. Clark, with all due respect and having not read the essay you recommended yet, I think you’re reading into the PRC position more than is warranted. They certainly do recognize the distinctions made between the Arminian definition and the definition offered by Kuyper and Bavinck. However, the conclusions they have drawn is that Kuyper and Bavinck wished to try to reconcile with the Arminians and even Roman Catholics to one degree or another and the motive for this was Kuyper’s decision to become politically active. In other words, common grace is also an impetus for cooperation and co-belligerency with Roman Catholics, Arminians, etc., in Kuyper’s day. The fact that Charles Hodge fought his own church over the legitimacy of Roman Catholic baptism is a telling indication of the part common grace plays in compromise. Co-belligerency is really ecumenicalism in disguise.

    IF Roman Catholics are legitimately “Christian”, then we might as well join the Anglo-Catholics and every other pelagian group and lay aside the Protestant Reformation. And that is just what many Evangelicals today are recommending, i.e. Mark Noll, Charles Colson, et. al. Hey, maybe you should step up and speak at the next consecration of an Anglo-Catholic bishop in the AC-NA alongside Rick Warren?


    • Albert Mohler is now speaking to Anglo-Catholic meetings in SC for “co-belligerency” and signing the Manhattan Declaration.

      And he’s a member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Great witness there.

    • Charlie,

      We’re not Donatists. We’ve ALWAYS affirmed that there are believers in the Roman communion, even though it’s a false church. We still recognize Roman baptism.

        • I’ve not read it so I shouldn’t say anything about it in particular. I’m familar with arguments that run thus:

          Rome is so corrupt as to no longer be a church in any sense Only a church can baptize Ergo Rome’s baptism is no baptism

          It’s the major premise in dispute and, to some degree, the minor.

          We’ve addressed this problem by distinguishing between regular and irregular baptisms. Calvin accepted nursemaid baptisms as irregular. We’ve accepted Campus Crusade baptisms as irregular. They shouldn’t be done but once done is it a baptism?

          As to the major, is Rome more corrupt today than it was in the 16th century? No but it is no more so. The corruption is of different kinds, after modernity, but if the Reformers accepted Roman baptisms as valid, and they did, we have no more reason than they to reject them.

        • I’ve not read it so I shouldn’t say anything about it in particular. I’m familiar with arguments that run thus:

          Rome is so corrupt as to no longer be a church in any sense Only a church can baptize Ergo Rome’s baptism is no baptism

          It’s the major premise in dispute and, to some degree, the minor.

          We’ve addressed this problem by distinguishing between regular and irregular baptisms. Calvin accepted nursemaid baptisms as irregular. We’ve accepted Campus Crusade baptisms as irregular. They shouldn’t be done but once done is it a baptism?

          As to the major, is Rome more corrupt today than it was in the 16th century? No but it is no more so. The corruption is of different kinds, after modernity, but if the Reformers accepted Roman baptisms as valid, and they did, we have no more reason than they to reject them.

          • Well, the last time I checked baptism does not regenerate. Therefore, what is at issue
            is not baptism per se but the Gospel! If, after examining someone, they have an
            accurate understanding of justification by faith alone and the true Gospel, then the
            baptism can be accepted IF it is the proper form. But the real issue behind the
            controversy involving Charles Hodge was not baptism per se but Hodge’s contention
            that Roman Catholics in general are “saved”, i.e. regenerate. It is one thing to say one
            or two true Christians exist in an apostate church. It is quite another to generalize and
            say that Roman Catholics are all assumed to be believers. The gulf between the two
            positions is as wide as one end of the universe from the other.

            Is Rome preaching and teaching the true Gospel and rightly administering the sacraments? NO. Therefore, anyone who comes from the church of Rome should be
            catechized in the Reformed faith and baptized according to the Reformed faith. Letting
            a sacrament go by that was wrongly administered under the assumption of baptismal
            regeneration is an invalid baptism, imo.

            Furthermore, it is a bit on the universalist side of things to focus on ecumenical concerns above and beyond the Gospel itself. Obviously, many of the Protestants were martyred by Rome in that time. The same thing goes on today although the persecution occurs in other forms. Charles Colson and others who want to lead Protestants in the Romeward direction are nothing short of deceivers, imo.


          • Firstly, seeing that (1) the Council of Trent was Rome’s formal denunciation of the Gospel, where previoulsy there was no formal denunciation per se, and (2) the persecution of the Jansenists only serve to manifest Rome’s adversion of even any allusion to the Gospel of Justification by Faith alone, I would think that Rome is indeed more corrupt post-Trent than pre-Trent.

            Secondly, looking at First and Second Vatican, especially where the heresy of Inclusivism was embraced at Vatican II, I would say Rome has fallen even further into apostasy.

            So yes, I do think that Rome is much more corrupt now than she was at the time of the Reformation. This can be seen even in the existence of the “Old Catholics ” and the Sedavacantists who reject Vatican I and/or Vatican II.

            Thornwell was Charles Hodges’ opponent in opposing the validity of Roman baptism. I will look through the book again and list down the main points later.

            • Daniel,

              None of the Reformed Churches, after Trent, re-baptized on the ground that session 6 of Trent invalidated Rome’s baptism.

              Vatican I was the consolidation of errors that had existed for 1000 years in Rome (and a reaction of modernity). Vatican II was their capitulation to Modernity (which John Paul II and subsequent popes have largely reversed).

              If Vatican II invalidates Roman baptism then we can’t accept any mainline Protestant baptism or any broad evangelical baptism. It puts us in an untenable position.

  39. 1979???????

    Conservative Anglican here and outside the West, ours is 1662.

    “equally to charismatics and pentecostals who wish to assume the Roman Catholic ecclesiology of authority from the top down.”

    Well that isn’t me or the charismatics that I know. Scripture alone stands in all authority over the church and it’s teachers. Paul never taught the gift of prophecy was for adding to the canon, but for edification and that it should be judge.

    “Federal Vision/New Perspectives on Paul”

    They are serious errors! Federal Vision doctrine of Justification differs from the Articles and the New Perspective while bringing Pauline studies forwards should return to the classical protestant understanding of Sola Fide while retaining some of its discoveries. But, I don’t know much about it. I’ve read three NT Wright books and I was really bored. Many get excited reading Wright, but I had to fight through it. Calvin and the reformers are much better.


  40. Dr. Clark, It’s a huge shift to compare the Protestant Reformation to the Donatist controversy. I fail to see how anyone could choose to remain in a false church teaching a false gospel. It would be similar to saying that Jews don’t need to believe that Jesus is God in the flesh to be saved.

    This is the sort of compromise I’m talking about, frankly. IF Roman Catholics are saved, THEN the Protestant Reformation was simply over semantics.

    Choose you this day whom you will serve.


    • Charlie,

      I would say you are being a bit reactionary here and are not really “hearing” what Scott Clark is saying. There is something remiss about your theological thinking which I have not yet quite pinpointed but I’m sure Dr. Clark is on to it. I am not quite sure what you are saying about Kuyper and Bavinck either. They were very much within the Reformed tradition in regards to their thinking about natural law and two-kingdom theology even though they used some different terminology which confuses those who have not studied the issues thoroughly. Again, I would refer you to reading the article Dr. Clark suggested plus reading David Van Drunen’s book Natural Law and Two-Kingdom Theology.

      Are you familiar with any of the work David Van Drunen has done? Your thinking about common grace, natural law, general revelation, etc. is not the same as the reformed tradition as discussed in Van Drunen’s book. I am not sure why you want to put the focus on the image of God in man instead of on the theological terms and categories that the reformed tradition has used from Calvin on. From what Dr. Clark stated Jacob Arminius challenged some of the common grace concepts of the reformers which I think is what you are drawing from. There were certain nuanced differences from Calvin onwards but basically they were saying a lot of the same things in different historical circumstances. That God works differently providentially (based in creation,ie., natural law, common grace, general revelation, image of God or divine ordinances as Kuyper sometimes called it) then He does redemptively (based in special revelation and redemptive history in the Church) is the key concept that often gets confusing in trying to sort out.

      • John, I’m happy to be called a reactionary. Maybe you’re reading too much into my position as well. I sincerely doubt you’ve done much reading of the PRC views against common grace.

        If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and walks like a duck it’s a duck. The PRC has rightly pointed out that you’re not going to find any significant evidence for “common grace” prior to Bavinck and Kuyper. Also, the doctrine of common grace undermines the fact that Scripture says God hates the sinner and that sinners who do not believe are under God’s wrath. The doctrines of common grace are not just restating general providence but rather saying that God is kindly disposed to those who are under His just judgment and condemnation. There is a tension in the text on this and the common grace side tends to side with the Amyraldians and the Arminians. If God loves every single individual, why doesn’t he just elect everyone like Barth said???

        Irrationalism is no answer to rationalism.


        • Charlie,

          No, I have not done much reading on the PRC’s views of common grace (probably thankfully I might add) and I know from your remarks that you have not done much reading of David Van Drunen and how he handles Kuyper in regards to how Kuyper understood the concept of common grace. From what I understood Van Drunen saying common grace is a term Kuyper used providentially not redemptively. God governs cultures and governments providentially through human agents by the means of general revelation, natural law or common grace. This has nothing to do with their redemptive status in Christ. God rains on the just and the unjust and allows them to enjoy the fruits of his creation even when they have no relationship redemptively with his son. He implants his law on all human hearts in creation (Rom 2:14-15) and some even follow this law better then others for some providential reason. You are thinking of the term common grace only in the redemptive sense I think. This, from what I can gather, is what you are not seeing or have never read about. This is not irrationalism- it only brings Scottish common sense realism into the discussion- which has often been misunderstood too.

          • John, common grace goes well beyond simply “general providence.” It assumes that God loves all mankind. That is a huge assumption, particularly when God has already determined to reprobate the vast majority of the population on earth today. Out of 6 billion only less than 2 billion can be called “Christian” in any sense of the word at all.

            I can assure you that I understand the distinction you’re trying to make but it fails.

            Secondly, how can you say that Christ died only for the elect but He also died for mankind in general? Such an argument is either Amyraldian or Arminian. Why would Jesus die in an unredemptive way for all mankind? That takes away from the efficacy of the atonement.

            Equivocation seems to be the methodology of common grace. I might also ask how there could be a “gracious offer” of salvation to those God has decreed from before creation to reprobate? In other words, the distinction between God’s preceptive will and His decretive will does not mean there is a gracious offer. Augustine you will remember said that God commands men to do what they are unable to do apart from grace. There is only particular grace and not general grace.

            “Common” grace seems to lead to hell, doesn’t it?


            • Charlie,

              You still are only understanding common grace in the redemptive sense and not not in the providential sense. Whether it goes beyond the providential sense is irrelevant to what I am saying. You have to keep the concepts distinct. I and Kuyper used the term providentially and not redemptively. Now there ceretainly were other areas of Kuyper’s thought where he was confusing and hard to keep straight. I find Van Til to be even worse than Kuyper. I do not agree with Kuypers apologetic thinking either. So, there certainly are areas where Kuyper begss to be be misinterpreted and confusing.

            • I will let others more able than I try to explain the difference between how God works redemptively and how he works providentially. It is a helpful concept for me when I think of how God works in cultures and governments and how it is disstinguished from his work in the Church redemptively. Perhaps you do not think a dichotomy like this should be established.

  41. Charlie,

    When I say “they weren’t rationalists” I’m saying that the Reformers recognized the existence of happy inconsistencies, that people came to faith despite the gross Roman errors. They also, however, believed that we must do what the revealed will of God says that requires reformation of the church and, failing that, to leave the Roman communion. See the series of posts here on “evangelical Nicodemites.” Calvin wrote against those who identified privately with the Reformation but who refused to leave the Roman church. He didn’t say that they weren’t believers but he did say that they sinned by not leaving the Roman communion. Rationalism occurs when one decides a priori what must be and then treats that premise as if it were reality regardless of the facts.

    As to making “common cause,” our religious and theological and ecclesiastical disagreements with Romanists do not mean that we have nothing in common with them. We have things in common with all humans. See Belgic ch 35. There is common human food. There is commonality. One of the biggest of the PR errors is to deny commonality and to confuse it with neutrality. Nothing is epistemically neutral but, in the general providence of God, we do have things in common with all humans. In the civil/common kingdom then we work under general providence to common, civil goals. We have nothing in common with unbelievers spiritually and epistemically. We interpret the meaning of the world quite (radically) differently but we live in the same, God-defined, world. We submit to God’s definition and they do not, but the world is common to us and to them.

    As to Arminianism please read the essay. HH rejected one of the fundamental principles of the Reformation: the Creator/creature distinction.

  42. John, it’s convenient for you to deny the obvious. But let me ask you again. How does God “love” the reprobate? General providence can only bring them greater condemnation according to Paul. (Romans 1:18-32).

    You say: Whether it goes beyond the providential sense is irrelevant to what I am saying. Well, you say it’s irrelevant. But I say it is entirely relevant and that you’re simply ignoring the obvious implications of saying that God loves every single individual. If that is true, we should all become Barthians or Arminians.


  43. If common grace is not something in addition to “general providence” why does it assert a “gracious offer” to the reprobate knowing that God has decreed to reprobate them anyway?

  44. John, I understand the “dichotomy” well. But the question is whether “general providence” is an expression of God’s “love” for those who will spend eternity in hell?

    Is that love or just God’s way of bringing greater condemnation upon the reprobate?

    John 3:36. Romans 5 is speaking to the elect, not the reprobate. (Romans 5:6-10). And lets not forget Romans 9. Clearly Paul’s focus on election and reprobation says that God creates some vessels for dishonor and for His wrath. He does this to demonstrate sheer mercy to the elect.

    So how does common grace fit with Romans 9:22-24? God loves the “vessels prepared for destruction”?


    • OK Charlie one more time,

      I am not using the term common grace in the redemptive sense at all. You always want to bring it back to redemption. From what I understand, God only loves those who are in Christ through faith. Perhaps he rules the culture providentially for the sake of the elect in order that total anarchy will not break loose until the end of the age and Christ returns again. The unjust receive the benefits of this by way of proxy. This does not mean he loves the “vessels prepared for destruction”- he just allows the gifts he has given them in creation to be of benefit of everybody for the time being until his judgment and wrath get released in the final day of judgment.

  45. If you look at Edwards life and publications diachronically, is it clear that Edwards turned toward pietism or away from it? It seems to me that, sandwiched between criticisms from outside the Great Awakening, and his own internal criticism of the results of the Awakening, that he backs away from his initial enthusiasm for the awakening in Narrative to a fully orthodox doctrine of assurance in Religious Affections.

  46. . . .post on a “Westminster Captivity” has raised an eyebrow or two, and also an amen. In addition, this week my Regent colleagues, Richard Kidd and Scott Pryor have entered the discussion with Kidd talking about Reformed roots and Pryor suggesting that I may have a point with respect to forensic justification while at the same time challenging me on the importance of penal substitution. . .

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