Monthly Archives: August 2015

New Phase of American Church History

“American Protestantism entered a new phase during Nevin’s lifetime. It is not an overstatement or caricature to say that, no longer regulated by the state and no longer administered by ordained officers, Protestant Christianity in the United States became a religion of the people, by the people, for the people”  (D.G. Hart, John Williamson Nevin, 26).

High-Church Calvinist

“[John Williamson] Nevin recognized that, without the nurture of the institutional church through its worship and pastoral care, Calvinist theology would not survive as a vibrant expression of the Christian religion. For that reason, Nevin deserves the nickname “high-church Calvinist”” (D.G. Hart, John Williamson Nevin, 13).

Economic Reality and Stewardship

“[Dabney] urged young Southerners to remember certain unchangeable principles that formed his theological response to the economic realities of the new South — in particular, the principle that God was the true owner of all property and wealth; humans simply used property as stewards. Dabney taught that God’s Word outlined three appropriate purposes for wealth: personal sustenance, family need, and insurance against the future. Wealth was certainly not to be used in “superfluities” or on luxuries, which only produced a worldly conformity, led others to covet, and ruined one’s own character. Such unproductive consumption was a “waste and perversion of a trust that should have been sacred to noble and blessed ends.” Instead, excess wealth was to be used for evangelism and other ministries, for “every ignorant, degraded man who is enlightened and sanctified becomes at once a useful producer of material wealth, for he is rendered an industrious citizen. And every heathen community that is evangelized becomes a recipient and a producer of the wealth of peaceful commerce.”” (Sean Michael Lucas, Robert Lewis Dabney, 189).

Warning to Not Plunge Into Error

“On the atonement, Dabney claimed that the Westminster Confession did not take a position on the order of decrees — the long-standing debate among Calvinists over infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism. Indeed, he held that “if we impute our sequences to God, we plunge into error. The most we can comprehend is that God, in entertaining from eternity one part of this contemporaneous purpose, has regard to a state of facts as to that part destined by him to result from his same purpose as to other parts of his moral government”” (Sean Michael Lucas, Robert Lewis Dabney, 141-142).

Loss of Influence

“While Dabney was able to hold the line against any form of racial reconciliation, he was not as successful in his battle against fraternal relations with the Northern church — in 1882, New South Presbyterians within the PCUS repudiated his position. This battle against the Northern church did more to damage his reputation than any other action, and would ultimately be the impetus that relegated Dabney to the margins, both ecclesiastically in his loss of influence within his church and geographically in his “exile” to Texas” (Sean Michael Lucas, Robert Lewis Dabney, 135-136),

Preserving Southern Identity

“[Post- Civil War] The issues at home were pressing and demanded Dabney’s energies. While the North had gained the upper hand politically through the force of arms, Dabney sought to maintain a distinctive Southern civilization . . . by strengthening the Southern institutions that remained. . . . It was primarily in the PCUS [Presbyterian Church in the United States, i.e. the Southern Presbyterian Church], not in monuments or Confederate Day speeches, that Dabney sought to preserve Southern identity” (Sean Michael Lucas, Robert Lewis Dabney, 134-135).

Dabney the Biographer

“Because he had already memorialized Stonewall Jackson in a powerful sermon after the general’s death in 1863, and because he was both a relative and a former member of Jackson’s staff, Mary Anna Jackson asked Dabney to write a biography of the Confederate chieftain. Dabney spent the rest of the war on his Life of Jackson — researching the battles, visiting Mrs. Jackson, securing Jackson’s remaining papers, and writing the manuscript. The resulting biography was Dabney’s longest-standing literary monument and one of his chief glories” (Sean Michael Lucas, Robert Lewis Dabney, 128).

Chief of Staff

“Dabney was interested in seeking another tour in the army as a chaplain and had been old by General D.H. Hill, a fellow Presbyterian, that he could have a position in his division. In the meantime, Stonewall Jackson had sent his wife away from Winchester to stay with her cousin, Dabney’s wife, Lavinia, at Farmville. Jackson, as a result of his wife’s intercession, offered Dabney the position of chief of staff of the Second Corps in the Army of Northern Virginia” (Sean Michael Lucas, Robert Lewis Dabney, 115).


“It is important to notice themes of honor and patriotism in Dabney’s declaration of war [i.e. the Civil War]. He had advocated peace until it was no longer a ‘virtue,’ until the edge of ‘dishonor’ was reached” (Sean Michael Lucas, Robert Lewis Dabney, 109).