Saturday, November 11, 2006

Puritans through Victorian eyes

Our token female Conventicle initiate, Susan Allister, has made definite plans to pursue a doctorate here in Edinburgh, researching ... well, I'll let her explain herself:

Having graduated from English at Cambridge in 2005 (where I wrote an undergraduate dissertation about Puritan writing style), I moved to Edinburgh and did a taught MTh in Theology in History, where my dissertation focused on John Foxe and his portrayal of John Wyclif. I am now in my first year of doctoral studies. I am looking at perceptions of and attitudes towards Puritanism (or some aspect of it - I am yet to be more specific here) in nineteenth-century British historical work. I am specifically focusing on historical writings by Evangelicals including J.C. Ryle and John Stoughton, but am also looking more broadly at non-evangelical historians and groups. I am particularly interested in relationships between Puritanism and Evangelicalism, but also in ecclesiology, historiography, and the interfaces between theology, church history and literature.
We look forward to hearing insights from your research, Susan. (Hint: a post would be welcome!) Great to have you with us.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Plans for the weekend...

How about reading Augustine?

Why? See Carl Trueman's thoughts.

Muller: Question of Central Dogma

One of the most important contributions of Muller's work is his devastating critique of the infamous 'central dogma' theory. This theory is often associated with those who see a massive break between the Protestant scholastics of the seventeenth century and the Reformers of the sixteenth century.

According to this school of thought, the post-Reformation represents a hardening and rationalization of the more biblically balanced teaching of the Reformation by placing predestination at the center of theology. Well, miller begs to differ.

He gives this hard hitting blow,

The attempt to describe Protestant scholasticism as the systematic development of central dogmas or controlling principles – predestination in the case of the Reformed, justification in the case of the Lutherans – was, at best, a theological reinterpretation of the Protestant scholastic systems based on the efforts of constructive theologians of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to rebuilt theological system in the wake of the Kantian critique of rational metaphysics…At worst, the central dogma theories are an abuse of history that cannot stand in the light of a careful reading of the sources (PRRD 1.125-126).

Ouch! For more, see my notes PRRD 1:123-132.

Free Download Index to Owen's Works

Fellow Puritan enthusiast, Tony Reinke has provided yet another invaluable online resource. He has converted the index to volumes 1-16 of Owen's works into a PDF file. In addition, he gives details of how to purchase the works of Owen at 35% off!

For more infomation, go to The Shepherd's Scrapbook.

HT: Between Two Worlds

Thursday, November 9, 2006

New Book: Meet the Puritans

Has anyone seen Joel Beeke's new book Meet the Puritans? Comments?

New Series: Profiles of Reformed Spirituality

Michael Haykin over at Historia Ecclesiastica previews a new series entitled Profiles of Reformed Spirituality. The series will be published by Reformed Heritage Press and edited by Joel Beeke and Haykin.

Here is the general introduction of the series.

Charles Dickens’ famous line in A Tale of Two Cities—“it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”—seems well suited to western Evangelicalism since the 1960s. On the one hand, these decades have seen much for which to praise God and to rejoice. In His goodness and grace, for instance, Reformed truth is no longer a house under siege. Growing numbers identify themselves theologically with what we hold to be biblical truth, namely, Reformed theology and piety. And yet, as an increasing number of Reformed authors have noted, there are many sectors of the surrounding western Evangelicalism that are characterized by great shallowness and a trivialization of the weighty things of God. So much of Evangelical worship seems barren. And when it comes to spirituality, there is little evidence of the riches of our heritage as Reformed Evangelicals.

As it was at the time of the Reformation, when the watchword was ad fontes—“back to the sources”—so it is now: the way forward is backward. We need to go back to the spiritual heritage of Reformed Evangelicalism to find the pathway forward. We cannot live in the past; to attempt to do so would be antiquarianism. But our Reformed forebears in the faith can teach us much about Christianity, its doctrines, its passions, and its fruit.

And they can serve as our role models. As R. C. Sproul has noted of such giants as Augustine and Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards: “These men all were conquered, overwhelmed, and spiritually intoxicated by their vision of the holiness of God. Their minds and imaginations were captured by the majesty of God the Father. Each of them possessed a profound affection for the sweetness and excellence of Christ. There was in each of them a singular and unswerving loyalty to Christ that spoke of a citizenship in heaven that was always more precious to them than the applause of men.” [“An Invaluable Heritage,” Tabletalk, 23, No.10 (October 1999), 5-6].

To be sure, we would not dream of placing these men and their writings alongside the Word of God. John Jewel (1522-1571), the Anglican apologist, once stated: “What say we of the fathers, Augustine, Ambrose, Jerome, Cyprian? …They were learned men, and learned fathers; the instruments of the mercy of God, and vessels full of grace. We despise them not, we read them, we reverence them, and give thanks unto God for them. Yet …we may not make them the foundation and warrant of our conscience: we may not put our trust in them. Our trust is in the name of the Lord.” [Cited in Barrington R. White, “Why Bother with History?” Baptist History and Heritage, 4, No.2 (July 1969), 85].

Seeking then both to honor the past and yet not idolize it, we are issuing these books in the series Profiles in Reformed Spirituality. The design is to introduce the spirituality and piety of the Reformed tradition by presenting descriptions of the lives of notable Christians with select passages from their works. This combination of biographical sketches and collected portions from primary sources gives a taste of the subjects’ contributions to our spiritual heritage and some direction as to how the reader can find further edification through their works. It is the hope of the publishers that this series will provide riches for those areas where we are poor and light of day where we are stumbling in the deepening twilight.

Other books in the series that are planned include ones on Jonathan Edwards, Horatius Bonar, Thomas Goodwin, John Owen and Hercules Collins.

I do believe one of the greatest, although sometimes overlooked, legacies of the Reformed tradition is its wedding of robust biblical-theology with warm-hearted piety. As Calvin argued in his Institutes, theology must be linked to piety and lead to doxology. May this series aid Christians recapture a passion for Reformed Spirituality and say with Calvin (and Paul!) when he summarized the Christian life: "we are not our own...we are God's!"

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Mind Your Manners

Over at First Things, Peter Leithart has an amusing review article of German historian Norbert Elias's The Civilizing Process. Leithart states,

Through a survey of etiquette books and other documents dealing with topics like table manners, blowing one’s nose, spitting, the deportment of the body, facial expressions, and the control of bodily functions, Elias argues that Westerners went through a gradual and uneven affective transformation during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. By the end of the process, behaviors considered normal in the Middle Ages had been ruled “barbarous.” This civilized separation from barbarity signaled major changes in feelings of delicacy, shame, refinement, and repugnance.

Perhaps this explains why Martin Luther was not so concerned with suppressing certain bodily functions and John Owen was rather keen on his Spanish leather boots!

Monday, November 6, 2006

Life & Light of Scripture: Christ in the Old Testament

In a chapter entitled "Representations of the Glory of Christ under the Old Testament" in Meditations on the Glory of Christ, John Owen gives no less than seven "ways and means whereby the glory of Christ was represented unto believers under the Old Testament" (Works 1:348).

1. The glory of Christ was represented in the beautiful worship of the law. "All that Moses did in the erection of the tabernacle, and the institution of al its services, was but to give an antecedent testimony by way of representation, unto the things of Christ that were afterward to be revealed" (1:348). See also his exposition of Hebrews 9.

2. The glory of Christ was represented in the mystical account of Christ's communion with his church in love and grace as revealed in Song of Solomon. See also his preface to James Durham's commentary on Song of Solomon.

3. The glory of Christ was represented in his personal appearances. "This he did as a proeludium [prelude] to his incarnation...indeed, after the fall there is nothing spoken of God in the Old Testament, nothing of his institutions, nothing of the way and manner of dealing with the church, but what hath respect unto the future incarnation of Christ" (1:349-350).

4. The glory of Christ was represented in his prophetical visions (e.g. Is. 6:1-5; Jn. 12:41).

5. The glory of Christ in the incarnation was revealed in the OT, although it was not made clear until after the accomplishment of it (e.g. Is. 9:6-7). "I do acknowledge that...there remained much darkness in the minds of them unto who it was then made. For although they might and did acquiesce in the truth of the revelation, yet they could frame to themselves no notions of the way or manner of its accomplishment" (1:351). See also his discussion in Vindiciae Evangelicae.

6. The glory of Christ was represented in promises, prophecies, [and] predictions regarding his person, office, and work. We cannot "read, study, or meditate on the writings of the Old Testament unto any advantage, unless we design to find out and behold the glory of Christ, declared and represented in them" (1:351).

7. The glory of Christ was represented under metaphorical expressions (e.g. lily, pearl of price, vine, lion, lamb, etc).

Owen sought to take to heart what was said of Christ in Luke 24:27 - that he began with Moses and the prophets and expounded the things concerning himself. Owen states, "It is therefore manifest that Moses, and the Prophets, and all the Scripture, do give testimony unto him and his glory. This is the line of life and light which runs through the whole Old Testament" (1:348).

It is difficult to determine if Owen would say that Christ is necessarily the intended subject of every individual pericope, although he does seem more ready to apply a text to Christ than the sometimes reticent Calvin. But this may be due to the fact that most of Owen's writings are theological and occasional, specifically in his defense of the deity of Christ against Jewish and Socinian errors. In addition, unlike Calvin, he didn't write Old Testament commentaries. He was a one commentary man.

What he does affirm is that the scope of the entire Scripture (scopus Scripturae) is Christ. In other words, while an individual passage may not directly speak of or about Christ's person, office, and work, the glory of Christ is the centerpiece of the entire redemptive narrative - the end to which every passage ultimately points.


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