The masculinity of Confessional Churchmen

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Yesterday, I drew attention to the essay on James Buchanan by Carl Trueman in a recently published volume by P & R (The Faith Once Delivered). This morning, in our regular Friday staff meeting (when I'm asked by Ligon Duncan, "Do you have anything for us today") I cited these lines from the essay. They are particularly helpful in light of recent statements made by those who should know better about the view known as "Federal Vision". What betrays them is a yearning for novelty of thought (and expression), a kind of snobbery for the present that makes them appear cutting-edge in the eyes of the theologically illiterate. Sadly, it is seen (and heard) in those who have no regard for the constraints of confessional orthodoxy and pay mere lip-service to the fellowship of church courts (or think themselves above such things).

"It is ... important to remember that Buchanan was not a generic evangelical who responded to the Enlightenment by privileging piety or experience over doctrinal formulation; nor was he a Bible-thumping "no book but the Bible" fundamentalist for whom the church's doctrinal tradition was just so much quasi-Roman bunkum; nor was he a reactionary obscurantist who was simply committed to mouthing the old shibboleths and talking nostalgically about a mythical golden age of doctrinal and ecclesiastical purity. Rather, he was a confessional Presbyterian, obliged by his ecclesiastical vows not only to take the historic teaching of his church seriously and to expound and defend the theology of the Westminster Standards as consistent with Scripture, but also to use these, and the tradition of theology to which they belonged, as a principal resource for combating error in his role as protector and shepherd of God's flock."

In a footnote, Trueman notes the tetchy comments by Michael Jinkins in the new Dictionary of National Biography on Buchanan, viz., the comment that Buchanan in his lectures on justification was "principally remarkable for his avoidance of constructive and original thought," and that his theology was "unoriginal" -- a comment, Trueman notes Buchanan would have found perjorative, besides being irrelevant. Trueman then adds:

"Until a confessional position has been decisively shown to be inadequate, the church theologian who is voluntarily bound by solemn vows to upholding that position is scarcely going to prize originality in doctrine as an honorable or worthy aspiration." (p.60)

Posted September 7, 2007 @ 5:02 PM by Derek Thomas

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