Over at Ref21, Ligon Duncan supplies a drive-by quote from Herman Bavinck that the Mississippi pastor directs against John Williamson Nevin. Here is the the Bavinck quote:

In a comparatively sound church life, it is possible to assume that as a rule the children of the covenant will be born again in their youth and come to faith and conversion ‘in stages and gracefully.’ But when the world penetrates the church and many people grow up and live for years without showing any fruits worthy of faith and repentance, then the serious-minded feel called to warn against trusting one’s childhood regeneration and one’s historical faith in Christian doctrine and to insist on true conversion of the hearts, and experiential knowledge of the truths of salvation. Against a dead orthodoxy, Pietism and Methodism, with their conventicles and revivals, always have a right to exist. (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 3:583)

Then comes this pithy postscript:

And, yes, I know I’m being provocative with the title. But Nevin is not the answer to what ails us.

The post has no links, and as is Ref21’s wont, no place for comments (no peace, no justice!).

So I wonder what made Duncan think of Nevin in connection with Bavinck. Was the Dutch theologian writing against his American counterpart directly? The quotation doesn’t suggest so. Or did David Strain, from whom Duncan obtained the Bavinck quotation, have a recent reading session with the Mercersburg Theology? (I actually follow David’s blog and have not seen activity there in some time. Of course, the Internet is not the only way for David and Ligon to communicate since they both minister in the PCA in Mississippi.)

But even more mysterious is what Ligon means by Nevin not being the answer. The only folks in conservative Presbyterian circles who advocate Nevin regularly are the Federal Visionaries. I know I myself may be charged with such an accusation, but the record is pretty clear that my prescriptions for our communions run more toward Machen than Nevin (as much as I respect the latter’s critique of revivalism).

Still, the funny thing is that the Federal Visionaries’ efforts to blur the lines between faith and faithfulness are very similar to those of the Methodists and Pietists whom Bavinck commends against a dead orthodoxy. After all, the point of turning faith into faithfulness is to get people to take seriously not just the sacraments but all those endeavors to create Christendom and establish the rule of Christ and God’s law. Federal Vision may be wrong orthodoxy but it is hardly dead. In which case, their recommendation of Nevin is a way to obtain exactly what Bavinck wants — “fruits worthy of faith and repentance,” that is, lots of godliness of a experimental Calvinist kind but rooted in the church (where pastors wear clerical collars of odd pastel hues). Federal Vision is no faith for slouches.

At the same time, Bavinck may want to consider Nevin’s critique of revivalism because sometimes children of the covenant are already showing fruits that don’t measure up to the enthusiasts’ standards or their constant laments about dead orthodoxy. As I read Nevin, the point of Christian devotion is not to stick out like a sore thumb but to wear one’s faith organically, or quietly, peacefully (or in Presbyterian parlance, decently and in order). The reason is that calling attention to one’s devotion can readily destroy devotion with selfishness and pride. Even more pressing for Bavinck and recommenders like Duncan is to consider the oxymoronic assertion that a child of the covenant, not in open rebellion, but attending the means of grace and trying to trust the Lord in family devotions and private prayer, and still submitting to godly parents, needs to convert. Convert from what? Pious ways?

As I say, Huh?!?

75 thoughts on “Huh?!?

  1. « I know I myself may be charged with such an accusation, but the record is pretty clear that my prescriptions for our communions run more toward Machen than Nevin (as much as I respect the latter’s critique of revivalism).»

    1. You did write the biogrpahy on Nevin ( and appload his ”high Churchism”. It is a far association in my judgment.
    2. By any standards, you are far more ”high Church” than most Reformed Theologians-That seems to be the general consensus whenever you’re name is mentioned in Reformed Churches (I will omit certain names, but I think you know of whom I speak), you are pretty far out there. (see the debate between Hodge and Schaff talked about in Calhoun’s vol 1 history of Princeton)
    3. Machen was also a fan of Billy Sunday and invited Him to speak at Princeton. So are you the kind of person who would endorse ministers preaching outside the corporate meeting of the Local Church to: evangelize non believers, pass legislation, and use dramatic elements in order to convince people?


  2. I am not sure where I should be on this continuum. I mean I would be considered a “High Church” Presbyterian when it comes to things like collars and robes, but identify more with the “quiet piety” that Dr. Hart proscribes. Yet Dr. Hart has called me an advocate of Christendom.


  3. Joseph, I am no higher than Calvin who said that unless we are born and nurtured by the church (that is, the visible one), we should not expect to be saved, or the Westminster Divines who wrote that outside the visible church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. After 1740 when Boy George Whitefield hit the American shores, those ideas have become virtually Roman.

    BTW, I acknowledged that I wrote the book on Nevin (my huh becomes duh!).

    BTW squared, Machen did not “invite” Sunday. He commented favorably on Sunday’s speaking at the University when it looked like Princeton was going to shun the evangelist.


  4. And Ligon is who? Is he not a head of Baptists and quasi-Presboes Together (=ACE)?

    Lig is a quasi-Anabaptist and has been since his youth.


  5. “After all, the point of turning faith into faithfulness is to get people to take seriously not just the sacraments but all those endeavors to create Christendom and establish the rule of Christ and God’s law.”

    This is so wrong. The trajectory of the Federal Vision — under the influence of Jim Jordan — has always been sacral retreat into a “high church-first” attitude. FVists oppose the old Rushdoony-North-Bahnsen view of establishing God’s law. They think everything has to start in the church, and the culture will follow along after — butterfly flapping wing creating hurricane thousands of miles away, to use Jordan’s illustration.

    In practical effect, the Daryl Hart ecclesiastical vision is very much the same as the Federal Vision ecclesiastical vision. It is just done from different premises.


  6. Vern, I don’t think Dr. Hart was describing his own position at all. The quote is a summary of the Federal Vision viewpoint, not his own.


  7. With due respect to the great Herman Bavinck and my friend Lig Duncan, the only appropriate response to “dead” orthodoxy is the true orthodoxy which is life sustaining. The notion of one error justifying others may be the way of worldly politicians, but it should not be so among the people of God.


  8. David Strain is spot on about it being pietism.

    I would add that, historically speaking, Babette’s Feast is always charged with being “dead orthodoxy” in order to justify replacing it with a crossless pietism (please correct me if I’m wrong on that Dr. Hart). According to one Lutheran sage, “Growth in faith comes through obedience to the law. This is the central theological sulfur of all strains of pietism.”


  9. Vern, try telling that to the local inhabitants of Moscow who had to hold a town meeting with Christ Church to quell fears of take over (I don’t think it helped). If a local community has to do that then it’s hard to believe the vibes of sacral retreat were being given off. When was the last time any locals had to summon a 2k church?

    But 2k is set quite over against either theonomic or theocratic vision, the latter being a distinction without much difference. 2k doesn’t think cult drives culture—law does, and gospel drives the church. So how in thee heck do you think the practical effect of a 2k ecclesiastical vision and a FV ecclesiastical vision is the same when they have wildly different ecclesiastical premises? Maybe they look the same to you, but it seems to me they share properties the way diamond and quartz share properties.


  10. I guess we each react against our backgrounds. It’s all too easy to over-react, so I’ll speak tentatively. But as for me, Bavinck’s quote resonates with me precisely because of my background. It resonates with me because I grew up in protestant liberalism where the contours of the liturgy were decent, but they were largely bereft of the gospel. It was precisely through “conventicles and revivals” that the gospel began to come to my family, thanks to God’s sheer grace in Christ. Our church was no longer orthodox, so it couldn’t really qualify as dead “orthodoxy,” but apparently it had gone through that phase as part of its slide into apostasy. Does not Scripture warn that it is possible to have the form of godliness but to deny its power (2 Tim 3:5)? Moreover, did not our Lord rebuke the church in Laodicea, not because of unorthodoxy or immorality, but because of lukewarmness and pride in its orthodox belief and practice (Rev. 3:14-22)? I affirm all that you affirm about our Lord actually working through the outward and ordinary means of grace. But at the same time, are not these warnings that we too must heed? Just as “no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical” (Rom 2:28); neither is he a Christian who is merely one outwardly, nor is baptism merely outward and physical. So, while our covenant children should not be expected to need a crisis conversion experience, nevertheless they do need to be converted in the sense that they personally possess repentance unto and faith into Christ. As Bavink says, we do need “to insist on true conversion of the hearts, and experiential knowledge of the truths of salvation.”


  11. Larry,

    Just so. It always fascinates me whenever someone raises the question: “Must our covenant youth be converted?” Rightly understood, that question merely means: “Must our children believe and repent?” And the answer is “of course they must” (Matthew 18:3).

    We need not expect, as you rightly note, Larry, a crisis-conversion, but they must repent and believe and continue to do so. Sometimes their beginning to do so is notable and at other times imperceptible. But, as Bavinck notes, they must at some point bear fruit that evidences faith and repentance.

    The Bavinck quote is apt and needs to be taken to heart, especially in our circles in which mere formalism (among other things, including legalism) threatens, as it always has among the covenant people of God.


  12. Some of the comments here concerning Dr. J. Ligon Duncan and ACE are harsh and uncharitable. To call him a “quasi-Anabaptist” from his youth is deeply offensive. Dr. Duncan is a beloved Presbyterian pastor and esteemed scholar, a Ph.D. from Univ. of Edinburgh, was chair of the Department of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theol. Seminary, and serves on the board of ACE. It is grevious that he would be spoken of with sarcasm and snark. It’s fair to take issue with any statement he has made, but ungracious to do so in such a demeaning tone.

    Dr. Michael Horton also served as President of ACE. I hope that we will we demean him as well.

    Many of the posts and comments on this website are replete with sarcasm and ridicule, and a tone that is strident and harsh. In fact that harsh tone seems to be the prevailing tone here. This is deeply disturbing.


  13. One that grew up in the mountains of West Virginia and has an inborn attraction to localism/agrarianism and a natural distrust of corporatists.

    Besides I am working on a thesis that will show Berry’s Agrarianism fits perfectly with the wisdom of the Mosaic Law vis-a-vis business practices and agriculture. 🙂


  14. Mr. Sullivan,

    I thought earlier to make the point that you just did with respect to Dr. Duncan but did not do so. Thank you for doing so and reminding us of the respect due to him, Dr. Horton, et al.

    Thanks for also reminding us of the virtue of the “soft answer” over against strident tones.


  15. J.W. Nevin: b. 1803 – d. 1886
    H. Bavinck: b. 1854 – d. 1921

    DGH: “Was the Dutch theologian writing against his American counterpart directly?”
    Chronologically they were not really counterparts. Halfway through Gleason’s bio of Bavinck, no mention yet that Bavinck took any notice of people or events in Pennsylvania.

    DGH: “Bavinck may want to consider Nevin’s critique of revivalism …”

    Check those dates above, I’m quite certain the last thing Bavinck is considering is revivalism, or a critique of it.

    Couldn’t resist a little good-natured, jovial reminder of historical detail.



  16. Hi Larry,

    Like you, I grew up in a liberal church – actually in two of them. Yet I would hardly describe the spirit of those congregations as “dead orthodoxy”. In fact, orthodoxy was perhaps the very last thing that anyone would have accused us of. You suspect that the church of your youth went through a “dead orthodoxy” phase on its path to liberalism. That may certainly have been the case, but I don’t think that is necessarily the path that dying churches always take. I suspect that the churches of my youth lurched into liberalism full of energy, programs, fellowship dinners, and weekend retreats (we still had these in my youth when orthodoxy was but a memory). In other words, these two churches looked a lot like many contemporary evangelical churches do. Yet, because the gospel had not been at the pulsating center of either church it was first assumed and later not considered worth dividing over. So, tragically, these two churches died.

    Like you, I know the pain of growing up in dead churches from personal experience. What I don’t understand is how “dead orthodoxy” (or “lively liberalism”) somehow justifies Pietism or Methodism.

    If the choice is between unbelief and Pietism or Methodism (meaning here the Methodism of the Wesley brothers) then by all means we should choose Pietism and Methodism. But why not choose a robust Calvinism instead?

    Your brother,



  17. Larry and Alan, I don’t know but I’m having a hard time thinking that formalism is the danger to us that anti-formalism is. Maybe we don’t live in the same country, but Acts 29, Rob Bell, Willow Creek, pentecostalism, Sovereign Grace Ministries, and Piper’s Edwardseanism surely seem to be much more prevalent than any kind of liturgicalism that may lurk among conservative Presbyterians and Reformed. Not all of these are equally pernicious but do any of these affirm and encourage the kind of disciplined church life that Reformed Protestants pray for? What is more, when someone does defend liturgy they regularly receive the charge of Rome or worse.

    So have either of you considered the threat that revivalism may be to Reformed Protestantism and especially to the idea where church membership matters, where ordination matters, where the word preached and read and the sacraments administered matter, where oversight by pastors and elders matters. Revivalism has made hay of these aspects of Reformed ministry for a long, long time. Isn’t a little correction in order? Would a little dose of Nevin’s critique of the psychology and expectations of revivalism really hurt? It’s not as if revivalism or pietism have redounded to the success of Reformed churches.


  18. Cris, given how prevalent pietism was in the Netherlands and all over the world by the time Bavinck lived, I’d say its more than conceivable that he might have thought a moment or two about revivalism.


  19. Why does it seem so assumed that pietism and Methodism cannot be a form of externalism, luke-warmness and pride, or be a form of godliness that denies its power? But as anyone with any experience with it knows, experientialism does indeed have its own set of externalisms, rites, motions and parroted speech that creedalism has. For every baptized covenant child that repeats his catechism and creed there is a dry pietist child who repeats his testimony with every bit as much habit, uniformity and predictability (as if those are bad things). The question seems to me to be which external form is biblical and to be linked up to an inward reality: creedal-catechism or inward grooming? Our tradition seems to answer that decidedly in the former.

    So if by saying “pietism and Methodism have a right to exist” means that experientialism is somehow a corrective to creedalism, I think this is to miss the mark. Everybody wants heart and mouth to be linked, but externalism is an equal-opportunity affliction, so making things safe for revivalism seems like another way to think we can circumvent our own flesh.

    P.S how can orthodoxy ever be said to be dead? By definition it is alive and kicking. But there is a such a thing as the doctrine of doctrine where practice is relatively divorced from belief (e.g. Reformed worshipping like Methodists).


  20. Thanks, David. I agree, so much so that I’ve devoted my life to trying to propagate robust Calvinism as an OPC minister and church planter. But at the time of my conversion, I had never even heard of Calvinism, at least not in the true sense of that term. Alas, that is true of so very many.

    Darryl, by chiming in here I do not intend to be an antagonist to your concerns. Again, I affirm what you are zealous to affirm. “Church membership matters.” Amen! “Ordination matters.” Amen. The Word preached and read and the sacraments administered matter.” Amen! “Oversight by pastors and elders matters.” Amen! Moreover, I was encouraged and challenged to read your observations — not too long ago — that the Lord’s working faith and new life through the outward and ordinary means of grace is *just as much* the Lord’s supernatural working as would be the case if he did miracles or extraordinary things. Amen!

    My concern is simply to remind us that we who affirm these things need to beware of so *reacting* against the errors we decry that we fall into an opposite error. You may be right that in the proportion of things in our day the dangers you warn us of are more prominent and more imminent. I thank you for those warnings. Believe me, I know. I have been swimming against that stream all the days of my ministry. I simply wish to add this warning — to myself as well — that our sinful flesh is such, especially as pressured by the world and attacked by the devil, that we can avoid this ledge of revivalism and yet fall off that ledge of formalism. Alas, I know this all too up close and personal — perhaps I am even the chief of sinners in this regard. Hence, my concern. Blessings.


  21. If the upshot of the quote is that Christians should desire living orthodoxy, how can one with dead orthodoxy upgrade to the living orthodoxy? Maybe fasting would help? Sounds a bit like a vision quest.


  22. DGH, point made on Machen, though it doesn’t distract from the fact that Machen was pro-Revivalist Billy Sunday. I truly doubt you have pro Greg Laurie and Harvest Crucades.

    As to you comparing you to Calvin… Calvin was wrong. The Westminster Standards (Which I will call apart of Reformed Orthodoxy) do not reflect Calvin’s eccclesiology (specifically on the doctrine of baptism and the status of covenant children) … This point was brilliantly made by Dr. John Gerstner in his video on Reformation Covenant Theology (starting at:15.35. see bottom link and just click to open it ) and quite specifically (a long diatribe) in his video on Orthodoxy (starting 19.00 à end : Baptized children are not little christians is his point (Gerstner’s words) and thank God for the Westminster Divines cleaning up on Calvin’s abhorent doctrine of the Church (especially in regards to the status of baptized infants)- my words there 😉

    And logically the vast majority of people who will be saved are outside the visible Church: all the children who die in infancy (unless you hold to elect infant doctrine).

    While it is true that the Church has institutional aspects to it, it is fundementally ” was, and always will be a single worshiping community, permanently gathered in the true sanctuary which is the heavenly Jerusalem (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22-24), the place of God’s presence. Here all who are alive in Christ, the physically living with the physically dead (i.e., the church militant with the church triumphant) worship continually. In the world, however, this one church appears in the form of local congregations, each one called to fulfill the role of being a microcosm (a small-scale representative sample) of the church as a whole. This explains how it is that for Paul the one church universal is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-26; Eph. 1:22-23; 3:6; 4:4), and so is the local congregation (1 Cor. 12:27).”(J. I. Packer, Concise Theology : A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1995.)). But the Church is fundamentally a spiritual organism- a reality. Those in Heaven are no less part of the church though they cannot receive the sacrament.


  23. A hearty Amen! as well to all of Larry’s Amening! Except, I cannot permit Larry to take the “chief of sinners” tag.

    Of course, Darryl, I agree that revivalism (not the ordinary work of the Spirit in empowering the means of grace, even especially so) is deadly, but not precisely for the same reasons that “almost-going-over-to-Rome” Nevin did. It is deadly because it is semi-Pelagian at best and not truly reliant on the sovereign Spirit.

    But all that is quite beside Bavinck’s point, don’t you think? Bavinck is not talking about a broadly evangelical context, such as you cite, but “a comparatively sound church life.” It is in this context that formalism is a danger, just like other things may be particular dangers in other contexts.

    You raise the question of whether such is a real danger in our OPC/URC/confessional PCA context? Yes, I believe that it is, brother. I travel widely, preaching and doing conferences, and I run into this in a variety of ways in a variety of places. I think that it’s the kind of thing that is inherently a challenge for us as other things are inherently a challenge in other traditions.

    There is, in our narrow world, similar to Bavinck’s, such a danger, though admittedly the opposite is the case in the broader evangelical and even Calvinistic (though non-covenantal) churches. And even in our churches we also have the anti-formal objectors, as you suggest: this does not negate Bavinck’s concern, however.

    A high and right view of the means of grace can devolve, because of our sinful hearts, into a view that confuses means for ends and which can prompt us to trust our communing and Sabbath keeping rather than in these to trust the Lord who alone is our salvation.

    This is not a new problem but has ever been with us and the best voices in the church have always for this reason sought to point to Christ alone in all of our religious exercises. We are prone to lean on the means rather than use them to lean on Christ. This is that which, I believe, Larry and I are driving.


  24. Larry, thanks for chiming in. Don’t worry about swimming against the stream here.

    I remain resolute that formalism is not a danger in our day. As a church historian who observes the direction of Protestant developments for the last 3 centuries, and as an American who sees too many people parade the streets in t-shirts or the emotions on Oprah (actually, I only hear about it), a little formality might help.


  25. Alan, but why pick on formalism? If the problem is our sinful hearts, then (as Zrim points out) anti-formalism can also be abused. Why I know of pentecostals who have faked being filled with the Spirit.

    So I agree about the dangers of abuse thanks to our sinfulness. And I agree that we need to look our savior. But isn’t it the case that the inward direction of experimental Calvinism does just that — directs us to ourselves. So while forms may only become a fake substitute for the real thing (though would we ever say that about the inspired Greek and Hebrew of holy writ — forms, they are?), at least the forms of liturgy, office, and creed direct us outside ourselves. If the big problem in the garden was our substituting self for God, why cultivate a piety that goes internal?


  26. “A high and right view of the means of grace can devolve, because of our sinful hearts, into a view that confuses means for ends and which can prompt us to trust our communing and Sabbath keeping rather than in these to trust the Lord who alone is our salvation.”

    And yet, God – who surely knows our propensity for idolatry – gave us those means of grace, in full knowledge of all the possible ways in which we could pervert them.


  27. “The point of Christian devotion is not to stick out like a sore thumb but to wear one’s faith organically, or quietly, peacefully…”

    In other words, a piety that doesn’t Twitter.


  28. Darryl: I completely agree that pietism had become prevalent in Bavinck’s day. I’ve checked the Bavinck quote, it comes from almost the very end of Vol 3, the end of discussing The Order of Salvation. Further Bavinck is addressing changes to the ordo among theologians as early as time of Dordt. Remonstrants and Anabaptists (and Lutherans) lead Reformed theology into refinements of ordo. Specifically mentions Maccovius right before the paragraph quoted. I’m not sure Bavinck isn’t using Peitism and Methodism a little anachronistically in that he jumps from Maccovius to “Pietism and Methodism”.

    This snippet from Bavinck is interesting, as he seems on the cusp between lines of Reformed thought. Perhaps that makes sense since he’s involved in the church reunion of Afscheiding & Doleantie, yielding the Gereformeerde Kerken . I’m not real familiar with the strongly pietistic dutch reformed offshoots.

    And to wrap up my joke about Nevin & Bavinck, there’s no mention of Nevin in the index to RD, vol. 3; no mention of Warfield, Hodge, etc. But the index is obviously selective, it doesn’t have an entry for Maccovius.


  29. I just lost a couple of posts to this blog in the ether–doubtless a divine kindness to the readers!

    I simply wanted once more to take issue with our host’s taking issue with Bavinck and Duncan, who express a valid concern that countless ministers and theologians have expressed: formalism always threatens the true covenant people of God, who must not rest content in the forms but must in and through such means trust Christ alone. We see warnings against an observance of the outward forms of worship with hearts that remain far from Him in Isaiah 1, Matthew 23, etc.

    Darryl, do you really insist that formalism is no longer a threat? Hodge would see at least the Roman church as always posing such a threat with its ritualism, not to mention the threat that is to Presbyterians who rest in mere forms. And so would Calvin, who would not shun the inward aspect of piety but seek to maintain the vital connection between inward and outward. That is all that I am vying for here–a vital inward, outward connection, over against formalism. Much more was said in my “lost posts” but I’ll stop here.


  30. Joseph (G), to whom are the words written in Ch.25 of confession directed? Doesn’t the confession address what you said about infants elsewhere? Is John Calvin also a ghost whisperer?

    In order to make a claim about a historical figure over and against a noted historian of that figure you need to provide evidence.
    (By the way, that comment made your use of citations in the other part of what you were saying look even sillier than they already did.)

    Gee, your comments are about as off as your attempts to throw a ball.


  31. But Alan, haven’t you seen that Rome gave up Latin for the polka mass?

    I agree that formalism MAY be a danger.

    I don’t hear anyone (except Nevin and those who defend him) saying that informalism also has its dangers. And I don’t see many people saying that informalism has weakened historic Presbyterianism. Can you say New Life?


  32. Daryl & Zrim:

    Doug Wilson said: ‘This “conquest” will be accomplished by means of God’s weakness, not man’s strength, for our weapons are not carnal. This thing will be done — and it will be done — in the power of the Spirit by means of words and water, bread and wine. What are we doing? We are beseiging strongholds, and the citadels of unbelief will fall. Every sermon is another swing of the battering ram, every baptism is an engine deployed to overthrow the devil, and every administration of the Supper is an inexorable offer of wine for the forgiveness of the world, and bread for the life of the world. And the day is coming, when they will receive it.’ (Mere Christendom.)

    Wilson’s church-first transformationalism is little more than refried Jordanism. I think in the main that Federal Visionists tend to be snobs when it comes to politics (and with everything else). It’s just too beneath them. They’d much prefer to be butterflies.


  33. Vern, this is a non-sequiter. So you think Wilson a snob. He may be. But how exactly does that address what he thinks is going on with word and sacrament? You can find Reformed theologians who say the same thing. So they’re snobs? And again I say “huh!”


  34. How is what a non-sequitur? The point is Darryl, Wilson is advocating the same thing Jordan teaches. Jordan has been preaching this same church-first view since I first met him (1980). There has always been an undercurrent of anti-Rushdoony, anti-Bahnsen sentiment in Jordan, and that hostility filters over into the Federal Vision. The reason is because Rushdoony’s view was kingdom-first, and the institutional church was often very low rated and often criticized by Rushdoony.

    On the Jordan-Wilson view, however, there is no political transformationalism unless it’s a kind of quiet, indirect product of the sacraments. It’s a sort of deistic view of transformation, as when the deistic god winds everything up at the first, then lets it play out in its own way.

    And so, anti-transformationalist believe in the sacramental butterfly effect. That’s not my own analogy, Darryl. That’s Jordan’s.


  35. Vern, 2kers do not think Word and sacrament are subtle means for take over. They are means of grace that create and affirm faith, full stop. I’m still totally puzzled by your assertion that 2k has any truck with the butterfly effect (unless it’s Jeff Cagle sort of 2k. That’s sort of a joke, Jeff, get it?). Maybe Rushdoony-Bahnsen is outside-in transformationalism and Jordan-Wilson(-Keller?) is inside-out transformationalism, but 2k ecclesiology is opposed to both because it is all spiritual while the former still have an eye toward worldliness.


  36. Vern, it’s a non-sequiter to conclude that FV are snobs.

    And for what it’s worth, the Reformation started as a church-first effort. If James Jordan agrees with that, let the chips fall. Last I heard, he also speaks English. Should I learn a new language?

    And for what its’ doubly worth, I think you’re wrong about Jordan and Bahnsen. FV is still theonomy, just with more meat on the bones of the church. But if you like your theonomy without the church, then maybe you should try Israel without the Temple.


  37. Zrim, I did not say anything about 2K, but your version of 2K is Thornwellian, whereas mine is Hodgian.

    Darryl I didn’t “conclude” FV were snobs. They are snobs as a matter of fact, not as a result of an argument.

    The Reformation was church-first — reforming a corrupt church — for the simple reason that they already had “Christendom.”

    Jordan has rejected theonomy. And FVism is still theonomic only in the sense that it’s still Presbyterian or Reformed. The theonomic view is a kingdom-first movement, not a church-first movement. That’s why Jordan, et al. have abandoned it for their own version of transformationalism — which is oddly similar to Darryl’s. 😉


  38. @Joy: hmm… no one. A confession by definition are directed at noone, but rather they are declaration of indicative statements that are only valid if you put your name to them. I do not know if Calvin was a ghost whisperer… I think that honor goes to Philip Melanchton given he was the one who consulted an astrologer 😉

    I don’t think we ever played catch Joy, but when I come back in may we can throw the old ball around if you want. Besides, silly with you = I disagree.


  39. Vern, please consider that Christendom was at least partly responsible for the corruption of the church that the Reformers needed to reform. Have you not read Luther.


  40. Joseph, I believe Machen supported Sunday to score points against the liberal Presbyterian administration at Princeton University. Heck, I advocate Wendell Berry’s work but does that make me think that he is an Old School Presbyterian?


  41. Vern, what you said was: “In practical effect, the Daryl Hart ecclesiastical vision is very much the same as the Federal Vision ecclesiastical vision. It is just done from different premises.” To speak ecclesiology is to speak about the nature of the two kingdoms and their relationship to one another. The FV comes down on the theocratic and transformational side. How are you equating those with 2k-SOTC? They are as opposed as one can get ecclesiastically.


  42. Darryl, I’m not defending Christendom.

    Zrim, what I’m saying is that both the Federal Vision and Darryl have a butterfly ecclesiology. I’m challenging the view that the FV has a “transformational” side that is similar to the theocratic transformationalists. Didn’t you read the Doug Wilson quote?

    Only r2K is anti-transformational. The question for the 2k position is not whether to be transformational, but how. In my judgment, the idea of sacral retreat as advocated by you and Darryl fails to understand this. You would have the church so spiritual that it becomes irrelevant.

    The FVists want the old Christendom back again — they are certainly transformationalists in the bad sense — but it’s more of a wind-up transformationalism for them..


  43. Vern, was our Lord relevant when he refused Satan’s temptationis? Imagine all the good Jesus could have done if he would have simply instituted his own earthly kingdom. Lots of healings, lots of love, lots of food. But no, he went to the cross and disappointed a lot of folks who wanted a return to Jerusalem of the glory days.

    Your problem is that what you think is relevant is earthly and fading. It is not spiritual or lasting. Have you not considered old age?


  44. DGH: Apples and oranges ce n’est pas? Both were ordained in the same Church, both were public figures, both were fundamentalists in the sense of making an effort to emphasis ”the essentials of the faith” when they were challenged. Could it be that they just saw each other as brothers and sister’s in Christ and Machen wanted to see Bily Sunday succeed as a tool used by God? That makes far more sense to me than seeing Machen as some cool cold man trying to score points against liberals. I do not think Machen was a revivalist fyi, but I do not think he was anti-revivalist either. Nothing I have read of his, nor anything you have quoted by him (and I own all your books except your dissertation) would lead me to think he was anti-revivalist.


  45. Darryl, you think that opposing abortion, homosexual marriage and behavior, statism, anti-Christianity, cannibalism, slavery, Darwinism — you think opposing these things in a relevant way in our society is “earthly and fading”? You remind me of the “we don’t polish brass on a sinking ship” view of the pre-Reagan evangelicals and dispensationalists. At least the FVists believe in some kind of transformationalism, even if it’s via a butterfly ecclesiology and the hurricane is hundreds of years away. It’s better than nothing, I suppose.


  46. I said, “Zrim, what I’m saying is that both the Federal Vision and Darryl have a butterfly ecclesiology.”

    I have to correct this in light of what Darryl has said. I think FVists are transformationalists in theory, but in practise they are anti-transformationalists. This is due to their butterfly analogy. The want transformation, but it can wait, so to speak.

    Daryl doesn’t even want transformation even in the weak sense as advocated by FVists. There’s no hurricane down the road in Darryl’s view. The butterfly flaps its wings, and that’s just about it as far as transformation is concerned.

    Tell me how I’m wrong about this….


  47. Vern, I’m pretty sure Darryl believes in a “hurricane down the road.” It’s just that it doesn’t come until the eschaton. Is there a biblical reason why he should expect a hurricane sooner?

    And btw, whether the talk from Moscow is now limited to faithful ecclesiology and butterfly wings — I don’t know. I do know that it has not always been so limited.


  48. Vern, I suppose you believe the Bible. Well, what do you think Paul means when he distinguishes between the earthly things and the eternal? Be careful you don’t find yourself a member of the Corinthian church.


  49. Vern, consider the Bible again. What did Jesus and Paul do to transform society? You really ought to think more about what you consider to be the Christian approach to society if you don’t find it in the New Testament.


  50. Vern, looks like you’ve taught yourself the point I was trying to make: 2k ecclesiology is categorically different from any FV (hard or soft) ecclesiology. And ironically it now looks like you have more in common with the latter. What was that about Hodge 2k and Thornwell 2k (though I prefer Robsinsonian). But 2k is all about worldly participation over against your collective cultural transformationalism. How is to participate to retreat or be irrelevant? And have you noticed how transformation tends to produce spiritual ghettos?


  51. …the point of Christian devotion is not to stick out like a sore thumb but to wear one’s faith organically, or quietly, peacefully (or in Presbyterian parlance, decently and in order). The reason is that calling attention to one’s devotion can readily destroy devotion with selfishness and pride.

    Well put, Darryl. When I went from the Baptist church to Emmanuel OPC under Robert Letham’s influence, this became very clear to me. It was strange, even scary at first that nobody was talking like the fundamentalists I knew. The religious affections were quite differently expressed at EOPC. More sincere in many ways I think. Less pretentious I think. It was like gold for me at first; I had to pan for it.
    I remember when recently married going to a wedding of a girlfriend of my wife, who with my wife grew up at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. This is not slight against that ministry at all, but what I witnessed was somewhat typical of broadly based evangelical churches with a baptistic twist. I was struck by the bride’s question of us (first time I met her mind you): “So how are you both serving the Lord in your marriage?” Ironically, I had been teaching my new wife that I’m ministry enough for any woman(!) and that she need not leave the house to serve the Lord. Don’t get me wrong, we were very “active” by this bride’s standards, but my conviction was that one serves the Lord out of devotion in not so sensational ways, more like Mary than Martha. If memory serves I withheld information from the bride (or at least I should have), so as not to feed her deluded criteria for true piety and religious affection. What if I were to have said that I was working on the areas of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? I don’t think she would have been quite as impressed. She wanted to hear that I was involved in prison ministry and neighborhood Bible studies.

    Having said all that, I wonder if all sides of the piety discussion would agree on this matter more than is often implied. I linked to this thread of yours through Wes’ site.


  52. Darryl and Vern,

    Certainly Darryl, you don’t mind Christian-like transformation of society that is a *byproduct* of what you believe to be proper biblical pursuit. You might even like to see such a thing I would think, with of course qualification. And certainly Vern, you appreciate that any “transformed” society would be a matter of pull-through, a result of true church growth; the transformation would be part-and-parcel with and directly related to any success we might expect of the Great Commission. The accent must be on the church as kingdom.


  53. Ron, I originally thought Darryl had a “byproduct” view, which is why I said his view was the same as the view of the Federal Visionists. The FVists are church-firsters, or Kirk-firsters, with transformation being a by-product down the road — no rush on it. But after reading some of Darryl’s comments, I think I’d be accurate in saying he doesn’t even believe in a “byproduct” view. He doesn’t believe in ANY transformation in this world, neither now, nor in the far future. For Darryl, transformation is purely otherwordly.

    I agree that true church growth is a necessary condition for true transformation. However, I don’t think it entails a church-first or Kirk-first ecclesiology.


  54. Vern, do you think that your view of church and culture is in any way compatible with what you read in the New Testament of Christ and the apostles? Were they proposing legislation, starting activist groups, lobbying government officials? If they didn’t do that, why should we?


  55. Vern,

    When I say (using your phrase) church-first ecclesiology, what I believe by that is the accent from the pulpits and in our daily lives should be upon the kingdom that is not of this world, the church. The Christian should be able to find contentment in being able to worship without molestation and he should pray to that end. He should be more concerned with the condition of the church than with the condition of DC, but I find that Christians are all too concerned with political matters more than ecclesiastical-catholic ones. They weep over the wrong things. Yes, as the Christian applies the Word to all of life, he will vote his conscience etc. according to precepts he finds in God’s word, which in my estimation does not preclude him from voting against those who share in the gospel; he may vote for splendid pagans over Christians, even in good conscience, those (for instance) who would be in favor of legislating in a manner that grants us liberties to pursue our Christian interests in the world.
    As for true transformation not entailing church-first ecclesiology, I’m not quite sure what you mean. Obviously, God does not need the church to get their priorities right (i.e. church first) in order for him to transform culture, but that seems so obvious that I’m inclined to take your meaning in some other way. Are you suggesting that a non-church-first ecclesiology might actually foster transformation, or that it might even be according to God’s precepts? The latter is extremely unbiblical, *even* under Moses (properly understood), and the former is wrong too simply because even if it were true, these issues must begin with precept (kingdom first) and avoid pragmatism (transformation at all cost).


  56. Vern, ecclesial matters aside, the very idea of “socio-political transformation,” be it sacred or secular, seems to me to be very naive. I’d suggest Hunter’s “To Change the World.” I tend to think that those with a robust Augustinian-Calvinist doctrine of sin should be the first to recognize the naïveté of the dogmas of transformation.


  57. With all due respect to Rev. Duncan, When I read such drive by quotes, with no interaction or demonstrable connection beyond mere assertion, I am left wondering whether he has actually read Nevin beyond second hand information and isolated quotes. As I read him, there’s really nothing in Bavinck’s quote, properly understood, to which Nevin would have taken exception. He wasn’t opposed, by any stretch of the imagination, to lifelong conversion and repentance. He was opposed to mechanically contrived revivalism, which he held was dangerous precisely because it *hindered* genuine faith and repentance.

    Btw, it’s also interesting to note that Nevin, while attacking Finney’s revivalism, did have positive things to say about Whitefield and Edwards, namely, in the Anxious Bench, he’s clear that “They were no quacks” like Finney was. And he believed that they “had the power of God in them.” So, he wasn’t entirely down on the “First Pretty Good Awakening.”


  58. Looks like the conversation might continue with this recent post by Collin Hansen at the GC with a video that shows a discussion between Drs. Duncan & Horton and Rev. DeYoung. Why wasn’t Dr. Hart invited?

    Hansen speaks that there will be “guidance on how to help Christians delight in God through the ordinary means of grace.” The guidance didn’t come through real clear to me. It seemed to be more a discussion of the historical roots of the debate and then Horton ending with the observation that there is a great divergence on this issue within the Reformed community.


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