Friday, March 17, 2006

SJT, Rutherford, and Lapsarianism

My friend Guy Richard, Senior Minister at First Presbyterian Church, Gulfport, MS (PCA), has published a fascinating article entitled "Samuel Rutherford's supralapsarianism revealed: a key to the lapsarian position of the Westminster Confession of Faith?" in the latest Scottish Journal of Theology 59.1 (2006): 27-44. The article is clearly stated, cogently argued, and carefully researched. Here are the main points:

  • Rutherford's supralapsarianism has long been misrepresented;
  • he expressed his supralapsarianism in moderate terms, often employing the language of infralapsarianism - especially in the language of reprobation and preterition;
  • his supralapsarianism can be a helpful hermeneutic for understanding the WCF;
  • and, the WCF is best understood as an inherently supralapsarian consensus document that does not exclude infralapsarians.

Other articles of interest in this SJT include: Stephen Edmondson, "The biblical historical structure of Calvin's Institutes, " Melanie Ross, "Jonathan Edwards: Advice to Weary Theologians," and Benjamin Myers, "Predestination and freedom in Milton's Paradise Lost."

If you are interested in following up Guy's articles, let me suggest John Fesko's excellent book, Diversity within the Reformed Tradition: Supra- and Infralapsarianism in Calvin, Dordt, and Westminster (Greenville, SC: Reformed Academic Press, 2003); idem, "The Westminster Confession and Lapsarianism, " The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century, vol 2, ed. J. Ligon Duncan (Fearn: Mentor, 2004): 477-525.

Reading this article reminded me of a random annotated bibliography on the lapsarian debate I compiled several years ago when perusing William Twisse's work on predestination. Starting next week, I will give this list in several posts. So keep checking back!

Full Seminaries Empty Pulpits

I know this is somewhat beyond the scope of puritanism; however, I trust this is in the puritan spirit. The NY Times Online today has an interesting article entitled "Students Flock to Seminaries, but Fewer See Pulpit in Future." Neela Banerjee states, "Across the country, enrollment is up at Protestant seminaries, but a shrinking portion of the graduates will ascend the pulpit. These seminarians, particularly the young ones, are less interested in making a career of religion than in taking their religion into other careers."

Although the article focuses mostly on mainline seminaries, I suspect the same is true of evangelical and reformed seminaries. Obviously, not everyone who studies divinity/theology will go into the ministry. Let me be clear, this is a very good thing: the prospect of a growing body of theologically astute laity is encouraging. However, the level of biblical illiteracy seems to be increasing not decreasing in our culture and churches. As our puritan forebears frequently emphasized, "How are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!...Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of Christ (Rom 10:14-15, 17)."

Folks, where have all the preachers gone? Thoughts?


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