The Bishops are blind. It is up to us to open their eyes.


By Tim Enloe

Most of us are very familiar with the Reformers’ polemics against the episcopate of their day, but it’s just as important to be familiar with long-standing pre-Reformation critiques of it. For it is there that we can find a major illustration of why it is wrong to claim that the Protestants were the heretics, rebels, and innovators who ripped to shreds the seamless robe of Christ and departed from “the ancient and constant faith of the universal church.” Read more…

Chronological Snobbery and the Christian Faith


In a recent post at Reformation21, Guy Waters argues that a “Presbytery does possess the power to instruct one of its members or licentiates not to teach a difference that the court has determined an exception.” I agree. Interestingly, I can’t imagine this being an issue in the early modern period.

Why You Should Care About Peter Martyr Vermigli


peter-martyr-vermigli

By Brad Littlejohn

When I was thinking about my master’s thesis and planned doctoral research, a senior scholar in the field of political theology quipped, “The trick to any historical dissertation is to try and dig up some neglected third-rate thinker and try to pass him off as a second-rate thinker.” And although he was at least half-joking, it has struck me since that this is an apt summary for how most of even the thoughtful reading public is likely to think of most exercises in historical resourcement.

Out trots the scholar enthusiastically brandishing a heap of manuscripts, and exclaims, “Hey, have you ever heard of so-and-so? You’ve really been missing out on this neglected genius!” The onlookers, unimpressed, are liable to retort, “If he’s such a genius, why has he been so neglected?” We tend to operate with an implicit Darwinian cynicism when it comes to the history of ideas—if someone or something has been consigned to the dustbin of history, there’s probably, we suspect, a good reason for it. At the very least, we figure, theology seems to be doing just fine without the contributions of this neglected genius, so he can’t be all that important.

There are of course any number of holes in this train of reasoning, which probably become obvious enough simply by making these implicit musings explicit. But let’s focus on the last one. Is it really the case that our theology today is “doing just fine”? A glance around in most any direction suggests otherwise. And I would suggest that one of the key reasons is that we seem to have lost the ability to pursue dialectical clarity and biblical saturation at the same time. Some quarters of the contemporary church are saturated in Scripture; they live and breathe Bible. They can rattle off Bible verses for any topic you might want, or else they’re tuned-in to the deep typologies and literary motifs of Scripture. But when you ask for a clear and crisp systematic explanation of what Christians ought to believe on some doctrine or other, you are apt to get, at best, an answer heavy on rhetorical hand-waving and light on clarity, or at worst, an indignant rejection of the premise that Bible people should feel the need for such narrow dogmatic precision.

And in part you cannot blame them, for in some cases this reaction is an allergic one, developed in response to narrow dogmatism of the worst sort, a dry and dusty love of logic-chopping that masquerades as theology, but would be equally happy doing Kantian philosophy—an empty shell of systematic theology that has been deprived of the beating heart of a love for the Bible. Read more…

Why Protestant Christianity Needs a Theology of Natural Law


By David VanDrunen, Westminster Seminary California

Natural law is an idea of perennial importance and controversy in the Western world, and now in other places too. This idea didn’t die in twentieth-century Protestant thought, but it fell on hard times. During the opening decades of the twenty-first century, interest in natural law has suddenly sprung to life again in many Protestant circles. This is an encouraging development—from historical, philosophical, and theological perspective. But it remains controversial.[1]

In this article, I don’t offer a detailed theory of natural law. I simply wish to make a biblical and theological case that Protestants need some account of natural law if they are to make sense of many of their fundamental convictions as heirs of Reformation Christianity.

It is appropriate to begin with a brief comment on what I mean by natural law. In very general terms, natural law is a universally obligatory morality that all people know, or at least can know, simply by being human and living in the kind of world they do. But as a Christian, I want to say more than just this. Natural law, more specifically, is an aspect of God’s natural revelation by which He makes known His basic moral law to all people, not through Scripture but through the world He has made. To be clear, by “natural law” I don’t mean people’s theories about natural law, but the law itself that God reveals through His creation and which thus exists independently of anybody’s theory. People’s theories about natural law are subjective and fallible, and thus always open to debate; God’s natural law is objective and true. Read more…

Building an Army of Friends


This letter appears in our mid-year 2018 newsletter, marking the end of our fifth fiscal year.

Dear friends,

Ronald Reagan had a plaque on his desk that read “There is no limit to what a man can accomplish if he does not care who gets the credit.” Over the past decade I have spent navigating the world of Christian scholarship, I have returned over and over to meditate on this arresting maxim. We live in a world obsessed with credit. Unlike centuries past, ours is a world of intellectual property, a world fixated with the curious notion that you can patent an idea, claiming exclusive credit for it and controlling where it goes, who gets to use it, and how much they have to pay. In academia, this fixation means an obsession with the new—after all, you can’t very well claim credit for an old idea, much less publish it. Read more…