Archive for May, 2009

Durham’s Top Five Theological Opponets

May 9, 2009

The list below contains what Durham regarded as the top 5 major theological errors if we judge by volume of references in his writing/strength of his language when mentioned (not in descending order):

1) Socinianism

They were “the enemies of Christ’s satisfaction,” “blasphemers” and “wretched.” Indeed so far had they sunk into error that they “are not worthy to be disputed with, nor accounted Christians; but rather to be joined with, and reckoned among, Heathens, or the followers of Mahomet…”

2) Arminians

Arminians were the “enemies of grace” who made conversion dependent not of the sovereignty of God but “on man’s fee will.” Durham felt it was easy to demonstrate “how dangerous and damnable this error is.” Arminians indeed deserved to be listed among “’the most gross heretics of old and of late.” Durham’s opposition to Arminianism arose in part from his belief that Arminian tenets “overthrow the design of grace in the salvation of sinners.”

3) Popery

To cite just two examples:

“… that blasphemous conceit and fancy of the Papists, who account their abominable Mass a propitiatory sacrifice … which … is most horrid blasphemy…”

“… nothing doth more natively breed anxiety and spiritual torment than the principles contained in the Popish Doctrine…”

4) Antinomianism

In some respects an opposite error to Popery, “…the Antinomians … make all sanctification to be justification … the Papists make all justification to be sanctification; therefore we would learn to distinguish these two, yet not so as to separate them.”  They get particluar criticism each time Durham broaches their view of justification.

5) Sects

Particulary “that foolery of Quakers.”  They didn’t hold back in their polemics in these days!

Is Calvinism a useful label?

May 2, 2009

Richard Muller argues that it is not:

As for the terms “Calvinist” and “Calvinism,” I tend to avoid them as less than useful to the historical task. If, by “Calvinist,” one means a follower of Calvin who had nothing to say that was different from what Calvin said, one would be hard put to find any Calvinists in the later sixteenth or seventeenth centuries. If by Calvinist one means a later exponent of a theology standing within the confessional boundaries described by documents such as the Gallican Confession, the Belgic Confession, the Second Helvetic Confession, and the Heidelberg Catechism, then one will have the problem of accounting for the many ways in which such thinkers – notably, Amandus Polanus von Polansdorf, Bartholomaus Keckermann, William Perkins, Franciscus Junius, and Bucanus, just to name a few – differ from Calvin both doctrinally and methodologically. One might even be forced to pose Calvin against the Calvinists. Given the diversity of the movement and the fact that Calvin was not the primary author of any of the confessional norms just noted, the better part of historical valour (namely discretion) requires rejection of the term “Calvinist” and “Calvinism” in favour of the more historically accurate term, “Reformed.”
PRRD, 1:30

(Inspired in part by the discussions over at ThomasGoodwin).