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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Reformed Worship by Howard L. Rice and James C. Huffstutler (Geneva Press) is written in the hope that it will help pastors and congregational leaders appreciate the Reformed tradition in which they find themselves and find values in that tradition that enable them to make appropriate changes and meet contemporary needs, but still be faithful to the core ideas that make them a unique part of the Christian community. We believe that the Reformed tra­dition of worship has an important contribution to make toward the whole church and should have a significant voice in ecumenical discussions. This contribution can happen only if its pastors and people have a healthy pride in who they are. Self-deprecating titles such as "the frozen chosen" reflect a low self image, as do the frequent efforts to abandon nearly all elements of the tra­dition by copying the methods of others.

At present, no single book does what this book sets out to accomplish: explain the history of the Reformed liturgical tradition and apply it to the actual setting of worship in congregational life. This combination of theory and practice is made particularly clear in the background of the authors: One is a pastor and the other is a retired seminary professor. Neither of us claim to be either totally theoretical or wholly functional, but we have tried to express our unique point of view even when we have had to struggle to find agreement between ourselves. We hope that readers will find them­selves enlightened in understanding and renewed in appreciation for the ele­ments in worship that proclaim the glory of God and offer the hope of human transformation.

The book is intended for use in congregation classes that are seriously seek­ing understanding of our Reformed heritage, by pastors and worship leaders and planners, and in seminary instruction.

The book begins with historical background and moves to concrete discus­sions about current issues. The first chapter briefly summarizes the shape of the Reformed tradition: those central elements identifiable in all branches of that tradition. Chapters 2 and 3 deal with history. Chapter 2 treats the history of Christian worship up until the Reformation, in order to demonstrate the catholicity of the Reformed tradition. The Protestant Reformers never intended to start from scratch; they assumed the value of the centuries-long tradition of the church catholic and built upon it, correcting it where in their minds it erred. John Leith, in his important book Introduction to the Reformed Tradition, tells of a Lutheran (it could just as easily have been a Presbyterian or Methodist) who, when asked where his church was before the Reformation, responded by asking where was his face before he washed it. Chapter 3 begins with the sixteenth-century Reformation itself and takes the story to the pres­ent day. Of necessity, these chapters present a very abbreviated history. Read­ers who wish for more in-depth historical treatment are invited to explore the bibliography.

Chapters 4, S, and 6-on Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the Service for the Lord's Day-are both historical and practical. They discuss issues com­monly faced by congregational leaders and make some concrete suggestions for dealing with them. In chapters 7 through 10, we become even more prac­tical, dealing with the elements of music, prayer, the setting for worship, and the church year. In each case, resources are provided as well as a background for understanding a way through the struggles now faced in many churches.

In chapters 11, 12, and 13, we discuss the wedding, the funeral, and other spe­cial occasions for worship, and, again, we provide specific resources for those who plan and conduct these services.

In chapter 14 we discuss the style of worship and the difficulty of remain­ing true to our Reformed tradition as we work to find a balance between tra­ditional and contemporary styles. The book concludes with a bibliography and an index.

The Heart Renewed--Assurance Of Salvation In New England Spiritual Life by Norman Pettit (Studies in American Religion: Edwin Mellen Press) Excerpt: From the earliest days of settlement the quest for assurance of salvation set the tone for New England spiritual life. From the founding of the Bay through the time of the Great Awakening, the doctrine of assurance gave rise to two specific questions: How can one know whether or not the heart has been renewed? Is assurance to be required for full standing in the Church? The dilemma over whether to extend church membership to the descendants of full church members, or restrict it to those who could demonstrate assurance of saving faith, also gave rise to the question of how New England should be defined. To some the Halfway Covenant of 1662 was a sign of weakness, in that it allowed a form of membership to those who could not claim full assurance. To others the Halfway Covenant had strengthened the churches of New England in that it kept under "church discipline" the descendants of "visible saints." Halfway members, in external covenant, could still be accepted into full church membership upon declaring themselves to be assured of saving faith. But by the end of the seventeenth century it was clear that the churches would soon be emptied of visible saints, mainly because halfway members lacked the assurance required for full standing in the church.'

In response to this problem, Solomon Stoddard went beyond the Halfway Covenant and admitted his whole congregation to the Lord's Supper — not simply those who could claim assurance of saving faith. In the Reforming Synod of 1679 Stoddard had got the Synod to say that a "profession" of faith, not a convincing narrative of a conversion experience, should be required of applicants for full church membership. Eventually Stoddard took his doctrine one step more and admitted to the Supper anyone who wished to receive the Sacrament. In his hands the Supper became a "means" to assurance, which was seen by some as a falling away from the fundamental truths of Congregational polity that the Halfway Covenant had been designed to reinforce. In time, however, even those who thought the Halfway Covenant too lax came to see that the practice of the founders had been too rigid, and so reduced the procedure to a short "Confession of Faith," endorsed by the Reforming Synod of 1680. Visible piety replaced evidence of sanctification, and piety itself came to have new meaning. Yet the need for assurance of salvation remained an issue, which by the 1740 s came to a head in the period of the Great Awakening. At no other time in New England's history was the matter so urgently discussed. No other facet of Reformed spirituality so dominated the written expression of the interior life. What is more, from the onset of Independence through the early national period assurance remained a controversial issue that continued to shape New England spiritual life.

In the chapters that follow an effort has been made to discuss certain episodes in history as they relate to the doctrine of assurance. It is not intended here to make sweeping generalizations about the doctrine; nor is a comprehensive survey implied. Rather, the intent is to focus on persons and events that illustrate the issues involved. Accordingly, for the first period of settlement both Thomas Hooker and John Cotton serve to show how opposing views of the doctrine led to controversy and strife — paving the way for events to come. Then, for the era of the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards and the missionary David Brainerd act as spokesmen for a time when the doctrine gained a position more central than ever before. Finally, for the early national period, William Ellery Channing and Horace Bushnell speak for an era in which the doctrine appeared to be on the wane, yet once again remained a vital issue, not only for orthodox Congregationalists but also for "Liberal Christians," who felt the need to redefine the doctrines from the past."

At first, however, the roots of the doctrine cannot be ignored; for without some understanding of beginnings there can be no understanding of later events. In the first chapter, therefore, both conforming and nonconforming churchmen are cited for early views of the doctrine. Both speak for English divinity on the eve of colonization; both must come to terms with Luther's and Calvin's thought. Indeed, the degree to which the doctrine of assurance owed its origins to Luther, compounded by the growing influence of Calvin, must be the starting point for any understanding of New England spiritual life.

The basis of Luther's stand, which set the tone for the first phase of the English Reformation, was the doctrine of Justification by Faith alone, or solifidianism. This doctrine Luther based upon the epistles of Paul, notably Romans 4:5, "to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Faith alone, not works, Luther maintained, is the only road to salvation. This doctrine then passed to the first generation of English Protestants, where it received even fuller development. In time, however, it came under fire, notably in The Necessary Doctrine and Erudition of a Christian Man (1543), written by Thomas Cranmer and three other bishops, which rejected Luther's doctrine in no uncertain terms. Man is not justified by faith alone; nor is the righteousness of Christ "imputed" to man, as Luther imagined. Rather, man wins justification not only by faith but also by hope, charity, fear of God, and repentance. Because justification means "the making of us righteous before God," it implies a life-long effort, not a sudden leap of faith alone. What is more, a man may lose it by sin, and no man may have "assurance" of his own salvation. In The Necessary Doctrine, which became known as The King's Book, works have a role in the scheme of justification and salvation; but by works, the authors write, we mean "all inward and spiritual works . . . as the fear of God, joy in God, godly meditations and thoughts, patience, humility and such like." In later years, after the King's death, Cranmer confessed that he had gone too far in catering to Henry's Catholicism; but he had not complained while the King lived and had sanctioned his Book for use.

Cranmer, moreover, had not been the first to take the doctrine to task. Erasmus, in Freedom of the Will (1524), had also stressed the liberty of man in relation to God. Citing Origen, Erasmus upheld man's cooperation with divine grace in order to gain salvation. He also cited 1 Tim. 2:4, "It is the will of God that all men shall be saved," as a stimulant to human effort. (Luther had neglected those texts that diminished his own stand.) But if Erasmus did not treat Luther with great severity, Luther responded with force, writing in The Bondage of the Will (1525) that the Church Fathers who upheld the theory of free will were no more faithful to Scripture than Erasmus. Still, for Erasmus, belief in free will did not entail a denial of grace, and on this point he anticipated Cranmer. "I see Lutherans," Erasmus wrote, "but I see nothing of the Gospel about them . . . I am of no mind to die for the paradoxes of Luther . . . whether free will contributed to salvation, whether any work of man can be called good . . . whether faith alone confers salvation . . . I would hope to be a martyr for Christ if I have the strength. I am not willing to be a martyr for Luther."'" Yet Erasmus sympathized with Luther on "works," or observances. For most of the faithful, Erasmus knew, salvation was assured through the accumulation of observances, without any concern for the conversion of the heart; and on this point he backed Luther's stand. On this point, moreover, he anticipated views that soon took hold in English soil. Erasmus, who lived at Cambridge in 1511 while at work on his Greek New Testament, wished to tame the extremes of solifidianism — setting an example for others of like mind.

In the hands of Calvin, however, Luther's doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone received substantial development. Calvin, in an effort to bring heightened spirituality to the Reformation, not only stressed Luther's solifidianism but also the notion that man is predestined to salvation or damnation by God's sovereign will, a teaching even Paul himself had left undeveloped. From 1540, when English Protestantism made a shift from its original Lutheran inspiration, the influence of Geneva steadily increased; and, as a result, Calvin's stress on Justification by Faith Alone, with its concomitant doctrine of assurance, came more and more to the fore. Still, for some English Protestants Calvin was seen as merely one of many Reformers. As foreign influences onthe English Reformation strengthened, English divines looked to Bucer of Strassburg or Bullinger of Zürich as much as they looked to Geneva, so that the history of English divinity must be seen as coming increasingly under the sway of a broader spectrum of Reformed thought." While the Genevan spirit dominated English Protestantism, especially at Cambridge during Elizabeth's reign, attacks on Calvin, notably on his doctrine of assurance, also prevailed, so that the question of whether or not a man could be assured of his salvation had fully to be taken into account. Should the pronouncements of Luther and Calvin be taken as final?

Lutherans and Calvinists, to be sure, offered an attractive solution to the problem of assurance, mainly because they stressed the Pauline doctrine of Justification by faith alone. Indeed, those who objected to the doctrine failed to understand its appeal to suffering souls for whom the weight of observances was too much to carry. At the same time, however, Genevan radicalism, in its attempt to pull the English Church in that direction, had failed to understand the conservative tastes of the early English Reformers, such as Cramer, who by the end of Edward VI's reign had bequeathed to the Elizabethan era a liturgy too attractive to be displaced by full-fledged patterns of Genevan thought. In effect, because Cranmer had preserved some Catholic elements in both the 1549 and the 1552 Prayer Books, he gave a distinctive flavour to English divinity that would continue to influence both "conformists" and "nonconformists" alike.

The authorities of Calvinist Cambridge, nevertheless, fell with anger upon those who questioned the doctrine of assurance; only on the death of Elizabeth were efforts made to recover the tradition that Cranmer had established in his time. Churchmen such as Richard Hooker (with Cranmer's Prayer Book in mind) made every effort to mitigate the rigours of the Genevan spirit. At the same time, however, nonconformist preachers tended to enhance that spirit, so that what came to be called "Puritanism" was associated with the doctrine of assurance. But "Puritans" themselves differed on the nature of the doctrine, as did conforming churchmen. What our texts reveal is that the term "Puritanism" should not be limited to nonconformists. As a powerful element in the origins of the English church, it belongs to the Reformation. Indeed, when the national church took its stand upon the principles of the Reformation, "Puritans" loomed large amongst its members: there were "conforming Puritans" as well as "nonconforming Puritans" throughout the early years. It was not until after the establishment of the church under Laud, in the reign of Charles I, that the term "Anglicanism" became applicable. Such early nonconformist pastors as William Perkins, Richard Rogers, and Arthur Hildersam preached within the same tradition as Lancelot Andrewes and John Donne. It was a tradition to beassessed in terms of the influence of Reformed theology on the English clergy, both conformists and nonconformists alike.'

For this reason the terms "conformist" and "nonconformist" most accurately describe those who made up the preaching body of the Church throughout the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. "Conformists" tended to abide by the rules of ritual and subscribe to the Prayer Book, while "nonconformists" took great liberties with set prayers or refused to wear the surplice; but even within the nonconformist fold the spirit of English divinity was moving toward patterns of thinking incompatible with strict Genevan thought. Although nonconformists have been criticized for their insensitivity to sacramental values, their preoccupation with predestinarian thought, and their stress on assurance of personal salvation, what our texts reveal is that even the dictates of Luther and Calvin would not be taken as final by those who wished to advance the nonconformist cause. As we shall see, some not only upheld sacramental values but also adjusted the doctrine of assurance to fit their needs; and those who did would give form and shape to New England spiritual life.

The concern for one's estate in grace, which took hold in New England, was based on the possibility of assurance. As opposed to Roman Catholics, who rejected the notion of assurance of salvation, nonconformists in New England maintained that certitude of salvation can be known; the possibility of knowing one's estate set the tone. But it soon led to the question of how God's work may be recognized. How does the Spirit work? Was assurance the work of a gracious human spirit, linked by obedience to the conditional promises in Scripture, or was assurance a work of the Holy Spirit — speaking directly to the soul? For those who followed Reformed orthodoxy generally, the process for trying one's estate fell within the natural human capacity for reflection. For others, human works were not permitted as a ground for assurance, no matter how enlightened by regenerating grace; for grace that is subject to reflection is different from grace that is given immediately by the Holy Spirit. The New England dispute involved the relation of nature and grace. Thereafter, classic New England divinity sought to embrace divine activity and created nature. Even so — well into the nineteenth century — New Englanders were worried by the problem of assurance of salvation: the important religious experience was that of being chosen; the fear was that of being left out. The urgent need was to find signs of assurance of grace.

What should it mean to have assurance that follows justification by faith? Should assurance mean a firm "security," or the lesser surety of one's inner "certainty," or no reliable certainty of any kind, but only a continuing struggle for the grace that indicates election? Could one take the outward evidence of "sanctification" — leading a religious life — to mean that Christhad redeemed, or justified one's soul? These questions, which gained importance in New England, had their origins in the old world, where "Calvinists" of various kinds struggled to impose their views, sometimes on Calvin himself, and often with startling results. As we shall see, the cast of characters is not small; but each made a contribution of his own, and each left a mark on doctrinal history that would determine the course of New England spiritual life.

The Binding of God: Calvin's Role in the Development of Covenant Theology by Peter A. Lillback (Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought: Baker Academic) What was John Calvin's relationship to covenant theology? After tracing the historical development of the covenant idea, Lillback carefully examines the writings of Calvin for evidence and description of Calvin's covenant thought. He ultimately argues that Calvin developed an extensive covenant theology.

The Binding of God provides important background to current theological discussions, such as modes of baptism and Paul and the law. It will be of significance to scholars of the Reformation and the sixteenth century.

In the debate over Calvin's relationship to covenant theology, Peter Lillback offers fresh in-depth scholarship and answers many of the tensions between Calvin's system of theology and traditional covenant theology. Through careful examination of primary sources, Lillback builds a large store of evidence for Calvin's covenant thought. He completely refutes popular claims that predestination and covenant theology were considered incompatible in the early Reformed tradition, that the theologies of Zurich and Geneva were fundamentally different, and that Calvin's system of theology left no room for a covenant understanding of theology.

The Binding of God is set in the larger context of Calvin's socio-political and theological worlds. It provides important background to current theological topics, such as modes of baptism and Paul and the law, and is valuable for students of Reformation and sixteenth-century history.

Peter A. Lillback (Ph.D., Westminster Theological Seminary) is senior pastor of Proclamation Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He also serves as an adjunct professor of historical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Introducing the Reformed Faith: Biblical Revelation, Christian Tradition, Contemporary Significance by Donald K. McKim (Westminster John Knox Press) Excerpt: I hope this book will open doors. It is written for people who want to explore. It is written to provide perspectives, raise questions, and suggest ways in which a particular theological understanding‑the Reformed faith‑has approached a number of important Christian doctrines.

I wrote this book from a need. My years of teaching and writing as a the­ologian and serving as a pastor in churches have convinced me of the need for an introductory guide for laity and students. Laypersons in churches of the Reformed tradition often find themselves in these churches for a variety of reasons, including convenience and friendship. This is fine. But as they move around in the church‑unite with it as members, perhaps‑they also need to acquaint themselves with what the church believes. The task of educating new members (and current members) is carried out in differing fashions among the various Reformed denominations. Sometimes a long period of study is required. That's good. Other times, a quick review of some major doctrines is combined with introducing the particular life of the individual congregation. That's fine. In other places, unfortunately, the educative task is not carried out at all. That's bad.

For a long time I have wanted to provide an introductory guide that can help Reformed Christians gain an understanding of their faith. As a theolo­gian, my approach naturally gravitated to surveying important Christian doc­trines or teachings. Thus, Introducing the Reformed Faith was conceived.

Though I have spent my life in one branch of Reformed churches (Presby­terian) and in one denomination (Presbyterian Church [USA]), I have tried to write with a broad Reformed perspective that keeps in mind the varieties of views within the Reformed family. Some of my own theological interests and perspectives as a Reformed theologian will clearly emerge through the way I work with the materials. This is unavoidable, of course. But I hope I've givena fair rendering of various views. I have leaned more heavily on some writers than on others John Calvin's work is cited most. t But I hope that as one reads, some familiarity with other theologians and documents will be apparent.

Each of the words in the title of this book‑Introducing the Reformed Faithis important. The book is an "introduction." Over the years, I have written a number of more technical resources on Reformed theology that have been useful to scholars, pastors, seminary students, and some inquisitive laypersons. But the Reformed faith needs to be understood by more than just a select ("elect"!) few. It is a faith for all persons, and I keenly feel the need for laity in our churches, as well as seminarians and pastors, to have access to a primer to open the first doors for further study. Here I want to introduce the Reformed faith by sharing some of its perspectives and theological perceptions on doctrinal issues. No other book for nonspecialists approaches the Reformed faith in this way.

In this guide to the Reformed tradition, Donald McKim examines sixteen theological doctrines (for example, Scripture, Trinity, Sin, Person and Work of Christ, Church) and shows how the Reformed understanding of each contributes to the broader ecumenical family of Christian teachings. Each chapter gives the biblical basis for the doctrine, then traces its development through church history with emphasis given to the Reformed tradition, and finally offers its significance for the church in the twenty‑first century. Insightful discussion questions along with indexes help detail the distinctions of the Reformed faith.

Ideal for classroom or personal use, Introducing the Reformed Faith is a helpful resource for students and scholars, as well as clergy and laity.

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