Thesis Thirteen. There is no legitimate theological concept of double predestination as construed in the tradition of Reformed Scholasticism.

This is thesis thirteen from Myk Habets’ and my 2012 edited book Evangelical Calvinism: Essays Resourcing the Reformation of the Church. Myk and I cowrote chapter fifteen of this volume which is made up of fifteen theological theses that reflect the style of Evangelical Calvinism that Myk Habets and myself endorse. Pay attention to this particular thesis, it is an important one!


Thesis Thirteen. There is no legitimate theological concept of double predestination as construed in the tradition of Reformed Scholasticism.

reflectionofjesusinmirrorFollowing immediately on from the previous thesis we deny any form of double predestination as traditionally construed by Classical Calvinism; specifically, that there is a mass of humanity predestined by God from all time to Hell. Those who are on the “broad way” to destruction have experienced the love and grace of God for them in Christ only to have rejected such grace, and as such have damned themselves to an eternal separation from God.[1]

In commenting on the Scottish Evangelical Calvinist, James Fraser of Brea, Torrance writes:

Fraser held that Christ died for all people, the unbelieving as well as the believing, the damned as well as the saved, the reprobate as well as the elected. How, then, did he think that the death of Christ, not least his atoning satisfaction for sin, bears upon those who reject Christ and bring damnation upon themselves? This was one of the basic issues where James Fraser sided with the teaching of John Calvin, rather than with that of those “Protestant Divines” who, he complained, had not followed the old road. The particular point we must take into account here is that according to St. Paul the knowledge of Christ is to some people a “savour of life unto life,” but to others it can be a “savour of death unto death.” In that light it may be said that while the preaching of the Gospel of Christ crucified for all mankind is meant for their salvation, it can also have the unintended effect of blinding and damning people—it becomes a “savour of death unto death.” That is how Fraser regarded what happened to the reprobates in becoming “the vessels of wrath.”[2]

With Scripture, Calvin, Fraser, Barth, and Torrance, Evangelical Calvinism holds that Christ is the mirror of election and thus he is the elect “man” for others. It is Christ, therefore, and not some divine decree enacted in a pre-temporal decision, that becomes the center of predestination—Christ is both God’s “Yes” and “No” in himself. As Suzanne McDonald has convincingly articulated, election has to do primarily with representation—of God to humanity and humanity to God—and thus Christ is the primary subject and object of such election.[3] The consequence, then, is that both the elect and reprobate find their orientation in Christ. In other words, all of humanity is elect in Christ, and their reprobation becomes a reality per accidens[4] as they reject, inscrutably, their election in Christ. To reiterate an earlier point, an Evangelical Calvinist may confidently assert that: “There is no wrath of God that is not first experienced as the love of God for you.”[5]

[1] This thesis is not to deny that double predestination may be construed along radically dissimilar lines to that of Federal Calvinism, as for instance in the account of Karl Barth, who gave a radically new Christological reformulation of the Reformed doctrine of double predestination in CD, II/2, §32–33, 3–506, wherein he argues for a single election but a double predestination—Jesus is the elect and the reprobate.

[2] Torrance, Scottish Theology, 199–200.

[3] McDonald, Re-Imaging Election.

[4] John Calvin says in his commentary on 2 Corinthians 2:15: “. . . Thus Christ came not into the world to condemn the world (John iii. 17,) for what need was there of this, inasmuch as without him we are all condemned? Yet he sends his apostles to bind, as well as to loose, and to retain sins, as well as remit them. (Matt. Xviii. 18; John xx. 23.) He is the light of the world, (John vii. 12,) but he blinds unbelievers. (John ix. 39.) He is a Rock, for a foundation, but he is also to many a stone of stumbling. (Isaiah viii. 14.) We must always, therefore, distinguish between the proper office of the Gospel, and the accidental one (so to speak) which must be imputed to the depravity of mankind, to which it is owing, that life to them is turned into death.” Calvin, Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, 161.

[5] Cf. Thesis 8. According to Torrance, When Christ Comes, 188, “That is why we are afraid of God—because He wants to give Himself to us in love, and His love is our judgment. Because we are afraid, our guilty conscience distorts the face of God for us and makes us afraid to look upon Him. We are trapped in the pit of our own fears, and run away from the very One who really loves and the only One who can forgive us.” Torrance proceeds to exposit the “wonderful exchange” wrought by God in Christ whereby Christ takes our judgment and our place that we might be given his place (184).

42 thoughts on “Thesis Thirteen. There is no legitimate theological concept of double predestination as construed in the tradition of Reformed Scholasticism.

  1. Commission and omission of action have all sorts of consequences. We generally hold, as humans, in practice, a distinction in “responsibility-ascription” between the two.

    For example, if a man is deliberately running toward a cliff, and Steve omits action to save him, we mitigate Steve’s responsibility for that event for all sorts of practical reasons. For example, we don’t know the degree to which Steve knew the man would actually follow-through. We don’t know the nitty-gritty of Steve’s actual psychological and physical capabilities. Furthermore, we don’t know what would actually result if he took action; perhaps both would have tumbled off the cliff! Perhaps that wouldn’t have happened, but that’s what Steve was worried about!

    We generally say, then, that Steve was not responsible for the man’s demise. We say that the “buck stops here” on the man himself. We say he did it of his own will and nobody else can be held responsible for its coming about.

    Now, the reason we humans do this as our modus operandi is because we’re deficient in what would be required to fully ascribe responsibility. We lack information. Steve lacked information as he watched the man run. Steve was full of doubt and worry. And even if Steve were omniscient, perhaps that omniscience would point him only to the fact that if Steve took action, he would fail, tumbling off the cliff with the man.

    The trick is that with God, those things don’t apply. He’s omniscient. There are no doubts for him. He’s also all-powerful. He can, and does, absolutely everything that optimally expresses his interests, with zero exceptions whatsoever.

    If the man tumbles off the cliff, in other words, it’s because it served the optimus of God’s manifold interest set for him to do so — and it may be that, indeed, one of God’s interests within that set is, “Stay quite hands-off and let creation run, unless absolutely necessary to course-correct or reaffirm relationships.”

    But God has superordinate responsibility for the tumbling. Steve doesn’t, God does. Both omitted action. In Steve’s case, we allow the omission to excuse him of ascription. In God’s case, we do not, because God is omniscient and omnipotent; he has no “ascription excuse,” i.e., “clear slate per accidens.” And, of course, we don’t invoke the blanket “ascription excuse” of libertarian free will (I hope!).

    It is really basic logic that sufficient action and efficient action are functionally equivocal. It’s “free of charge” given benign premises. It’s refuted only through loud word games and obfuscation, particularly through logical wildcards (libertarian free will is a logical wildcard, which is why its advocates have a head start in the swamp of non-sovereign nonsense).

    Double predestination, of course, isn’t a tooth-breaking bullet to bite when we migrate to purgatorialism in the vein of St. Gregory of Nyssa or St. Isaac of Ninevah.

    But until then, we’re left with this:


  2. Okay, Stan, but what does what you just wrote have to do with our thesis on double-predestination? We are thinking from the implicates provided by the Incarnation of God in Christ himself–i.e. from revelation–for which there is no analogy. We aren’t really getting into the metaphysics of causality so much. Although I have written on that from an EC perspective here:

    We aren’t, or I am not interested in discussions about compatibalism, libertarian free agency, or molinism, etc. I am interested though in what is revealed, and in re to this topic, using some classical categories things get reoriented and reified when thought from Christ and not in abstraction from him from our own basic wits.


  3. Interesting article, Bobby.
    Somehow, the quote regarding Mr Fraser’s view of the effect of preaching the Gospel brought to mind Paul’s Romans 7 discussion of the Commandment which promised life yet instead caused death because of sin.


  4. Bobby, you asked, “Okay, Stan, but what does what you just wrote have to do with our thesis on double-predestination?”

    Sorry, let me try to be clearer. I can indeed ramble sometimes. Thanks for tolerating thus far.

    (1) If God is superordinately responsible for the destinies of everyone, then double predestination is true.

    (2) “Per accidens reprobation” does not alleviate God of superordinate responsibility.

    #2 is certainly true. Single predestination folk deny that the hypothetical of #1 is true and are demonstrably wrong to do so. Libertarian free will folk (Arminians, Orthodox, Catholics, etc.) deny the premise of #1 and are demonstrably wrong to do so. The Open Theists are the only ones who can deny the premise of #1 successfully (and thus deny #1 successfuly), and only when they jettison both omniscience AND a measure of omnipotence.


  5. My apologies; just read your “Undoing” article, and you apparently are okay with invoking libertarian freedom. This becomes way less cut-and-try under those circumstances; we don’t have to get into it now.


  6. So is the objection here really an objection to double predestination or is it an objection to definite atonement? Because if it’s the former I have no idea how you let Calvin off the hook since he teaches in Institutes 3.22.11 that God hated Esau prior to any works of his. Others in the Reformed tradition such as Francis Turretin (Institutes 4.14) taught that reprobation is God’s passing over fallen men and hence the punishment of the reprobate does depend on their works. So Calvin is harsher on predestination than many of the later Reformed scholastics.

    Now if the objection is to definite atonement as taught by Owen, etc. I can see where you’re coming from and why you let Calvin off the hook although it is worth pointing out that hypothetical universalism had a rather distinguished pedigree as a significant minority position in Reformed scholasticism and was never condemned in the 17th century as outside confessional bounds (the Consensus Helveticus only condemned a particular variety of hypothetical universalism and was only enforced briefly in one country).


  7. No, the realiti Stan is that dialectical theology (that i follow) is not analytical. You can try and impose analytical theology/philosophy on revealed theology caregories but youd be making a serious category mistake!

    I am really not interested in hearing about philosophy when we are supposed to be talking genuinely Christian Dogmatic theology.


  8. We believe in a Christ conditioned double election where he is both reprobate/elect in himself. We believe in definite atonement; viz that the atonement was limited to Christ’s vicarious humanity for us/all! You need to read some Barth and Torrance Nathanel!


  9. Bobby, you said, “No, I certainly do not, Stan! I don’t use philosophy of religion categories to do theology like you apparently do.”

    My apologies again. Let me rephrase: “You believe in some sort of ‘freedom’ wherein there is real possibility at the ‘golfer’ point, and not merely perceived or prospective possibility.” Independent of what we call “that thing,” “This [discussion] becomes way less cut-and-try under those circumstances; we don’t have to get into it now.”

    You said, “No, the reality Stan is that dialectical theology (that I follow) is not analytical.”

    Again, my apologies (I seem to be giving a lot of these). Thank you again for tolerating my intrusion.

    I’m a die-hard advocate of therapeutic quietism in theology (see blog). We’re certainly at an impasse.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Bobby, I think Stan’s basic idea of that if God has both sufficient knowledge and sufficient power to save anyone, and libertarian free will is not an obstacle, then for anyone not to be saved requires on some level God’s willing consent, even if just through inaction.

    To reduce even further, we could just ask, “Are people lost because God cannot completely save them, or because He will not?”

    I’m currently holding out faith in an unknown C option. But I’m curious how you’d address it.


  11. Caleb,

    It is these kinds of causal questions that EC repudiates! That’s why I am unwilling to entertain Stan’s points (if I understand them). Humanity believes, because Jesus as THE human believes, trusts, etc for us. We don’t attempt to move beyond that (since that would be analytical speculation that the Revelation of God in Christ has not revealed). The conditions for all people to be “saved” are present because of Christ for them, for us, with us. The fact that the many refuse to accept what has been given for them in Christ we relegate to the inexplicable surd like nature of evil and darkness (Jn 3). But we are a theology via positiva, in the positive way, and so we focus on what is given in the economy of God’s life in Christ. And discussions like Stan is wanting to have are not provided for (categorically) by God’s Self revelation.

    As dis-satisfying as this is, this is how it is for EC. Kevin Vanhoozer has recently critiqued us on these grounds as well, but that’s because he is still trying to read us classically through his classical Calvinist lenses. But the critique he makes is circular, since he firs presupposes (at a major premise level) that if our style of Calvinism does not fit well with his style (by way of method and conceptuality) that we offer an incoherent version of Calvinism. But this is obviously petitio principii.

    Here is a post I wrote once that should help explain how our approach passes the coherence test in regard to the way we approach theology in general (prolegomena). It is about Barthian theology, but it equally applies to Vanhoozer’s critique of us, and Stan’s desire to also read us through the wrong lenses (it seems to me):


  12. Bobby, I have read a little Barth (maybe 400 pages; so not that much in the Barthian scheme of things) and I am familiar with his doctrine of Christ as elect and reprobate. I suppose I misinterpreted the Torrance quote as being about the scope of the atonement as opposed to predestination. I can certainly appreciate why you would embrace a Barthian doctrine of election and reprobation. However, I still wonder how it is that you see Calvin and Barth on the same side of this issue over against the Reformed scholastics. I mean yes, Calvin clearly stresses that the elect are elected in Christ but he’s not alone on that. Polanus, for example, says that “The election of Christ is the foundation and support [firmamentum] of the election of the angels and of men.” -Syntagma theologiae christianae IV.viii (column 1570). Wollebius says something similar in chapter 4 of his Compendium.

    The real issue is reprobation. And the truth of the matter is that Calvin’s doctrine of reprobation doesn’t seem to fit very well with Barth’s. For example, in his commentary on Romans 9:18 Calvin says “But the word ‘hardens’, when applied to God in Scripture, means not only permission, (as some washy moderators would have it,) but also the operation of the wrath of God: for all those external things, which lead to the blinding of the reprobate, are the instruments of his wrath; and Satan himself, who works inwardly with great power, is so far his minister, that he acts not, but by his command. Then that frivolous evasion, which the schoolmen have recourse to respecting foreknowledge, falls to the ground: for Paul teaches us, that the ruin of the wicked is not only foreseen by the Lord, but also ordained by his counsel and his will; and Solomon teaches as the same thing, — that not only the destruction of the wicked is foreknown, but that the wicked themselves have been created for this very end — that they may perish.” (See also Institutes 3.21.5, 3.22.11, and 3.23.)


  13. Nathanael, I don’t know where you got the impression that I see Barth and Calvin compatible on this, I don’t.

    See this for example:

    Or this:

    Truth is, with Evangelical Calvinism we are not appealing to Calvin for our view of election/predestination etc. Instead we constructively engage with Calvin in re to his union with Christ theology and double grace theology (see Charles Partee’s book on Calvin for example).

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Bobby, I got the impression that you see Barth and Calvin as compatible on this point from this paragraph of yours: “With Scripture, Calvin, Fraser, Barth, and Torrance, Evangelical Calvinism holds that Christ is the mirror of election and thus he is the elect ‘man’ for others. It is Christ, therefore, and not some divine decree enacted in a pre-temporal decision, that becomes the center of predestination—Christ is both God’s “Yes” and “No” in himself.” That and your reference to the doctrine of double predestination “as constructed in the tradition of Reformed Scholasticism” in the title. I [wrongly] inferred from these statements that you were opposing Barth and Calvin to later Reformed scholasticism on election and reprobation. Obviously, today has not been a great day for me on the reading comprehension front.


  15. “We deny… specifically… that there is a mass of humanity predestined by God from all time to Hell.”

    Were one to instead affirm that there is a predestined ‘massa damnata et damnabilis,’ what direct and proportional scriptural support for that could one give? If the canon lacks robust evidence for that affirmation, then Stan’s cartoon is about some other god than the one we know from scripture. Norming god-talk by the biblical narrative seems to be the EC way of ‘therapeutic quietism,’ as it was Luther’s (cf Heidelberg Theses, Proofs, 28).

    “Those who are on the ‘broad way’ to destruction have experienced the love and grace of God for them in Christ only to have rejected such grace, and as such have damned themselves to an eternal separation from God.”

    Or, if saving is an act of the Three that must be done person-wise to be the salvation of the god of the Bible, then so too is damning. How then does a given theory of double predestination account for the work of the Son and the Holy Spirit in Hell? EC seems not to say that no such theory can ever answer this question– if Barth’s theory accounts for the Son, perhaps another will account for the Spirit* — but it does say that a theory that can answer this question will not be Classical Calvinism.


    * “Some of the pressure on Barth’s ability to identify the Spirit’s actuality may come from a residue of the traditional Calvinist teaching of predestination. That doctrine, for all that can otherwise be said in its praise, described the event of election much in the protological past tense and little in the eschatological future tense. Within Barth’s correct identification of the event of election with the actuality of triunity, Calvinist presuppositions about election must exercise a reverse pressure on the interpretation of triunity. And if the Trinity’s actuality thereby comes to be thought definitively in the past tense, the Spirit is left without that mode of God’s time in which the Bible locates him.”

    Robert W. Jenson (2014) Theology as Revisionary Metaphysics: Essays on God and Creation. Cascade Books – An Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Locations 2454-2459.


  16. Nathanael, I read the same thing from Bobby’s post. I’m not sure how you could come away from this with anything but that.

    Torrance says Calvin didn’t believe in double predestination, and this is not just from Bobby’s blog, but from Torrance himself (both in the quote Bobby relayed and a series of lectures you can find audio for online (Ground and Grammar of Theology)–where I first heard Torrance say that Calvin didn’t believe in the concept.) When I heard Torrance say that I got all excited that Calvin had been misinterpreted by Calvinists, and then went to find the passages in the Institutes and was disappointed. He seems pretty clear on the issue. So this issue isn’t whether Barth and Calvin agree, but whether Calvin really (as per Torrance) did not teach double predestination. And I haven’t see evidence he did not. So, Bobby, i’m wondering: since Torrance claimed this, and since passages in Calvin like those Nathanael referred to above exist, how do you reply to the apparent discrepancy between what Torrance says about Calvin and what Calvin’s writings say? Am I missing something?

    Of course, the answer could point to a larger issue in EC’s claim to represent authentic Calvinist tradition all the way back to Calvin.


  17. In a crowded theater, one cannot say that a tradition forked at some point in its development. Saying that causes mild-mannered theologians, introverted Linux users, opera fans in tuxedos, saffron-robed Buddhist monks, etc to throw mean punches at strangers who innocently prefer the other tine of the fork. Fights over ‘authentic’ lineages from the ‘one true’ whatever are particularly nasty and wisely avoided.

    The truth of Barth’s system does not depend on his historical inspiration, of course, but tribal identities depend on nothing else but historical inspiration. Ryan Glomsrud accounts for some Calvin-Barth fights this way: C19 historiography showed Barth a discontinuity between the reformers and their scholastic heirs, and the century of scholarship since has found unexpected continuity that inevitably complicates the simple map he followed.

    So it is true both that Luther and Calvin took their Augustinian background for granted, including standard accounts of double predestination (eg Gregory of Rimini), and also that they explored the theosis-like understandings of participative soteriology that are today an alternative to the modern experience of just such accounts (cf Manermaa et al on Luther, Gaskin et al on Calvin). It would be anachronistic for us to expect that the reformers saw this as the contradiction that it can seem to us to be today.

    What then does it mean for EC to deny the legitimacy of double predestination in Reformed scholasticism? It means that it was inauthentic for double predestination and its ramifications to supplant the elements of the Reformed tradition that EC now emphasize as evangelical. Well then, would it have been any less inauthentic for the other tine of the Reformed fork to deny double predestination? Maybe, if that happened, but so far what I see Bobby arguing is a more subtle claim that on the Scottish tine (and, I guess, the German one) double predestination remained in the background and allowed the rest of the elements to do their evangelical work.


  18. Hi Bowman, sorry for the use of the word “authentic”– it seems to have distracted from my main point. I’m not a Calvinist, and don’t care about lineage or purity that way either. My point was: why does Torrance say Calvin agreed with him, if he didn’t? …and what motivated Torrance to want to claim that Calvin did agree with him? Why would he care? Was it because he himself wanted to be within the stream called “Calvinism” and, in fact, to represent to true or original or authentic teaching from Calvin? If so, why?
    This is a real attempt at learning, since I think Bobby knows a lot more about all of this than I do. So these are real questions, not an attempt to prove anything. I don’t have a dog in the fight! Except that I appreciate Torrance, and this blog. Peace!


  19. No worries, Brian. Several prior comments about double predestination jointly posed an historical question to which my last comment is a provisional answer. Others on the thread will have other worthwhile proposals.


  20. Well, Bobby, this appears to be a popular post! Or, a controversial one, anyway 🙂
    Reading through the comments has been interesting, as the topic of election always reminds me of Isaiah 42:1.

    The discussion regarding double predestination is mostly over my head. I understand there are variations within the tradition, but I’m wondering how closely you believe one must follow the teachings of, say, Calvin, in order to identify as “Calvinist”?

    Just curious, as I don’t think my own theological understanding quite matches any of the mainstream representations I’ve encountered.


  21. Reformed identity is up for grabs, and it may be that nobody today can catch it. However, Tom Wright, who insists that he is Reformed, uses the word to class those Protestants as Reformed who see God’s purposes as having been consistent through time. On that view, the intellectual core of the Reformed identity is not speculation on alternate stacks of heavenly decrees, the number of covenants, Zwinglian dematerialization, non-participative soteriology, etc but confidence that God’s consistent and creative intention ensures both the coherence of the biblical narrative and the assurance of salvation. Although Wright has not defended this view in any essay on historical theology that I have seen– he mentions it mainly in dialogue with Gaskin and in response to Piper et al– it plainly makes testable historical claims.

    Though he inveighs lustily against Luther’s “negative” view of the law (here’s looking at you, Heather), the striking thing about Wright’s definition is that it defines the Reformed in terms of a central project rather than in terms of the boundaries between Anabaptist, Lutheran and Reformed apologists long long ago. (In which case, evangelical Anglicans are the quintessential Reformed… 😉 So then, where does this definition put Calvin? Calvin seems to have founded the Reformed project, not in his propadeutic Institutes but in his commentaries on scripture. And Forsyth, Barth, and Torrance? They may well have inspired the new definition.

    Doctrines of double predestination are attempted implementations of the Reformed project, which is why they are so closely identified with it. After all, Luther also believed a standard double predestination, but later confessional Lutherans cheerfully reworked this into a single predestination practice. They did this in explicit reaction against the particular theology of double predestination that they saw emerging among the Reformed and with no sense that their revision was some horrid betrayal of either their mentor or the confessions. Lutherans have other projects and so could more easily back away from implications that many– though not, as Nathanael points out, all– Reformed felt they had to embrace. The question today, if you take Wright’s view, is whether the Reformed still need them to continue Calvin’s project.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Nathanael and Brian,

    I can see how you thought that I was placing Barth, Torrance, and Calvin together on election; and in a way I am, but only contructively. Essentially it is a kind of theological hagiographical exercise by appealing to certain themes offered within a particular theologian’s offering. In this instance that theme in Calvin was his rather patristic point on Christ as the mirror of election. It would be wrong to assume that we (EC) are trying to say that Calvin and Barth/Torrance are on the same page on election (like metaphysically). It is really an attempt to place various theologians in conversation with each other, and to use what they had to communicate, again in constructive ways, to help articulate the implications of the Gospel.

    Brian, yes, Torrance often does engage in a kind of theological hagiography, or tying ideas to people in the history that might not be totally their’s and really more of his (TFT). But what we in EC are doing is more focused on the material outcomes to the work that Torrance, Barth, Calvin and all of these other theologians have done. We want to organically present something that best proximates the Gospel and its implications. For a better understanding of what we are doing in this vein read this post:

    And Brian, Torrance was well within the “Reformed stream,” he was right dab in the center of the Church of Scotland (very Reformed!). He doesn’t need to bolster his Reformed pedigree by appealing to Calvin or anything. But TFT wrote extensively on Calvin as well, and engaged with Calvin’s theology deeply as did Barth. Further, we aren’t attempting to lay sole claim to the Calvinist tradition, in fact just the opposite! We want people to realize that Reformed/Calvinist theology is multi-valent, that there are many layers to it, and that we represent one of those layers. Calvin is a wax-nose, I have written on that too under that title if you do a search for it on my blog.


  23. Bowman,

    All I can say to almost everything you have said above is: Amen! You have written a lot worth interacting with, and if I have more time I will try to interact with it a little more. I think in one of your comments you mentioned Ryan Glomsrud, yeah? I don’t think he really gets Barth (even though he did his DPhil on him). I critiqued Ryan’s positioning of Barth here:


  24. Heather,

    I don’t think Calvin is the founder of Calvinism (just to be clear!) I do think Richard Muller’s thesis on that point is correct, in fact! But if you affirm certain Reformed themes, I think you could be said to be a Reformed thinker, maybe. Some people have a very narrow view of what it means to be Reformed, like those of the Westminster Calvinism ilk — i.e. they believe that you have to affirm certain Confessions, within a certain ecclesiological structure, and have certain views on baptism and the eucharist in order to truly be said to be Reformed. But I think that is rather ad hoc and ridiculous, since we could say, using a purely doctrinal grid, that we think more as a Reformed thinker V a Lutheran thinker V a Anabaptist thinker V a Roman Catholic thinker etc.

    At the end of the day, the only kind of thinker that really matters are those who attempt to magnify Jesus in all that they say and do!

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Thanks Bobby and Bowman.

    @ Bowman
    Reformed identity is up for grabs, and it may be that nobody today can catch it.

    That’s the impression I’m getting! 🙂

    @ Bobby
    if you affirm certain Reformed themes, I think you could be said to be a Reformed thinker, maybe.
    That makes sense, as “reformed” appears to be the catchall umbrella under which all of the various understandings rest. It just gets a little confusing at times as there are those who, as you said, tend to limit the definition of Reformed to certain specifics. But that certainly isn’t everyone’s perspective.


  26. Heather, I have recently reviewed a systematic theology whose author declares that he is Reformed because he has had “a Reformed experience of grace.” By this, he means that he has himself experienced William Perkins’s ‘catena aurea’ (Romans 8.30). Wonderful. And in 900 pages of basic theology he cites almost no theologians who are not Reformed (TM). Not wonderful.

    I was intrigued to note, however, that his Calvinism is an Amyrauldian ‘four point’ variety, and that in many loci his contemporary exegesis tugs him into positions usually thought to be Lutheran or Orthodox. Indeed, I smiled wryly as he flogged the straw man of “consubstantiation” in good Reformed fashion, and then explained the Lord’s presence in the Supper much as an actual Lutheran would actually do. He seems to have had no intention of being as ecumenical as he in fact was. The Bible made him do it.

    One can view this as Reformed identity disintegrating before our eyes as exegesis drives theologians to balance protology with eschatology, Fall with Exile, history with testimony, justification with incorporation, etc. There is more in scripture for systems to explain than the older Reformed systems can account for. And it must be said that those systems relied heavily on a good deal that was not in fact there. Quite apart from the depths of all the other traditions, identities defined as stubborn defense of those systems are on a collision course with the continuing advance of good (very often Reformed) biblical scholarship.

    But one could also view this eclecticism as the triumph of a continuing Reformed project. Generations before him struggled to avoid the concessions he tacitly made, but he did it as if holding a white elephant sale to get rid of things no longer needed. A butterfly shedding a cocoon is probably not sorry about it.


  27. @ Bowman
    Thank you for the extended discussion.

    The Bible made him do it

    May we all be willing to let go of the things which inhibit our ability to obediently follow Christ and love one another as He commanded.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Well, Heather, thank you for mentioning scripture so often in your comments.

    Further thanks to Stan, Nathanael, and Brian for their engagement with the OP.

    And warm thanks to Bobby, for all his posts, these comments, and the whole EC project.

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  29. Bobby, Glumsrud is right that the infant Barth was not rocketed to earth from planet Krypton, and that he emerged from a C19 milieu that influenced his C 20 work. Reconstructing that emergence is a worthwhile historical project, and Glumsrud can probably pull it off. However, I too find myself mentally deleting lots of subtext about theological identity that probably drives you crazy. When I want to cheer a team, I watch football.


  30. Yes, but Bowman, Glumsrod’s thesis is in error. Glumsrod’s thesis is that Barth wasn’t Reformed, it is that old tired Vantilian inspired thesis that most Westminster Theological Seminarians push and push. Barth was a Reformed theologian who worked within a particular German/Swiss context and in conversation with people of his day. But if we were going to use this as a criteria to keep Barth out of the Reformed trad, then we should also keep Michael Horton out as well–but nobody who is part of the Westminster Reformed movement want to do that, including Glumsrod!


  31. Yes, Bobby, but the war is over. People voted with their bookshelves and today the Church Dogmatics sit next to the Institutes. Indeed, many refer to the latter only because they read the former. Of course, there may still be isolated Japanese islands where soldiers fire their last rounds toward American cruise ships passing in the distance. These things happen.

    Apart from that, historical perspective comes by eliminating partiality and error over time. The pathbreaking study never gets it all right. We got to Janice Knight by putting up with Perry Miller.

    To my mind, Jenson’s critique of Barth’s ‘vinculum amoris’ both corrects and eclipses Glumsrud’s concern about Barth’s “pneumatological occasionalism.”

    Click to access Barth%20Holy%20Spirit.pdf


  32. Well, exactly, Bowman. Glomsrud’s analysis ought to be eclipsed … that’s all I’m saying. 🙂

    The war rages, Bowman, it just depends upon where you live. I’m an evangelical, don’t forget that, and movements like The Gospel Coalition, John MacArthur’s ministry, John Piper etc have major impact upon people I know and love (not to mention the impact of Westminster Theological Seminary on people I know). And so, this competition, in that realm remains.

    To be honest though, I really don’t have that much time or interest in engaging with that “war” much anymore, but it does remain at a pop level at least.


  33. Bobby, I look forward to seeing those who have truly understood it climb up from the leading brand into EC. Your competitors– it is only competition now, not war– are not its evangelists, but they are its recruiters. Again, thank you for carrying the banner.


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