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The following is a post I wrote some years ago, and while I have developed in my understanding in some ways—like I might argue with Kendall’s attribution of the doctrine under discussion to Calvin—what remains central is the reality that following Puritan theology, and now neo-Puritan theology (like the kind Piper has made popular), has the same kind of informing theology and implications as described below by R.T. Kendall (he himself is no stranger to controversy, and Paul Helm has responded to Kendall in book form). But given the release of that new book From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives edited by David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, I think continuing to highlight the kind of implications that are associated with a doctrine like ‘definite atonement’, ‘particular redemption’, and/or ‘limited atonement’ is apropos. And so here is the post (this will also give you insight into the ways I used to write much more frequently):

As we read further with R. T. Kendall he answers my question in my last post on where “Temporary Faith” went. Let’s follow along as Kendall describes the unfolding of this doctrine and how the pastoral implications of this teaching became the “hard teaching” of what we now commonly refer to as Calvinism:

The doctrine of temporary faith became the embarrassment, if not the scandal, of English Calvinism. The followers of Perkins claimed less and less for it so that it eventually presented no threat at all to the believer; William Ames gave its virtual demise a systematic sanction. This teaching seems to have begun with Calvin himself and to have been perpetuated especially by Perkins. Neither Calvin nor Perkins apologizes for a teaching that may seem to some as pastorally insensitive. This teaching depicts God as giving the reprobate, whom He never intends to draw effectually, but a ‘taste’ of His grace. Indeed, in the preface to Whether a Man Perkins claims that this temporary faith ‘proceedeth from the holy Ghost, but yet it is not sufficient to make them sound professor’. These men teach this doctrine simply because they find it in Scripture; to them it explains such passages as Matthew 7:21-3, Hebrews 6: 4-6, and the Parable of the Sower.

The thesis in Whether a Man is that a man may think himself regenerate when he is not, but a truly regenerate man ‘maie discerne’ that he is. In this connection Perkins employs 2 Peter I: 10 (‘Give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall’), a verse he sees as the chief mandate for preaching generally as well as the formula by which Christians particularly may prove to themselves that they have the object of an effectual calling. The verse 2 Peter I: 10 may be safely called the biblical banner for the Perkins tradition; it stands out in bold relief on the title-page of Whether a Man and heads the list of Scriptures printed on the title-pages of his other works.

It is Perkins’s conviction, then, that the regenerate man may discern that he has the knowledge of saving faith, or assurance of election. Such knowledge Perkins calls ‘experimental’. The testimony of the Spirit is given by ‘an experiment’ that is not conjectural but ‘an infallible certenty of the pardon of sinne’. Perkins believes that 2 Peter I: 10 is to be related to one’s conscience. The conscience itself, he believes, takes effect in a man’s mind by a process of syllogistic reasoning. Conscience pronounces judgement ‘by a kinde of reasoning or disputing, called a practical syllogisme’. By the ‘practical syllogisme of the holy Ghost’ one may not only have ‘experimental certentie of the truth of the Bible’ but know ‘hee is in the number of the elect’. (R. T. Kendall, “Calvin And English Calvinism To 1649,” 7-8)

Again, I am struck by the lack of this kind of language and thinking amongst those who claim to be the heirs of folks like William Perkins and William Ames. I have interacted with plenty of contemporary Calvinists today, and read many of their writings (even their blogs); and I can honestly say that I have never heard the grammar that we are hearing described here. In other words, I don’t hear the language of temporary faith, experimental predestinarian, practical syllogism; and beyond that I don’t hear contemporary Calvinists stressing over whether they may or may not be one of the elect. I don’t see them trying to discern if they have a ‘real faith’ or a ‘temporary faith’; instead most typically assume the “positive side” of this equation, and just assume that they indeed are one of the elect — the negative piece, articulated by folks like Perkins, that they in fact could only “appear” to have a saving faith is really never engaged (I would suggest, at least with the Western psyche, that contemporary Calvinists are more socio/culturally “liberated” and “individualized” so that the notion of their “election” simply becomes an “understood reality” for them).

Even Kendall notes that teaching like this became a “scandal” for the Puritans and the implied pastoral concerns that this kind of teaching engendered; but instead of jettisoning this teaching these “divines,” like Perkins, came up with an elaborate system and procedure to counter the negative vacuum that things like “temporary faith” generated — so the creating of the mechanism known as the “practical syllogism.”

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As we read further with R. T. Kendall he answers my question in my last post on where “Temporary Faith” went. Let’s follow along as Kendall describes the unfolding of this doctrine and how the pastoral implications of this teaching became the “hard teaching” of what we now commonly refer to as Calvinism:

The doctrine of temporary faith became the embarrassment, if not the scandal, of English Calvinism. The followers of Perkins claimed less and less for it so that it eventually presented no threat at all to the believer; William Ames gave its virtual demise a systematic sanction. This teaching seems to have begun with Calvin himself and to have been perpetuated especially by Perkins. Neither Calvin nor Perkins apologizes for a teaching that may seem to some as pastorally insensitive. This teaching depicts God as giving the reprobate, whom He never intends to draw effectually, but a ‘taste’ of His grace. Indeed, in the preface to Whether a Man Perkins claims that this temporary faith ‘proceedeth from the holy Ghost, but yet it is not sufficient to make them sound professor’. These men teach this doctrine simply because they find it in Scripture; to them it explains such passages as Matthew 7:21-3, Hebrews 6: 4-6, and the Parable of the Sower.

The thesis in Whether a Man is that a man may think himself regenerate when he is not, but a truly regenerate man ‘maie discerne’ that he is. In this connection Perkins employs 2 Peter I: 10 (‘Give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall’), a verse he sees as the chief mandate for preaching generally as well as the formula by which Christians particularly may prove to themselves that they have the object of an effectual calling. The verse 2 Peter I: 10 may be safely called the biblical banner for the Perkins tradition; it stands out in bold relief on the title-page of Whether a Man and heads the list of Scriptures printed on the title-pages of his other works.

It is Perkins’s conviction, then, that the regenerate man may discern that he has the knowledge of saving faith, or assurance of election. Such knowledge Perkins calls ‘experimental’. The testimony of the Spirit is given by ‘an experiment’ that is not conjectural but ‘an infallible certenty of the pardon of sinne’. Perkins believes that 2 Peter I: 10 is to be related to one’s conscience. The conscience itself, he believes, takes effect in a man’s mind by a process of syllogistic reasoning. Conscience pronounces judgement ‘by a kinde of reasoning or disputing, called a practical syllogisme’. By the ‘practical syllogisme of the holy Ghost’ one may not only have ‘experimental certentie of the truth of the Bible’ but know ‘hee is in the number of the elect’. (R. T. Kendall, “Calvin And English Calvinism To 1649,” 7-8)

Again, I am struck by the lack of this kind of language and thinking amongst those who claim to be the heirs of folks like William Perkins and William Ames. I have interacted with plenty of contemporary Calvinists today, and read many of their writings (even their blogs); and I can honestly say that I have never heard the grammar that we are hearing described here. In other words, I don’t hear the language of temporary faith, experimental predestinarian, practical syllogism; and beyond that I don’t hear contemporary Calvinists stressing over whether they may or may not be one of the elect. I don’t see them trying to discern if they have a ‘real faith’ or a ‘temporary faith’; instead most typically assume the “positive side” of this equation, and just assume that they indeed are one of the elect — the negative piece, articulated by folks like Perkins, that they in fact could only “appear” to have a saving faith is really never engaged (I would suggest, at least with the Western psyche, that contemporary Calvinists are more socio/culturally “liberated” and “individualized” so that the notion of their “election” simply becomes an “understood reality” for them).

Even Kendall notes that teaching like this became a “scandal” for the Puritans and the implied pastoral concerns that this kind of teaching engendered; but instead of jettisoning this teaching these “divines,” like Perkins, came up with an elaborate system and procedure to counter the negative vacuum that things like “temporary faith” generated — so the creating of the mechanism known as the “practical syllogism.” I would like to see contemporary Calvinists truly embrace their heritage; consistently follow through on the logic of their “system;” and live out both the negative and positive sides of their teaching of double predestination. I doubt my humble “call” will produce anything, but hey, it’s worth a shot 😉 . . .

What has happened to the doctrine of temporary faith in the ‘Reformed Orthodoxy’ of today? I find it interesting that much of the ‘Reformed faith’ today really comes off much more sterile and modernized relative to the theology that they are supposedly carrying forward.

Below is a quote from R. T. Kendall describing the teaching of ‘temporary faith’ vis-a’-vis the reprobate. If what Kendall is describing is true, then again, I just wonder what has happened to the “Reformed faith?” Kendall is using William Perkins as the touchstone in regards to understanding how temporary faith was articulated by one of the Puritan’s best:

It is crucial to grasp Perkins’s doctrine of the temporary faith of the reprobate. While a rigid predestinarianism was not new to English theology, Perkins’s doctrine and use of the notion of temporary faith — the central idea in Whether a Man — was. Whether a Man actually begins with the assumption of the inalterable decree of reprobation. Its comprehensive title is given as a warning to professing Christians to examine themselves lest they happen to possess but a temporary faith — a lofty position to which the reprobate, though doomed from the start, may attain. In his preface Perkins cites the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-15) and urges his readers to consider that a man ‘may seeme both unto himselfe and to the Church of God to bee a true professour of the Gospel, and yet indeede be none’. One may have the ‘certaine fruites’ that a true child of God has, be ‘perswaded in a generall and confused manner’, and still be unregenerate because of a definite number of such are so predestined from eternity. Whether a Man opens with ‘Certaine Propositions declaring how farre a man may goe in the profession of the Gospell, and yet be a wicked man and a Reprobate’. (R. T. Kendall, “Calvin And English Calvinism To 1649,” 6-7)

What has happened to this teaching today? What has happened to what once known as the Experimental Predestinarian faith? Is this teaching still alive and well amongst the ‘Orthodox Reformed’ today; or has this teaching been jettisoned for a more moderate and domestic form of this teaching — maybe these concepts are still alive, it’s just that the ‘OR’ have chosen to use a different vocabulary and grammar to articulate it?

I am really curious. If you are Classically Calvinist (or Federal in orientation), would you mind satisfying my curiousity on this issue?

Nothing really new to post. I am re-reading, trying to, R. T. Kendall’s book: Calvin And English Calvinism To 1649 for some research that I’m doing. Here is a quote from Kendall that would be consonant with what Evangelical Calvinism is also claiming — or wanting to reassess:

It has been generally assumed that William Perkins and his followers of the Genevan reformer John Calvin and that  theology embraced in the Westminster Confession of Faith was true Calvinism, or, at least, the logical extension of his thought. B. B. Warfield claims that there is nothing in the Westminster Confession ‘which is not to be found expressly set forth in the writings of John Calvin. This assumption has been accepted rather uncritically by most theologians and historians generally and the rank and file of Presbyterians and Baptists particularly. . . . (R. T. Kendall, “Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649,” 1-2)

There is no doubt that certain concepts articulated by the later “Calvinists” can be found in the writings of John Calvin; but, that is not to say that the Westminsters captured all, or even the core of Calvin’s theology. Evangelical Calvinism’s contention is that another thread of Calvinism, developed in Scotland, better understood and developed the emphases of Calvin’s theology. It is here where EC and Kendall agree. There is more to Calvinism, and even Calvin, than Westminster’s articulation captures.

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Hello my name is Bobby Grow, and I author this blog, The Evangelical Calvinist. Feel free to peruse the posts, and comment at your leisure. I look forward to the exchange we might have here, and hope you are provoked to love Jesus even more as a result. Pax Christi!

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A Little Thomas Torrance

“God loves you so utterly and completely that he has given himself for you in Jesus Christ his beloved Son, and has thereby pledged his very being as God for your salvation. In Jesus Christ God has actualised his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself. Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease. Therefore, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.” -T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 94.

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