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Is the Reformation tradition in trouble?

November 11, 2010

In the post Dan referred to at David Fitch’s blog below, Fitch makes some teasing references toward a fuller, forthcoming argument regarding the problems with the Reformed tradition in a post-Christendom context.

He hasn’t said much yet, and a bigger post is apparently coming, so I wont go very far into a discussion at this point. However, he seems to be zeroing in on one part of the history of the tradition in particular which I could perhaps comment on:

Nonetheless, and I hope to push this point in a later post, I think the seeds sown in European Christendom Reformation, have come to bloom in theological movements like this one. I think once Reformation protestantism was transplanted to America, lacking any cultural backdrop, you have a Reformation with nothing to reform … leading to this in many ways.

Without further elaboration, which, again, is forthcoming, the only responses I can make are these: Calvinism, while originating in a context of Protest, has for some time been creative of entire cultures and societies (as blogged here recently). It is not without its “positive” strain. Further, being a Protestant movement, it has a built-in mechanism for self-correction: sola scriptura.

On the other hand, it will be very interesting to see how one could criticize the magisterial Reformation tradition for being too locked into “protest” mode, while simultaneously not criticizing the Anabaptist tradition, which has been (in)famously criticized for its withdrawl from certain aspects of culture (statecraft specifically).

Regardless, the future post looks like it will be productive of much discussion.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 11, 2010 10:18 pm

    I sometimes wonder if the Anabaptists were so shaken by what happened when they got control of Munster that they just decided to steer clear of politics.

    • Andrew permalink*
      November 13, 2010 11:24 pm

      I’m not sure of the chronology (were all peace-Anabaptists post-Munster?), but you’re probably right that that event helped many realize that was a failed path…

  2. November 12, 2010 3:58 pm

    Hey there,

    This may read as cynical but in response to your statement:

    “Further, being a Protestant movement, it has a built-in mechanism for self-correction: sola scriptura,”

    I am not sure that the Reformed movement is open to self-correction. I think the confessions have locked the tradition in, theyve become a sort of paper-pope.

    Thanks for your time,
    Calvin and Calvinism

    • Andrew permalink*
      November 13, 2010 11:23 pm


      I won’t deny your observations have a lot of validity in some parts of the Reformed world. However, I think in a way the diversity amongst “Machen’s warrior children” demonstrates that sola scriptura is alive and well: Calvinists are frequently disagreeing with parts of their tradition and with other Calvinists because of what they believe scripture teaches. While this feeds into what Fitch is talking about, it is also the same mechanism that can keep the tradition open to correction (in this case, about demeanor itself).

  3. November 17, 2010 12:25 pm

    Thanks for your reply.

    I live and work in an academic context, a Reformed seminary in fact. I get to see a lot of stuff generated by Reformed folk, academic and lay, and I am skeptical that there is any willingness to reexamine or modify something which the WCF, for example, has already pronounced on. I see the same among the Reformed Baptist community with their commitment to the 1689.

    But again, thanks for your time.



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