Monday, November 23, 2020

“The History & Theology of Calvinism” by Curt Daniel, Chapter Eight, titled The Westminster Assembly

 

This is a relatively brief chapter divided into four subheadings, History, The Westminster Standards, Related Documents, and Conclusion.

My wife and I had the great privilege of going to the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey in London some years ago (pictured). It was a bit eerie to visit the room where such a monumental undertaking was conducted. I think it would serve us well for me to quote the first paragraph of the chapter. “What many theologians considered to have been the largest gathering of spiritual giants since the days of the apostles met from 1643 to 1648 in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey in London. The documents they produced also rank among the theologically richest in all church history. No study of Calvinism is complete without a look at the Westminster assembly, its participants, and its documents.”



History. This portion of the chapter consists of five paragraphs containing several historical details that I suspect would be of little interest to those reading this blog. However, it might interest my readers to know that the Assembly met in 1163 sessions over almost five years. Of the 151 members, 121 were theologians and pastors, 30 were lay “assessors” (20 from the House of Commons and ten from the House of Lords). Most of the members were Presbyterians. Five were Independents. A few were Anglicans. None of them were Baptists. There were no Arminians, Catholics, Quakers, or Lutherans. On average, there were 70 men present each day, with occasional days of prayer and fasting. Every member took the following vow, which was read aloud every Monday morning:

I do solemnly promise and vow, in the presence of Almighty God, that in this Assembly whereof I am a member, I will maintain nothing in point of doctrine but what I believe to be most agreeable to the Word of God; nor in point of discipline, but what may make most for God’s glory and the peace and good of His church.”

Notable among the 151 were John Arrowsmith, Thomas Goodwin, Thomas Gataker, Anthony Tuckney, William Gouge, Anthony Burgess, Jeremiah Burroughs, Edward Reynolds, and Thomas Manton. The only member to attend every session was John Lightfoot.

The Westminster Standards. The Westminster Assembly issued several documents, three of which stand out. The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) is most famous. Longer than most Reformed confessions, Baptists in London revised it in 1677 but did not publish it until 1688/89 as the Second London Confession of Faith (also known as the Baptist Confession of 1689). The author suggests the Baptists revised the Westminster Confession to reflect Baptist ecclesiology. That the Baptists of London revised the Westminster Confession is true. That it reflects Baptist ecclesiology, I dispute.[1] I think the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith wrongly reflects Protestant ecclesiology. The Assembly also issued the Shorter Catechism, having 107 questions and answers meant for the instruction of children. The Larger Catechism has 196 questions and much fuller answers.

Related Documents. The author references several works produced by members of the Assembly. The Sum of Saving Knowledge (1650), The Form of Presbyterial-Church Government (1645), The Directory for the Public Worship of God (1645), The Directory for Family Worship (1647), The Westminster Annotations (1647), and The Metrical Psalter.

Conclusion. The author summarizes the history of the period by suggesting that the greatest legacy of the Puritans is the Westminster Confession and Shorter Catechism.



[1] See my book John S. Waldrip, The Church of Jesus Christ: 28 Truths Every Christian Ought To Learn, (Monrovia, CA: Classical Baptist Press, 2019), available at www.ClassicalBaptist.Press and on Amazon.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Some Thoughts Come To Mind After Reading Booker T. Washington's Autobiography, "Up From Slavery"

 

The three most constructive figures in the American civil rights movement were Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington (picture), and Martin Luther King Junior. I have intentionally left out from this list of three towering figures W. E. B. Du Bois. This has been intentional since Dubois was a communist who advocated for political power in a fashion that I do not believe helped the black community of his day.


Frederick Douglass was a former slave who escaped to the north and developed into the most captivating orator of his day. He was an advocate for abolishing slavery before and during the Civil War and was very active for civil rights following the war. Of course, people of our day recognize the name of Martin Luther King Jr., with those of my age remembering his spellbinding deliveries of speeches and sermons and his effectiveness as a nonviolent protester on behalf of black civil rights and in opposition to Jim Crow laws. I well remember as a young teenager the heartache I felt upon hearing of his assassination.

Between those two towering figures was a man of unparalleled wisdom and discernment, also a towering figure in his own right, but in a different way. While Booker T. Washington was not an orator in the same vein as Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr., he was a profoundly compelling public speaker. His effectiveness as a speaker, as an educator, and as a builder of responsible and accomplished men and women owed more to his incredible work ethic, his keen insight into human nature, and his grasp of the most effective strategy to be employed by the black community in the South in overcoming the racism and the fear of the southern white majority.

I am sorry I came to read this book so late in my life and ministry. I had the privilege of being born in 1950 to a mother and father born and raised in the deep South, but who had no detectable racial bias that I have ever perceived. My earliest memories as a child were a vacation trip from the Indian reservation in South Dakota. My dad taught high school for the Bureau of Indian affairs to my grandparents in Texas’s panhandle. My mother, younger brother, and I rode in the car’s back seat while my dad drove with one of his colleagues. That colleague was a black man sitting on the passenger side in the front seat. Only later in life did I realize what an unusual occurrence that was in 1955.

Living in Florida from 1960 to 1965 meant that the civil rights movement unfolding in the deep South was ever before me. I even remember another vacation, this time in 1963, driving from southern Florida again to Texas’s panhandle, with my father detouring through Selma, Alabama to show us where the Selma march had occurred and explained to his two boys the significance of the March. My brother and I were profoundly blessed to not only grow up in that era but to have the parents that we had who displayed to us no detectable racial bias, ever.

I knew of Martin Luther King Jr. from a boy. I learned of Frederick Douglass in high school. But it was not until I was a young man that I heard of W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, two men with radically opposing views about the strategy the black community should adopt to gain equal footing after the Civil War and into the 20th century.

This book is a must-read for every black person. I think it is a must-read for every pastor. This autobiography presents one of the pivotal figures in American history and race relations for the half-century following the Civil War. Decide for yourself if Booker T. Washington’s approach was the correct one. I have.

Monday, November 9, 2020

“The History & Theology of Calvinism” by Curt Daniel, Chapter Seven, titled The Puritans

 

Before continuing with my review of chapter 7, The Puritans, I thought it might be useful to revisit a portion of my original blog post dated October 14, 2020, where I announced my intention to write these chapter reviews.

As I prepare to read this massive book, I think it would be good to reflect on a few things before starting:

Number one, it must be incredibly stupid to form an opinion about a man without having read any portion of his body of work. I know many people have unjustified and unwarranted thoughts because the basis of their views is a rumor, innuendo, and gossip. It should be every gospel minister’s posture to avoid, whenever possible, having a decided opinion about anyone or anything he has not personally studied. To have an opinion about John Calvin or his doctrinal position without reading John Calvin is not just stupid and ill-advised; it is lazy. There is no room in the gospel ministry for intellectual laziness. We have too much of that already.

Number two, it isn't very reasonable to evaluate someone who lived long ago by modern-day standards. An example of this came to me yesterday when I learned that late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon performed a black face comedy routine 20 years ago when he was on the cast of Saturday Night Live. Of course, the cancel culture wants him fired today for doing something 20 years ago that was at that time acceptable to everyone in the entertainment industry. However, gospel ministers have long been guilty of the same kind of cancel culture thinking.

The subheadings of Chapter 7, The Puritans, are Origins of Puritanism, The Anglican Puritans, The Presbyterian Puritans, The Independent Puritans, The Baptist Puritans, The Scottish Puritans, Further History, and Conclusion. Quotations typically indicate the author’s exact words.

“To some, the Puritans were superstitious and ignorant witch-burners. To others, they were revolutionary fanatics who overthrew the English monarchy and grabbed all the power they could get. To still others, the Puritans were unsmiling legalists who carried their religion too far. Or they were just religious hypocrites.”

“All these opinions are wrong. In truth, the Puritans were among the leading intellectuals and godliest Christians in England from 1570 to 1700. They had various ecclesiastical views in different on other issues. But they were all evangelical, Bible believing Calvinists and as such are worthy of our study, respect, and imitation.”

Origins of Puritanism. Puritanism arose in England when 800 Protestant leaders sought refuge from “Bloody Mary” by fleeing to Europe, especially to Geneva. Others went underground. About 300 were martyred. The heart of the movement began at the White Horse Inn and in Cambridge University. These “Cambridge Calvinists” wanted to duplicate what their Swiss and Scottish brethren had achieved in church and society. One of the results of their activity that I was previously unaware of was that King James I commissioned the Authorized Version of the Bible, known as the King James Version of 1611. “It eventually became more popular than the more Reformed Geneva Bible.”

The Anglican Puritans. This subheading is quite lengthy, the author mentions several Anglican Puritans I am not familiar with, but I recognize some names. He says William Perkins was the most prominent of his era, whose book The Art of Prophesying is in my library. Another is William Ames, a disciple of Perkins, and the author of the work on the conscience, a topic I think had not been addressed from that day until John MacArthur’s book on the subject a year or two ago. Then, of course, there is Richard Sibbes, whose works are cherished by many. Who has not heard of Archbishop James Ussher, William Twisse, John Trapp, William Gurnall, Matthew Poole, Richard Baxter (pictured), and the poet John Milton? Gurnall, Poole, Baxter, and Milton are very profitable to read, in my opinion. C. H. Spurgeon recommended Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor as the best practical pastoral theology ever written. Many dunces have avoided The Reformed Pastor, thinking it was a manual on Calvinistic theology. It is, instead, one of the best practical pastoral guides ever written.


The Presbyterian Puritans. The main difference between the Anglican and the Presbyterian Puritans was their view of church government. Anglicans embrace the notion that the church should be ruled by bishops, with Presbyterians persuaded elders should lead the church. Steven Charnock, Thomas Watson, John Flavel, and Matthew Henry were of this persuasion. These four men’s writings have been profoundly beneficial to Christians and gospel ministers down through the centuries. The greatest gospel preacher of the 20th century, in my opinion, was D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. A trained medical doctor with a sterling reputation in his field, Lloyd-Jones never received formal theological training when he left medicine to enter the ministry but benefited tremendously from reading such Puritans as these. Many of Lloyd-Jones’ sermons bear the traces of outlines suggested by Matthew Henry, though his sermons were his own.

The Independent Puritans. This group of Puritans was known as Congregationalists in America. In church polity, Congregationalists were very similar to Baptists, differing on the matter of baptism. There were several different groups of Congregationalists, but some of the names are quite recognizable. John Owen was a Congregationalist Puritan. Thomas Goodwin was a London Congregationalist pastor and president of Magdalen College, Cambridge University. Goodwin was a premillennialist. The most influential of the Independent Puritans, however, was not a gospel minister or scholar, but a statesman and military leader, Oliver Cromwell. A subgroup of the Independents were the Puritans, Separatists, who fled England and went to North America. These Puritans were the Pilgrim Fathers.

The Baptist Puritans. Is it possible for someone to be a real Baptist if he arrives at Baptist convictions and begins to exhibit Baptist practices from Protestantism? Though some Baptists trace their plausible lineage into continental Europe in the dark mists of the barely recorded past, other Baptists sprung up from their study of God’s Word. Apart from any recognizable exposure of anyone we would recognize, they embraced Baptist convictions. Such were the Baptists of England, such as John Smyth (1554-1612), and “the Three K’s,” Hanserd Knollys (1599-1691), William Kiffin (1616-1701), and Benjamin Keach (1640-1704). The two great London Baptist confessions of 1644 and 1689 were a result of their influence, with the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 differing little (on baptism) from the Westminster Confession. The Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 is still popular with contemporary Reformed Baptists. Of course, the most significant Baptist Puritan, and the most read of all the Puritans, was John Bunyan (1628-88) (pictured), the author of such classics as The Pilgrim’s Progress,[1] The Holy War, and Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. I visited his gravesite in Bunhill fields, London, where he is buried with many other Puritans.


The Scottish Puritans. In the five paragraphs under this subheading, the author mentions three men of significance, whose writings I have read and benefited from reading. Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) wrote the pivotal Lex Rex, declaring that the king is not law, but that the law is king. William Guthrie (1620-65) penned The Christian’s Great Interest, a classic on the assurance of salvation. Henry Scougal wrote the classic The Life of God in the Soul of Man, which greatly influenced George Whitfield. It is also a favorite of my friend David M. Coe.

Further History. “Puritanism reached its height around 1650. But there was a severe backlash.” Civil war ensued, the forces of Parliament, led by Oliver Cromwell (pictured), were victorious. For 15 years, God wonderfully blessed English society, and then Cromwell died. His son was an ineffective leader, and the monarchy was restored. 2000 Puritan pastors lost their pastorates. Puritanism survived but in a weakened form. Anglican Puritanism diminished rapidly. English Presbyterianism veered into Arianism in the 1700s. Historic Reformed theology was mainly in the hands of Independence and Baptists.


Conclusion. Historic Calvinism was rediscovered in the mid 20th century. Many of their books have been reprinted. Though unstated by the author, my opinion is that this resurgence can be explained by two men’s influence. The first influence that I’ve already hinted at came from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in London. He was not only the greatest preacher of God’s Word in the 20th century, but he was an unabashed Calvinist who was not shy about his admiration of the Puritans. Secondly, a man named Bob Ross, an author and Christian bookstore owner in Pasadena, Texas took on the enormous task of reprinting C. H. Spurgeon’s sermons. Spurgeon has often been called the last of the Puritans, and so he was in many respects. He admired the Puritans, read the Puritans, quoted the Puritans in his books and his sermons, and in many ways, preserved the heritage of not only Puritanism but also historic Calvinism. Spurgeon was very much the Calvinist. Thus, with Spurgeon in the 19th century (and Bob Ross’ reprints) and Lloyd Jones in the 20th century, a bridge to a 21st-century consciousness and awareness of historic Calvinism can be traced.



[1] Probably the best-selling Christian book ever written in English. Bunyan’s allegory of Christian conversion was thought to be so true to Scripture that although Bunyan was a five-point Calvinist, the book was mandatory reading for all Methodist ministers for more than a century. Sadly, almost no contemporary congregations have any members who have experienced anything like conversion as pictured in Bunyan’s book.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

“The History & Theology of Calvinism” by Curt Daniel, Chapter Six, titled Seventeenth-Century Calvinism.

 

The sixth chapter is a bit longer than the previous chapters. The subheadings are Reformed Scholasticism, The Dutch Further Reformation, Covenant Theology, Jansenism, Cyril Lucaris, Calvin and Calvinism, and Conclusion.

“By the year 1600, Calvinism had spread far and wide in Europe. But in the new century, it underwent new developments and controversies. We have seen the debate over Arminianism; the debates over Amyraldism and antinomianism would follow. But several others bear mentioning, including two outside Protestantism.”

Reformed Scholasticism. Mention is made of the Roman Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas, perhaps the most well-known of the Catholic scholastics. Scholasticism is essentially the blending together by Roman Catholic theologians of theology and Greek philosophy. Noting that Martin Luther and John Calvin rejected scholasticism, for the most part, the author discusses subsequent Reformers and scholasticism. “There is no doubt that Calvin frequently castigated medieval scholasticism in strong terms … My opinion is that Calvin detested Catholic scholasticism, for when he refers to the medieval scholastics, it is usually to disagree with them … His theological method is best described as biblicist rather than scholastic, humanist, or experimental. Remember his frequent cautions against prying into God’s secrets.”

The Dutch Further Reformation. This began at the end of the 16th century along similar lines to Puritanism in England and Pietism in Germany. In this portion of the chapter, the author discusses the pros and cons of this period and favorably mentions Joel Beeke, who wrote one of the forwards to this book.

Covenant Theology. Although the author introduces Covenant Theology in this chapter, he reserves a full discussion in a later chapter. He ends this portion of the chapter, “Seminaries and churches need to teach and preach systematic theology, biblical exegesis, and true spirituality.” I could not agree more.

Jansenism. This interesting subsection deals with a movement inside Roman Catholicism following the Protestant Reformation and the Roman Catholic Church’s reaction with the Council of Trent. He shows how Jansenism was much like Calvinism in many respects and how aggressively the Jesuit order (the Society of Jesus) has strenuously labored to quash any returning to a Catholic kind of Augustinian theology of grace.

Cyril Lucaris. (Pictured) An utterly unknown figure to me before reading this chapter (1570-1638), this Greek Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople showed sympathy for Protestantism in general and Calvinism. He was strongly opposed to the Jesuits, was influenced by the Swiss, Dutch, and English Reformers approved of new translations of the Bible such as the Geneva Bible. He showed his appreciation of the English Puritans by donating the ancient Codex Alexandrinus Bible manuscript to King Charles I of England. He published his Confession of Faith in Geneva in 1629, which was Reformed in tone and content. In it, he affirmed that the church is subject to Scripture, that the elect are eternally and unconditionally predestined by grace alone, that sinners are justified by faith alone, and that the Lord’s Supper and Baptism are the only two sacraments. Unfortunately, the Greek Orthodox hierarchy reacted strongly to Lucaris. He was formally condemned and defrocked by several synods. There were rumors that he was assassinated.


Calvin and Calvinism. Here the author discusses the controversy centered on Calvin and 17th century Calvinists, sometimes referred to as the “Calvin versus the Calvinists” debates. On one side of the debate, the author lists Karl Barth, Holmes Ralston III, Jack Rogers, Brian Armstrong, Alan Clifford, R. T. Kendall, and modern-day “Free Grace” movement figures such as Zane Hodges. On the other side of the debate are Richard Muller, Paul Helm, and Joel Beeke. A central point of the discussion is whether Calvin taught limited atonement. The author writes, “My own view is that there are some good points made on both sides, but in general there was basic continuity rather than discontinuity. I tend to agree that Calvin taught universal atonement (or at least an atonement with more universal aspects than strict libertarian such as John Owen). Likewise, I think his method was not as scholastic as Beza and others … Whether Calvin was infralapsarian or supralapsarian, he certainly taught the mainline Reformed view of election as opposed to the Lutheran, Anabaptist, Arminian, or Barthian views. Contrary to Jack Rogers and Donald McKim, Calvin most certainly did teach biblical inerrancy.”

Conclusion. “Reformed theology was at its high-water mark in the seventeenth century.”

Friday, November 6, 2020

“The History & Theology of Calvinism” by Curt Daniel, Chapter Five.

 The title of the chapter is The Synod of Dort. The subheadings of this chapter are as follows: Jacob Arminius, the Arminians, The Remonstrance, The Anti-Remonstrants, the Synod of Dort, the Canons of Dort, the Aftermath, and Conclusion. I have only a bare familiarity with the material dealt with in this chapter, so for the most part, I will only rehearse the highlights of each chapter subheading.

The 17th century saw the rise of two phenomena in the Dutch Republic, the tulip (flowers) craze of 1633–37 and the emergence of T U L I P, referring to Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints.

Jacob Arminius.


The author points out that several men in the Dutch Republic objected to the Augustinian view of grace. He indicates most Anabaptists were like the fifth-century Semi-Pelagians. The leading protester was Jacob Arminius, who studied theology under Beza and taught theology from 1603 until he died in 1609. Though he was initially a Calvinist, doubts arose about the doctrine of total depravity. His view was that the sinner is sick, not dead. Although Arminius denied being a Pelagian and claimed to be Reformed, his theology was remarkably similar to some Semi-Pelagian men.

The Arminians. Notice the spelling of the term Arminian, which labels a theological position instead of Armenian, which identifies an ethnic/linguistic identity. Spending three paragraphs under this subheading, the author mentions several theological issues related to Arminianism without fleshing out with any precision what Arminianism entails. Most interesting to me is his remark about the most well-known Arminian at that time being Hugo Grotius (1583–1645), often credited with the so-called Governmental Theory of the atonement.

The Remonstrance. The Arminian position is best summarized by a five-point document known as the Remonstrance, or “The Protest.” Here is the author’s summary:

1.  God decreed to save believers who persevere to the end and to leave unbelievers to go to Hell. This implied that election is based on foreseen faith.

2.  Christ died equally for all men, but only believers benefit from its efficacy.

3.  Fallen man is not able of himself to do any good without God’s assistance. This implies that God assists all men, a view developed at length later.

4.  God’s saving grace is resistible.

5.  Unless a believer perseveres to the end, he will not finally be saved, though it is not certain from Scripture whether all who believe will in fact persevere to the end.

If the author’s summary of Arminianism is accurate, except for the possibility of losing one’s salvation, most Baptist pastors I have ever known are essentially Arminian in their theology, though they would vigorously deny this and prefer to identify as what they term Biblicists.

The Anti-Remonstrants. Two paragraphs develop this subheading, describing the responses of several notable Calvinists to the Remonstrance.

The Synod of Dort. This was the largest international gathering of Reformed theologians to date and one of the most prestigious and influential in history. The Synod met for 154 sessions from November 1618 to May 1619. The primary purpose of the Synod was to answer the Remonstrance and the Remonstrants.

The Canons of Dort. The Synod produced its decisions in a series of canons. It is worth remembering that these “five points of Calvinism” were prepared to answer what may be termed the “five points of Arminianism,” not vice versa. I suspect the sequences of these two sets of “five points” would surprise many who wrongly and ignorantly imagine the “five points of Calvinism” were developed by Calvin himself. The author expands on what is meant by the “five points of Calvinism” in four paragraphs under this subheading.

The Aftermath. The Remonstrants suffered for their departure from Calvinism, with the pastors being dismissed from their churches. Grotius and others would be exiled or imprisoned. After 1625 the Arminians were allowed a measure of liberty. Later Arminians tended to go much farther than Arminius. A more conservative and evangelical Arminianism was developed in the 18th century under John and Charles Wesley in England. Keep in mind that none of these men were Baptists and had no concept of the separation of church and state.

Conclusion. The debate over the five points of Arminianism versus the five points of Calvinism continues to this day. The author asserts, “The debate is basically that of the Semi-Pelagians and Arminians on one side and the Augustinians and Calvinists on the other. With some justification it could be said to come down between free will and free grace.”

Thursday, October 29, 2020

"The Hedonism and Homosexuality of John Piper and Sam Allberry," by Enoch Burke.

 

John Piper is an extremely well-trained theologian, retired pastor, author, and conference speaker. Sam Allberry is a former Anglican priest in the London area who identifies as “same-sex attracted.” Piper wrote Desiring God. Allberry wrote, Is God Anti-Gay? Why are these two men central figures in the same book?

Displaying the young author’s astonishing depth and breadth of history, theology, and the current state of affairs in Western Christianity, these two men are recognized by him to be part of the same problem, the downward slide into religious apostasy.

Within the last six months, the English-speaking world has become familiar with the new term, describing the middle-aged, social distancing rules enforcing, finger-wagging woman as a Karen. The term is popular in the UK, Canada, the USA, and Australia, and New Zealand. Americans would recognize a Karen as a grade school student hall monitor, quick to point the finger of accusation of wrongdoing. The conservative Christian version of a Karen would be very busy indeed with this book, although there is nothing in this book that violates the pattern or the template found in the apostle Paul’s actions. John Piper and Sam Allberry need to be called out.

This book addresses the subtle altering of spiritual authority from the Word of God to emotion, from objectivity to subjectivity, from Protestantism to a slide in the direction of Romanism, from a biblical denunciation of certain sinful practices (homosexuality) to a wrongly tolerant attitude toward that which God decries as rebellion toward Him and as culture and family destroying sins. The book exposes and opposes the introduction of mysticism into contemporary evangelical Christianity by Piper while also opposing the slide away from sins being exceeding sinful to sins being tolerated by Allberry.

Both men are famous for introducing new terminology to issues the Word of God deals with most satisfactorily. New terms are unnecessary. The only reason to introduce new vocabulary is to cast off the biblical approach that is being abandoned. One man is abandoning theological orthodoxy. The other man is abandoning a biblical stance against sin.

I learned a great deal in this short book. I had never heard of the former Anglican priest before. I had previously felt an undefined uneasiness with Piper that this book brought into sharp focus with its well-researched overview of both men’s positions and practices.

Many Christian leaders are downplaying the seriousness of homosexuality to advance a conservative political agenda. Such pragmatism does not serve the cause of Christ well. Other Christian leaders are woefully ignorant of the theological distortion that is being imposed upon the Christian community because they are not widely read. This book shows the author’s concern for doctrinal integrity, his appreciation of historical orthodoxy, and his wisdom concerning the remedy for what ails us.

I heartily recommend this book to one and all. I plead with you to gift your pastors with this book at the earliest opportunity.




Monday, October 26, 2020

“The History & Theology of Calvinism” by Curt Daniel, Chapter Four

The title of the chapter is The Spread of Calvinism, with the following subheadings. Theodore Beza, The German Reformed Church, The French Reformed Church, The Netherlands, England, Scotland, Eastern Europe, Conclusion.

Theodore Beza. I had not previously known that Theodore Beza was French, that like Calvin, he had studied law, and that his initial desire was to be a private scholar. From this chapter, I learned that Beza translated the New Testament into Latin and edited nine additions of the Greek New Testament. His final addition was used for the King James Version. It was news to me that Beza was more academic than Calvin. It is also news that he was one of the earliest Reformers to teach the supralapsarian view of election and was an early exponent of limited atonement. The author indicates Beza is frequently cited as departing from Calvin in method, emphasis, and other matters.

The German Reformed Church. I had never given much thought to Germany, erroneously assuming that those who were not Roman Catholic in Germany were almost certainly Lutheran in persuasion. Of course, I had some slight familiarity with the Heidelberg Catechism. However, I am so unfamiliar with Christian history in Germany not directly related to Lutheranism that I had not made the connection between the Heidelberg Catechism and the German Reformed Church.

The French Reformed Church. More familiar to me than the German Reformed Christians were the French Reformed Christians, known as Huguenots. I am also familiar with the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of French Huguenots instigated by the Roman Catholic clergy members on August 24, 1572. Not mentioned by the author in his book is a recollection of a stop my family and I once made in St. Augustine, Florida, while on vacation, taking notice of a cemetery full of Huguenots murdered by Spaniards at the behest of the French when Spain owned Florida.

The Netherlands. New to me was the fact that many Anabaptists settled in the area because of the relative freedom granted to them. Daniel points out the Dutch Reformed took the lead in resisting Spanish imperialism in the Netherlands.

England. The author’s mention of John Wycliffe (1330-1384) in this portion of the chapter was no surprise to me, though I had never before heard of Thomas Bradwardine (1295-1349). William Tyndale (1494-1536) is also mentioned. Daniel indicates all three men were “strongly Augustinian.” I had not previously known of Lutheranism’s influence in the early stages of the English Reformation, followed by influence from the German and Swiss Reformed. During this time, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs was published, is one of the most read books in the English language for centuries. During this time, many English Protestants sought refuge in Europe, with a number moving to Geneva and studying under Calvin; some translated the Bible into English and added helpful notes in the translation known to us as The Geneva Bible. It was the Calvinists in England during Elizabeth I who pushed for further reforms of the Church of England who were nicknamed Puritans.

An interesting anecdote to me in connection with The Geneva Bible is a book written by my good friend, the late Dr. I. D. E. Thomas (pictured). A Welch Baptist, Dr. Thomas served for many years here in Los Angeles as a Baptist pastor and as a professor at the California Graduate School of Theology in Glendale, CA.[1] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones mentored Dr. Thomas in London (Lloyd-Jones also mentored Dr. Peter Masters, the longtime pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle in London). Twenty-one years ago, Dr. Thomas approached me searching for a typist to transcribe his longhand manuscript of a book titled William Shakespeare And His Bible. I ended up typing the manuscript for him, finding the book tremendously interesting. Published by Hearthstone Publishing in Oklahoma City, I would recommend it to everyone interested in Shakespeare or teaching English. I doubt it is still in print. The Geneva Bible was the Bible William Shakespeare used and quoted in many of his plays.


Scotland. The author points out that the Reformation started earlier in England but made better progress in Scotland, John Knox being the most influential leader. The Scottish reformers imitated Calvin’s ecclesiology and established Presbyterianism in the Scottish churches. I find it very interesting that the author included the title of a treatise written by John Knox, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. In his work Knox argued that it was a judgment of God to have female rulers.

Eastern Europe. I was aware that Eastern Europe was dominated by Eastern Orthodox churches, such as the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church, and the Armenian Apostolic Church. Reformed churches were established in Romania, Hungary, and Bohemia, with their churches surviving today after the ravages of the Catholic Inquisition, Nazism, and Communism.

Conclusion. “The Reformed faith spread quickly in the sixteenth century but faced challenges as it developed its own theology distinct from Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Anabaptism.”



[1] https://youtu.be/H1_BmEJ39DM