Edwards Is Not the Answer

Paul Helm has posted his assessment of Religious Affections. Here is a longish excerpt:

In order to get where he wants to go, to establish that true religion, in great part, consists in holy affections, I think it is fair to say that Edwards is forced to considerably widen the scope of what ‘affection’ means. An affection is, after all, nothing more or less than an affect. In the text, there is a contrast between faith and sight, and references to love, and faith (or belief) and joy. Belief is obviously the key. Christians believe in one whom they do not see, and they love him, rejoicing in him with great joy. Their belief affects them in certain ways, for they feel intense love and joy, and perhaps publicly express these feelings. The joy that they feel is the expression of, perhaps a public expression of, being affected by what and who is believed and loved.

Faith and love are virtues, theological virtues, as they used to be called, the fruit of the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Gal. 5 22-3) An overlapping list is also provided by Paul in Colossians. ‘Put on, then, as God’s chosen people, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…forgiving each other….above all these put on love…’ (Col. 3. 12-4) Here we must remember that such virtues may lead to expressions of affection, in the sense of passions of emotions, but they may also be present, strongly present, in the absence of ‘sensible’ affection. The emotions or affections that express patience, or kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control may be very varied, as varied as the circumstances in which they are called forth. One can easily conceive of situations in which , for example, kindness, is expressed in dogged determination. Think of a daughter whose life is consumed with the care of an invalid mother, or the behaviour of caring parents with an autistic child.

In fact, some of these virtues listed by Paul – kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, patience or self-control, seem to be the exact opposite of affections as Edwards would have us understand them, in which ‘the blood and animal spirits are sensibly altered’. They are, or similar to, what Edwards’s contemporary David Hume referred to as the ‘calm passions’. It may even seem that the Apostle is contrasting these virtues, the calm ones, with those that are often publicly expressed in an agitated way, for the lists we have noted have a distinctly ‘calm’ feel to them. A person may be affected by the work of the Holy Spirit, possessing his fruit, in ways that are focused and undemonstrative, which lead to restraint and constraint, which lead to the development of an undeviating routine. They need not be ‘raised’ as Edwards puts it. In his definition and his defence of affection and its place in true religion Edwards fails to remind us of this, but appropriates the term for his own political purposes. Putting the matter bluntly, his definition is an attempt to press the hysteria button.

So when he writes of ‘the religious affections of love and joy’ (95) he is, I suggest, taking liberties with these central Christian virtues in order to advance his thesis. In telling us that ‘the affections are no other, than the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclinations and will of the soul’, he is equating vigour and sensibility with self-consciousness and exhibitionism. That is a mistake. Paul tells us that true virtue may consist in self-forgetfulness. It is impossibly hard to derive Edwards’s claims about true religion, that it in great part consists in holy affections, from Galatians 5 or Colossians 3 without requiring that every effect of the work of the Holy Spirit in the promotion of virtue is ‘vigorous and sensible’. Had he taken these other passages of Paul as his text Edwards would have been forced to write a different book.

Vigor and sensibility are essential to Edwards’s basic idea of an affection. Having established, in a way that will be familiar to readers of his work The Freedom of the Will, that the inclination or will is moved by either pleasedness or aversion, he goes on to claim that there are degrees of such aversion or pleasedness, rising to such a height ‘till the soul comes to act vigorously and sensibly, and the actings of the soul are with that strength that (through the laws of the union which the Creator has fixed between soul and body) the motion of the blood and animal spirits begins to be sensibly altered; whence often time arises some bodily sensation, especially about the heart and vitals, that are the fountain of the fluids of the body…..and it is to be noted, that they are these more vigorous and sensible exercises of this faculty, that are called the affections’. (95-6) But Edwards cannot have it both ways. A holy affection cannot both be a vigorous and sensible affect in this sense and it also be the case that true religion consists in them, not at least according to Paul, or James.


The Religious Affections is an important book, but in my view it would be unwise to take its teaching on what true religion consists in very seriously. It is a book about the importance of emotion, expressed in a public, visible way, being the measure of true religion. Its significance lies in its influence upon the evolving character of Protestant evangelicalism, as a phenomenon that identified itself (as David Bebbington has pointed out) partly by activism and conversionism: revivalism, massed choirs, large gatherings of people, the penitent bench, the centrality of the public testimony, and so on. Edwards’s Protestantism was of an older kind, but it nevertheless contained elements which, in other hands, contributed to developing the distinctive features of modern evangelicalism.

Does this make Helm a high-church Calvinist? Or is it simply the case of someone spotting the difference between the quest for visible and outward piety and the inward and less showy sort that attends faith?

Another possibility — the date. Do the Brits observe April 1?

(Thanks to our southern correspondent.)


135 thoughts on “Edwards Is Not the Answer

  1. Re: Link to Sean Lucas response

    Quote: “…only as the individual loves–the chief of all affections–will the individual obey. And the only way someone can love–which is an affection–is for the Spirit of God to dwell in his or her heart and shed abroad his love. We must have a “new sense of the heart,” a new sensation or disposition that motivates and moves to holy obedience. As Thomas Chalmers put it, it is the power of a new affection that drives out sin and motivates obedience.”

    Umm… if it is acceptable for Christians to place their trust in the power of affection and a new sense of the heart (subjective feelings – feelings that fickly ebb and flow in daily life) to sanctify them rather than trust in the objective promise of our faithful Saviour to sanctify us… I see no reason to not become a Buddhist.


  2. Re placing trust in subjective feelings for sanctification — that is totally not what Lucas is saying. He is giving a description of what happens in the soul, not saying where the believer is meant to look for sanctification.

    Or was that the April Fools?


  3. Hi Cath,

    No, I wasn’t joking and I read the post several times before commenting and again after your comment. The post still reminds me of Christian pop psychology where the human is confused with the divine. It is God who sanctifies not my “new affection” or “‘new sense of the heart” or “a new sensation or disposition.” The new sense of heart and new affection does not have the power to drive out sin and motivate obedience. Plus, to trust in a new sense of heart and new affection is not where trust belongs – feelings are fickle. Pax.


  4. I am confused by the distinction between a new sense, which is fundamentally love, and obedience. If love is the fulfilling of the law, why is it (and the new sense) not also the same as obedience? IOW, how can we speak of love as motivation to obey, when it is obedience itself?


  5. Hi Cath,

    If I may, I would like to try to clarify things a little better.

    Work like Edward’s Affections can be very detrimental to people’s faith. It is not good to point someone to their affections as confirmation of faith or to use them as a gauge for faith. Our faith is in Christ alone not our affections. The sensation of a new heart or affection can evaporate during a chronic illness, death of a child, and other such trials. Trials can leave people feeling devoid of any sense of well-being and feeling abandoned by God – especially if they have conflated their feelings and faith. It is heart-breaking to see someone’s faith shattered because of lousy instruction.

    If you would, please consider this scenario: an Alzheimer patient. This child of God, who is slowly losing their faculties, needs their faith firmly grounded in the objective truth of knowing that their Savior alone is sufficient for them in this dark abyss. They need to be firmly rooted and grounded in the objective so they can trust Christ when they are bombarded by their subjective feelings, fears, and helplessness. Other scenarios abound and I am convinced that muddying faith with subjective feelings and confusing the objective work of Christ with feelings does not prepare the child of God for trials and temptations. We cannot depend on our feelings, but we can always depend upon Christ. I hope this makes sense.


  6. Good words, Lily! The objectivity of Christ’s work for us is our only confidence. Though Edwards did speak of the primacy of the mind, and its apprehension of Christ, clearly the accent for him is on the interior workings of these fuzzy, slippery, fickle things he calls “affections.” I find it interesting that in the Book of Concord, the only “feeling” that is prominently noted is Spirit-wrought contrition / sorrow over sin (i.e., repentance). This is the “interior” work of the Law (see Romans 7:13-25) – which drives us to the objectivity of the Gospel: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).


  7. Did Paul Helm actually read the whole of “On Religious Affections”? For example when Helm says, “Here we must remember that such virtues may lead to expressions of affection, in the sense of passions of (sic?) emotions, but they may also be present, strongly present, in the absence of ‘sensible’ affection,” he is only echoing Edwards who says “It is no sign, one way or other, that religious affections are very great, or raised very high.”

    If I had time, I could go on and on countering what Helm has said.
    I’d urge people to read “On Religious Affections” for themselves before jumping on the anti-Edwards bandwagon!


  8. Lily,

    I really don’t see that Edwards or Lucas are confusing the human with the divine.

    I entirely agree with you that it is God who sanctifies, and we must not trust in our senses or feelings. Your clarification again I completely agree with. We walk by faith, not by sight or by sense.

    Nevertheless, there is a subjective element to faith in Christ.

    The Larger Catechism speaks about the duty of highly esteeming, adoring, and loving God, and delighting and rejoicing in him. The Shorter Catechism expects believers to experience assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost. And the Confession says that one of the components of assurance of salvation is “the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises [of salvation] are made.”

    It simply is not enough to assume that I’m saved because I believe true doctrine and go through all the right routines. We MUST believe true doctrine and we MUST use the right routines. But regeneration is something internal, inside my soul – effectual calling is subjective – the evidences of regeneration and faith include the internal and the subjective.

    It is therefore entirely appropriate for pastors like Edwards to recount and describe what happens internally when souls are saved. Not a single one of the “experientialist” Calvinists that I’m aware of said that dramatic experiences were necessary. They described, not prescribed. They always qualified their statements by saying that everyone’s individual experience differs. But they were quite right to address the question: what does salvation feel like? how can I know that I’m regenerate? I worship God according to the way he has ordained: do I worship him in my heart? How can I ever tell?

    Dismissing the subjective in Christian experience leaves us wide open to formalism and legalism. The answer to formalism and legalism is not to abandon the ordained means of grace or orthodox doctrine. It is rather to use the means of grace AS MEANS and not as ends in themselves.

    A perpetual dizzy excitement is hardly to be recommended, but if my emotions are never stirred in consideration of the Word read or preached, there is something wrong with my spiritual health.


  9. Re love and obedience – faith works by love. Love is (or should be) the driver of all that a believer does. It’s not obedience if it doesn’t come from love.

    But this love doesn’t exist in an unregenerate soul. It is new to the soul at the same time and in the same way as faith and repentance are new to the soul, existing only once the Holy Spirit makes the soul a new creature in Christ Jesus.

    This is hardly unique to Edwards.


  10. It’s actually perfectly obvious that Paul Helm has read the whole of Religious Affections. This is the end of a long and thoughtful series on Edwards and the Affections. Consult Helm’s Deep. If it wasn’t okay to snark at Ligon Duncan and Mike Horton on the other thread, it’s also not okay to snark at Paul Helm. What’s with the contempt of all our best contemporary scholars and theologians?


  11. Cath, how do you know that you’ve been regenerated or effectually called? How do you know that you really, really believe? The turn subjective cannot lead anywhere but where Luther found himself, wondering if he had trusted enough, if he had done enough, if he had prayed or denied himself enough.

    I don’t think you have really considered where these thoughts lead. And no offense but I also this reflects a fairly naive view of the subjective, as if we don’t deceive ourselves all the time, or suffer from a host of mixed motives. That is why something outside of us is crucial — both God’s promises and the ordinances and officers he has ordained to protect us from ourselves and the devil.


  12. The subjective turn is right there in the Confession though. How can we be infallibly assured? it’s founded on (1) the divine truth of the promises of salvation [objective], (2) the inward evidence of those graces to which these promises are made [subjective], and (3) the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God.

    What does the Confession mean by the inward evidence of these graces?

    This is absolutely not to undermine the objective: justification is extrinsic, we have to be united to Christ – totally and wholeheartedly follow you in saying what’s outside of us is crucial, God’s Saviour, God’s promises, God’s ordinances and officers. Yes, sir.

    But as we use the means of grace – in the process of hearing the Word preached, in the process of receiving the sacraments rightly administered – these things have to be mixed with faith in our hearts, otherwise they simply won’t profit us.


  13. Darryl

    The answer to the questions that you pose, as you know, are found particularly in WCF 18. The whole of that chapter is worthy of considerable meditation. And it is quite right to argue that we do not attain assurance by becoming mired in introspection. On the other hand, assurance is not gained without inward evidence and the witness of the Spirit, as WCF 18.2 teaches:

    “This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.”

    WCF 18.1 agrees that we might deceive ourselves, while 18.3 addresses how that assurance is not of the essence of faith and how believers may attain it. The last section, WCF 18.4, speaks of how believers may lose assurance, but not utterly, even citing an abiding “sincerity of heart.”

    I do not by any means wish to eliminate the objective. Why seek to eliminate the subjective? Ought we not rather to seek properly to understand the relative place and importance of each? WCF 18 certainly does in answer to your questions about how can one know that he believes.


  14. Hi Cath!

    Thanks for your kind reply. I’m glad we have so much agreement. I’m apologize if I seem confusing. Lutherans do not eschew the inward work of God, but we are careful to relegate it where it belongs. Our differences in how we handle these things may be part of the difference between our traditions? We tend to be about as impressed with affections as we are pentecostal liver shivers when it comes to informing the Christian life. It’s subjective and of no value to the solas (eg: it is never a sola + anything). Our definition of sin is incurvatus in se (to be turned/curved inward upon oneself rather than outward for God and others).

    I read Edward’s Affections a number of years ago, and for better or worse, my opinion of this book is that it is an exercise of incurvatus in se and trying to pull back the curtain to try to see the hidden work of what God is doing in us. Unlike your position, I trust that God does what he says without any concern about subjective evidence to prove my spiritual health. The truth that Christ was crucified for me and the means of grace is all I need and the only sure rock when rubber hits the road in trials. I can take the objective truth of ‘Christ for me’ to the bank and bet the farm on it. I can’t say the same for the subjective evidence of my faith.

    Confessional Lutherans are extremely wary of the experiential and there are good reasons for it. We have the black honor of being the ones who created pietism and passed it on to the rest of the body of Christ. Granted, there can be a danger in formalism (I prefer the term liturgical worship) breeding legalism. But the dangers of breeding legalism are far greater when the subjective is emphasized over the objective. Where liturgical worship protects the worshipper and keeps our focus on extra nos (salvation comes from outside ourselves), the experiential emphasis opens the door to adding things that do not belong in a Divine Service and deleting things that do belong in Divine Service. I see far more danger in the experiential emphasis than the liturgical emphasis of adding to the law and becoming legalistic (eg: devotions).

    It is hard for me to clearly explain the twin dangers of the experiential and legalism that lead to pietism. This may be too simplistic, but I think it helps gives some markers:

    When pietism is at work, it seems to create blind spots. It doesn’t seem to dawn on people that what they are moving towards is not unlike Mormonism’s burning in the bosom (subjective experience) and Mormonism’s theology of glory that presents a lifestyle of integrity, model family, and traditional values (moralism) as central to Christianity. What Mormonism and Pietism have in common is that they are both man-made religions that appeal to the Old Adam.

    The Reformational understanding that the heart is the problem is forgotten and the heart is increasingly seen as the answer (able to will, able to be pure in motives, able to perform the law perfectly, able to love God and others without sin, etc.). The Old Adam is strengthened rather than killed. Subjective experience of God unencumbered by the means of grace, liturgy, and theologically dense hymns/psalms in corporate worship begins to take preeminence. IMO, It looks like an unmediated spirituality. The inner spiritual life (experiential) is stressed over objective growth in faith through the means of grace (Word and Sacrament).


  15. Consistent with what Rev. Strange has pointed out regarding the WCF, the Heidelberg Catechism repeatedly speaks of the inward assurance of faith wrought in “our hearts” by the Holy Spirit. LD 7. We do good works “so that we may assured of our faith by its fruits”. LD32. The Lord’s Supper is given so as to “nourish and refresh my soul for eternal life..” LD. 28. Eternal salvation comforts us such that “..I already now experience in my heart the beginning of eternal joy”. LD 22.

    Edwards likewise grounded our subjective experience upon the objective reality of the work of Christ and the visible means of grace.


  16. Hi Tony!

    I’m glad we have harmony on the experiential. I would point out that Edwards’ primacy of the mind in apprehending Christ is problematic too. What do we do with those with Down’s syndrome and other such conditions? It seems to me that is should be enough that it is God who gives faith. It is all gift and we don’t need to dissect it to death like Edwards does.

    As for the Book of Concord, you may find this of interest. We do not depend upon our feelings in repentance for our repentance is always imperfect too! We depend upon what Christ did when he was baptized by John the Baptism. There he repented perfectly for us. I won’t say more on it for I am afraid I will somehow mangle the indescribable width, depth, and breadth of what Christ did for us when he submitted to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness for us. What a wonderful Savior we have!


  17. Alan,

    This is true what you say about WCF 18. But, the Westminster Divines, under the influence of practical divinity, also went more internal than the Three Forms of Unity — for instance, it’s hard to find anything in the Belgic that leads to the kind of internal criteria that the Puritans conceived. And contra Mr. Van der Molen, everyone talked about the heart. But there is talk about the heart and there is talk about affections.

    Bottom line, the WCF speaks in a different cadence from Edwards on affections.

    And you have not acknowledged the subjective turn in Reformed Protestantism for the last 300 years. The direction of our history is not toward formalism. So why beat up on Nevin?


  18. Here is a quote from Sinclair Ferguson that may be of help in looking at the Christian life. Compare this with Edwards book:

    This first thing to remember, of course, is that we must never separate the benefits (regeneration, justification, sanctification) from the Benefactor (Jesus Christ). The Christians who are most focused on their own spirituality may give the impression of being the most spiritual … but from the New Testament’s point of view, those who have almost forgotten about their own spirtuality because their focus is so exclusively on their union with Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished are those who are growing and exhibiting fruitfulness. Historically speaking, whenever the piety of a particular group is focused on OUR spirituality that piety will eventually exhaust itself on its own resources. Only where our piety forgets about ourself and focuses on Jesus Christ will our piety nourished by the ongoing resources the Spirit brings to us from the source of all true piety, our Lord Jesus Christ.


  19. Dr. Hart,

    Can you see why I adore Sinclair? Sigh… if you and Sinclair weren’t convinced that being Reformed was the best expression of Christianity in doctrine and practice, ya’ll would make wonderful confessional Lutherans! 😉

    Yeah… the pollen’s still high here, silliness abounds, and I’m resigned that my deliverance from a warped sense of humor has been relegated to that great resurrection day.


  20. ya’ll would make wonderful confessional Lutherans

    Bingo, Lily.

    But Mark, Edwards wasn’t Dutch.

    But Darryl, Alan Strange isn’t Dutch either.


  21. It is therefore entirely appropriate for pastors like Edwards to recount and describe what happens internally when souls are saved. Not a single one of the “experientialist” Calvinists that I’m aware of said that dramatic experiences were necessary. They described, not prescribed. They always qualified their statements by saying that everyone’s individual experience differs. But they were quite right to address the question: what does salvation feel like? how can I know that I’m regenerate? I worship God according to the way he has ordained: do I worship him in my heart? How can I ever tell?

    Cath, when do such descriptions tip into harmful speculation? When the dramatic surfaces? When is it dramatic? Could it be that instead of indulging and flirting with speculation that such questions should be corrected as such? And maybe the soul that is so concerned shows by merely having that concern that all is well? I mean, what ill soul wonders any of these things? But it seems to me that the orthodox answer to these questions is to point to Christ, not to further inward descriptions. You affirm the objective, but I wonder when and how you think the objective should be employed, and it seems to me one place is when these sorts of questions are raised.


  22. From about that time, I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ. and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him. An inward, sweet sense of these things, at times, came into my heart; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. And my mind was greatly engaged to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ, on the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation by free grace in him. I found no books so delightful to me, as those that treated of these subjects. Those words Cant. 2:1, used to be abundantly with me, I am the Rose of Sharon, and the Lilly of the valleys. The words seemed to me, sweetly to represent the loveliness and beauty of Jesus Christ. The whole book of Canticles used to be pleasant to me, and I used to be much in reading it, about that time; and found, from time to time, an inward sweetness, that would carry me away, in my contemplations. This I know not how to express otherwise, than by a calm, sweet abstraction of soul from all the concerns of this world; and sometimes a kind of vision, or fixed ideas and imaginations, of being alone in the mountains, or some solitary wilderness, far from all mankind, sweetly conversing with Christ, and wrapt and swallowed up in God. The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were, a sweet burning in my heart; an ardor of soul, that I know not how to express.

    Not long after I first began to experience these things, I gave an account to my father of some things that had passed in my mind. I was pretty much affected by the discourse we had together; and when the discourse was ended, I walked abroad alone, in a solitary place in my father’s pasture, for contemplation. And as I was walking there, and looking up on the sky and clouds, there came into my mind so sweet a sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express. I seemed to see them both in a sweet conjunction; majesty and meekness joined together; it was a sweet, and gentle, and holy majesty; and also a majestic meekness; an awful sweetness; a high, and great, and holy gentleness.

    After this my sense of divine things gradually increased, and became more and more lively, and had more of that inward sweetness. The appearance of every thing was altered; there seemed to be, as it were, a calm sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost every thing. God’s excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in every thing; in the sun, moon, and stars; in the clouds, and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water, and all nature; which used greatly to fix my mind. I often used to sit and view the moon for continuance; and in the day, spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to behold the sweet glory of God in these things; in the mean time, singing forth, with a low voice my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer. And scarce any thing, among all the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and lightning; formerly, nothing had been so terrible to me. Before, I used to be uncommonly terrified with thunder, and to be struck with terror when I saw a thunder storm rising; but now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me. I felt God, so to speak, at the first appearance of a thunder storm; and used to take the opportunity, at such times, to fix myself in order to view the clouds, and see the lightnings play, and hear the majestic and awful voice of God’s thunder, which oftentimes was exceedingly entertaining, leading me to sweet contemplations of my great and glorious God. While thus engaged, it always seemed natural to me to sing, or chant for my mediations; or, to speak my thoughts in soliloquies with a singing voice.

    I felt then great satisfaction, as to my good state; but that did not content me. I had vehement longings of soul after God and Christ, and after more holiness, wherewith my heart seemed to be full, and ready to break; which often brought to my mind the words of the Psalmist, Psal. 119:28. My soul breaketh for the longing it hath. I often felt a mourning and lamenting in my heart, that I had not turned to God sooner, that I might have had more time to grow in grace. My mind was greatly fixed on divine things; almost perpetually in the contemplation of them. I spent most of my time in thinking of divine things, year after year; often walking alone in the woods, and solitary places, for meditation, soliloquy, and prayer, and converse with God; and it was always my manner, at such times, to sing forth my contemplations. I was almost constantly in ejaculatory prayer, wherever I was. Prayer seemed to be natural to me, as the breath by which the inward burnings of my heart had vent. The delights which I now felt in the things of religion, were of an exceeding different kind from those before mentioned, that I had when a boy; and what I then had no more notion of, than one born blind has of pleasant and beautiful colors. They were of a more inward, pure, soul animating and refreshing nature. Those former delights never reached the heart; and did not arise from any sight of the divine excellency of the things of God; or any taste of the soul satisfying and life; giving good there is in them.

    –Jonathon Edwards

    I drove over to Aunt Flo’s to look for them and got caught in Sunday morning rush hour. It was Confirmation Sunday at Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church. Thirteen young people had their faith confirmed and were admitted to the circle of believers, thirteen dressed-up boys and girls at the altar rail in front of a crowd of every available relative. Pastor Ingqvist asked them all the deepest questions about the faith (questions that have troubled theologians for years), which these young people answered readily from memory before partaking of their first Communion. Later they lounged around on the front steps and asked each other, “Were you scared?” and said, “No, I really wasn’t, not as much as I thought I’d be,” and went home to eat chuck roast, and some of them had their first real cup of coffee. They found it to be a bitter, oily drink that makes you dizzy and sick to your stomach, but they were Lutherans now and that’s what Lutherans drink.

    –Garrison Keillor, “Life among the Lutherans”

    If to identify with Edwards’s affirmation is to be Reformed mark me Lutheran.


  23. Darryl

    Why beat up on Nevin? Because I agree with Lig Duncan that Nevin is not the cure to whatever ails us in the church.

    Did Nevin have some insights into the problems of the Second Great Awakening? Absolutely. But his Hegelianism and near-trek to Rome are not the answer.

    As you know, his German romantic idealism led him into some suspect views of the Incarnation and the Church and he was weak on matters soteriological. Are there problems in Edwards? Yes, but, on the whole, I would take him any day over Nevin. I suspect we will not come to agreement on this any time soon.

    As for Paul Helm, I think that Sean Lucas is right in his analysis. I have great respect for Prof. Helm, but he can tend, imo, evidenced in other areas of his writing, to a kind of intellectualism with which I would at points demur. Others of us have also studied Edwards (Sean said for twenty years and I began studying him thirty years ago, my first trip to the Beinecke being on a fellowship in 1983) and read him differently. I have not published a book on Edwards but have written several articles (one rather lengthy) on him and am delighted to anticipate Sean’s book on him.

    I do not pretend to know Nevin as well as you. Perhaps I am being unfair with him. I don’t want to be unfair so am open to correction. I have been reading and studying Edwards and Edwards’s scholarship for some time, though, and find many quicker less contextual readings of him to be a bit off. Again, though, these are things about which we debate, right?


  24. Sorry, Mark, it’s a tongue-in-cheek joke. Where the Reformed and Lutherans intersect is in an orthodoxy that is acknowledged as unquestionably true in doctrine and practice by both traditions. It’s Reformational orthodoxy and not specific to either tradition. That’s why we are fellow soldiers in the battle against pietism.


  25. Alan, but what about New Life? It seems to me you take issue with Nevin to protect awakenings like those of the First “pretty good” awakening. I am not recommending Nevin as a package. But his critique of the emotionalism that characterized revivalism, and that even more pronounced with Edwards and Tennent, is an argument that all Reformed Protestants need to hear.

    So while you take issue with Nevin, Jack Miller gets a pass. Are you making the world safe for Piper and Keller?


  26. Darryl

    That’s funny that you should ask about Jack Miller. In one of my long lost-in-the-ether posts of last night, I had mentioned New Life as an example of anti-formalism that has troubled us in our narrower circles. I think that New Life had some key problems, not the least among them being a downgrade of liturgy and doctrine.

    Nice try, though, for “reject Nevin and you must embrace Miller.” Does that mean that Hodge, who took sharp issue with Nevin, paved the way for Miller? Hardly. Even there, though, I am not in complete agreement with Hodge over against Nevin. I think that the Princetonians (and Edwards as well) tended to a lower view of the means of grace than their Reformed forefathers.

    Has there been an overly-subjectivistic turn in the Reformed faith in the last three hundred years? I think that there has been at points. But the remedy, dear brother, imo, is not to paint with the broad brush that you have been using in dismissing anything to do with the inward or the subjective. I think that it is not helpful doctrinally or pastorally, because imbalanced.

    Our Standards take a balanced approach. BTW, assurance does not mean precisely the same thing and play precisely the same role in the TFU as in the Westminster Standards and I think that the positions can, and have been, harmonized. I assume that you think so too, since you have, at one time or another, taken vows to both.

    I do hang around a lot with the Dutch!


  27. It is kind of creepy how some of the ‘regulars’ in these comments have absolutely no sense of reading literacy or ability to learn from and empathize with the valid statements of others. yes, indeed truly creepy.


  28. Hi Lily,

    Nice to talk to you!

    This is probably the only place in the world where I’m in danger of sounding like I downplay the importance of the objective.

    Agreed: the objective truth is what we depend on entirely for salvation
    Agreed: it’s a mistake to emphasise the subjective over the objective
    Agreed: it’s a mistake to seek subjective experience of God apart from the means of grace

    Still and all, the life of faith is something more than true doctrine and the right use of the means of grace. If a soul is objectively united with Christ, this manifests itself partly in inner graces. True doctrine unloved, unbelieved, unmeditated on won’t do anyone much good. Sacraments received without love for the thing signified, without a sense of the honour bestowed on the recipient, without gratitude for the grace held out – ditto.

    Relegating the subjective to its proper place is done much more effectively and Scripture-consistently by identifying clearly and accurately what the subjective in the life of faith actually looks like, than by airbrushing it out of the picture altogether.


  29. Zrim,

    the unfailingly appropriate pastoral advice for troubled souls is to look to Christ. For every look within, a thousand looks to Christ. The gospel is, “Christ for us,” and not “the Spirit in us”.

    Still, something needs to happen inside. If Christ is for us, the Spirit will be working in us.

    Sometimes that means dragging a dull and senseless heart through the means of grace and going away feeling no different than before. Sometimes it means tasting and seeing that God is good, seeing beauty and comeliness in the man of sorrows, rejoicing over the Word as one that findeth great spoil, thirsting after God, and so on.

    These inner subjective experiences don’t always, but must sometimes, be consciously felt by a living soul, ie anyone and everyone who the Holy Spirit regenerates. That’s what Scripture teaches: there needs be no embarrassment about confessing it.

    What I appreciate about your view is it recognises the extraordinariness of the ordinary, if you don’t mind me saying so. You (or you plural) regularly attend the Lord’s Day services, to hear the Word plainly read and preached, and to have the sacraments routinely dispensed — I hope I’m not putting words in your mouth to say you see the standing wonder of these ordinances in the world. Every routine encounter is non-routine because it is an encounter with God himself, in his ordained means. Excellent, excellent, and shout it from the rooftops. But then follow through on that – if you’re using the means, they’re means of grace: means of sustaining and strengthening the inner life of the soul. Love, joy, peace, hungering and thirsting after righteousness. If it’s true doctrine that Christ is lovely, will I not love him, and if I find no love for him in my heart, can I really claim to believe that truth about him.

    If you’ve got the objective right, the subjective is both its inseparable companion and essential corroboration.


  30. Darryl, that’s easy. Alan doesn’t evade the substance by making irrelevant references to ethnicity.


  31. “As you know, his German romantic idealism led him into some suspect views of the Incarnation and the Church and he was weak on matters soteriological.”

    Could anyone elaborate? I’ve read DGH’s Nevin bio and Bonomo’s “Incarnation and Sacrament” but not Nevin himself. The latter presented Nevin’s view of incarnation in a compelling way.

    “But his Hegelianism and near-trek to Rome are not the answer. ”

    As a former catholic that was soon confused by evangelicalism, then evangelical influences in Reformed communions, Nevin’s course has been an inspiration to me to remain Presbyterian even when it’s more of a Wesleyan or Edwardsean, or just American, experience than a Reformed one.


  32. So Alan, then why are you not as hard on the Princetonians and Edwards as you apparently are? It seems that it’s okay for you to use a broad brush against Nevin when he was making the same point that you just did about Princeton and Edwards on the means of grace. Why is it so hard for you to concede a point that he made very effectively (and dare I say well before he took the full plunge into Hegelianism — he was writing Anxious Bench in 1843).

    And you know the point that I am making about Miller. Where are the warnings about New Life, and why the unwillingness to see any connection between the subjective turn and today’s phenomena? Again, it seems to me that you think there’s a danger of a Nevin resurgence. Where? Among the Dutch?


  33. Mike K., I’d be glad to answer if I understood anything about German idealism. There is plenty in Nevin to give pause. For instance, his liturgy which calls the table the altar, and the way he likely made the Supper more central than the sermon. But the idea that he is tainted simply for his philosophical dabbling is akin to discrediting all of the Old Princeton Theology because they used Scottish Common Sense Realism. The point remains, at least for me, that Nevin was almost single-handedly (though some confessional Lutherans fresh to the U.S. were also doing so), raising a Burkean stop sign to the onward march of evangelical Protestant subjectivity. I don’t think you need to master Hegel to see that. Just turn on the Trinity Broadcasting Network or Christian radio.


  34. Hi Cath,

    Nice to talk to you, too! I’m glad and thankful for the harmony we have in what is true and central! Please do not misunderstand and think Lutherans are “airbrushing it out of the picture altogether.” We have a place for our emotions. The difference between our traditions appears to be in that Lutherans do not depend upon our feelings to confirm, corroborate, or gauge our faith. We’re much more likely to approach God as beggars (the poor, miserable sinners that we are) at the Lord’s table and see the emotions you prize as not required. The Lord’s Supper is never received lightly (hence our close communion). What we receive in the Lord’s Supper is true and real and it is not dependent upon us. In a similar way, our approach to God in ordinary daily life is not dependent upon our emotions. It is Christ alone who sustains and strengthens us and apart from him we are nothing. Our feelings do not make our salvation in Christ any less true or more true, and we depend upon the solas (not faith + emotions, or Christ + emotions, or grace + emotions). I hope that helps clarify some things? Aw shucks… just listen to Bach or a Paul Gerhardt hymn – you’ll quickly find that we are no less emotional than anyone else! 😉

    If God Himself be for me
    hymn by Paul Gerhardt

    If God Himself be for me, I may a host defy,
    For when I pray, before me my foes confounded fly.
    If Christ, my Head and Master, befriend me from above,
    What foe or what disaster can drive me from his love?

    I build on this foundation, that Jesus and His blood
    Alone are my salvation, the true eternal good;
    Without Him, all that pleases is valueless on earth:
    The gifts I owe to Jesus alone my love are worth.

    My Jesus is my Splendor, my Sun, my Light, alone;
    Were he not my Defender, before God’s awful throne,
    I never should find favor and mercy in His sight,
    But be destroyed forever as darkness by the light.

    He canceled my offenses, delivered me from death;
    He is the Lord who cleanses my soul from sin through faith.
    In him I can be cheerful, bold, and undaunted aye;
    In Him I am not fearful of God’s great Judgment Day.

    Naught, naught, can now condemn me nor set my hope aside;
    Now hell no more can claim me its fury I deride.
    No sentence e’er reproves me, no ill destroys my peace;
    For Christ, my Saviour, loves me and shields me with His grace.

    His Spirit in me dwelleth, and o’er my mind He reigns.
    All sorrow He dispelleth, and soothes away all pains.
    He crowns His work with blessing, and helpeth me to cry
    “My Father!” without ceasing to Him Who dwells on high.

    To mine His Spirit speaketh sweet words of soothing power,
    How God to Him that seeketh for rest is always near;
    And how He hath erected a city fair and new,
    Where all that faith expected we evermore shall view.


  35. Darryl,

    I see no particular reason to warn against Jack Miller in the OPC any longer. Do you?

    FV is one place in which Nevin finds resonance. And there are others, like yourself, in the OPC, who wish to bring Nevin to the table to address what you perceive as the inward/subjective problem.

    But I think that we have the resources needed in our confessional tradition without recourse to Nevin (who brings too many problems in my estimation). Whatever imbalance Edwards and our Old School Presbyterian forefathers may have had with respect to the means of grace can be remedied by an appeal to the older Reformed tradition. At the same time, I think that Edwards and the Princetonians constituted a proper development and advance of the tradition. In other words, there were regressive and progressive tendencies in 18th and 19th c. Calvinism and Presbyterianism.

    Nevin, Schaff, and co. largely stand outside of that and bring a host of problems not endemic to that tradition. I do not argue that Mercersburg brings nothing to the table, but what they bring that is good is already in the tradition, imo, and they are not needed to bring it.

    And I am one of those who has been convinced that Princeton was not as much in the thrall of the problems inherent in the SCSR as I myself previously thought. I will continue to ponder what you said about broad-brushing Nevin unfairly. I do not wish to be unfair to him and so will re-examine matters as I have occasion. Are you willing to concede that you might need to do the same with respect to JE? And the inward/subjective?


  36. Alan, I’d cop to the broad-brush plea if I had not read Edwards — as well as plenty of accounts of the colonial revivals that should give anyone pause about the merits of those awakenings. Trouble is, I have studied those phenomena and I don’t think the Pretty Good Awakening deserves to get a pass. When it comes to worship, office, and subscription, the New Side was weak, the forerunners of New Life. But almost everyone in the thrall of some kind of experimental Calvinism, whether of the British Banner of Truth variety or the nadere reformatie kind, continue to think of those revivals as a wholesome development.

    Why do you think that I paint with a broad brush since my arguments are based on more than preference (sorry Terry Gray)? And why do you think the First Pretty Good Awakening was progress?

    I agree that there is plenty within our tradition to which we can turn. And believe it or not, it was Nevin who alerted me to the discontinuity between the 16th and 18th centuries. I do believe he got many things wrong. But on the difference between Calvin and Edwards I think he hit it out of the park. (Play ball!)


  37. Darryl

    I had another post lost to the ether (I keep getting interrupted with other necessary matters) in which I commended Nevin for his bringing Finney and the new measures up short. I welcome his assessment of the “anxious bench.”

    Hodge was a bit harsh on Nevin but feared ritualism and saw Nevin as tending to identify the Holy Spirit and the means in a kind of ex opere operato. I think, given Nevin’s attraction to Rome, that these were some valid concerns. I also prefer Nevin to Hodge on slavery, the latter being incapable of realizing what we had here was not what was described by that name in the Bible (but that’s another matter, arguable either way as far as natural law is concerned, proved by J.C. Calhoun).

    You and I (who agree with Hodge) disagree on the New Side. It had problems but valid concerns as well, and I regard the 1758 reunion, as did the Princetonians, as a happy one. John Muether knows that I go back a long way in these convictions. I think that your view that the New Side was a uniform disaster is the minority report and has quite a lot to surmount, including George Marsden’s judicious criticisms.

    My contention is that there room in our confessional churches for Old Side and New Side. What say? BTW, what Peter Wallace has written on John Thomson’s better experience with more balanced New-Siders is a good contribution to this discussion. Nobody likes Davenport, but what about Davies? A good man.

    At any rate, we have a few disagreements but will both be worshipping our covenant God tomorrow in the sacred gathering.


  38. DGH (at 6:04 a.m.) regarding the subjective: Edwards concludes with the thought that ” the fruit of these affections is Christian practice,” and the latter is the chief sign to ourselves and others that we are in the faith. This is no different than what the WCF calls “fruits and evidences” in 16.2.

    Edwards personally was a good example of “the frozen chosen”. He preached in a monotone, spent lots of time in his study, and eschewed charismatic revelation. He was no New Life Presbyterian (or even Congregationalist).

    And, Zrim, if you never delighted in Christ, I feel sorry for you and I am not being sarcastic or snarky either. So I guess you are Lutheran.

    P.S. The OPC asks people to make vows of belief and practice, and I think it’s telling that the questions they put to prospective members never once ask if the person loves Christ. What an omission!


  39. The practice of the last … well, longer than any of us have been alive … proves that the Old Side and New Side can coexist, but when the Old Side says, “I have some serious doubts about that,” the New Side tends toward a, “Unless you adopt my piety and practice, you might not be a Christian,” reply. That gets stifling, especially when it’s from the pulpit.


  40. Eliza, thanks for your pious pity. But I don’t know, being “in almost constant ejaculatory prayer wherever I am” seems different from delighting in Christ in life and death. I feel quite at ease admitting to but not gloating in the latter. But admitting to and gloating in the former seems kind of icky.


  41. Eliza, you’re such a critic and literalist. With you pietists there’s never enough. Someone can affirm that he acknowledges Jesus Christ as his sovereign Lord, and promises that, in reliance on the grace of God, he will serve Jesus with all that is in him, forsake the world, resist the devil, put to death his sinful deeds and desires, and lead a godly life and you still want to hear him affirm his love for Christ. Are you so demanding of your husband after he mows the grace, takes out the garbage and brings you flowers?

    And please do tell, where did Paul ever write, “I love you, Jesus”?


  42. Alan, you’re going to trust a historian who started his career by writing about the New School? I don’t presume to question Marsden’s ability as a historian, but please do keep in mind that George was part of that second generation of OP’s who tired of the first generation’s militancy. That may explain why he found the New School so attractive for his dissertation.


  43. Plus, Alan, you’re avoiding the 600 pound gorilla in the room — his last name being Tennent. I’m sure there were good New Siders. And there were good New Schoolers. But the question was whether they were going to tolerate and even defend the antics of Barnes and Tennent respectively. What is it that would allow someone to defend Tennent? And what is it that would allow a revivalist like Tennent to take the near-death experience of his brother and run with it as an example of a miraculous resurrection? As I say, the New Side is not nearly as pretty or pristine as the Banner of Truth has led us to believe. Whitewashing it won’t help.


  44. Dear Lily,

    It would be a horrible mistake to approach God on the basis of our emotions. Words cannot express how much I agree with this: “It is Christ alone who sustains and strengthens us and apart from him we are nothing. Our feelings do not make our salvation in Christ any less true or more true, and we depend upon the solas.”

    The subjective must be eliminated in entirety from the grounds of a sinner’s approach to Christ, and the grounds of a sinner’s acceptance with God. Justification and sanctification both are of God’s free grace, only for the sake of Christ external to us.

    But the sinner who is justified and sanctified has emotions which are harnessed or channelled according to what God has revealed in the Scripture. Before regeneration, the sinner loved sin. From regeneration onwards, the sinner loves holiness. Whatever the sinner feared prior to regeneration, the faith which the Spirit gives them at regeneration now makes them tremble at the threatenings of God’s Word, WCF 14.2. Whatever emotions the soul is capable of, these don’t become irrelevant subsequent to regeneration – they are rather exercised properly, rejoicing in what they ought to rejoice in, loathing what they ought to loathe, and so on.

    So, if someone finds themselves with some degree of stirrings of affection towards the Lord’s Christ, or somehow grieving over their unbelief, or perhaps longing to have a clean heart and a right spirit – these are evidences that they have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit – evidences that there is spiritual life when previously they were dead in trespasses and sins – evidences that they are in a right relationship with God.

    Such things are not *grounds* of their relationship with God but different kinds of *testimonies* of their relationship with God.

    (They are not even the *sole* piece of evidence of regeneration. Other evidences would after all include the willingness to repeatedly go and sit under the plain expository preaching of the Word, and a seeking to use all the means of grace (word, sacraments, and prayer) for the ends they were instituted for, namely to receive Christ and the benefits of his mediation.)

    But it’s embedded in the Confession that internal graces *are* part of the foundation on which assurance of salvation can be had. We confess that our feelings have a role to lay in corroborating the reality of our faith. That’s just what Alan Strange said earlier in his comments on WCF 18.1.

    The airbrushing comment was maybe more for the ears of our host, which was hardly helpful of me!

    That’s me over and out till Monday now.

    (Except, PS, to apologise to Eliza for snapping earlier. Had been mulling over Helm’s previous article here http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com/2011/03/religious-affection-jonathan-edwardss.html which I think is essential context for the more recent article linked in the original post here. Don’t think it’s possible to delight in Christ too much. Now truly over and out.)


  45. Hi Cath,

    I appreciate your comments and have sympathy for what you are saying. I am in no way saying that emotions are not a legitimate part of Christian life. To say so is to deny our humanity and our Creator. It’s a matter of relegating emotions to their proper place and articulating the boundaries. Confessional worship and life in Christ is a rich feast filled with indescribable wonderful emotions, grief and repentance over sin, and the rest of our emotions (both good and bad). Yet, we must guard against the impression that our emotions, reason, or consciences are trustworthy faculties. We must guard against thinking that we are only drawn towards holiness and not sin. The reality of the Christian life is that we are both sinner and saint at the same time. We do not feel a steady of flow of wonderful that always feels like obeying, worshiping, and being gracious towards others. Regeneration is not perfection. The corruptible will not be exchanged for the incorruptible until Christ returns.

    Re: WCF 18.1

    It’s not my place to comment on the Westminster confessions.

    I will speak from a tradition that has a long history of dealing with pietism and recognizing it’s symptoms. I will warn that it is not good to take pietism lightly or to play with – it is a malignancy as dangerous as cancer and just as stealthy.

    It sounds like you read John Piper. If so, Piper’s Hedonism is of the same vein as Edwards’ Affections. Both are problematic. It seems good to remember the therapeutic, touchy-feely spirit of our age and that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. Our emotions can be deceptive and our adversary can use them against us (even to appear as an angel of light). ‘Nuff said.


  46. DGH: But Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved him.
    Literalist or not, I stand by my statement: I think not asking members to affirm their love for Christ a significant omission.


  47. Eliza, Jesus’ questioning of Peter was to provoke him to duty, which provoked a little un-assurance from Peter. But have you noticed how church membership vows are very much like marriage vows. There’s good reason, I think. And I’ve yet to hear a minister (or judge) turn to a spouse after solemnly vowing one’s life to the other and say, “Yeah, but do you love him? I mean, really, really love him?” Maybe that’s because it’s not only bad, ahem, form, but also because it’s pretty insulting to ask that after having vowed one’s life, which is to say displayed the height of love.


  48. Lily,

    not guilty. No Piper here thanks.

    Re Westminster, it’s not for you to comment on, fair enough. The onus remains very much on the would-be confessionalists to address how their professed commitment to the confession is consistent with dismissing the subjective, when the Confession clearly envisages that believers confessing true doctrine and diligently using the ordained means of grace will experience discernible inner effects as they do so.


  49. Cath says: “But the sinner who is justified and sanctified has emotions which are harnessed or channelled according to what God has revealed in the Scripture. Before regeneration, the sinner loved sin. From regeneration onwards, the sinner loves holiness.”

    It is statments like this which makes me find statements like the following refreshing and much more akin to what I have experienced in my Christian life since 1975: “I prefer my worldliness straight up not cut with Holy Unction.”

    I think it is best not to base our Christian lives on the experiential at all- it only leads to problems- which leads to more problems. I am a beggar indeed and eat the crumbs that fall from the masters table. I feel and am unworthy all the time. “Don’t let it bring you down, it’s only castles burning, just find someone who’s turning and you will (or is it may) come around.”


  50. It has been a great discussion though- the heat has even been a bit controlled but hovering none-the-less and ready to explode with things take a turn for the worse.


  51. Yep, and the more controlled the better.

    I wouldn’t say that Christian lives have to be based on the experiential.

    The experiential is the outcome of regeneration, not its basis.


  52. Cath,

    It’s never a matter of dismissing emotions, but putting them in their proper place. Confessional worship is rich in emotions, but our worship does not demand emotions. Think of the parents in church whose small child died the week prior. It doesn’t matter what church they attend, they should not think that a lack of warm fuzzies for God that day makes them less of a worshiper than persons in the pews who is experiencing warm fuzzies. Nor should they think their worship depends on warm fuzzies. Our worship does not depend upon our feelings.

    P.S. I’ve buried two children and a husband, and spent time with many others in my situation, so I’m not talking out of my hat here.


  53. Hi John,

    Re: “learn to sing the Blues”

    Nothing quite like learning to sing the Blues! I love the old negro slave spirituals on those days – one of my favorites is the “Balm in Gilead” – here’s a link with it sung by Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman. I wish the quality of video was better, but nevertheless… you may appreciate it, too.


  54. Lily,

    I hear you. I didn’t expect you to include yourself in that comment about dismissing the subjective. You keep saying that there is a place for the subjective and that emotions are appropriate responses to the liturgy. I believe you, and if it didn’t sound to you like I’m reading all the wrong people I think we’re basically agreed, but this qualification is not particularly audibly forthcoming from anyone but yourself.

    I would still be listening and believing if I knew nothing about your situation, friend. Scottish presbyterians aren’t particularly renowned for warm fuzzies though, so all I’ll say is I never thought you would be talking out of your hat.


  55. Hi Cath,

    In your comment to me, you wrote: “The onus remains very much on the would-be confessionalists to address how their professed commitment to the confession is consistent with dismissing the subjective..”

    That is what I was responding to.


  56. Oops, Cath!

    I did not get all of my comment pasted in before I hit the submit button. I am thankful that we are on the same page. I do not understand why you think confessional Christians dismiss the subjective. I know of none who do this. We see the subjective feelings as an area of liberty in worship not as a requirement.


  57. That’s why I am Lutheran Lily- I can bring my most egregious sins to them and they still seek to bring me out of the despair I am so easily prone to. Wish I could stay consistently “upbeat” and self-controlled like many Calvinists seem to be able to do. It does not seem to be my lot in life. Anyways, a beautiful song sung with great depth of emotion. Appropriate for what I seem to be going through at this time in my life. Nothing is going as planned and I was not expecting to be where I am at today 20 years ago. But, to look on the bright side, I have learned how to sing the Blues and that may turn out to be a good thing.


  58. John,

    Re: “Wish I could stay consistently “upbeat” and self-controlled…”

    That’s part of why I’m Lutheran, too. We tend to be grounded in the reality that the Christian life is not the same as the perfect Christian life that Christ lived for us and we trust that since he is the author and finisher of our faith, we can trust him to sanctify us as he sees fit (what, when, where, why, and how) since he is our faithful Savior. We tend to see no need to prove we are sanctified children of God via our emotions or fruit. Much too subjective and judging things before their time for our sensibilities. It’s seems so much easier to be a poor miserable Lutheran clinging to Christ in all.

    I am glad the song hit the spot for you. Funny how we all find that things have not gone how we planned or expected them to go. I tend to look at it as the common lot of most of us all since I hear it frequently and certainly is true of my own life. We are so clueless when we are young and haven’t yet learned the value of the Blues and the comfort of Christ in them. Thank goodness he’s more than familiar with pain, sorrow, and suffering and tenderly carries us home to himself.


  59. Thanks Lily, I’ve learned you can rely on Lutherans to speak an encouraging word in the most critical of times. My Pastor is prone to that too- when my behavior is most perplexing to me and when I don’t really want to face him that’s when he seems to be at his pastoral best; most willing to absolve when he senses my discomfort, anxiety, etc., etc.


  60. Regarding “love” and membership or marriage vows:
    1. “Love” is actually a volition, not an emotion. Hence much of the controversy on Edwards.
    2. If ones views “love” as an emotion, however, then how can one vow to live according to an emotion? However, if a volition, then it makes sense.
    The Book of Common Prayer as well as the more reformed Westminster Directory of Worship ask the prospective marriage partner about “love”. “I do covenant to a loving and faithful…”

    Listening to Julius Kim’s 3 minutes on moralistic preaching notes that Christ must be good for us, so that we can “love”…(1:53). Interesting how he juxtaposes faith in Christ’s death and love.


  61. As a natural born pietist, who’s native language is the law, and who would love to focus on me, my feelings, my spiritual experiences, my growth, and all that jazz – I have these thoughts:

    What if the Christian life isn’t about focusing on progress and isn’t about focusing on producing fruit that we can see in ourselves or fruit that we can display for our neighbors? Is it possible that we are saturated with American pragmatism and progressivism that imposes our Americanized ideas upon the what, when, where, how, and whys in evaluating what God should be doing in our daily lives? What if the Holy Spirit’s work is to teach us the truth and make us beggars dependent upon Christ alone? What if growing in Christ is mainly about growing in truth and dependence upon him alone? What if the fruit of the Holy Spirit and good works are naturally produced by growing in truth and dependence?

    If truth be told, we normally see more and more of the depths of our sinfulness and our need for our Savior as we mature in Christ. The Holy Spirit’s work using the law as a mirror, shows us what we really are and drives us to our Savior. The law does not show me goodness when I look inward – it shows me the depth of my sinfulness for this is the work of the law in me. This should turn me outward toward ‘Christ for me’ to receive forgiveness.

    To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, we think we’re pretty decent people until we decide to make the effort to look outward and daily love our neighbors, but instead, to our horror, we see the depth of our sinfulness again. It is in interactions with our neighbors (spouse, children, parents, co-workers, etal) that we see that in thought, word, and deed – we cannot keep the law no matter how concerted our efforts to curb every inclination to sin. We continually see how desperately we are in need of a Savior who has borne all our sin and crave to hear the gospel that tells us, yes, Christ is still sufficient for us, the sinful saints. Perhaps, progress in the Christian life is to be continually humbled and to continually see our need for our Savior – learning to trust more and more in Christ for all and to see that he really is sufficient for me the Christian who continually flunks law.

    Truth be told, we are lousy judges of ourselves and others – both in how sinful we are and how fruitful we are. As I see it, there are numerous things that are simply none of my business and the temptation to meddle in the hidden things of God is always present. I am not qualified to measure or judge what God is doing in my life or in other people’s lives (sanctification) – but with time, I can grow in understanding orthodox dogma and can better recognize crummy dogma when it comes along. I can better see where my beliefs are faulty or wrong, where I am misplacing my faith, or where I am failing to depend upon God and believe that grace alone, faith alone, and Christ alone are sufficient for me. To see that the gospel is my food for life not the law. As I see it, confessional Christian lives are rich in the experiential and affirm that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.


  62. Eliza,

    If “love” is the summation of the law… do we not need the entire law with every i dotted and every t crossed if we wish to measure, quantify, and explain love? If Christ has commanded us to love others as he has loved us, would it not be best to make that the standard of what love is?


  63. Eliza, I’m not sure biblical love pits volition against emotion. But if biblical love is understood volitionally as opposed to emotionally then what sense does it make to ask believers to make membership vows and then ask them if they love Jesus? Don’t the vows already imply that? So your previous suggestion that it is a great omission (!) to not ask prospective members who take vows of belief and practice if they love Christ seems to suggest that you understand love emotionally, such that the vows are pure volition and the bare naked question is pure emotion. But if biblical love entails both volition and emotion then the vows take care of all of it.


  64. Zrim – truly, you are Reformed, and I thank God for you – big time! 🙂

    As an aside, Lutherans tend to present the full force of the law to pietism in order to help people understand that trying to break the law down into manageable pieces (thinking if they understand the pieces, they learn to keep the law) doesn’t cut it. To break an iota of the law is to break all of the law. It lets the law kill the pietistic streak in all of us. Does that make sense?


  65. Lily: I agree that the law is summarized in love to God and neighbor. (See Scripture below).
    Zrim: Love is a volition (see Scripture below).

    I guess what I’m struck by is the absence of a four letter word that everybody seems to agree upon as a requirement for Christian living, yet folks here argue against it as being included in membership vows. (Or in our congregation, not included even in membership interviews).

    “Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.” Mark 12: 29,30.

    And the second is like it (love neighbor as self).

    If you love me, keep my commandments. John14:15.


  66. Hi Eliza,

    Love is more than volition. I do not understand why this is important to you.

    As far as love thy neighbor as thyself, Christ ratcheted it up to love others as he has loved us – and that is one of his commandments. Are you able to do that?


  67. Eliza, here are the questions I answered in the affirmative in our Reformed church:

    1. Do you believe the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, to be the inerrant and infallible Word of God, and its doctrine, summarized in the confessions of this Church, to be the perfect and only true doctrine of salvation?

    2. Do you confess that because of your sinfulness you abhor and humble yourself before God, and that you trust for salvation not in yourself but in Jesus Christ alone?

    3. Do you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your sovereign Lord and do you promise, in reliance on the grace of God, to serve Him with all that is in you, to forsake the world, to mortify your old nature, and to lead a godly life?

    4. Do you agree to submit in the Lord to the government and discipline of this church and, in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life, to heed its discipline?

    I guess what I am struck by is the suggestion that anybody could affirm all of this if l-o-v-e for Christ was absent or somehow not the underlying cause of such a vow. I am also struck by the fact that those who want a bare naked affirmation of l-o-v-e for Christ want to say that l-o-v-e is pure volition and no affection. Pietists can be so cornfusing.


  68. Zrim,

    My humble apologies for getting the terms wrong. Anywho, it was meant to be a compliment and I will try to behave next time. Are there any preferences on the superlatives preceding the word confessional? 😉

    And yes, the photo of Walther is a hoot! I think there was an even worse photo that was used for the campaign to get Issues, Etc. back on the air. You may get a bang out of the updated version with, “Still attending Grandpa’s church” – yeah – it’s a bit of inside baseball, but he’s pretty much become our logo. Check out this link, scroll down, and look on the right hand side:


    P.S. I don’t own a T-shirt – but with that face – it’s awful tempting!


  69. Z: What’s a “bare naked affirmation of love for Christ” Frankly I have no idea what you’re talking about. Also, name-calling means you don’t have arguments (e.g. “Pietists can be so confusing.”)

    Lily: The topic under discussion is “religious affections”. Is love an emotion or volition? That’s what’s up.

    As for your comment/question, “Christ ratcheted it up to love others as he has loved us – and that is one of his commandments. Are you able to do that?”

    Are you? You are a professing Christian. What’s your point? Listen to Julius Kim’s 3 minutes on moralistic preaching. Very good stuff. Take stock of what he says about obedience to God’s commandments. (The how and the why).


  70. Oh, hey, Walther is online for free. That bumps it further up the queue.

    Zrim, I’m struck and pleased by your affirmation that love is both volitional and emotional. And in light of that, I would agree that taking membership vows suffices (though we both wish that CRC would take #1 a little more literally).

    Now, in my church, the session is required to examine a membership candidate to “be satisfied with” — dangerous word, that — the knowledge and piety of said candidate. Here’s the wording, first for children then for the unbaptized:

    57-2. The time when young persons come to understand the Gospel cannot
    be precisely fixed. This must be left to the prudence of the Session, whose
    office it is to judge, after careful examination, the qualifications of those who
    apply for admission to sealing ordinances.

    57-3. When unbaptized persons apply for admission into the Church, they
    shall, ordinarily, after giving satisfaction with respect to their knowledge and
    piety, make a public profession of their faith, in the presence of the
    congregation, and thereupon be baptized.

    Do you have a problem with this?

    The other thing that strikes me is that the “volitional and emotional” is closer to Edwards than you might want to admit … 🙂


  71. Hi Eliza,

    Why is it important to dissect love into smaller pieces (volition or emotion)? Does it make it easier to keep the law of love? If you fail to keep one iota of the law, you have broken all of it. You are in danger of straining gnats and swallowing camels. You have yet to discern the difference between what you are doing and what Julius Kim is talking about.

    As for keeping the law of love – NO! I know it is impossible for me to keep the law of love in thought, word, and deed. No matter how wonderful others think I am and no wonderful I feel – I know I have failed to love others as Christ has loved me. I will never be able to love others as Christ has loved me no matter how diligent I am to dot every i and cross every t of the law starting in Genesis and ending in Revelation.


  72. Guys, while the temperature is relatively cool, I’d like to mention something.

    Eliza wrote: Also, name-calling means you don’t have arguments (e.g. “Pietists can be so confusing.”)

    Zrim, I understand that you are just trying to point out tendencies &c. You’re not *actually* trying to say that Eliza is a card-carrying pietist, great-great-granddaughter of Jacob Spener or some such.

    And you and I have gone several rounds on the issue of labeling and such.

    But I realized I haven’t been saying what I’m really trying to say.

    When you use a buzz-word (“pietist”, say), the effect is *not only* to communicate a tendency, but it *also* colors that person in the eyes of others. Your readers, especially the ones who generally trust your judgments, start to see that person and read him or her through the lens of, say, “pietist.”

    It’s the same thing that happens when IronInk or some such calls you and DGH “antinomians.” (And yes, that upsets me too, and yes, I say something about it).

    The point is that love — I was going to say the 9th commandment, so you can pick whichever one works best for you — love requires us to guard the good name of our neighbors. Eliza. Me. You. DGH.

    And for that reason, I would urge you to reconsider the “tendency” theme. While it *might* help provoke thought, it usually results (for me at least) in feeling unfairly judged in public.



  73. But, Jeff… we are ALL natural born pietists, whose native language is the law, and whose theology is me, me, me! It’s that dang Old Adam that refuses to stay dead every time I clobber him with the law! 🙂


  74. I understand. But if we *really* all believed that we are natural-born pietists, then we wouldn’t have to say “pietists are so hard to understand…” Right?

    I don’t mind one sinner commiserating with another about the frustrations of living with the fall.


  75. Jeff, As I see it, pietism can be joked about because our Old Adams are all pietists. But, it is an extremely serious problem in American churches that mutes the gospel and many times gives the gospel with the right hand and then takes it away with left hand. It is incredibly important to address it and help people see it. I don’t care if people think I’m an antinomian when I take a stand against it – people caught in it need to be loved by being told the truth.

    Using unpopular terms is important too – whether we always use them perfectly or not. I’d rather see mistakes in usages than the PC track taken. Besides, Eliza and Zrim are more than capable to handle things… ya thank? 🙂


  76. Jeff, then what would you call someone who LOVES Edwards and talks about loving Jesus a lot? Pietism is a way that we describe people like Spener. It’s not pejorative, inherently. I don’t see why someone who is after religious affections would decline the badge of making a big deal of piety (of the kind that pietists advocate).

    Antinomian is not exactly analogous. To say that someone is against the law is much more of a problem, especially if someone has affirmed the law.

    So again, why would someone who is pro-piety be opposed to being called a pietist? That doesn’t make sense to me.


  77. DGH: It’s not pejorative, inherently.

    Come, now. Pietism, especially in these circles, is synonymous with (or at the very least connotes) glory theology, neo-nomianism, legalism … one doesn’t have to search remotely hard to find those kinds of connections being made on these pages.

    I mean, why are you bothering to write about Edwards if pietism is neutral?

    What would I call someone who LOVES Edwards? Edwardsian.

    What would I call someone who talks about loving Jesus a lot? I haven’t noticed anybody fitting that description in these parts. But if I did, I would call them young in the faith. In my own private thoughts.

    So again, why would someone who is pro-piety be opposed to being called a pietist?

    For the same reason that someone who is anti-legalism would be opposed to being called antinomian. Or someone who is pro-God’s-law would be opposed to being called a legalist.

    As you well know, the “-ist” changes everything.

    But there’s even a more basic issue here. don’t see why someone who is after religious affections would decline the badge of making a big deal of piety

    Given that I’m the one declining the badge most forcefully, I’ll put the question: Where have I indicated that I’m “after religious affections”? (As opposed to trying to allow for some place for them). I’d be surprised if you could dredge up anything that I’ve said that shows a strong hankering after religious affections.

    And that’s part of my point. Attaching labels on scanty evidence is not being careful with the truth, not being careful with one’s neighbor’s reputation. I’m not particularly upset about it, but I think it could help things greatly if you could see that the labels aren’t just descriptors. They carry baggage.


  78. Lily: I don’t care if people think I’m an antinomian when I take a stand against it – people caught in it need to be loved by being told the truth.

    I’ve been too oblique. To be direct: People with bacterial infections need antibiotics. But a good doctor would never make a diagnosis and prescription over the internet.

    This is *also* part of the truth that needs to be told: We are not wise enough to peer into our neighbors’ hearts and diagnose their spiritual conditions.

    We can suggest, we can warn about where things might head; but when we get into saying “you are X”, we are claiming knowledge that we can’t possibly have. Now, we’re talking about who they are.

    And in so doing, you’re putting that person in the impossible position of defending their hearts. “I’m not a pietist! Yes you are!”

    I’m not talking about being PC. I’m talking about being factual and careful. About not getting out ahead of the evidence. P.C. is all about whitewashing truth to make people feel good.

    What I’m talking about is the opposite: being careful with the truth, so that if and when we have a real opening to speak to a spiritual issue, we can do so with earned credibility.

    Isn’t that what you might wish for from others?


  79. Lily, I assure you I am not trying to keep the law of love or any part of any of the commandments in order to be justified. Doesn’t work.

    We repeat the 10 commandments as well as the commandment to love God and our neighbor each time we have the Lord’s Supper. Why? As a reminder of what can’t do, but Jesus did AND as a reminder and a confession of what we do out of thankfulness. This is pretty standard Reformed teaching. Julius Kim says essentially the same thing…”out of gratitude” we serve God. Isn’t the Heidelberg Catechism set up according to Guilt, Grace, Gratitude? It’s nothing particular to me. And as we are now having a sermon series on I John, l-o-v-e may be particularly on my mind. And I don’t belong to a pietistic church, but an OPC.


  80. Jeff,

    I’m going to give you some sisterly heck here. One problem with Edwards’s book is that he is judging the wrong things. He is judging the first great awakening by judging affections rather than the dogma. What fruit are we taught to judge – isn’t it the dogma? We are incapable of judging by outward appearances, but we can judge dogma. Bad dogma is the problem in both great awakenings and the fruit of the bad dogma was the anxious bench, revivalism, and other such ilk.

    Think about it – pietism is terrified of the gospel, so it wallpapers the gospel with the law at best and builds brick walls of law around the gospel at worst. People will run wild! License will occur! The gospel is too dangerous to be preached like Paul preached it. It is wrong for the gospel to proclaimed as the full FREE forgiveness of all sin with no strings attached.

    We cannot welcome parishioners home every Sunday like prodigals (sinners) where the Father’s arms are opened wide welcoming his children home. No, the cross no longer applies to Christians and we are yoked to the law instead. The Lord’s Supper is turned into a work rather than a reception of Christ’s body and blood given for the forgiveness of our sins. No, we must examine ourselves ad infinitum and confess ad infinitum until we are convinced we are sinless and worthy to receive the free gift of forgiveness in Christ. Who can search the depths of the wickedness in their heart? Truth be told: not one ever deserves what Christ has done for us and the Lord’s Supper is for sinners.

    Pietism’s answer to dead orthodoxy is not full-blast gospel – it is putting people under the law to produce heartfelt religion, good works, and etcetera. It is so busy inspecting outward appearances that it doesn’t examine it’s dogma. When was the time you met a Christian who wasn’t concerned about their personal sin and longed to be free of it? Pietism turns people into pretzels over their sin and sets them on the hamster wheel of fulfilling the law. Pietism does not preach the law in all it’s sternness to kill the pietistic Old Adam and the full free forgiveness in Christ as the answer. Pietism is terrified of Christian liberty.

    Is sanctification all about Christ or is it all about us? If it is Christ – it is gift. If it is us – it is works. The law shows us how far away from holiness we are and the gospel gives us the holiness of Christ as the answer to our sin. We cannot earn gifts and it is an insult to treat gifts as though we can ever work for them or deserve them. We treat the gospel like it’s too good to be true.

    The gospel is the power of salvation that frees us from our sin not the law. We are not to judge things before their time, we are not to judge by outward appearances, we are not to try to separate the tares from the wheat. We judge dogma. And in that spirit, pietism is to be judged by it’s dogma and it’s crimes of muting the gospel, it’s discounting of the gospel as the power of God unto salvation , and for putting people under the law instead of giving them the Christ – our salvation. The gospel is the message that frees us from sin – it is not that our sin is completely taken away in this temporal life, but we receive the washing of the forgiveness of sin and empowerment to live in Christ. That is good news for the weary saint who is a sinner. Give me the full-blast gospel contained in the means of grace that God has given us or I will die.


  81. Hi Eliza,

    Re: I am not trying to keep the law of love or any part of any of the commandment

    I am always glad to hear a confession that recognizes we cannot keep the law. Should this confession of truth be concerned about whether someone is having a perfect heartfelt (volitional and emotional) affirmation to join a church?

    Re: ”out of gratitude”

    Isn’t there a danger of turning this into a law? Is anyone capable of perfect gratitude? Is it sin to not have the right affections per Edwards’ standards?

    Re: OPC church

    Pietism is not unique to any denomination. Being OPC or LCMS is not a guarantee that pietism cannot or has not crept in.


  82. Eliza, by “bare naked affirmation of love for Christ” I am referring to your initial remark:

    The OPC asks people to make vows of belief and practice, and I think it’s telling that the questions they put to prospective members never once ask if the person loves Christ. What an omission!

    I take this to mean after the vows are taken another bare naked question should be, “Do you love Jesus?” And what I’m trying to say is that love for Jesus is already properly clothed in the vows. Maybe that’s not good enough for you, but you have to remember that we confessionalists have a thing about propriety and decorum which corresponds to a theology of the cross where God’s love for us is clothed in counter-intuitive ways (i.e. the bloody and hateful cross). Thus that is how we ought to relate back to him. A theology of glory is all about nudity and relating to God on human terms.


  83. Jeff, I appreciate your point about terms and it’s well taken. But I also think you make a little too much out of it. I don’t think the term “pietist” is as pejorative as you are suggesting. I think the taxonomy often used to describe the Reformed world by breaking camps into doctrinalist, culturalist and pietist is helpful (I’d add confessionalist and philosophical, by the way). The spirit of that taxonomy isn’t to ignobly pigeon-hole people but to give us a way to describe those who place accents on things in one way or another that is distinct.

    If intentions count for anything, I hope it helps to say that mine isn’t to suggest anything pejorative but to be mildly provocative about tendencies. I will say, though, that the term provokes a defensiveness amongst Reformed types does suggest that we all deem it more or less undesirable. If so, the question for me is then why do these same types speak like pietists?


  84. Lily, the Christian life as one of obedient gratitude (or grateful obedience) is standard Reformed teaching, as Eliza points out. Yes, anything can become law, but instead of saying the standard teaching is about striving after “perfect gratitude,” I think it serves as the properly confessional corrective to a life of affection and desire pushed by the Edwardsian-Piperians. I’d rather say to Eliza that love and duty are not mutually exclusive.


  85. Thanks, Zrim. This is why I appreciate you greatly. I do not speak Reformed and fail to acknowledge the Reformed way of approaching and nuancing things (not to mention that I’m not the best in trying to communicate). The point I’m trying to help clarify is one that Lutheranism would make and it’s beginning to look as though we may define pietism differently, so… I’m outta here on that one.

    As an aside: confessional Lutheranism is not tolerant of pietism. From our view: there will be a point in the journey via pietism where there is a Y in the road that everyone is forced to take. The person heading left is moving towards Pharisee land thinking they can pull off the Christian life. The person heading right is moving towards despair for they know they cannot pull off the Christian life.

    The Lutheran answer is the theology of the cross where our comfort is Christ alone and daily we bear the cross in the battle to deny ourselves in this temporal life. What God says in both the law and the gospel is taken seriously. TC teaches to walk by faith not sight. It places no trust in spiritual experiences, progress in good works, affections, and so forth. Experiential pietism wants to walk by what is sees, feels, and does – props that the Lutherans tear down until all that is left is Christ alone. From this perspective, the main difference is that confessional Lutherans enjoy all of these things but we do not believe they are trustworthy measurements or a way to take a spiritual temperature in the lived Christian life. We see the danger in the Y as being that both are roads that lead to a loss of faith. Anywho, I may be useless in trying to help others see the difference between orthodoxy and pietism in a Reformed setting.


  86. Lily: Don’t mind the sisterly heck a bit. And I notice, with appreciation, that your answer stays at the level of ideas without trying to attribute those ideas to Eliza or me or someone else. That makes it possible for me to read what you write and really listen to it.

    So thank you.

    Let me give you a little background so you can understand where I’m coming from better. I’ve been Presbyterian for more than 15 years and have been moving out of pietism for over 20. I’ve seen both sides, and I agree with much of your description.

    And I labor in my own church to combat strains of pietism. So much so that when my dear middle school students tell me that they are saved by “asking Jesus into their hearts”, I remind them that they are saved by believing the promise of God. (And then I give an example that involves someone believing and being hit by a bus before “asking Jesus into their hearts” — that usually gets the point across). And other things, but that gives you an idea.

    The reason I say all this, even though it’s a bit unseemly, is to help you understand why I might object to being lumped in with the pietist crowd.

    (In fact, Zrim, I would say that the “doctrinal-philosophical” axis is a label that describes my taxonomy quite well).

    That said, I think where we differ is on how to take Edwards. Is he dangerous because he dabbles too much in affections, uses them as an improper metric to assess faith? Very possibly. In my re-read, I’ve seen stuff that could definitely be criticized.


    Is Edwards valuable because, in a Corinthian-like environment rife with confident claims about religious affections, he narrowed the focus down to tests commended by Scripture? I think this is a possible reading also.

    Either way, we certainly agree that Edwards cannot be taken without a grain of salt. DGH is right: Edwards is not the answer. (Neither is Nevin, of course).

    And hopefully we can agree that our view of Edwards is not a larger indicator of our view of pietists. To the extent that I appreciate Edwards, it is because he is *subverting* pietism, not encouraging it.


  87. Thanks, Jeff, you’re much too kind, but as fair warning, the Lutheran mode is wired to address what we see. ; )

    Thanks for the history – and I surely agree that moving out of pietism is constant personal battle – our world is wired for pietism and we are surrounded by it. Please be assured that I am not lumping you with an experiential pietism crowd like Piper etal – I was addressing that we are all pietists who need to recognize it and trying to point to what I saw. I’m not seeing it any differently than when you were cornering me for wanting to be a little legalist on burial! 🙂

    I have to smile at the label: doctrinal-philosophical. Ya’ll have way too many categories. But that is why too many Lutherans tend to lump all non-Lutherans in one camp and call them Reformed – ya’ll look alike to us!

    Regarding Edwards – it’s his dogma that I see dangerous. Think on it this way: Is Edwards going beyond scripture or stopping where scripture stops? Does the Bible define affections as legitimate and illegitimate the way Edward’s does? Does the Bible define what a true Christian is by Edwards’ criteria? Some of the differences are subtle others are not. Edwards is speculating about a great deal of things that we will recognize as generally true because it will fall into the natural law category. The thing that makes this kind of work dangerous is that he using scripture to support speculations and people bow to the authority of scripture. Hence the sophisticated mixture is harder to spot. The Christian life is messy and to mistake someone’s disposition, affections, and so forth as the marks of whether one has salvation or not is deceptive.

    Edwards and the Corinthians (she smiles and bangs her head 3 times)! No – we cannot do a bible study! But I will try to make a general statement. Paul set himself to only see Christ crucified and used the law and gospel to address the problems. He uses a biblical format not affections. Think – grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, and scripture alone.

    I wish I could agree about taking Edwards with a grain of salt but I’m thinking more along the lines of a salt shaker. I wish I could agree with the non-pietist view, too. The exploration of inner experiences and trying to pull back the curtain to see the hidden work of God in salvation falls into pietism. Pietism is not satisfied with the solas – it wants evidence that can be identified, measured, and quantified. It wants to walk by sight not faith no matter how subjective the evidence is. It’s not any different than the natural man who walks by sight and relies on his experiences, affections, good works to tell him how he’s doing. It’s foreign to the theology of the cross.


  88. Think on it this way: Is Edwards going beyond scripture or stopping where scripture stops?

    I have been thinking about that. What strikes me as “experimental” in his RelAff is the way in which Edwards tries to scientifically describe the inner psyche. No doubt DGH would draw a straight line from that to Finney’s methods. 🙂

    I sorry if I made you feel judged about the burial issue. It’s fair to say that I was over-reading what you were saying.


  89. Jeff, I still don’t think pietism is as pejorative as you do. It is a respectable designation in church history. Why, encyclopedia’s have been devoted to it. I can’t think of one for antinomianism. Nor can I think of historians who would feel comfortable assembling a collection of antinomians and their writings. Here’s an analogy, for Mennonites Calvinism is pejorative. But it doesn’t make it simply a word of opprobrium.

    Either way, what is Edwards, or at least the religious affections part of Edwards, if not pietistic? Can you give me a better word?


  90. Jeff, I missed your question about your church’s wording for children and the unbaptized. No, I’ve no problem with it.

    But you also indicate you are both pleased and surprised that I affirm the volitional and emotional nature of love because it is closer to Edwards than you’d think I’d be willing to admit. But I fail to see why conceding the volitional and emotional aspects of love would make me more sympathetic to Christian hedonism, anymore than it would make me sympathetic to marital romanticism. I cringe when those who have committed themselves to each other in marriage also think they must emphasize their romantic impulses and relate to one another as much as adolescents as adults. Yes, my love for my wife is certainly emotional since to be human is to be an emotional creature, but why would that mean I think it’s ok to relate to her like a fifteen-year-old? With apologies to those Edwards-Piperians (better than “pietists”?) amongst us, this is how I assess Christian hedonism: it’s the Christian version of those married but embarrassing adults who think they have to behave like teenagers. I don’t get it. Isn’t it a good thing to grow up and mature, as in when I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me? But I fear that just our culture as embraced a sophomoric understanding of human relations, Christian hedonism reflects it. To add insult to injury, one can often hear Edwards-Piperians talking a lot about being counter-cultural, etc., etc.


  91. Umm… Dr. Hart, in my neck of the woods, we make a distinction between piety and pietism with pietism carrying a negative connotation. The term is used for describing Arndt, Spener, and their heirs. We joke about it, but also see it as incompatible with our orthodoxy. A strong stand is taken against it in our confessional circles. Is this another difference between our traditions? Would it be better if I did not comment on pietism?


  92. Hi Jeff,

    Nope, you didn’t make me feel judged but you sure frustrated the heck out that little legalist in me and I’m glad you did – twas quite good for me! 😉

    Re: scientifically describe the inner psyche and experiential

    Generally, I see the science part as natural law until it’s application to salvation and trying to pull back the curtain where God’s hidden work is and trying to see how natural law applies to salvation. Not to be confusing, but in my neck of the woods, the experiential component is not only pietistic (in the negative sense) but falls under a theology of glory. A simple rule of thumb may be to remember that a theology of glory is man’s attempt to apply the rules in the kingdom of man to the kingdom of God. Finney? The trajectory line makes good sense to me.


  93. Lily, in OPC circles pietism is not a word that comes up a lot and if it does it usually takes some definition. I was using it more in the way that church historians do.

    In American Presbyterian circles revivalism is the word that is used. I myself consider revivalism to be the Anglo-American world’s equivalent of pietism. And in our circles, contrary to my best efforts, revivalism is not a bad word. The most nuance you find is Iain Murray’s distinction between revival (good) and revivalism (Finney).


  94. Cath, Thanks for keeping us abreast of matters British. Loved Helm’s remark that Edwards wrote a long book in defense of a short definition of true religion:

    He (Edwards) was a very clever man, who could perform high wire acts seemingly at will, but in offering a definition or epitome of true religion in a few words, and in offering the particular definition that he did, and then in writing a long book defending that, he made a serious strategic error, one which has strongly coloured subsequent evangelicalism.


  95. Lily, tip of my cap to the Lutherans who understand pietism for what it is, and so are wary of evangelicalism. I my small way I am trying to kindle this sense among the Reformed along with folks like Clark. But we are dealing with almost four centuries of practical divinity, first nurtured by the Puritans and then picked up by the Dutch.


  96. Guys, here’s my assessment of Religious Affections.

    DGH, I would say that Edwards has to be cleared of the charge of pietism. He’s remarkably unclear about some things, but Spener he’s not. There’s just a historical problem with trying to conflate Puritans and pietists.


  97. Jeff, thanks for the link. I don’t see anything in your posts with which to take exception, except perhaps for the historical judgments you make at the end. What I would say, though, is that you don’t need to follow Spener to be a pietist. A pietist, as I see it, is someone who elevates personal and informal piety over churchly and corporate piety, someone who puts their own experience above an experience regulated by the corporate piety of a communion of saints. It is hard to see how Edwards avoids that pitfall.


  98. Well, OK, let’s explore this a bit.

    Personal piety? Given that Edwards is a congregationalist, I would say No. He rather tends to uphold the authority of the minister of the church. He affirms the means of grace. In Thoughts on Revival, he sharply criticizes the tendency to make personal judgments about the salvation of individuals or of ministers (Tennent, anyone?).

    He can fairly be charged with being experimentalist, along with most Puritans. But for Edwards, experimentalism is connected with (a) postmillennial hopes about the church, and (b) a delight in empiricism in general.

    His concern about expressed piety has to do with questions like “Who is qualified to take communion?”

    For Edwards, the axis is not personal v. corporate piety, but outwardly visible v outwardly not visible piety. You and I both have some problems with that still, but he’s not taking his piety outside the church. When Whitefield shows up in Northhampton in 1740, he preaches in Edwards’ church.

    Informal piety? Somewhat, but not very. Edwards in Thoughts is very critical of those whose expressions of piety are not decent and in order (see the section on Singing, for example). He does allow for groups to sing praises to God out in public, but this is no more than Paul allows, or the Confession even.

    …but God is to be worshipped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself; so, more solemnly in the public assemblies…

    Notice that “in private families daily and in secret” is not the full extent of “everywhere”, but special examples of it (“as”).

    So what do you have in mind saying that Edwards elevates personal and informal piety over churchly and corporate piety?


  99. Jeff, Edwards wrote Religious Affections, not a Treatise on the Lord’s Supper. The 600 pound gorilla is in the room (outside the church). And I’m not all that persuaded by Whitefield’s preaching in E’s church. Whitefield had been preaching indiscriminately. It’s like letting Billy Graham preach in your church. That doesn’t reveal something? Remember too, that the Puritans weren’t wild about Anglicans, which is what Whitefield was. But again the piety of revival washes away ecclesiastical identities.

    Yes, Edwards is following in the tradition of practical divinity. Maybe it’s time we think about the pietistic tendency of practical divinity. Maybe it’s also time for proponents of practical divinity to step up and defend pietism.


  100. DGH: Maybe it’s time we think about the pietistic tendency of practical divinity. Maybe it’s also time for proponents of practical divinity to step up and defend pietism.

    OK, start the ball rolling. In what way does practical divinity have a pietistic tendency?


  101. DGH: not a Treatise on the Lord’s Supper.

    Don’t forget his treatise on qualifications for the Lord’s Supper.

    But the point I’m trying to make in the articles is this. Edwards marks an important turning point: a friend to the good in revivals is nevertheless willing to say that much of what revivalists value is of no importance. I think that ought to count for something.


  102. Jeff, there is plenty in Philip Benedict’s history of Calvinism to chew on this regard. Here’s part of one comment I made at Old Life a while back:

    Here’s another point for Bill and David to consider. Philip Benedict’s remarkable book on the social history of Calvinism (Yale, 2002) points to the rise of Puritan practical divinity about the time (late 16th and early 17th centuries) when hopes for a reformed church looked least achievable through the methods of presbyterial and synodical oversight. This tradition was particularly concerned with making one’s election sure and called for marks of salvation such as assurance, sincerity, sound regeneration and sanctification, inward peace, perseverence. It could go in anti-nomian and neo-nomian directions.


  103. Jeff, but this is precisely my point. A treatise on qualifications for the Lord’s Supper is some distance from one on the benefits of the sacrament.

    Look, Edwards was a friend of Tennent and Whitefield. Yes, he criticized their personal excesses. But he did not critique their ecclesiology.


  104. Ok – I’m the dumb Lutheran here, but what if this argument over pietism has become distorted and we aren’t seeing it straight anymore? I’m not saying I have the answers, but the disagreement of pietism versus confessionalism is beginning to seem strange.

    1. Pietism = me-ism. It’s all about me: what I think, feel, do – turned inward and wallowing in self. It’s a perfect match for the narcissistic therapeutic culture we live in.

    2. Confessional Christianity = what we confess. It’s all about Who Christ IS and What Christ DID – turned outward to God and away from self. (eg: we confess the Nicene Creed and that it’s radical claims are true). It is antithetical to a me-ism culture.

    Lutherette rant: on

    I really don’t give a d*mn about exploring religious affections and me-ism. That is useless self-indulgent BS. My neighbor and I need to hear the church confess Christ. We need the Christ who died on Good Friday. Who wasn’t merely dead, but most completely and sincerely dead. Deader than a doornail. We don’t need docetists who give lip-service to Christ’s death, where he’s dead, but he’s well, not so really dead since he is about to be raised. No, Christ was a dead corpse on Good Friday and his corpse was not a shell that was no longer needed. The Resurrection is not some story of some guy overcoming great adversity that gives us inspiration to be good people doing good works with the right affections. It is the earth shattering news of God raising the truly dead corpse of the God-man and the utter defeat of sin, death, and the devil. It is God’s triumph over our hopeless sinful condition and our death sentence for being sinners. It is God giving us the inexplicable good news of Who He IS and What He DID.

    Pietism is the useless confession of self and my experiences. The church confesses Christ and the power of salvation. If you hear and believe the Truth – it will change you because the Truth does that and the Holy Spirit is at work in us. Pietistic confessions of self have no power to do anything and merely muddies the water on what it means to be a Christian. It is the slow unglamorous growth in the mercy of God for me in Christ alone that changes me not pietistic sojourns in the la-la land of me-ism.

    Lutherette rant: off


  105. DGH: his tradition was particularly concerned with making one’s election sure and called for marks of salvation such as assurance, sincerity, sound regeneration and sanctification, inward peace, perseverence. It could go in anti-nomian and neo-nomian directions…

    I think this is much more likely to be fruitful. Trying to make Puritanism a sub-species of pietism seems doomed to failure; it’s like trying to explore the “fish-like tendencies” of dolphins.

    What both seem to have in common, though is neo-nomianism: Get in by faith, stay in by works.

    Don’t get me wrong. I consider experimental theology a huge mistake, perhaps the mistake that accounts for about half of New England’s spiritual deadness today (the other half being the rise of Unitarianism). So I would never try to defend it.

    But I don’t think we should try to wed it to a movement in a different denomination on a different continent motivated by different concerns. Right?


  106. Lily: I think we agree on rejecting me-ism.

    A trio of questions, though.

    (1) I wonder where you are going with the seeming dismissal of the Resurrection? The resurrection seems to loom large in Paul’s theology, in particular with the Christian’s uniting with Christ in His power over sin and death. Take a look at Rom 8.1-17, esp. v. 11.

    I don’t think you deny this; it’s just that you seem a bit one-sidedly “crucio-centric”, which is usually a more Catholic thing to do. So what’s up with that?

    (2) What *is* the Lutheran understanding of the third use of the Law? Let’s grant that we never get past being sinners. I’m not talking about “getting justified, then moving past that.”

    But the fact remains that being justified is not the sum total of our salvation. We might (DGH, for example) call it the center of our salvation; but it is not the entirety of it. Do you agree?

    (3) And if so, then how would you characterize the Christian’s relationship to God’s commands? You wake up in the morning. You go about your day. How does God’s law figure in to your day?



  107. Hi Jeff,

    If we agree on me-ism – we would agree on Edwards?

    1) I’m not dismissing the Resurrection (perhaps it would be good to examine your beliefs to see if you have some doecism trying to sneak under your radar?) – I’m trying to point out the dismissal of the crucifixion. Have we died and been buried with Christ in baptism or not? If not, Edwards pietism is fine. If yes, we die to self daily and live in Christ who is our justification, sanctification, wisdom, and so forth (present tense) with the certain hope of being resurrected with him with all of those benefits (future tense). We have been justified, given a deposit in this temporal life, and the Holy Spirit is at work in us (present tense). Important distinctions when dealing with the road you want to approve. Self indulgence in Edwards’ sophisticated me-ism is not death to self. A little self-indulgence is like saying I want to be a little pregnant – t’aint no such thing. There is enough law in the Bible to kill that Old Adam in us without excursions into self-indulgent speculations. Old Adam is not trainable – that why he has to be put to death – he resuscitates himself when he’s fed me-ism and would love to cloak himself with the “right” affections.

    2) I don’t have time to do a proper explanation of the Lutheran view of the third use of the law. I will try to look into that at another time or you can google for one. As for justification (grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone), this is our center and it’s unwise to not keep it central – much of what salvation means is inexplicable and future tense. If you want to pull back the curtain with Edwards and want to try to see God’s hidden work in yourself or in others – all I can say is wrong (nasty buzzer signaling wrong answer in the background) and tell you to get your eyes off of yourself – die! to self and get your eyes on serving the people around you. God had promised you salvation and he is sanctifying you. Trust him and resist the temptation to speculate on things you cannot know.

    3) What do I focus on each day? I certainly don’t try to figure out how to not sin or rely on how I feel. I put my whole trust into the objective truth of God’s mercy for me in Christ. I deal with the work that is set before me each day and the denial of my pietistic nature’s desire to focus on me (or make it all about me) instead of what the people around me need (other focused). Do I flunk? Sure, but it’s a life of daily denial of self, repentance, and faith in Christ. For I have died and been buried with Christ in baptism. Until my body is a corpse, Judgment day arrives, and I am resurrected from the dead (the sum of my salvation) – I have to deal with dying daily and living in a temporal world.

    P.S. Please don’t nitpick – this is a rough outline – ok? Pax.


  108. P.S. Jeff – can’t spell today – that’s docetism and guess where my brain is today since it’s Good Friday? 😉


  109. Jeff, I don’t know the origins of German pietism. But why can’t we call Edwards and English pietist? There was a lot of transferrence among anti-broad church Protestants in the 17th and 18th centuries.

    Either way, Edwards fits the definition of pietism in several ways.


  110. Lily: If we agree on me-ism – we would agree on Edwards?

    Not if we disagree on the facts. I don’t consider Edwards nearly as me-ist as you do, apparently. But if we agreed on the facts, we would certainly agree on the diagnosis. Out with me-ism!

    Lily: perhaps it would be good to examine your beliefs to see if you have some doecism trying to sneak under your radar?

    Why would I try to identify my own theological faults when others do it for me so readily? 🙂


  111. Hi Jeff,

    Yeah, shuffle, shuffle of feet with red face… you are right about the docetism – definitely went too far. May I plead Good Friday brain, not meaning it as an accusation but well-intentioned stupidity, offer an apology, and eat crow?

    I am thankful for what we agree on, but Edwards is still an area we don’t see eye-to-eye. I can’t see myself changing my view of his work as feeding the Old Adam with sophisticated me-ism. And seeing Edwards as being not nearly as me-ist reminds me of an alcoholic switching from Scottish whiskey to 3.2 beer because it doesn’t have as much alcohol. If it was a secular work, I wouldn’t have such strong objections to it – if that makes sense.


  112. Lily, it does. We expect poison bits in secular works and therefore digest them carefully.

    I would suggest that we should actually do the same with Christian works. There’s much to criticize about Edwards’ Religious Affections (I did!), but there’s something there of value there, too.

    Here are two such things:

    (1) Edwards’ method is to “be a friend to the good and an opponent of the bad.”

    I find that method to be more in keeping with the method of Scripture, than to define a group of “theological heroes” around whom one rallies. (I’m speaking generally here, not at you).

    (2) If we understand “true religion” as “the fruit of salvation”, then Edwards appears to be correct that the fruit of salvation includes a change in our affections. From a Scriptural point of view, who can argue that the fruit of the Spirit includes love, joy, peace, patience, etc.? Or as the Confession says,

    1. Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the Gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ.

    2. By it, a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavouring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments.

    3. Although repentance be not to be rested in, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God’s free grace in Christ; yet it is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it. — WCoF 15.1-3.

    or again,

    All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. — WCoF 10.1

    Now, you and I agree (I think) that these things are works of God that we cannot create in ourselves, and that it is no use to try. But we should also agree, should we not, that these works of God are *real* and do accompany salvation?

    There is an analogy here with following the Law. We agree that law-keeping is non-salvific, and that attempting to keep the law out of the power of the flesh is to betray the Gospel.

    But we also agree, do we not, that the work of God in our lives is to make our hearts more desirous of following His law through the Spirit?

    That desire to follow God’s law (which Luther taught (Concord VI.11), borrowing from Augustine, borrowing from Paul) is precisely the same as Edwards’ “holy affections.”

    So where’s the complaint with that?!

    In fact, Luther even taught a bit of self-examination:

    Let every one, then, see to it that he esteem this commandment great and high above all things, and do not regard it as a joke. Ask and examine your heart diligently, and you will find whether it cleaves to God alone or not. If you have a heart that can expect of Him nothing but what is good, especially in want and distress, and that, moreover, renounces and forsakes everything that is not God, then you have the only true God. If, on the contrary, it cleaves to anything else, of which it expects more good and help than of God, and does not take refuge in Him, but in adversity flees from Him, then you have an idol, another god. — Larger Catechism, 1st Commandment

    Now, Edwards falters greatly when it comes to carefully distinguishing law and gospel in his treatment of affections. But that there *are* affections, caused by God, which are evidences of faith? I think he’s right.


  113. Jeff – you were not churlish and many thanks for being forgiven. I was really out-of-line.

    We most certainly agree about being careful in any kind of reading. I think I get rowdy about Christian books because not everyone has enough catechesis to sift them like you can. You did give good criticisms of Edwards and I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

    Here are my responses to your outline (I put them in the order presented):

    1) Sigh… I still prefer cleaner wells and solid theologians who don’t need so much sifting to find the wheat.

    2) If we understand “true religion” as “the fruit of salvation”

    While it’s true that our hearts are changed and there is the fruit of the Holy Spirit – do you know how weird that sounds to my ears? It doesn’t sit right and I haven’t put my finger on why yet – but I’d bet you a dollar to a donut it’s shifting the emphasis of something that shouldn’t be shifted.

    As usual, I can’t comment on your confessions. While we agree that salvation is the work of God, I think we differ on whether we can identify, measure, or quantify it in ourselves or others. Gerhard Forde expresses my sentiments as well as other oldsters:

    “But if we are saved and sanctified only by the unconditional grace of God, we ought to be able to become more truthful and lucid about the way things really are with us. Am I making progress? If I am really honest, it seems to me that the question is odd, even a little ridiculous. As I get older and death draws nearer, I don’t seem to be getting better. I get a little more impatient, a little more anxious about having perhaps missed what this life has to offer, a little slower, harder to move, a little more sedentary and set in my ways. Am I making progress? Well, maybe it seems as though I sin less, but that may only be because I’m getting tired! It’s just too hard to keep indulging the lusts of youth. Is that sanctification? I wouldn’t think so! One should not, I expect, mistake encroaching senility for sanctification! But can it be, perhaps, that it is precisely the unconditional gift of grace that helps me to see and admit all that? I hope so. The grace of God should lead us to see the truth about ourselves, and to gain a certain lucidity, a certain humor, a certain down-to-earthness.” (Christian Spirituality)

    3) That desire to follow God’s law (which Luther taught (Concord VI.11), borrowing from Augustine, borrowing from Paul) is precisely the same as Edwards’ “holy affections.” So where’s the complaint with that?!

    HUGE complaint. Reread the Luther from your previous comment (below). Luther’s focus and emphasis is on faith in Christ there is no mention of affections or fruit production.

    Let every one, then, see to it that he esteem this commandment great and high above all things, and do not regard it as a joke. Ask and examine your heart diligently, and you will find whether it cleaves to God alone or not. If you have a heart that can expect of Him nothing but what is good, especially in want and distress, and that, moreover, renounces and forsakes everything that is not God, then you have the only true God. If, on the contrary, it cleaves to anything else, of which it expects more good and help than of God, and does not take refuge in Him, but in adversity flees from Him, then you have an idol, another god. — Larger Catechism, 1st Commandment

    See this also from the Epitome of the Formula of Concord

    5] 4. Now, as regards the distinction between the works of the Law and the fruits of the Spirit, we believe, teach, and confess that the works which are done according to the Law are and are called works of the Law as long as they are only extorted from man by urging the punishment and threatening of God’s wrath.

    6] 5. Fruits of the Spirit, however, are the works which the Spirit of God who dwells in believers works through the regenerate, and which are done by believers so far as they are regenerate [spontaneously and freely], as though they knew of no command, threat, or reward; for in this manner the children of God live in the Law and walk according to the Law of God, which [mode of living] St. Paul in his epistles calls the Law of Christ and the Law of the mind, Rom. 7:25; 8:7; Rom. 8:2; Gal. 6:2.

    You will never find Edwardsean thinking in any of the Lutheran Confessions or Luther’s work. So… we are back to square one on Edwards. 😉


  114. Hi Jeff,

    I think I’m beginning to understand why #2 [If we understand “true religion” as “the fruit of salvation”] does not sit right with me. The term “true religion” is strange because salvation is true religion. The term appears to be more of pietism’s efforts to discern nominal believers from true believers or trying to separate tares and wheat. For what is salvation?

    “Salvation is a gift of God by which we come to the right knowledge of Christ as our Redeemer in the Word of the Gospel, and trust in Him that for the sake of His obedience alone we have, by grace, the forgiveness of sins, are regarded as holy and righteous before God the Father, and eternally saved.”

    The newest Christian is just as saved as oldest Christian. It is the confession of faith in Christ for me. Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

    The term “fruits of salvation” doesn’t sit right either because it is not a synonym for the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is a package deal for if we are saved there will be good works and the fruit of the Holy Spirit. If we want to speak of maturing in what we have received (salvation), then – growth in the grace of God for us in Christ – seems the better expression of what happens over time and avoids the pietistic pitfall of trying to separate believers into hierarchies or trying to determine who are true or false believers by their good works of the fruit of the Holy Spirit which is an exercise in speculative and subjective standards.

    There is wisdom in facing the fact that many weaknesses and defects cling to the true believers and truly regenerate, even to the grave, still they must not on that account doubt either their righteousness which has been imputed to them by faith, or the salvation of their souls, but must regard it as certain that for Christ’s sake, according to the promise and [immovable] Word of the holy Gospel, they have a gracious God. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.

    Does that help clear up my objections to #2?


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