If I Were Bishop

Bill Evans has some thoughts he thinks appropriate for the Advent Season:

From what antecedents does POEC [Paleo-orthodox ecclesial Calvinism] draw? POEC finds much to appreciate in the seminal work of John Calvin, but it is a critical and contextual reading of Calvin. This is no simplistic effort to pit “Calvin against the later Calvinists” (as some have recently alleged). Rather, it recognizes that the Reformed tradition has always been diverse and that realism in the trajectory of Calvin has always had its exponents. We also find much to ponder in critical appropriations (as opposed to mere parroting or repristinating) of Jonathan Edwards in the eighteenth century, John W. Nevin of Mercersburg, James Henley Thornwell and John B. Adger of Columbia, and W. G. T. Shedd in the nineteenth, and Geerhardus Vos, Thomas F. Torrance of Scotland, and Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. in the twentieth.

Since none of the figures mentioned, with the exception possibly of Torrance, would have countenanced Advent (not sure where Gaffin stands), Evans’ construction of a Protestant tradition looks fairly arbitrary.

Of course, Evans is not alone in this. Peter Leithart is similarly episcopal in his theological creativity. Meanwhile, Jason and the Callers concoct a Roman Catholic tradition that defies what their own bishops tolerate or enforce.

The fix for Christians who want to be ecclesial is not to abstract ecclesial Christianity (whether Roman Catholic or Protestant) from an actual church. It is, instead, to identify with the communion to which you belong. If you want your own communion to be more ecclesial, seek its ecclesial health on its own terms. (Serve as an officer, shovel the sidewalks, prepare traybakes for pot luck suppers, call attention to your communion’s own ecclesiology.)

For Calvinists, this should also include remembering basic Reformed Protestant objections to church calendars:

The Time Necessary for Worship. Although religion is not bound to time, yet it cannot be cultivated and exercised without a proper distribution and arrangement of time. Every Church, therefore, chooses for itself a certain time for public prayers, and for the preaching of the Gospel, and for the celebration of the sacraments; and no one is permitted to overthrow this appointment of the Church at his own pleasure. For unless some due time and leisure is given for the outward exercise of religion, without doubt men would be drawn away from it by their own affairs.

The Lord’s Day. Hence we see that in the ancient churches there were not only certain set hours in the week appointed for meetings, but that also the Lord’s Day itself, ever since the apostles’ time, was set aside for them and for a holy rest, a practice now rightly preserved by our Churches for the sake of worship and love.

Superstition. In this connection we do not yield to the Jewish observance and to superstitions. For we do not believe that one day is any holier than another, or think that rest in itself is acceptable to God. Moreover, we celebrate the Lord’s Day and not the Sabbath as a free observance.

The Festivals of Christ and the Saints. Moreover, if in Christian liberty the churches religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord’s nativity, circumcision, passion, resurrection, and of his ascension into heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, we approve of it highly. But we do not approve of feasts instituted for men and for saints. Holy days have to do with the first Table of the Law and belong to God alone. Finally, holy days which have been instituted for the saints and which we have abolished, have much that is absurd and useless, and are not to be tolerated. In the meantime, we confess that the remembrance of saints, at a suitable time and place, is to be profitably commended to the people in sermons, and the holy examples of the saints set forth to be imitated by all. (Second Helvetic Confession, 24)

Seasons farewells.

10 thoughts on “If I Were Bishop

  1. “The fix for Christians who want to be ecclesial is not to abstract ecclesial Christianity (whether Roman Catholic or Protestant) from an actual church. It is, instead, to identify with the communion to which you belong. If you want your own communion to be more ecclesial, seek its ecclesial health on its own terms. (Serve as an officer, shovel the sidewalks, prepare traybakes for pot luck suppers, call attention to your communion’s own ecclesiology.)”

    Will this fit on a Xmas card? Good stuff and OL is the only place you’ll find it.


  2. Agreed, local churches reform as elders, deacons, and members work out (or tolerate) the modest, practical implications of Reformed doctrine and practice, like not whining when the worship hall doesn’t resemble a shopping mall window display in December, singing Psalms even if it seems a little weird, and not envying the showier cultural engagement of the garden-variety evangelical church down the street. Ordinary means of grace means, well…ordinary sometimes.


  3. Who isn’t a prime member these days, anyway? How else would we get those packages upon packages shipped for free, and movies like this just a click of a Roku remote away? Watched it two nights ago. Classic.

    As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.

    Thank you, interwebs (extra happy emoticon).



  4. Leithart—“Sanders reads something into the essay that’s not there when he claims that it involves “a massive act of catastrophic silencing” that creates a “new dark ages” between the Reformation and the present. No. The essay is not about historical theology; I didn’t mention confessional Protestants among the heroes of the Reformational Catholic because heirs of the Reformation already take them as heroes. In any event, the main point was not historical at all. The article… offers a sketch of one form or of contemporary Protestantism, and contrasts to that a Catholic Protestantism that presently exists only in pockets and is mainly an item of hope.

    mark: As Hart has already pointed out, this second “form of Protestantism” is neither historic nor catholic but the sectarian brand now being marketed by James Jordan, Doug Wilson, and Peter Leithart. Not even all the fans of Nevin are on board the train led by the sectarian bishop now commodified as “N T Wright”. The old Tom Wright who wrote for Banner of Truth must go down the memory hole, because those who promote the “new” version of future discontinuity do so in the name of “catholic” continuity.

    It’s like Scott Clark contrasting Moses with Abraham but forgetting to mention that Abraham had two sons.


  5. Darryl:

    Aw, don’t ruin my Advent and Christmas season. Of course it’s man-made, but so are the bricks, roof, and the pipe organ. Oh well, I did not how my Reformed friends have been kinder to me this year. Anyways, speaking of Bullinger, Cranmer, a lectionary, the seasons, the Prayer Book…and to remind myself…the seasons offer good order and discipline. That’s the “two things” that were good with the Restoration of 1662: the BCP and, thankfully, the seasons and days of remembrance. Now, some Bullinger and a very interesting scholar.

    Bullinger said what? See below. 1553? Cranmer’s 1552 Book of Common Prayer was going to press. (Then he lost his life to the Anglo-Italians on 21ish Nov 1556, if memory serves me.)

    Carrie Euler’s “Couriers of the Gospel: England and Zurich, 1531-1558”

    A friend posted this 24 Dec 2013. This is a real present for Christmas. Finally, a scholar who gets it, to wit, the “Reformed nature” of the English Reformers.


    Online at:

    Euler, Carrie. Couriers of the Gospel: England and Zurich, 1531-1558. No location: Theologisher Verlag Zurich, 2006.


    In a speech before Zurich’s city council in 1553, Heinrich Bullinger declared that “the crown of England has entirely the teaching and faith that we also have.” These words suggest a more direct and abiding relationship between the English and Zurich Reformations than has been recognized by previous historians. This book deepens our understanding of Swiss and English Protestantism, while simultaneously shedding light on the interactive practices of early modern cultural and intellectual communities and the history of the book. Three aspects of Zurich theology and practice attracted English evangelicals to Zurich’s tradition of Reformed Protestantism: rejection of the material aspects of Catholic piety, a strong anti-Anabaptist tradition, and stress on the unity of the religious and secular spheres under the authority of the civil magistrate. Dr Euler illustrates how English reformers adopted these ideas and applied them in England, allowing reformers like Bullinger to point to England as a potential ally and model of success for the Zurich tradition. Carrie Euler received her Ph. D. from Johns Hopkins University in 2004. She has published several articles on the Zurich and English Reformations in various volumes and journals, including the Sixteenth Century Journal. She is currently Assistant Professor of History at Central Michigan University.”

    And, now, for the Collect for Christmas, dare we?

    The Collect of Christmas Day.

    ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure Virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen

    Merry Christmas, all my Reformed friends.


  6. “traybakes”

    I had to look that up. Must be a Pennsylvania term.

    “Finally, holy days which have been instituted for the saints and which we have abolished, have much that is absurd and useless, and are not to be tolerated.”

    If Bryan was there when the Second Helvetic was written he would have thrown an Ad Hominem flag.


  7. Long live the Grinch sez Bob Humbug

    More Hard Knox for Xmas keepers

    In Knox, Works, Vol. vi, pp. 547-48. The same position is expressed in the Second Scotch Confession (1580), which rejects the “dedicating of kirks, altars, days.”

    The position of the Scottish Church was reaffirmed in 1566. Theodore Beza wrote to Knox, requesting Scottish approval for the Second Helvetic Confession (1566). The General Assembly in Scotland replied with a letter of general approval. Nevertheless, the Assembly could scarcely refrain from mentioning, with regard to what is written in the 24th chapter of the aforesaid Confession concerning the “festival of our Lord’s nativity, … passion, resurrection, ascension, …that these festivals at the present time obtain no place among us; for we dare not religiously celebrate any other feast-day than what the divine oracles prescribed.”


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