The Mind of the Maker (Dorothy Sayers)

Sayers, Dorothy. The Mind of the Maker.

Sayer argues that the laws of creative imagination are analogues of the Trinity. Or to say it another way, there is a Trinitarian structure in the mind of man. This is also mirrored in the writing of a book:

Book as Thought (Idea).

Book as Written (Energy or Word; she is on better ground when she calls it the “form” of the thought. That at least echoes what St Hilary said).

Book as Read

While she has a fascinating number of insights, this book, rather ironically, suffers from a lack of unity. It is almost as if there were two books. One is a theological and trinitarian reflection on the nature of thought and mind. That book is quite good. The other book is a sub-conscious literary criticism of then-current England.

A word on the analogies. She is not saying that the Trinity is like….x. Rather, she is saying x mirrors (in some limited, analogical way) the Trinity. That is not heretical. Augustine said the same thing.

The Image of God

“The characteristic common to God and man is apparently that: the desire and ability to make things” (22). Sayers is quick to point out that this is metaphorical and analogical: we can’t make things out of nothing. And then she gives a meditation on what analogical language is.

It is not that both God and man make things that they are similar. The very structure of thought and imagination are not limited by finite material. I have to destroy a tree to make a wooden table. Yet, Shakespeare, in order to create Falstaff, doesn’t have to kill Hamlet (29). Sayers writes, “The components of the material world are fixed; those of the world of the imagination increase by a continuous and irreversible process.”

Idea, Energy, Power

We see Trinitarian patterns in creation. There is a trinity in sight: the form seen, the act of vision, and the mental attention which correlates the two (36). Every thought is a trinity of memory, understanding, and will.

Creative Idea–beholding the whole complete work at once

Creative Energy (activity).

Creative Power

When I form the Idea in my mind, the forming of the idea is itself not the Idea. It is the self-awareness in Energy (38).

Sayers has a fun chapter on Scalene Trinities, in which she points out imbalances in authors.

Criticism:

I think her analogy (Idea/Energy/Power) is wobbly. It is confusing for those of us who have studied the Christological controversies. For example, for Sayers “energy” and “Power” refer to the Son and Spirit, respectively. But in Greek the terms are roughly synonymous. And after Paul in 1 Corinthians, few Christians used them exclusively of the Trinitarian persons, since “power” referred more to capacity than divine person.

Lectures on the Sacraments (Cyril of Jerusalem)


This book presented to me a hermeneutical and aesthetic challenge. I began reading it due to my interest in liturgy and sacramental theology. I finished it realizing how much of the Enlightenment air I breathe.

Part of the difficulty in reading this work is that St Cyril simply does not think like we do. He sees pictures and symbols and has no problems making connections. This can make the work frustrating to the reader.

These six lectures deal with the symbolism behind eastern Patristic sacramental thinking. It is not so much a theology of the sacraments but a demonstration of the sacramental life of his church.

In preparing for baptism and the Eucharist, the catechumen will face the West, publically renounce Satan and his works, have her head and lips anointed with oil, etc.

St Cyril then gives exegetical reasoning behind these actions. While we will not find his reasoning persuasive, it is interesting that he appeals to Scripture for his arguments.

A few interesting highlights: St Cyril notes that the gates of Paradise are opened to the initiate following baptism. He places paradisal living within the current lifetime. Also, for those who participate in covenant renewal services, much of our liturgy has ancient roots in the 4th century (e.g., “Life up your hearts…we lift them to the Lord.”).

Liturgical Nestorianism (Jordan)

The Elements of Worship

terminism: defining one term by its other. There is a tendency to reduce everything in theology to laws. Laws are important, but God didn’t always do that. There are types, symbols, analogies, etc (66). This means God is only allowed to communicate his desires via commands and not in patterns.

Disclaimer: I am certainly NOT advocating Jordan’s approach to worship nor really much else associated with the man. But I do think Jordan neatly summarizes the situation and points out several flaws in some (not all) RPW approaches. Jordan’s thesis is more or less correct: As (practical) Nestorianism is the separating the human and divine natures in Christ, leading to a diminution of the human nature, so liturgical Nestorianism means keeping the human so far away from worship that he is nothing more than a recipient who hears preaching sings (a little).

Initial key points:

(1) Strict RPW advocates charge any kind of maximalism in worship as going back to OT types and shadows, as best seen in Roman Catholic worship. Jordan asks the obvious question: “Why do you assume (without proof) that Rome got Old Covenant worship correct?”

(2) The contrast in biblical is not a move from exterior to interior (this is Plato on crack) but from glory to glory. The goal is eschatological maturation, not Platonic interiorizing.

(3) Strict RPW advocates claim that a) NT worship is based on the Synagogue and not the Temple; and b) NT worship is regulated by God by direct command. Jordan points out that obvious: If this is true, then it is a meeting of silence. Nowhere does God command what goes on in the Synagogue. God simply commanded a holy convocation every Sabbath (Lev. 23). He didn’t say anything else.

(4)If something is “Fulfilled” in the New Covenant why do we normally assume that “fulfilled” means “done away with?” Isn’t this the textbook definition of dispensationalism? Mind you, I don’t think that everything should be done in the New Covenant.

(5) When God commands singing in the Bible, it is always accompanied by instruments. The 4th book of the Psalter (specifically Psalms 90-98) progresses from the arrival to the enthronement of Yahweh’s king). Music is connected with ascension and enthronement (Jordan 37).

(6) Levitical priests weren’t really mediators. There weren’t any mediators before Moses (not systematically). Levitical priests were household servants. Psalm 110 tells us who the true Mediator is in the old covenant. Only priests in union with the Melchizedekian priest-king mediate. But this is exactly what new covenant believers are (44).

(7)Can Revelation be used as an order of worship? Maybe.

Exclusive Psalmody

Jordan points out that Eph. 5.19 and Col. 3:16, which some used to refer to “three types of Psalms,” do not refer to corporate worship at all, but to the daily life of the believer (85).

If the Song is an element in worship, it should be applied the same as other elements (86). When we preach, we use “new words.” When we pray in worship, we use “new words.”

Conclusion

This book highlights all of the weak points in an overly strict interpretation of the Regulative Principle of Worship. Jordan’s idiosyncrasies are kept at a blessed minimum.

Christian Church and the Old Testament (Van Ruler)

Van Ruler, A. A. The Christian Church and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. trans. Bromiley.

The book’s initial purpose is to justify the Christian’s use of the Old Testament. He does, however, put the brakes on more fanciful readings. For the reader today much of it is dated, as is most OT work post-Vos (and certainly post-Beale). Nonetheless, there are a few fascinating and controversial sayings that are worth engaging.

He wisely points out that the OT’s identifying God as “Yahweh” and even “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” puts to rest any generic “God-in-general” god of the ecumenical movement (Van Ruler, 17; the comments on the ecumenical movement are mine, not his).

He argues that Calvin used the model of progressive revelation (II.x.2). On one level this is obvious. God didn’t give Adam and Eve a complete canon of Genesis-Revelation. That sounds silly, I know, but there are super-internet-covenanters today who say that any use of “history” or “organic” or “progressive” = pantheism. I leave that to you. On a more substantial note, however, we must question how glibly we can say that “Jesus” is in the Old Testament. He certainly is (1 Cor. 10; he is the Rock from which our fathers drank). Here’s the problem, though. If Scripture (and texts in general) have only one meaning–the meaning for the original audience is the intended meaning–then we need to ask if the original audience saw Christ as the rock. Indeed, that’s a tall (but not impossible) claim. Van Ruler questions that we can simply put Jesus wherever we want in the OT, since such knowledge, at least for the original audience, needed the death and resurrection at the very least (21).

Good quote by Kuyper: If our ideas of the Old Testament can’t incorporate national Israel in them, then those ideas are wrong” (Uit het Woord, II, 1, 180). Outstanding. In our conservative circles we might not realize how radical this claim is. A particular Israel is hard to square with “universal messages” or “timeless truths” or the ecumenical movement.

If you are somewhat familiar with Van Ruler, then you know the dangerous area he is now taking us. “The whole concern with Scripture is not with Jesus Christ” (69). That’s a fairly startling claim. What does he mean by it? He says the Spirit embraces more than Jesus does. That’s a vague statement and I am not sure how to take it. He then echoes 1 Cor. 15 that the Son’s mediatorial kingdom will come to an end. (Side note: Berkouwer claimed in The Return of Christ that Van Ruler said Jesus’s humanity will fade away, but Van Ruler doesn’t say that here). Van Ruler does leave us with a startling suggestion, though: “Jesus Christ is an emergency measure that God postponed as long as possible.” Suffice to say he probably isn’t a supralapsarian.

He does point out the wisdom of Reformed Christology and how it is anchored (and further develops) in Reformed anthropology. We believe that original righteousness “was natural rather than supernatural.” Rome believed in a pure nature to which was super-added a gift of grace. So far this is standard dogmatics. From it Van Ruler draws the inevitable but not always obvious conclusion: this means that Jesus doesn’t add a “higher life” dimension to created life. This is why with Reformed we say that grace restores, rather than perfects nature.

Benedict Option (Dreher)

Dreher, Rod.  Benedict Option.

I see myself as a friendly critic of Rod Dreher.  I think he consistently makes good points, but I also think he is really good at riding the wave of crucial opinions, even if they happen to be correct.  It’s hard to review this book.  Do you remember that episode of “Arrested Development” where Gob gets hired as a consultant to a rival company?  He was supposed to supply good ideas for the company. Having no clue what he was doing, he got his brother Michael to give him ideas.  Michael gave him around thirty ideas.  Gob presented them all at once.  That’s kind of how this book is.  I am going to focus primarily on his views of “intentional communities” and “education.”

He begins by noting that Big Business will side with the sexual revolution over conservative morality every single time. We’ll come back to this point, as it ties in with his criticisms of the GOP.  What Dreher doesn’t realize is that the types of people who have always pointed this out were populists and nationalists. They also voted for Trump.

This next part of the book approaches dangerous waters.  This happens whenever someone attempts a genealogical explanation of the current ills.  In other words, the problem with x today can be traced back to y’s influence over 600 years ago.  Whatever good points he might make, this is almost impossible to prove.  For Dreher, as for Radical Orthodoxy and Brad Gregory, the problem is nominalism.   I agree that nominalism is a problem.  But to trace the loss of realism as creating the Renaissance, Reformation, and all the way to the sexual revolution today is impossible to prove. So far, Dreher’s book is an updated version of Francis Schaeffer, and parts of it are quite good.

Is the Benedict Option saying we should live in intentional communities where we won’t be persecuted?  Not exactly, though Dreher makes clear that he doesn’t rule it out.  On one hand, he notes that you don’t have to move to the hinterlands to “Be the Benedict Option.”  Local communities need skilled workers in jobs that are rewarding, if difficult, and don’t force one to violate his convictions.  On the other hand, one suspects Dreher wants more than that.  He rightly points out that Christians who live in communities that are close to the local church are more close-knit communities that can help one another in trouble.  Very true.

I am very wary of intentional communities.  It just seems like post-evangelicals are LARPing. The potential for abuse is high. By saying that I am not saying that makes intentional communities wrong.  I am simply pointing out a built-in weakness.  According to theory, proper church government models and civil government models have built-in checks to accountability (at least they did before the 2020 election).  Intentional communities are vague on that point, though some usually subscribe to a vague, if sometimes legalistic, church covenant.

Dreher is certainly aware of that.  In 2015 he wrote a fine article criticizing and calling attention to the sexual abuse scandals in Moscow, ID.  He noted that he had once considered Moscow a viable example of a Benedict Option community.  Moscow, ID is indeed a clear example, but for darker reasons.

All of that, regardless of the pros and cons of such a position, is meant to carry water for something else:  Christian education.  I think this is the most controversial, albeit interesting, part of the book.  Like many conservatives, Dreher calls attention to the failing public schools, both morally and academically.  Nothing new there.  What about private schools?  Dreher is just as hard on them.  Private schools do not provide a specifically Christian education and are more often country clubs for rich people’s kids.  The morals might not be as bad as public schooling, but they are getting there.  

Well, what about specifically Christian education?  That’s still not good enough for Dreher.  He points out–with some justification–that Christian education is simply the standard subjects with “Jesus on top.” He has a point there.  How do you “Christianly” teach the Pythagorean theorem?  You can say you are “doing it for the glory of God,” but the formula didn’t change.

Well, what about homeschooling?  He likes the idea.  The problem, though, and this is a legitimate point, is that homeschooling isn’t for every student, it requires a certain level of discipline from the parent, and it requires both a two parent household and the ability to live on a single income.

Therefore, the only possible alternative left is the classical education model.  There is a lot I like about the classical model, yet I don’t share the “it will save Western Civilization” mindset.  Classical models begin–some, anyway–with the proper mindset to education.  We shouldn’t ask of an education, “What can I do with it?”  Rather, we should be aware of the inevitable question, “What will this education do to me?”  Further, I like how in the humanities the classical model is better able to integrate Jesus and the Western tradition.  Classical models correctly see education as transmitting virtue and wisdom.

In terms of history, writing, and literature the classical model is superb, far excelling the others.  However, I have seen from personal experience, from a noted classical school, that when students get into some public and charter schools they are years behind in math.  Granted, this probably depends more on student and teacher.  I just see classical models as stronger on the humanities that STEM.

And that raises another issue: several key advantages of the classical model can be accomplished on one’s own.  With a good library you can read the exact same classics.  Bloom’s or Cambridge Companions can provide scholarly interaction with these sources.  You can learn Latin on your own with youtube helps.  Wheelock’s and many Catholic sources have great Latin helps.  You don’t need a specific school for that.  

That raises another point.  As is the case with seminary professors and Hebrew, how many of the students continue to read and translate Latin?  Unless they continue it, what was the point?  Sure, it gives them better verbal skills on tests and an entry into the Romance languages.  But even in those languages, do they continue?

I like much about the classical model.  I just have my reserves.  I think its strengths often can be found elsewhere.

I understand how this book is popular.  Dreher is a very good writer and he put his finger on numerous key problems.  I think part of my frustration with the book is that he comes across as sloganeering and doesn’t always develop and analyze his own points.  For example, he correctly notes that many Christian schools (and worldview talk in general) simply do the curriculum but say “It’s Jesus’s Curriculum,” which actually does nothing to change the pedagogy.  That said, he doesn’t always explain how the Benedict Option integrates math and science in a Jesus-worldview without doing the same thing.  

Elsewhere, he makes many good points about the coming crisis that Christians will have to face, and how we might have to seek employment in ways that require us to work with our hands.  To be honest, I like Dreher’s vision a lot more than the standard gentrification models of The Gospel Coalition.  If read with a very critical eye, this book will get one thinking about possible future models of Christian existence.

Worship, Community, Triune God (Torrance)

Torrance, James B. Worship, Community, & The Triune God of Grace. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

James Torrance identifies Trinitarian worship as “our participation through the Spirit in the Son’s communion with the Father, in his vicarious life of worship and intercession” (Torrance 15). He also clarifies what his brother meant by Christ’s “vicarious humanity.” In his humanity Jesus brings our worship to the Father.

The first bad model is unitarianism, aka Protestant liberalism.  What matters is my soul’s relationship with God.  The second bad model is functional unitarianism, aka the Experience model.  This can be seen in both Bultmann and modern evangelicalism. It looks good on the outside: God addresses man and man responds.  What is missing is Christ.  There is no place for Christ to lead our worship and present our prayers before the Father (29).  As Torrance notes, “It ignores the fact that God has already provided that response which is alone acceptable to him.”

Finally is the Trinitarian model. It begins with God and the humanity “vicariously realized in Jesus Christ” and a relationship between Jesus and the Church (31). This understanding of worship allows us to perceive “a double movement of grace–(a) a God-humanward movement, from (ek) the Father, through (dia) the Son, in (en) the Spirit and (b) a human-Godward movement to the Father, through the Son in the Spirit” (32).

Some Criticisms

Torrance uses the language of perichoresis with regard to the Trinity.  That’s not wrong, but it isn’t exactly how it was used in the early church.  Perichoresis applied to the two natures.

Torrance never adequately developed his definition of person as a relational being.  I agree with him.  I also agree with him that Boethius’s definition is problematic.  But Boethius’s definition has tremendous explanatory power.  To overturn it your definition has to be just as persuasive.

Conclusion

Torrance has a fine appendix on names and metaphors for God. Granted that God is beyond sexuality and isn’t physically male, then why is “Mother” not acceptable? Doesn’t the Bible use motherly metaphors for God in the prophets? Torrance points out that the Bible uses similes for mother in the Bible, not metaphors. A simile is a weaker concept. Furthermore, Father isn’t a metaphor for God. It is God’s naming himself, which is a stronger reality.

The Mystical Presence and the Doctrine of the Reformed Church (Nevin)

The Mystical Presence: And The Doctrine of the Reformed Church on ...

Nevin taught himself German so he could read Neander in the original. 

Even in Pennsylvania, Nevin was attacked for criticizing slavery.

Part 1: The Mystical Presence

Argument: if the Incarnation is the fact and principle of a new supernatural order of life, then the church can be no abstraction.

Outward social worship is essential to piety. 

Chapter 1: The Reformed or Calvinistic Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper

Nevin’s burden is that the Supper cannot be separated from the life-giving Person of Christ, and as such it cannot be an abstraction from the church.  Of course, Nevin will also avoid any claim to eating the local humanity of Christ.  Our life as a whole cannot be separated from how we commune with our savior.

In the first chapter Nevin says we are “mystically inserted into Christ.”  I’m not sure what he means by that.  I understand why people chant “pantheist” when they read Nevin.  They are wrong, of course, but I get it. If we read on to the next sentence, it clarifies: a real participation in the living Christ by which we are transformed into his image.

Our union with Christ: it is not simply that of a common humanity derived from Adam. While we share the consequences of Adam’s fall, we don’t have a direct communion with his person.

Further, the relation is more than a moral union. Throughout this opening chapter Nevin insists that this view on union will preserve the Reformed church from rationalism.  Lest he be seen as capitulating to Rome, he offers the standard criticisms of transubstantiation.

Nevin is aware of the connotations of “substance” in his discussion on Calvin.  He doesn’t give up on it, though.  He wants a strong “union” with Christ, per Calvin, that allows a “substantial vigor to flow down.”  

Heidelberg: questions 75-79. It rejects an oral manducation but nonetheless affirms a participation in the body and blood of Christ.  Question 76 makes it clear that Christ is in heaven, but the Holy Spirit unites us to his body, flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone.  Nevin drives the point home that to reduce “besides that” to a mere moral union is to introduce a gross tautology. Granting that the language is not carnal, Nevin points out that if it were only to signify a mental projection, then Ursinus and Olevianus were extremely careless and dangerous in their language.

Ursinus: we reject an imaginary figure but affirm the true body of Christ, albeit in heaven.

Modern Puritan Theory

Older Reformed view: it is an exhibition of saving grace.  For the elect, inward and outward aren’t divorced, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, but are made to flow together to the believer. It includes the idea of an objective force.

Modern Puritan (by which he means New England) view: Christ is present the same way he is present everywhere.

The heart of the matter: with Calvin do we say that we have participation and communion with Christ’s humanity, or is that semi-popish mysticism?

Calvin Among the Hegelians

I don’t think Nevin was a Hegelian, nor do I think that 99% of the people who use that charge know what Hegel taught.  Notwithstanding, I understand why people get nervous.  Let’s not dismiss him too quickly.  He does a good job in showing how far Calvin’s language can take us and where exactly it breaks down.

The organic law: Nevin doesn’t develop this point directly, but moves into something resembling Theseus’s Ship and the problem of an oral manducation.   The point is that the principle of life cannot be reduced to the body. 

The Doctrine Positively Stated

1. The union from our first parent descends from his entire person, body and soul.
2. Our union with the savior is not a naturalistic one; nevertheless, it is a union with the whole savior, the Word made flesh.

3) The power of Christ’s life passes into his people, the Church.  The Church is located in history and experiences growth.

4) The humanity of Christ is the indispensable medium of our participation in him.

5) The medium is faith, but we still have a real communion with the Person of the savior.

6) Christ’s Spirit constitutes the form and power of his presence.

Criticisms

While there are aspects of Puritanism that can be legitimately critiqued, Nevin is sometimes broad and sloppy in his criticism of “the Puritan principle.”

The editors overplay the “Calvin vs. Calvinist” scheme at times.  It is true Nevin rejected a merely extrinsic forensic element in our soteriology.  Further, it is true that Nevin was on point with Calvin in the Supper.  This does not mean, however, that Calvin’s view of union with Christ can be played off against imputation, as they suggest in note 17 of chapter 1.

 

John Williamson Nevin: High Church Calvinist

nevin

I wrote this in 2006 when I was at a very different stage in my life.  I only had to edit it a bit, though.

Thesis of the book: John Williamson Nevin’s high church Calvinism attempted to steer a middle path between the individualism of 19C Presbyterianism while avoiding the tyranny of Rome. His view of the sacraments necessitates a higher view of the church.

Summary and Critical Points: DG Hart’s style is straightfoward and the narrative flows smoothly. Given the thesis, he accomplished his task while suggesting that Nevin’s sacramentology can provide a more robust ecclesiology for the American Church.  I would have liked to see more detail on how Nevin’s view of the Supper affects his Calvinist soteriology.

Abstract of Hart’s Bio on Nevin

Nevin’s life is seen as a tension between the historical claims of the Roman Catholic Church on one hand and the energy of the Protestant Reformation on the other hand. The Incarnation was central to Nevin’s Christology and Ecclesiology. His was a sacramental theology that shaped all else: his view of the church, his view of history and most importantly, his view of the Lord’s Supper (207). Nevin battled for the recapturing of the Church’s past. For Nevin, taking the claims of the early church seriously, and seeking the unity of the church as opposed to sectarianism, raised several problems: what does one do about the Roman Catholic Church?

Nevin on the Church

According to Hart, “The Church, in other words, was the manifestation in the natural world of the resurrected Christ, literally and supernaturally the body of Christ” (75). There was an objective character to the church. Among other things, this precluded revivalism and the use of an “anxious bench.” Over against the anxious bench, which constituted Nevin’s first foray into polemics (see pp. 88-103), Nevin proposed catechical instruction. Teaching the catechism, unlike the altar call, saw salvation as “new life emanating from union with Christ” (97). The channel of conversion should flow through the family, not the anxious bench.

supper

Nevin on Salvation

Nevin anticipated the debate regarding union with Christ vs. imputation of Christ’s righteousness (interestingly, Hart doesn’t interact with this debate). Salvation, for Nevin, was corporate and organic and was mediated by the church. Discussion regarding Nevin’s soteriology necessarily brings up his sacramentology. Standing in the Calvinian tradition, the sacrament is a sign and a seal embodying the actual presence of grace “and the very life of the Lord Jesus Christ himself” (118). When the believer partakes of the Supper, the body and blood of Christ from heaven is supernaturally communicated to him and he receives life in a new way (119). It is a “mystical union” where Christ communicates his own life and soul substantially to the believer.

Just a side point: Nevin won this debate.  He had Calvin and history on his side.

Nevin on History

This constituted the crisis in Nevin’s life: how to respond to Roman apologetics? To his credit he never became Roman Catholic, but he never gave a credible reason for not doing so. Nevin’s argumentation regarding this point often broke down. He resorted, if Hart’s representation is accurate, to simplistic generalizations and occasional special pleading in favor of Rome. He saw the Puritans as simplistic “me and my bible” Christians ignoring the rich testimony of the Church, while Roman Catholics had almost everything right historically, but erred on papal assertions to infallibility. No wonder he nearly went to Rome! Nevin was correct to see the church as a growing, organic body in union with Christ. This point alone, if further developed, should have persuaded him that Rome was not an option. Nevin himself was aware that Rome’s position theoretically denied the possibility of improvement within the church. Since the church’s teaching is by definition infallible, what’s new to learn?

Side point: Hodge probably had the upper hand.

Lost Soul American Protestantism (Hart)

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The History

Hart argues that American Protestantism lost its “liturgical” and churchly soul by its close contact with and sometimes imitation of the American “market” mentality.  He sees the beginning with George Whitefield, whose friendship with Benjamin Franklin provides a “link between Evangelicalism and the emerging markets” (16).  By market it is not meant an economic structure, but a system of choosing one thing over another.

From Whitefield we see a crasser revivalism.  What is interesting for the American narrative is that this “revivalism” was itself something very close to a state religion.  The most important consequence, however, was that revivalism really didn’t require anything like the sacraments or historic Christian reflection. As Hart notes, “It did not need the formal structures of religion” (17).

Hart counters this rather dismal chapter with an exposition of his hero, Nevin.  I am glad that Hart (or Hart’s Nevin) conceded that the Protestant past could not be recovered completely (29).   It is interesting to see Nevin contrast Old Calvinism with the New England Puritan faith (31).  

As a background to Nevin, Hart overviews the Old Side debate.  The Old Side could not tolerate the new revivalism because the latter had a deficient understanding of what constitutes faith. The church itself was a means of grace established by Christ to edify the flock, none of which included revivalist measures.  

Concerning Machen’s career, Hart echoes a very interesting, if sometimes uncomfortable argument: voluntary institutions have the right to be intolerant; involuntary institutions must be tolerant.  This argument let Machen dodge the accusation that confessional churches were against the spirit of liberty that secular governments protect.  Not so, Machen argued.  

What went wrong?

Revivalism, especially its anti-institutional/liturgical stance, made it harder for the average American to distinguish between historic Christian practices and Romanism (47).   We see this today with remarks on frequent communion like, “We shouldn’t eat with Jesus that often because it might not be ‘special’ (pronounced ‘spay-shul’) no more,” or, “Isn’t that what Rome does?”  In terms of a larger social movement, revivalism tapped into the ‘sentiments of discontent.’  With a few exceptions it  never really led people away from the church, but it also reinforced the idea that the church isn’t all that important.  Hence, America today.  

Hart makes the interesting argument that both Evangelicals and Liberals had the same goal:  Christianization of society; they just differed on the means.  Further, both agreed, if only implicitly and subconsciously, on the marginalization of the church to the believer’s piety.  The neo-Evangelicals sought a divine society that transcended national lines.  Older Protestant thinkers called this “the Church.”  Neo-evangelicals sought no such connection (75).  

We can sum up in one sentence: “Public morality and civic righteousness pushed aside word and sacrament” (123).

What should we do?

We should recover a churchly piety, one that sees baptism as God’s holy act for us and a church centered around “the catechesis:” sermons, teaching, and the catechism.

Hart does end with some probing questions, particularly, “Isn’t Confessionalism kind of like ethnic enclaves, both of which are hostile to American assimilation?”  My answer is no, but it’s not an easy answer.  There are some similarities and dissimilarities, neither of which can be adequately explored at the end of a book.  

This may not be the most pressing question, though.  While it’s not popular today, Confessionalism confesses the two-fold kingdom distinction.  There is the category of the church and there is the category of the common.  Contending for public morality is noble and a case can be made for it, but it is not the church’s mission to lobby for Republicans.  Let the common be common.

There is a healthy piety embedded in this.  One of the old Reformed Scholastic categories was that of viator, a pilgrim between the times.  This protects us from naive triumphalism (e.g., when a Republican wins office) and utter despair (e.g., November 5, 2008).

Why not?  

Hart’s appeal is counter-intuitive.  We see not only Christian morality, but quite likely the vestiges of “decent Civilization” being eroded by the American elites.  Is this time to retreat into the private sector?  I’ll counter with a question I often asks Christian Reconstructionists:  which is more important: taking the Lord’s Supper next Lord’s Day or ‘winning back City Hall?”  If we marginalize the former, who cares what happens elsewhere?  

Wonderful quotes

“The model saint in pietist devotion is the activist” (162).  

The Word of God and the Word of Man (Richard Hooker)

richard_hooker_stained_glass_chester_cathedral

Richard Hooker’s aim in these two books can be seen as a pair of concentric circles.  In the outer circle he refutes the claim that we have to have a Scriptural proof for every action. On one level this claim is absurd and it is hard to imagine that his opponents took it seriously.  Perhaps, though, his opponents mean something like, “You must have a Scriptural justification for every ethical and doctrinal stance.”  Having refuted the first position, his inner circle is an attack upon the Regulative Principle of Worship.

The larger context, though, is Hooker’s defense and presentation of natural law.  While Scripture is sufficient unto salvation, Hooker warns us not to epistemologically push Scripture “beyond what the truth will bear” (Hooker 4).  To mix metaphors, you can’t force Scripture to be a Platonic database from which you can download a response to every issue in life.

Book II mainly deals with sectarian claims that you have to have a Scriptural command for each individual action, not simply in the church, but for all of life.  This is extreme and, quite frankly, absurd.  I won’t spend much time on Hooker’s rebuttals.  He draws an example from David’s life.  David had no divine command to build the temple.  True, Nathan told him he couldn’t’ do it, but he commended his intent.

Technical terminology:

Perfect: a perfect action is one that lacks nothing necessary to the end for which it was instituted (42).

Book III

The Church of Christ is his spiritual body, which cannot be perceived by the senses (III.1.1).  The visible church is one.  Wickedness in the church does not cancel the church.  This is what we tell to critics when they ask “Where was your church before Luther?”  It was in the same place the Israelites were in when they were worshiping idols.  The only change in our church was when it went from being idolatrous to more godly.

The visible church is more of a society than an assembly.  Assemblies only last for the duration to which men are called to it.

Hooker rebuts the RPW along the following lines: Either Scripture puts down a church polity in part or in whole. The latter is simply false, for there is no NT equivalent for the book of Leviticus. If they say “taken from Scripture” from its parts, then they are no different from Anglicans.

Furthermore, a “general command” necessarily excludes particular cases.  If we chose any particular, we would be violating the general command (78).

Hooker then examines the grammar of the argument: a thing ‘commanded’ in the word is not the same as ‘grounded’ in the word.  The former is positive, the latter negative.