Mainline or Sideline?

François_TurrettiniI have found these three podcasts from Office Hours on 18th century Reformed Theology fascinating and a wonderful food for thought in our own era as North American Anglicanism rushes toward “mainline” legitimacy rather than pausing to consider its consequences for future generations.

The podcast discussion, begins with with Jennifer Powell McNutt, Ph.D. about her research at the Geneva State Archive on the post-Reformed Orthodoxy period, and her book, Calvin Meets Voltaire: The Clergy of Geneva in the Age of Enlightenment, 1685-1798 and continues with Westminster Seminary California’s Professor Ryan Glomsrud two-part commentary on McNutt’s original archival discoveries of 18th century Reformed theology.

The question under discussion is the character of the church in Geneva’s response to secularism in the period after the death of Francis Turretin in 1687: Were the ministers deists with a confused piety as Jean-Jacques Rousseau described them when he lived in Geneva? Did McNutt discover instead the beginnings of evangelicalism that reasserted Reformation faith in reaction to the coming secularism? Did the ministers instead adapt to secularism and abandon the Reformation as the public confessions were marginalized in favor of a privatized piety and a personal biblicism (sola scriptura becoming solo scriptura)? Anglicans will note the date as corresponding to the ending of religious persecution begun in 1662 in the amnesty granted to non-conforming churches with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the rise of intolerance and persecution in the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685.

The application made to our present context from these insights in part 2 had me hitting the “Repeat” to listen a second time. Jennifer McNutt has given us a unique window into a little known period. If only the book, both paper and ebook, were not priced for libraries!

  1. Calvin Meets Voltaire
  2. 18th Century Reformed Theology, part 1
  3. 18th Century Reformed Theology, part 2 

5 thoughts on “Mainline or Sideline?

  1. I would suggest that as ACNA has organized, unity has been sought in methodology rather than in doctrine. The historical formularies have been set aside or marginalized to such an extent that a certain kind of minimalism remains that privatizes faith so that the only way we are unified is that we are all doing similar things. I would point out that this is the way the mainline denominations operate.
    We don’t ask, “What went wrong?” nearly enough.

    1. Affinity dioceses would be a place to start. Also, it requires actual political efforts at the College of Bishops level to make sure confessional folks aren’t steamrolled all the time.

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