Thursday, May 14, 2009

Calvinism: dead and buried?

Every Christian should read (or listen to) some historical theology. Knowing our church history is good, but we also need to be acquainted with the great theologians and their works, and the great controversies and their outcomes. I'm quite persuaded that this will enable us to look upon the present scene with refreshed vision and a clearer perspective, and we will be better placed to see the durability of truth and the changing shadows of error.

In the opening chapter of Living for God's Glory: an introduction to Calvinism Joel Beeke quotes the following words from William Ellery Channing, the nineteenth century unitarian preacher:
Calvinism, we are persuaded, is giving place to better views. It has passed its meridian, and is sinking to rise no more. It has to contend with foes more powerful than theologians; with foes from whom it cannot shield itself in mystery and metaphysical subtleties--we mean the progress of the human mind, and the progress of the spirit of the gospel. Society is going forward in intelligence and charity, and of course is leaving the theology of the sixteenth century behind it. (p. 12)
From the vantage point of 2009, 167 years since William Ellery Channing died, it has become all too clear to us that technolgical progress and moral progress were not woven indelibly together. The heart has remained deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.

Contrast his words with those of C.H. Spurgeon written in 1874:

Those who labour to smother "Calvinism" will find that it dies hard, and, it may be, they will come, after many defeats, to perceive the certain fact that it will outlive its opponents. Its funeral oration has been pronounced many times before now, but the performance has been premature. It will live when the present phase of religious misbelief has gone down to eternal execration amid the groans of those whom it has undone.

To-day it may be sneered at; nonetheless, it is but yesterday that it numbered among its adherents the ablest men of the age; and to-morrow, it may be, when once again there shall be giants in theology, it will come to the front, and ask in vain for its adversaries.


Robert Morgen said...

Very nice article! :)

Anonymous said...

Well said. Thanks frothe reminder to read dead guys.

Tim Ashcraft said...

Excellent quotes! The first one because of its unintended irony.