Archive for December, 2007

I just saw that John W. Nevin’s History and Genius of the Heidelberg Catechism is available on Google Books.  Pretty darn exciting, if you ask me!

HT: Jordan Mark Siverd

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In this paper I attempt to briefly summarize Nevin’s Christology and the impact it had on the main features of his theological system.  Of course, much more needs to be said than is possible in an under 20 page paper for an adequate treatment of the Mercersburg Theology.  Nevertheless, I hope this brief paper can provide a decent introduction to the main features of Nevin’s thought. 

The Mercersburg system, in my opinion, provides a very compelling theological foundation for a distinctively Reformed ecumenism, which is why I am submitting this paper for discussion here.  I may follow this up later with a paper on Philip Schaff’s view of Church History and its place in his ecumenical hope, as well as another paper on the Liturgical implications of the Mercersburg Theology.


If you are unacquainted with Nevin, I recently wrote up a very brief sketch of his theological career, available here.

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A Homily for the Sunday in Christmas (Year A)

Matthew 2:13-23 (ESV)

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” 19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”


Yelena Bonner, wife of the Soviet physicist and human rights activist, Andrei Sakharov, was commenting on the propensity of human beings to participate in acts of unspeakable evil. Observing that complicity in evil tends to accompany an environment of fear and suspicion, she said, “Fear gives bad advice.” (more…)

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Many Christians struggle with the notion of eternal predestination, and how it fits into the larger picture of orthodox theology.  I think one reason many of us are gun-shy on the topic is because we have seen would-be Calvinists take this notion and make an idol out of it.  There are some for whom it would seem that the essence of the Christian religion comes down to a multiple-choice theology exam on TULIP.  They seem to take greater delight in the details of predestinarian theory than in the gospel itself and the crucified God it reveals.  (more…)

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As a follow up to my previous post on John W. Nevin, I figured I’d offer a select list of works which I believe would be most helpful to anyone wanting to study more of Nevin, Schaff, and the Mercersburg theology.  I apologize for the lack of complete bibliographical information and/or links, but I trust that anyone with internet access can easily find the works mentioned here on Amazon or other sites. (more…)

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The Conscience of an Anglican

Alan Jacobs has composed a thoughtful reflection on the Anglican Communion from a layman’s perspective. He is an AMiA guy from All Souls Anglican, Wheaton and teaches at Wheaton College. The full article can be accessed here.

Moreover, I remind myself that the churches of the Anglican world are governed by bishops, and I am not a bishop. One of the chief reasons I have held firm to Anglicanism over the years is that I believe that the threefold order of ministry—bishop, priest, and deacon—is the model taught by the apostles, the governance particularly approved by God. In this model I, as a layman—even though I am also a member of the priesthood of all believers—have a highly circumscribed role. If my pastor asks me to teach, I teach; otherwise I shut up. In the unlikely (and unwelcome) event of a bishop of the Church asking for my thoughts I would share them; otherwise I keep them to myself, at least in public. The decisions that will shape the future of the Anglican Communion will be made by bishops, not by laypeople, nor even by priests; if I care about that Communion—and I do—I had best be praying for those bishops, and not repeating the error of Job in darkening counsel by words without knowledge.

Like the Roman centurion, then, I am a man under authority, and also like him, I have some responsibilities of my own. Chief among them is to raise my son Wesley in the faith of the Gospel. Around four years ago now I left the Episcopal Church because—thanks to various changes in our parish’s life that followed the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire—I knew that if we stayed my son would be taught doctrines which I do not hold, and, just as important, would not be taught doctrines which I hold and believe it important for all Christians to hold. People who encouraged me to stay reminded me that, as (relatively) theologically knowledgeable persons, my wife and I could correct any sins of omission or commission when we got home. But the idea that the family holds the full responsibility for forming children in the faith, with the church being nothing more than a place of worship, is one of the ideas that I don’t want to teach my son. Another one is this: that bishops can ignore or repudiate significant portions of the doctrine and discipline of the Church—something the Bishop of Chicago did on a regular basis—and still be thought of as legitimate pastoral overseers for their people.

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If you frequent this site, one figure you may hear me (and others) reference from time to time is a theologian by the name of John Williamson Nevin.  Gabe wrote a very good post a few days ago which is filled with helpful quotations from both Nevin and Philip Schaff.  Recongnizing that Nevin’s name may be a bit unfamiliar to some, I offer this very brief introduction to Nevin’s theological career in order to aid those who may have never been exposed to him previously.  I plan to post a few essays I’ve written in order to expound the main features of the Mercersburg theology (named for the system of thought advocated by Nevin and Philip Schaff) here in the near future, and my hope for this introduction to Nevin’s career is simply to offer a small bit of historical context for these. (more…)

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This is my first contribution to this new website, and I am excited to be a part of it.  One thing I hope to do is offer meditations from time to time based on the 1928 BCP scripture readings throughout the liturgical year.  The gospel reading for the fourth Sunday in Advent is John 1:19-28, and I’d like to start off with a few brief words about this beautiful testimony to the witness of John the baptizer concerning Jesus the Messiah.  (more…)

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Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise,
Weaved in my lone devout melancholy,
Thou which of good hast, yea, art treasury,
All changing unchanged Ancient of days.
But do not with a vile crown of frail bays
Reward my Muse’s white sincerity ;
But what Thy thorny crown gain’d, that give me,
A crown of glory, which doth flower always.
The ends crown our works, but Thou crown’st our ends,
For at our ends begins our endless rest.
The first last end, now zealously possess’d,
With a strong sober thirst my soul attends.
‘Tis time that heart and voice be lifted high ;
Salvation to all that will is nigh.


Salvation to all that will is nigh ;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo ! faithful Virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb ; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He’ll wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son, and Brother ;
Whom thou conceivest, conceived ; yea, thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother,
Thou hast light in dark, and shutt’st in little room
Immensity, cloister’d in thy dear womb.


Immensity, cloister’d in thy dear womb,
Now leaves His well-beloved imprisonment.
There he hath made himself to his intent
Weak enough, now into our world to come.
But O !  for thee, for Him, hath th’ inn no room ?
Yet lay Him in this stall, and from th’ orient,
Stars, and wise men will travel to prevent
The effects of Herod’s jealous general doom.
See’st thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eye, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him, doth lie ?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitied by thee ?
Kiss Him, and with Him into
Egypt go,
With His kind mother, who partakes thy woe. 

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For some reason, Advent season causes me more than usual to reflect upon and grieve over the disunity of the Church.  Perhaps it is because I am reminded at this time more than any other of the gift all we Christians have been given in the coming of our one Lord for the salvation we have in Him.  Or it could be that I grieve over the fact that this holy season has been so commercialized and turned into a fluffy marshmallow slobber-fest by our society, knowing that a major contributing factor for this occurrence is that the Church lacks a united witness to our culture about the Incarnation of our Savior by demonstrating in visible fashion that those born of Him are indeed ONE in Him.  Or maybe it’s gathering together with family and friends whom I do not regularly see and being reminded that there are many genuine Christians–of the one household of God–from various confessions from whom I remain divided due to doctrinal differences and bitterness about things that occurred long ago between our ancestors, and that there is little hope that we will be truly gathering together to celebrate the glory of our redemption as one visible body anytime soon.  (more…)

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First of all, greetings. I am grateful for the invitation to contribute at this site and am proud to be associated with the crowd that has gathered here.

I have recently wrapped up a preliminary theological assessment of the the Anglican Province of Rwanda’s mission to North America. Many have encountered this mission under the name listed above by word of mouth or by its special mention in Philip Jenkins’ The Next Christendom. I happen to be a priest of the mission and worked this study up as a contribution to a doctoral seminar on Mission History. I certainly welcome friendly comment and critique. Its still in draft form and needs editing for style, though. Please don’t cite it in publication without permission.
Born of Revival and Genocide: The Mission of Province de l’Église Épiscopale au Rwanda and the New Evangelization



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Very little seems to be known about Edward Polhill, though I discovered him simply by working in a Reformed bookstore. Soli Deo Gloria has republished an 1844 edition of his Works, and it boasts endorsements by Roger Nicole and Cotton Mather- not too shabby. I was greatly impressed simply by the introduction to A View of Some Divine Truths Practically Exemplified in Jesus Christ with its strong Christological thrust and keen interest in honoring the catholic tradition of the Church. I did a little more research and found a brief biography of Polhill in the Oxford Biography Index.

Edward Polhill was baptized into the Church of England in 1622 and became known for being an able theologian, though a layman. His father was a rector, but Edward was a lawyer by trade. Polhill wrote several theological treatises expounding the thought of English Puritanism, and through his career he became the friendly acquaintance of John Owen and Lazarus Seaman among others. Though remaining within the Church of England all of his life, Polhill argued that the church’s leadership had only themselves to blame for the divisions caused by the cause of the nonconformists. He felt that the nonconformists’ complaints were essentially correct, even as he felt compelled to remain within the mainline church. Polhill died in 1693/4.

What I find so intriguing about Polhill, and why I think he is important for those of us who might choose to associate with “Puritanism” in some way, is his overarching Christological paradigm. The thesis of his A View of Some Divine Truths is that all theological truths reach their conclusion in the person of Christ. Jesus Christ is, as Polhill writes, “the substance and marrow” of the gospel, as well as “the very mirror of divine truths and perfections.” (more…)

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