The balance-wheel of Christendom

Woman Holding a Balance, by Vermeer

A quote and my comment.

The Quote

“Should this type of [Calvinist] doctrine and this form of the religious experience disappear, Christendom would lose its balance-wheel. For it is no disparagement of the energy of evangelical Protestantism of all varieties, in the defense of the common faith, and the war upon the common unbelief, to say that the Genevan theology is always in the front whenever a fearless position has to be taken in behalf of an unpopular but revealed truth; whenever the Christian herald must announce the solemn alternatives of salvation and perdition to a sensuous, a pleasure-loving, and an irritable generation; whenever, in short, the stern and severe work of the perpetual campaign on earth against moral evil has to be done. The best interests of the Church require the continual existence and influence of that comprehensive and self-consistent creed which Augustine formulated out of Scripture, and Calvin reaffirmed and re-enforced. Evangelical Arminians who do not adopt it feel its influence, praying it in their prayers and singing it in their hymns; and Rationalists of all grades while recoiling from it acknowledge its massiveness and strength. It may, therefore, be confidently expected that whatever be the fortunes of a particular Church, or the tendencies of a particular time, this form of doctrine will perpetually survive in Christendom like the Scriptures out of which it was derived.” (William G. T. Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed, a.d. 1893, republished by Banner of Truth, 1986, pp. 150-151.)

The Comment

By the use of “balance-wheel,” may we suppose that the other forces, the non-Calvinist determinants in the broader Church, are likewise necessary? Is the “enthusiasm” of folk Protestantism, as found especially among the Baptists and Methodists, necessary for the vitality and general sustenance of Protestantism? Can Calvinism, with its anti-Romanticism, encompass the broad range of personalities necessary for a truly catholic church? Is the work of Michael Horton, D. G. Hart, R. Scott Clark, et al. just a (futile?) attempt to push the pendulum back toward confessional orthodoxy just so it can swing back toward the free church in the succeeding generation?

Ergo, Jonathan Edwards is awesome.



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