A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Some Things Never Change

I've been reading and enjoying a biography by Jonathan Vaughan on the eighteenth century Puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was a fierce defender of Reformed theology. At one point in the book, Vaughan writes,
By 1734 there was a "great noise about Arminianism," wrote Edwards, "which seemed to appear with a very threatening aspect upon the interest of religion here." In response, Edwards began to preach on the doctrinal issues in dispute. In a series of sermons collected as Discourses on the Various Important Subjects, Nearly Concerning the Great Affair of the Soul's Eternal Salvation, Edwards reiterated and defended the traditional doctrine of justification by faith alone, as he had done earlier with the biblical teaching on regeneration.

Several members of his extended family, most notably the Williamses, issued a strong statement to Edwards demanding that he "refrain from the controversy" and "not... publish his sentiments" regarding it. Edwards refused and was strongly criticized for entering the fray. His cousin, Israel Williams had Arminian leanings and attacked him for defending orthodox Reformed theology. Edwards noted: "Great fault was found with 'meddling' with the controversy in the pulpit."
Two things stood out to me as I read this passage: First, just as today, parishioners in the eighteenth century didn't like their preachers wading into controversial subjects, preferring them to be preachers of pablum. Second, just as today, some (not all) of those who embrace Reformed theology believe that the only kind of true orthodoxy is Reformed orthodoxy.

Of course, this orthodox evangelical Wesleyan begs to differ.

Some things never change.

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