Monthly Archives: June 2012

Book Review: John Calvin’s American Legacy – Chapter 8 – “Strange Providence”: Indigenist Calvinism in the Writings of Mohegan Minister Samson Occom (1723-1792)

Chapter 7 review here. Chapter 6 review here. Chapter 5 review here. Chapter 4 review here. Chapter 3 review here. Chapter 2 review here. Chapter 1 review here. Introduction review here. Initial thoughts here.

This is the first chapter from Part III, concerning Calvin’s legacy in American letters. Denise T. Askin is the author, and she provides a thorough and thoughtful analysis of both published and unpublished writings (sermons, sermon notes, journals and personal reflections, etc.) by Samson Occom, who lived during the eighteenth-century and was an Indian and an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Occom is a fascinating character, and equally fascinating is, as Askin refers to it, his “Indigenist Calvinism”. But the true jewel of captivation in this article is Askin’s careful attention to the literary nuances found on the fruitful pages preserved from both Occom’s pen and pulpit. Askin analyzes that literary fruit, and presents in a concise, well structured article the unique style and voice resident in the writings of Occom, the Calvinist Native American. Also, she provides abundant examples of the literary tools put to good use by Occom in his writings, e.g., his use of “irony and Pauline paradox” — what Askin refers to as “earnest irony”– and prophetic voice, which “Measuring Christian society by its own standard–the gospel–Occom finds it wanting” (210).

After inspecting Occom’s sermon style, she then “[traces] the scripture-based narrative that Occom evolved over a lifetime to unify his responsibilities and his identity as both Native American and Christian,” a two-fold narrative which emphasized, on the one hand, the Creation account, that is, the Genesis narrative, and, on the other hand, the narrative of “Isaiah’s prophecy of the regeneration of Israel”; Occom emphasized this over the archetypal Calvinistic narrative–the “covenant narrative”. Askin points to this practice in order to illustrate Occom’s indigenist Calvinism, which she believes “[served] a typological purpose as significant for the continuance of his people [Native Americans] as Exodus was for the Jews and the errand into the wilderness was for the earliest Calvinists of New England.

To conclude, Askin says,

Occom’s writings reveal that he, like the Puritans, also looked through the lens of scripture and saw human events as eloquent both of God’s will and of God’s interaction with the community. He forged for his people a narrative that paralleled that of the founders of the New England colonies. . . . Occom’s indigenist Calvinist imagination saw in the flat surface of life many layers of meaning that connected his present moment to the biblical past and project it forward toward an apocalyptic future. . . . The words of Occom–in sermons, letters, and diaries–reveal the complex nature of his “strange providence” as a Native American and a Calvinist in a fragile and changing world (215).

My Thoughts: Askin’s article is great. Occom is such a fascinating character in American Church History, but what makes this article especially enjoyable is viewing Occom from a literary perspective. Oftentimes a Theologian or Church Historian will approach things from within their discipline and with what are more or less ready-made questions. However, when you change your approach, when you are challenged to view and approach a familiar subject matter from a different perspective, then, oftentimes, you find yourself asking different types of questions, or at least asking questions differently. (I’m replaying in my mind a scene from the movie Dead Poet’s Society, “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”) And so, I think that is what Askin has done with her article. She looks at things in a different way, asking new questions and asking old questions differently.

First Things: June/July 2012 – Life Too Inconvenient for Life – Poisonous Seed Indeed

I have subscribed to First Things for a couple years. Editor R. R. Reno pens the opening, editorial article “The Public Square” in the hard-copy publication. In the June/July 2012 publication, in “The Public Square” under the heading “Life Too Inconvenient for Life,” Reno writes:

The Journal of Medical Ethics, an altogether mainstream, peer-reviewed scholarly publication, recently published an article justifying “after-birth abortion,” a locution authors Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva use to describe killing newborns whose parents don’t want them.

“Children with severe abnormalities whose lives can be expected to not be worth living” can be “terminated,” as the Groningen Protocol in the ever-merciful Netherlands currently allows. Then the authors follow the ruthless logic of the pro-abortion position to its conclusion. “If criteria such as costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy,” they observe, and if we can’t give a cogent explanation why a fetus suddenly becomes a person simply by passing through the birth canal, “then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn.”

If we can kill a healthy child in the womb for a whole range of reasons, then why not in the hospital nursery? Why not abortions “after birth”?

At first I thought the article was meant as cutting humor. The clattering machinery of the simplistic syllogisms seem positively Swiftean, a satire of our present-day moralists. Want to kill newborns? OK, OK, give me a minute or two, and I’ll give you the arguments.

But no, the editors of the Journal of Medical Ethics apparently think that these sorts of arguments should be taken seriously. They will of course say that the journal is committed to “stimulating discussion” and “airing controversial views.” What’s the harm in thinking it through? Aren’t free exchanges like this good for us? Doesn’t it help us refine our moral arguments and perhaps overcome our irrational responses of disgust and moral dismay?

In 1920, two distinguished German professors published an argument in favor of euthanasia. The argument turned on the clam  that there are some lives unworthy of life. Giubilini and Minerva use that haunting phrase, perhaps unaware of its origins. And they extend it. Their argument for “after-birth abortion” gives us permission to destroy newborns who aren’t unworthy but are inconvenient.

As Jonathan Haidt observes, our moral culture is shaped primarily by emotion. Very few people reason out moral truths. Most of us have gut reactions. The fixed points in our moral universe are the deeds so heinous we can’t imagine performing them. And I can’t imagine killing a newborn. Which is precisely what Giubilini and Minerva and the editors of the Journal of Medical Ethics want us to coolly entertain as a real option.

Lebensunwerten Lebens: life unworthy of life. The idea expanded the German imagination, and in 1939 the Nazis gassed 75,000 mentally ill and handicapped Germans. They were burdensome, inconvenient, and an impediment to their goal of racial purity. Soon they focused their attention on another impediment, whose victims are counted in the millions.

There is nothing remotely original or philosophically sophisticated about Giubilini and Minerva’s pedestrian reasoning. The editors’ rationale for publishing their article advocating “after-birth abortion” was to break new ground, to “expand” our moral imaginations, to “problematize,” as progressive professors like to say. That’s what the distinguished German professors did in 1920. That’s what our professional ethicists are doing today.

St. Paul teaches that we will reap what we have sown. This, dear readers, is a very poisonous seed indeed [Emphasis CCS].

Book Review: John Calvin’s American Legacy – Chapter 7 – Whose Calvin, Which Calvinism? John Calvin and the Development of Twentieth-Century American Theology

Chapter 6 review here. Chapter 5 review here. Chapter 4 review here. Chapter 3 review here. Chapter 2 review here. Chapter 1 review here. Introduction review here. Initial thoughts here.

Chapter 7 dovetails nicely with the preceding chapter’s consideration of nineteenth-century Calvinistic theology in America, with many of David D. Hall’s allusions for the twentieth-century fleshed out in this masterfully written article by Stephen D. Crocco, who provides the conclusion to the section on Calvin’s influence on American Theology. In hindsight, Crocco’s article is the standard by which the other two articles are plumbed and judged; each of the Theology articles were thoughtful, but Crocco’s is exquisite, and much of my review will consist of lengthy quotations.

To begin. Crocco picks up where Hall concludes, denoting that there are many “readings” of John Calvin and his respective influence, hence, the title, Whose Calvin, Which Calvinism?, which we are told in an endnote is an allusion to Alasdair McIntyre’s Whose Justice, Which Rationality? published in 1988. Crocco puts it like this:

There is simply no escaping the fact that, to one degree or another, Calvin “influenced” American Protestantism across virtually every theological spectrum imaginable, even traditions that were sustained in reaction against basic features of his thought. But questions of influence and development are notoriously complex and controversial. Put bluntly, one person’s idea of influence and development is another person’s plunge into apostasy or fundamentalism (165). 

 Crocco’s article is structured threefold; the first division discusses those who discuss Calvin’s influence on American theology, the second, which he says is “highly selective,” considers those who discuss Calvin’s legacy within the “context of the United States as a nation of immigrants,” and the third, Crocco suggests a typological reading of Calvin as a “mountain dominating a theological landscape” (166).

In Calvin studies, particularly modern scholarship, there is a distinction between Calvin and Calvinism. Crocco provides adequate coverage of this distinction, highlighting works by Charles Partee, The Theology of John Calvin, R. T. Kendell, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1694, and Paul Helm, Calvin and the Calvinists, and sets the stage for a round of important questions:

Any attempt to enlist Calvin into a modern theological program raises the questions: were additions to Calvin–the federalist view of the covenant or modern views of scripture–an extension or confirmation of what was important for Calvin, or were they parasitic accretions? Were the things  that were subtracted from Calvin for the twentieth-century–his views on civil government and double predestination and his anti-Romanist polemics–life-saving amputations, or did they drain the life blood of Calvin? . . . In the narratives behind all of these relationships [Augustine and the Augustinians, Edwards and the Edwardseans, Barth and the Barthians, Calvin and the Calvinists], there is considerable debate about what constitutes a tradition and, more particularly, what counts as progress or regression in it (167).

 Perhaps this dilemma might best be illustrated by the image of a person journeying on a road.  If a person is journeying on a road [the road is a reading of a person, like John Calvin, or a tradition derived/propagated from the writings and influence of said person], then what change in direction constitutes a departure from the road, that is, from the way the person was initially journeying? Or perhaps it is even more complicated than that; perhaps what constitutes a departure (progress or regression) for this person is simply traveling on the road differently. Perhaps now the person beings walking on the other side of the road. What does that imply? Is it a break from the tradition? or merely progress?

We see this type of dilemma frequently–doesn’t matter what the topic is, it is evident even within intramural dialogue regarding video games (e.g., is Doctor Wario part of the Mario lineage? or a departure from that original 8-Bit NES greatness? But wait, is 8-Bit NES considered the genesis of Mario? or is that character rightly understood as having originated from the arcade console version of Donkey Kong?)

There certainly is “considerable debate” about what constitutes a tradition, which is why Crocco goes on to say that “in a number of conflicting cases” theologians, historians, economists, theorists, etc., try to “incorporate Calvin into their narratives,” which leads to a “wax nose” type of Calvin–“The picture of a dozen or so Calvins sporting different noses is humorous but accurate” (167). Whose Calvin, Which Calvinism? Indeed.

Crocco is wise, noting  that “in addition to having a wax nose, Calvin is also a mirror that reflects the particular beliefs and agendas of those who claim him for their own” (169). It would seem, then, that how a person handles Calvin is a “tell” of what may be veiled or unveiled motives, sensibilities, presuppositions. Calvin wrote on a plethora of topics, and people frequently leverage him across a multitude of academic, spiritual, and political disciplines, and it is oftentimes the case that when people do so, rather than learning more about Calvin, we in fact learn more about the very persons discussing Calvin.

Perhaps one of the most captivating and fascinating parts of the article is Crocco’s description of the Council of the Alliance of the Reformed Churches Holding the Presbyterian System in Philadelphia in 1880. Crocco describes and analyzes the imagery and symbolism displayed on the banners representing respective nationalities and theological heritages, ranging from “Bohemia and Moravia, England and Wales, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Spain,” and points out the significance that “only two times Calvin was mentioned on a dozen banners”–Crocco concludes that this means that “Calvin was acknowledged as the great theologian behind these traditions. . . . [but] the banners showed that Calvin’s influence was mediated [emphasis CCS] or related to particular communities and churches by people who had special historical or ecclesiastical connections to those communities” (171). Crocco continues:

The heroes of the faith of particular nations–figures such as Zacharias Ursinus and John Knox and creeds such as the Westminster Confession, the Synod of Dort, and the Heidelberg Confession–were the paths back to Calvin and the paths forward to the broader Reformed tradition. This patter–where Calvin is acknowledged as the great theologian of the Reformed tradition whose teachings were mediated both by indigenous influences and by subsequent theological development–is at the heart of his role in the development of American theology in the twentieth century just as it was in the nineteenth, eighteenth, and seventeenth centuries.

Thus Crocco shows that Reformed theology in America is best represented by a cacophony of  theological voices, albeit, voices that are harmonizing (for the most part) with Calvin, the mutually acknowledged great theologian of the Reformed tradition. It is important to note that at different times some of the voices had a more significant role and influence, e.g. “Until the early nineteenth century, American Protestantism was most heavily influenced by the Reformed traditions coming out of England and Scotland” (172), but we also see in different pockets across American influencing “undercurrents” from Holland, France, etc. Crocco provides surveys of this theological development, recounting the histories of the men and theologies who mediated Calvin, those variegated names and universities that have been associated with the differing Calvinistic camps in the American Reformed-landscape, e.g., Old Princeton, Neo-Calvinism, Christian Reconstructionism, etc.

Despite these intramural debates, and the many debates contended by theological liberals during the past 50 years, Calvin is still “lifted up as transformationist and associated with positive social change.” However, Crocco adds, “To contend, as this chapter has done, that Calvin’s role in American theology were largely mediated does not imply that they were entirely mediated.” Calvin certainly was read. He was not merely received through said channels of mediation; Calvin’s ideas were not always trafficked through the firewall of another author or tradition (that is, socially speaking, not at the presuppositional level that occurs within every person’s private reading). Crocco lists the various published writings by Calvin that were available in America, specifically throughout the past century, and that it was especially during that century that Calvin was mediated anew by men like Karl Barth and H. Richard Neibuhr and Emil Brunner. And so Crocco closes:

Twentieth-century Protestant theologians inherited a landscape in which Calvin was in the air they breathed; he affected every horizon, and the bedrock of his thought was just below the surface of every step they took. To speak in terms of a landscape lends itself to a picture of Calvin as a mountain that dominates the geography. Images of Mount Hood (Calvin) looming above the city of Portland (American Theology) . . . Although theologians and ecclesiastical movements have grown accustomed to the inspiring, hospitable, and malleable character of his writings, history has shown that, 500 years after his birth, Calvin is still capable of pint to a God who resists all efforts to be domesticated by the church or academy. Perhaps Mount Hood’s neighbor, Mount St. Helens, provides an apt metaphor of the power that can be unleashed when God decides to speak through his gifted and faithful servants (185-86).

My Thoughts: Masterfully written; excellent research and composition. Crocco’s analysis and thought are fair and charitable (and I can only hope someday to write both as well and thoughtfully as he has in this chapter).

Book Review: John Calvin’s American Legacy – Chapter 6 – Calvin and Calvinism within Congregational and Unitarian Discourse in Nineteenth-Century America

Chapter 5 review here. Chapter 4 review here. Chapter 3 review here. Chapter 2 review here. Chapter 1 review here. Introduction review here. Initial thoughts here.

Before canon-balling in to the deep end of his article, David D. Hall opens with two quotes: The first by John Cotton, “Let Calvin answer for me,” originally given in 1637 in response to ministers questioning his orthodoxy; the second quotation by Perry Miller, who argued, in “The Marrow of Puritan Divinity,” that Jonathan Edwards was the “first consistent and authentic Calvinist in New England,” for Edwards was the first theologian with “nerve” to skip over New England theologians and considered their doctrinal source, Calvin, directly.

Hall begins his article introducing the “first-ever National Council of Congregational Churches” that met in Boston on June 14, 1865. The Council had several goals, meeting in the aftermath of the Civil War they were ambitiously looking to grow beyond their native homes in New England and deliberated over a Declaration of Faith. Although initial drafts referenced Calvinism, the final declaration did not. Hall says words like “Calvin,” “Calvinism,” and “references to the Westminster Confession” were “strikingly absent.” Hall, therefore, wonders “What were the implications of this refusal for the future of Congregationalism and, a separate but related matter, the capacity of Congregationalists to understand their own origins in the seventeenth century?” These two questions, contrasted with the pro-Calvin opening quotations, have compelling effect–the reader knows he truly is heading in to the deep end of Calvinistic discourse. Hall sets things up nicely. The article follows the separate links in a chain of confusion tethered to the “reformers’ nineteenth-century heirs within Congregationalism” (149), disclosing how this confusion, according to Hall, has been recapitulated by liberal theologians in the twentieth-century, and thus paving the path for what has led to our contemporary cloud of confusion hovering over modern Puritan studies and tis relation to Calvin and Calvinism.

Hall tackles this chain of confusion by narrating the outcome of the clash between liberal and evangelical “wings” of the New England tradition, an outcome that morphed, namely, into Unitarianism, which questioned the legitimacy and morality of Calvinism. Unitarians were no friend of Calvin, seeing Calvinism as being “arbitrary, dogmatic, metaphysical, deterministic, antimodern, of a persecuting temper” (152). Hall, then showing that Unitarianism was Congregationalism’s schism, tells the reader that what he finds remarkable (and he assures us that he is supported by modern scholarship in thinking so) is the “persisting ignorance of the Calvin of Geneva” for both Congregationalists and the Unitarian/New Haven theologians, as well as the phenomenon that Congregationalists and Unitarians shared a mutual dissatisfaction for Calvin, and Edwards for that matter, and that this view was shared in spite of the former group being the “moderates” and the latter group being the “liberals.” It would seem, then, that New England, both moderate and liberal wings, were fed up with Calvin and anything esteemed Calvinistic. How about that? So.

We see the Unitarian decrying of Calvinism in the 1820s/1830s, and then, in the1860s, we see Congregationalists side stepping the inclusion of Calvinistic verbiage in their declaration of faith, and, with the vantage point from which Hall chaperons the his readers into surveying the twentieth-century, we are then prepared to be introduced to Williston Walker’s biography of Calvin (John Calvin: The Organiser of Reformed Protestantism) and Perry Miller’s writings on New England and seventeenth-century religious thought.

In both of these authors we see some more of the recapitulated confusion referenced earlier by Hall; both of these men had unique readings of Calvin, and in Calvin saw elements that “pointed towards modernity” (159). Walker saw in Calvin the modern notion of the separation of church-and-state, while Miller traced Calvinistic colonial theology (by way of those who put emphasis on “covenant theology”) up and through the “softer, milder Calvinism of the eighteenth century and the Unitarian liberalism of the nineteenth” (160).

All of this leaves us wondering, “Which reading of Calvin is correct?” Was Calvin’s influence in America anti-modern? Or was it modern? For progressive theology? Or against it? Hall’s conclusion reminds us that these different narratives of Calvin, these different assessments of Calvin’s influence on American theology, “these crisscrossed stories . . . both have persisted into our own time,” which means that, “Paradigms–or, better, stereotypes–do indeed die hard.” It is hard to understand your origins, especially if there are contrary paradigms or stereotypes floating around.

My thoughts: Content was engaging bu the outline of material and unpacking of content made for a difficult read/made it difficult to follow. (Although, the weakness probably lies with my abilities to read critically/carefully, not Hall’s ability to write). The conclusion is good though–and should encourage anybody who does history to do so carefully. After all, if you get something wrong, that thing may tint a different person’s glasses, that inaccuracy may die hard.

Pro-God = Pro-Reality = Pro-Life

The Church is Pro-God, Pro-Reality, and Pro-Life.

The Church believes in God, in truth, in reality–“We believe in one God . . . maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible”–the Church believes in God and creation. And this belief is the foundation for a Pro-Life ethic. Social Justice for the unborn (life-in-the-womb) must be rooted in this grammar–God is the sovereign creator of heaven and earth, of that which is seen and unseen, and He alone creates and defines this (all) reality.

That being the case, what does the Creator say about in utero? Is He silent about the reality of the life of cells multiplying in a womb? Hardly–See Exodus 21, Psalm 22, 139.

Nevin: Reformation Thought, Again – Secure to Old and Young Benefit of Religious Knowledge

The greatest attention was paid to catechetical instruction, in the Netherlands. The duty was pressed upon heads of families. Schools were required to cooperate with the churches, in carrying the system into full effect. The pastors must preach on the Catechism every sabbath afternoon; besides visiting the schools frequently, and holding catechetical exercises, if possible once a week, in private houses. All pains were required to be taken, to secure in this way to old and young the benefit of religious knowledge” (J. W. Nevin, History and Genius of the Heidelberg Catechism(Chambersburg, 1847), 98).

Book Review: John Calvin’s American Legacy – Chapter 5 – “Falling away from the General Faith of the Reformation”? The Contest over Calvinism in Nineteenth-Century America

Chapter 4 review here. Chapter 3 review here. Chapter 2 review here. Chapter 1 review here. Introduction review here. Initial thoughts here.

Douglas A. Sweeney contributes the fifth chapter “Falling Away from the General Faith of the Reformation”? The Contest over Calvinism in Nineteenth-Century America, and it is an excellent read. The eye of Sweeney’s historical analysis is cast over nineteenth-century American Calvinism, an epoch referred to by D. G. Hart as being “the critical period for Protestant thought in America” (112). Sweeney does an excellent job of showing that to be the case, and then some.

The “bravado” of Princeton’s Charles Hodge is the nucleus of Sweeney’s article. Hodge was a gravitational center around which other Calvinistic views rotated, though not entirely planetary-like. Their paths did cross and collide; the hard molecules of the nineteenth-century German Reformed Mercersburg Theology and Congregationalist New England were frequently bumping in to the monolith of Hodge’s Presbyterian Princeton. Oftentimes historians allude to this refraction as evidence of Calvinism’s decline in nineteenth-century America. But Sweeney disagrees. He believes the opposite, that the nineteenth-century Calvinistic contentions are indicators of vitality. That they are evidence of livelihood, which Sweeney refers to throughout the article as a “contest”—thus Sweeney says, “the biggest question on their [American Calvinists] minds was not whetherAmerican Calvinism would live to see the future, but who would control that future—and on what terms” (113).
Sweeney’s article has two movements before his conclusion: first, the rock-n-roll of the Princeton/Mercersburg pen-wars; second, the refrain of the Princeton/Congregationalist pen-wars. According to Sweeney, the former controversy had to do with Hodge’s defamation of the metaphysical tweaking of Calvin’s thought done by John Nevin (who had been a former student of Hodge and actually subbed a couple years for him at Princeton while he traveled to the Continent), and the latter controversy hinged upon what Hodge viewed as a propensity within New England theology to develop a not fully biblical and doctrinally incorrect view of feelings and sentiments, and how that view related to the intellectual life of a Christian.

Hodge equally disapproved both groups; the former group (Mercersburg/John Nevin) for adjusting the form of Calvinism and the latter group (Congregationalist New England/Edwardsean theologians) for adjusting the substance of Calvinism. (Although Hodge would have probably said that Nevin was tweaking substance, too.) Sweeney provides a detailed narrative, he adds the occasional comment on Hodge’s inconsistencies and blind sights and/or ahistorical misreadings, but he does so while smoothly displaying his aim—to demonstrate that this was a Calvinistic “contest” and evidence of life and relevance.

Sweeney concludes magnificently; he bemoans those who analyze this data and conclude that there is no Calvinistic center, or those who conclude the opposite, a Hodge-bravado-styled-center (e.g., this is Calvinism!!!). Sweeney calls the two views “two extremes” (130). Instead, Sweeney posits that one should note that each of the three groups were conservative Calvinists who “wanted to be faithful to the best of their traditions”—and Sweeney’s last words are a warning: “The churchmen most committed to conserving their tradition lost the power to shape the story told of their movement in the academy—and lost it to the people they most frequently opposed. This is an irony that scholars today, whatever their traditions, would do well to recognize” (130).

My thoughts: insightful and compelling, particularly the word of warning at the conclusion. And I agree with the overall aim; yes, the intramural-theological spats are evidence of vitality. Just like the Federal Vision controversy today, Calvinism in America is alive, her blood is pumping and may her tribe increase. 

Book Review: John Calvin’s American Legacy – Chapter 4 – Practical Ecclesiology in John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards

Chapter 3 review here. Chapter 2 review here. Chapter 1 review here. Introduction review here. Initial thoughts here.

“Practical Ecclesiology in John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards” by Amy Plantinga Pauw is the first chapter from Part II on Calvin’s legacy on American theology. Although Edwards was no carbon-copy of Calvin, Pauw emphasizes the “deep commonalities” between his and Calvin’s thinking, particularly their mutual ability to balance in the face of tensions that both “inclusiveness” and the “holiness” are chief attributes of church life and Christian living. Pauw, therefore, argues that because of this mutual practical ecclesiology, it is Edwards who should be considered the “rightful heir to Calvin’s theological legacy [in America].”

Reformed theology, particularly ecclesiology, creates the tension. Believers are told to remain in the Church, not because the Church magically ensures their election, but because by doing so they cling to God and his promises, and it is the church which is the society and communion of men and women struggling with and continually confessing sins that God has called out of and who are distinct and separate from the world.

Calvin emphasized the need for these individuals to grow and mature under the kind rule of their motherly church. This life of maturation, however, is not characterized by perfectionism. Holiness, yes. Death to sin, yes. But not perfectionism. On this point Pauw reminds us that Calvin thought that “the life of believers, longing constantly for their appointed state, is like adolescence” (95); Pauw elaborating that:

In the midst of turbulent spiritual emotions and repeated moral failures, Christians are to strive by God’s grace to grow into a mature life of gratitude and holiness. Portraying the earthly church as a mother not of helpless infants but of a large band of unruly adolescents better reflects both Reformed ecclesiology and Calvin’s and Edward’s pastoral experiences.

At the center of God’s “redemptive perseverance” is the visible church, warts and all. Pauw gives several illustrations to demonstrate that in many pastoral experiences Edwards (following Calvin) had to wrestle with the reality of the inclusiveness/holiness tension. The ongoing story of God’ redeeming work will certainly have its share of sorrows (as pastors in local churches teach, lead, serve and care for the “unruly adolescents”), however, these are all subplots to the metanarrative, the unsurpassed and unspeakable joy of living in union with Christ within the society of those who hold onto the promises of being raised unto newness in life because of the victory of his life, death, and resurrection.

The church is in God’s hands. Therefore, assurance can only be found in resting, that is, reposing in God’s good providence (even in the midst of the inclusiveness/holiness tension), and that is the practical ecclesiology which defines Calvin’ legacy in American theology and which was exhibited in John Edward’s life and practice.

My thoughts: this was the most readable chapter. And I thought Pauw was spot on describing Reformed ecclesiology. God does not kick people out of the family for their sins, rather he tells them to repent and confess their sins. Salvation is all of grace, always.

Pastors: Reminding Members – God is Father and Church is Mother

“I will begin with the Church, into whose bosom God is pleased to collect his children, not only that by her aid and ministry they may be nourished so long as they are babes and children, but may also be guided by her maternal care until they grow up to manhood, and, finally, attain to the perfection of faith. What God has thus joined, let not man put asunder (Mark x. 9): to those to whom he is a Father, the Church must also be a Mother” (John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), Book IV.I.1.).