Nevin the High Church Calvinist on the Church



The Church is his body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. The union by which it is held together, through all ages, is strictly organic. The Church is not a mere aggregation or collection of different individuals, drawn together by similarity or interests and wants; not an abstraction simply, by which the common in the midst of such multifarious distinction, is separated and put together under a single general term. It is not merely the all that covers the actual extent of its membership, but the whole rather in which this membership is comprehended and determined from the beginning…

The life of Christ in the Church, is in the first place inward and invisible. But to be real, it must also become outward. The salvation of the individual believer is not complete, till the body is transfigured and made glorious, as well as the soul; and as it is transfigured and made glorious, as well as the soul; and as it has respect to the whole nature of man from the commencement, it can never go forward at all except by a union of the outward and inward at every point of its progress. Thus too the Church must be visible, as well as invisible. In no other way can the idea become real. Soul and body, inward power and outward form, are required here to go together. Outward forms without inward life can have no saving force. But neither can inward life be maintained, on the other hand, without outward forms. The body is not the man; and yet there can be no man, where there is no body. Humanity is neither a corpse on the one hand, nor a phantom on the other. The Church then must appear externally, in the world. And the case requires that this manifestation should correspond with the inward constitution of the idea itself. It belongs to the proper conception of it, that the unity of the Holy Catholic Church should appear in an outward and visible way; and it can never be regarded as complete, where such development of its inward power is still wanting. “There is one body,” the Apostle tells us, “and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.” Such is the true normal character of the Church; and so far as it may fall short of this it labors under serious defect…

… We may not doubt therefore, but that in the midst of all the denominational distinctions, which have come to prevail particularly since the time of the Reformation, the life of the Church, with all its proper attributes, is still actively at work in every evangelical communion. The “one body,” most unfortunately, is wanting for the present; but the “one Spirit,” reigns substantially as a greater spiritual whole. Joined together in the common life of Christ, in the possession of one faith, one hope, and one baptism, the various divisions of the Christian world, are still organically the same Church. In this form, we hold fast to the idea of Catholic Unity, as the only ground in which any true Christianity, individual or particular can possibly stand.

John Williamson Nevin, Catholic Unity

It is not altogether unusual for confessional Protestants on the one hand to be charged by (high church) Catholics as being latent evangelicals. We are, to them, by virtue of being Protestant and not Catholic, categorically radical individualists and ecclesial consumers. On the other hand, it is not unheard of at all to be accused by (low church) evangelicals of being frustrated Catholics who’ve stopped over in Geneva on our way to Rome. After all, their ancestors told ours they didn’t go far enough in reforming the church.

The irony is that both accusers have much more in common with each other than either does with us. Both elevate something above Scripture—the Catholic elevates the church and the evangelical elevates experience. But both sola ecclesia and sola persona seem to reveal an essential misapprehension of the nature of and relationship between Scripture, the church and her confessional formulations. For the Catholic, the status of infallible is applied to the church, while for the evangelical it is applied to the individual. For the confessional Protestant, infallible, of course, is reserved for Scripture alone. When the confessional Protestant speaks of having a high view of the church the evangelical mistakes this for an infallible view, and the Catholic mistakes him for meaning low view because anything other than an infallible view is necessarily low.

The confessional Protestant makes distinctions not only between views but also between opinions. The evangelical, having a low view of something like confessional formulation, may speak highly of creedal religion. But his speech will be marked by terms like “guiding, helpful” and stop well short of terms like “binding, authoritative.” In the same way, he will often conceive of the church as a helpful conglomeration of like-minded individuals guiding its loosely affiliated members into greater understanding of one thing or another. He may have a high opinion of the church but still a remarkably low view, and the telos is one characterized by a sort of rationalistic understanding of something than an organic union with someone. Of course, high views necessarily include high opinions, as do infallible views. This all may seem rather torturous to the flanking western traditions, but to the confessional Protestant, distinguishing between high and infallible views is as important as delineating high opinions from high views. These differences are precisely what make each of us who we are and who we are not, but it just may be that some of us have a more careful appreciation for this much than others of us.

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33 Responses to Nevin the High Church Calvinist on the Church

  1. Todd says:


    While agreeing with your conclusions, you are not suggesting Nevin was a confessional Protestant, are you?

  2. Zrim says:


    Well, he neither evangelical nor Catholic. What are you saying?

  3. Todd says:

    Well, I’m asking if you call Nevin a confessional Protestant. If so, what confession would he have bound himself to?

  4. Zrim says:


    From what I’ve ever read on Nevin I don’t see how he could be considered anything but a confessional Protestant in the Reformed tradition, which would mean (I think) he bound himself to the conventional Reformed confessions.

  5. Todd says:


    Have you read Charles Hodge’s criticisms and warnings against Nevin? Nevin was anything but conventional reformed, and rejected Calvinism among other problems.

  6. Zrim says:


    I am aware that Nevin is something of a controversial, if obscure figure in American Presbyterian history. I’m not as familiar with the details that surround any controversy. (I know he argued, for example, against Hodge, for the validity of Roman baptism. And I understand he was contemplating swimming the Tiber at some point before he died.)

    Even so, I do find him edifying in the same way I might find Chesterton edifying. Did you read the sermon I linked? Maybe you can point to something back up his explicit rejection of Calvinism, but this doesn’t sound like it to me:

    Every Christian, as such, is the subject of a new spiritual life, that did not belong to him in his natural state. This is in no sense from himself; for that which is born of the flesh, is flesh, and cannot be cultivated into any higher character. Only that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit. The Christian has his life from Christ. He is not only placed in a new relation to the law, by the imputation of the Savior’s righteousness to him in an outward forensic way…

    Since when do un-Calvinists speak of “the imputation of the Savior’s righteousness to him in an outward forensic way”?

  7. Todd says:


    Best to read Hodge yourself on this. Nevin admitted he did not agree with Calvin on predestination, and Hodge challenged Nevin’s faulty and dangerous view of the atonement. (BTW, both Hodge and Nevin argued for the validity of RC baptisms. You may be thinking of Hodge vs. Thornwell on that issue.) But Hodge thought Nevin’s sacramental theology was more Roman than Protestant. Nevin had some wonderful critiques of American Revivalism, but his answers were as bad as the problems he critiqued. I would argue that the Federal Vision is the modern stepchild of Mercersburg theology.

  8. Zrim says:


    Isn’t that part of the beauty of Protestantism, we can take what is right, true and good and shuck whatever isn’t?

    But Nevin answered the bench with the catechism. How can that be bad? Or is our take here the difference between an evangelically Reformed outlook (previously admitted) and a confessional one?

  9. Todd says:


    No, most confessional Protestants read Nevin as saying something different from classic Reformed theology. I would not say his answer was the catechism at all.

  10. sean says:

    I must say I worry about how some confessional protestants conceive the standards. While many in the PCA seem to have become embarrassed by their very existence, other CP’s seem to have elevated the standards to an interpretive tradition that renders judgement on the scriptures themselves. While both extremes are in error, we seem to have a poor relation to a sensible middle-ground that at once jettisons amorphous church bodies and embraces standards yet not to the eclipsing of scripture itself. It’s one thing to appeal to the standards as confessional commitments it’s quite another to abide them as “church-forming/creating” documents.

  11. Zrim says:

    I would not say his answer was the catechism at all.

    Then what would you say it was?

    Hart suggests:

    “Nevertheless, the alternative with which he left his readers at the end of his pamphlet, The Anxious Bench, may turn out to be the same choice confronting contemporary American Presbyterians. Nevin closed this piece by asserting that two rival systems were vying for the church’s attention: revivalism, represented by the anxious bench, and the Reformed faith, embodied in the catechism. Of the latter he wrote, it ‘stands the representative and symbol of a system, embracing its own theory of religion, and including a wide circle of agencies, peculiar to itself, for carrying this theory into effect’ (JWN, The Anxious Bench, 56). One of those agencies necessary for carrying out the Reformed system of religion is Reformed liturgy. What American Presbyterians need, and have always needed, is Nevin’s sense of the organic nature of their religion, that liturgy and theology and polity are not like the parts of an automobile that can be changed for newer or better ones but are in fact connected like the branches, trunk, and roots of a tree…Reformed theology needs Reformed liturgy just as Reformed worship makes no sense without Reformed theology. For that reason, the Reformed tradition will never be healthy if any aspect of its system is neglected or isolated from the whole. The history of American Presbyterian worship proves as much.”

    Recovering Mother Kirk, 200-201.

  12. Zrim says:


    While it seems quite clear to me that the high (low) opinion/low view posture abides, I’m hard pressed to see where infallible ones exists. Of course, it would be naive to think it doesn’t. But were I to suggest which one afflicts it would cerianly be the former. Where do you see infallible views that “seem to have elevated the standards to an interpretive tradition that renders judgement on the scriptures themselves”? Examples?

  13. sean says:


    Without stirring up a hornet’s nest by getting into specifics, I’d say there have been a number of church court cases from which it would’ve been fairly difficult to have come away with any other conclusion despite howling protests otherwise. There are a few other moves that have been floated through various GA’s that would have to be considered nothing short of trying to legislate out POTENTIAL abberance or mere difference of opinion. I ‘m not a big fan of legislating a paint by numbers approach to doctrine. It’s smacks of a concession that we lack the talent (pastoral) to administer any other way. It’s time to raise the level and stop lowering the bar or in this case, enforcing the grid.

  14. Wayne says:

    I found an uncopyrighted book titled “Mercersburg Theology inconsistent with Protestant and Reformed Doctrine” apparently from 1874 written by a Benjamin Schroeder Schneck that you all may find interesting.

  15. Zrim says:


    I doubt that. But thanks much for the heads up.

  16. Jonathan Bonomo says:

    I realize I’m a late comer to this discussion, but allow me to throw a little clarity to this exchange.

    1. On Hodge’s take on Nevin: Hodge simply did not understand Nevin. This will be apparent to anyone who reads attentively and fairly the work which Hodge was reviewing (The Mystical Presence) along with both Nevin’s response to the historical aspects of Hodge’s review–the 128 page destruction of Hodge’s historical fallacies in the Mercersburg Review,1850–as well as Nevin’s defence of his own Christology in response to Hodge’s criticisms–in the preface to his tract, “Antichrist”. If one reads these documents, and does so attentively and fairly, it’s very hard to give any creedence to Hodge’s misrepresentations of Nevin’s theology or his historical work. Even those who have engaged this controversy who would align themselves more with Hodge’s overall theology are willing to admit this (such as Peter Wallace).

    2. With regard to Nevin and Hodge on “the Reformed doctrine” of the Lord’s Supper: The mistake of each man was that each claimed to be advocating *the* Reformed view. In actuality, the Reformed have historically allowed for differing views, so long as bare memorialism and localized presence are ruled out. Nevin’s view was entirely faithful to the Calvinistic sacramental theology (what Gerrish has helpfully labelled “symbolic instrumentalism”), while Hodge’s view is more akin to the Zurich model, as advocated by Bullinger (“symbolic parallelism”). Both are acceptable. However, as Nevin shows in his response to Hodge, the Calvinistic view was the majority Reformed opinion by the latter half of the 16th c., and is encapsulated in the Old Scots, Gallican, and Belgic confessions, as well as the Heidelberg catechism. Bullinger’s is (obviously) found in 2 Helvetica, so it does have historic confessional support (in a document which he himself wrote). And Westminster is broad enough to allow for both. All that to simply say that Hodge’s (completely unsubstantiated) assertion that Nevin’s sacramental theology is “Romanist” is ridiculous nonsense. It has been exploded by theological historians of both the 16th century and 19th century alike (Gerrish, Nichols, Holifield, Davis, et al).

    3. Hodge’s biggest problem in the *theological* aspects of the controversy was that he viewed Nevin as basically Schleiermacher reincarnate on American soil, and he therefore read every single syllable which Nevin wrote with utmost suspicion. Nevin sufficiently clears up this misunderstanding in the preface to “Antichrist”.

    4. Hodge’s biggest problem in the *historical* aspects of the controversy was, well, simply that he didn’t know the history all that well. This, again, will be apparent by simply reading the historical documents of the controversy from both sides, in conversation with the relevant 16th c. documents.

    5. On Nevin’s confession: Nevin was brought up Presbyterian and was German Reformed throughout his theological career. The German Reformed held to the Heidelberg catechism (only). Heidelberg never ceased to be his confession, and he never claimed disagreement with it, nor did his denomination ever see his theology as being opposed to it. His doctrine of predestination (or lack thereof) is certainly too weak to be acceptable for the Belgic, Dort, or Westminster. But the German Reformed never confessed these documents, and they are still a historic Reformed communion. If we consider the German Reformed to be among the Reformed, then we must also do so for Nevin. But, of course, this depends on what exactly we mean by the term “Reformed”. If we demand 3FU or Westminster, then he was not. But if we are thinking a bit more broadly (and historically, in the sense of belonging to historic communions recognized as Reformed), then he was.

    6. Mention has been made above of Nevin’s doctrine of the atonement to the effect that it is “faulty and dangerous”. To this I would encourage a reading of Nevin’s writings where he actually does discuss the atonement (The mistake often made in interpreting Nevin on this point, and which Hodge made over and over again, is the assumption that a lack of systematic attention to a particular doctrine in a given writing implies a faulty understanding of the doctrine. But Nevin was not a systematic theologian like Hodge was. He was, like Luther, primarily a controversialist and an occasional writer. He dealt, with single-minded pursuit and rigour, to one specific topic at a time as he saw need.) Most important with regard to a proper understanding of Nevin’s doctrine of the atonement, in my opinion, is his article in the 1870 edition of the Mercersburg Review titled “Once for All”. In this article he makes it clear that

    “The whole Gospel centres in the death of Christ. Here, in a profound sense, we have the ground of our redemption; because here only we have the atonement—the sacrifice which takes away sin, and through this the victory, at the same time, which makes room for life and immortality.” (100)

    And the atonement is,

    “an absolute and all sufficient sacrifice for the sins of men; which as such, can never need to be accompanied or followed by any other sacrifice or service having for its object the same end. In this sense, the one offering of Christ excludes or shuts out the thought of any atonement for sin, any ground of righteousness and peace with God, other than that which is here presented to our faith. It needs no completion from beyond itself, no addition or supplement to itself: and it can bear no rivalry to its claims, no co-ordination or merit or worth, under any other form. It is the only and whole ground of our justification before God.” (103)

    Sorry for being a bit long-winded, but I couldn’t help myself. Hopefully this will help a little with understanding Nevin a bit better, particularly in relation to the controversies with Old Princeton.

  17. Jonathan Bonomo says:


    Like Hodge, Schneck didn’t get it either. Schneck’s work is just what his initials might indicate: B.S.

  18. Todd says:


    Thanks for the response. When I have some time I will challenge your take a bit.



  19. Jonathan Bonomo says:

    Just to be clear, in case some might think I’m just a Mercersburg apologist and Hodge-hater: I actually wouldn’t fully align myself personally with either Mercersburg or Old Princeton, although I appreciate both greatly. I’m with Mercersburg on the church and sacraments, but I’m with Old Princeton on the decrees. Overall, Hodge was a better theologian and more careful thinker than Nevin (while Nevin was the better historian). But in this particular controversy, Hodge was uncharacteristically sloppy and outmatched.

  20. Todd says:


    To start off, it is a general rule that if our best theologians do not understand what you are saying, the problem is usually with you, not them. If Hodge did not understand Nevin, though I believe he did, but if he didn’t, we might question Nevin’s ability to understand Scripture, given our view of clarity. Since I connect Mercersburg with federal vision, note how federal visionists claim our brightest theologians who have critiqued the movement simply do not understand what they are saying.

    And Nevin’s rejection of predestination should be a warning that his view of the atonement might be faulty. As for your quote that Nevin held to the orthodox view of the atonement, again it depends if you consider election and imputation vital to an orthodox view, which I do. Hodge saw through Nevin’s confusing language that Nevin was denying imputation.

    Nevin wrote:

    “Here we are brought, then, to stand upon higher and more orthodox ground. The doctrine of imputation is introduced, to meet the demand now mentioned. The work of Christ is no longer thought of as a mere display for moral effect; it is something to be appropriated and made available in the person of the believing sinner himself, for the purposes of salvation. Mere doctrine will not answer. The case calls for an actual personal participation in what Christ has done and suffered to take away sin and reconcile man to God. By imputation. we are told. As the guilt and fall of Adam were reckoned to his posterity, though not theirs in fact, so the righteousness of Christ, and the benefits of his mediatorial work generally are, in virtue of the terms of the new covenant, made over to all who believe in his name, and accounted to be theirs as truly as though all had been wrought out by them, each for himself, in truth. Their justification in this view is a mere forensic act on the part of God, which is based altogether on the work of Christ, and involves as such in their case no change of character whatever, but only a change of state. God regards them as righteous, though they are not so in fact, and makes over to them a full title to all the blessings comprehended in Christ’s life. At the same time, he regenerates them by his Spirit, and puts them thus on a process of sanctification, by which in the end they become fully transformed in their own persons, into the image of their glorious Savior…”

    “The imagination that the merits of Christ’s life may be sundered from his life itself, and conveyed over to his people under this abstract form, on the ground of a merely outward legal constitution, is unscriptural and contrary to all reason at the same time.”

    “The judgment of God must ever be according to truth. He cannot reckon to anyone an attribute or quality that does not belong to him in fact. He cannot declare him to be in a relation or state that is not actually his own, but the position merely of another. A simply external imputation here, the pleasure and purpose of God to place to the account of one what has been done by another, will not answer. Nor is the case helped in the least by the hypothesis of what is called a legal federal union between the parties, in the case of whom such a transfer is supposed to be made; so long as the law is thought of in the same outward way, as a mere arbitrary arrangement or constitution for the accomplishment of the end in question. The law in this view would be itself a fiction only, and not the expression of a fact. But no such fiction, whether under the name of law or without it, can lie at the ground of a judgment entertained or pronounced by God.”
    (Mystical Presence pp. 188-192)

    Hodge saw the problem:

    “Here we reach the very life-spot of the Reformation. Is justification a declaring just, or a making just, inherently? This was the real battleground on which the blood of so many martyrs was spilt. Are we justified for something done for us, or something wrought in us, actually, our own? It is a mere playing with words, to make a distinction, as Mr. Newman did, between what it is that thus makes us inherently righteous. Whether it is infused grace, a new heart, the indwelling Spirit, the humanity of Christ, his life, his theanthropic nature; it is all one. It is subjective justification after all, and nothing more. We consider Dr. Nevin’s theory as impugning here, the vital doctrine of Protestantism. his doctrine is not, of course, the Romish, teres atque rotundus; he may distinguish here and discriminate there. But as to the main point, it is a denial of the Protestant doctrine of justification. He knows as well as any man that all the churches of the fifteenth century held the imputation not only of what was our own, but of what though not ours inherently, was on some adequate ground set to our account; that the sin of Adam is imputed to us, not because of our having his corrupted nature, but because of the imputation of his sin, we are involved in his corruption. He knows that when the doctrine of mediate imputation, as he teaches it, was introduced by Placaeus, it was universally rejected. He knows moreover, that, with regard to justification, the main question was, whether it was a declaratory act or an effective act, whether it was a declaring just on the ground of a righteousness not in us, or a making just by communicating righteousness to us.”
    (Essays and Reviews – Princeton Review pp 385-386)

    Enough for now.

  21. Jonathan Bonomo says:


    Thanks for the reply.

    I spent a year studying the controversy, and I wrote my MA thesis on it, so you’re not going to expose me to anything I haven’t already seen and thought about myself

    After reading everything written by Nevin that is currently available in theological libraries, and everything by Hodge which is relevant to this controversy (as well as much that is beyond it), I’m absolutely convinced that Hodge didn’t get either Nevin’s overall theological system or the history of sixteenth century Reformed sacramental theology. And I’m certainly not alone.

    Like I said: I’m not implying that Nevin’s theology should be followed at every point. I’m just saying that, in the eucharistic controvery with Hodge, he was right on the history while Hodge was mistaken (This isn’t even questioned among scholars who’ve looked at and published on the debate: Nichols, Holifield, DiPuccio, Hart, Wallace, Mathison, et al.), and Hodge dreadfully misunderstood Nevin’s Christology (again, for the most part unquestioned in the secondary scholarly literature).

    Having read Nevin in much depth, I can say that the above quote from Hodge proves the latter point. Nevin never once denies the forensic aspects of justification. Rather, he holds to it while also affirming (as Calvin, Bucer, Vermigli, Zanchi, and many other 16th c. Reformed also affirmed) an actual participation in Christ’s divine-human life.

    And, on the quote from Nevin which Hodge critiques: Nevin had guarded himself against the misunderstanding that he was denying imputation earlier, on p. 180:

    “Do we then discard the doctrine of imputation, as maintained by the orthodox theology in opposition to the vain talk of the Pelagians? By no means. We seek only to establish the doctrine; for without it, most assuredly, the whole structure of Christianity must give way. It is only when placed on false ground that it becomes untenable in the way now stated… The Bible knows nothing of a simply outward imputation, by which something is reckoned to a man that does not belong to him in fact… The scriptures make two cases, in this respect, fully parallel. We are justified freely by God, on the ground of what Christ has done and suffered in our room and stead. His righteousness is imputed to us, set over to our account, regarded as our own. But here again the relation in law, supposes and shows a corresponding relation in life. The forensic declaration by which the sinner is pronounced free from guilt, is like that word in the beginning when God said let there be light, and light was. It not only proclaims him righteous for Christ’s sake, but sets the righteousness of Christ in him as part of his own life (180).”

    His (clearly) stated purpose is to hold *both* the forensic *and* the participatory/rennovated aspects of salvation at the same time. He is not emphasizing the one to the denial of the other. He is rather emphasizing the one while leaving the other untouched, because his concern is that the participatory/rennovative aspects, which he sees as just as vital, are being covered over by the 19th c. emphasis on the forensic.

    This touches on the type of theologian Nevin was: he was, as I pointed out above, a controversialist who dealt single-mindedly with one main topic at a time. This led him to be uncareful in his language at times and therefore, like Luther, it takes a lot of work to see just how all the parts fit together for him. But it just won’t do to say, “Hodge said it, so that’s how it is”. Hodge habitually isolates statements without paying due regard to the important qualifications which Nevin gives which guard against the exact misinterpretation of his words that Hodge gives them.

    This can be seen in a number of ways. But it’s especially apparent when we notice how Hodge interprets Nevin as being nothing but a Schleiermacherian mystic (and amazingly, a crypto Romanist at the same time!), when it’s clear that Nevin constantly guards himself against such misunderstanding. He speaks the language of German theology because he is a teacher in the *German Reformed* seminary. But Hodge, as anyone whose read him in any depth knows, looked upon anything German with suspicion–“they lack plain, healthy good sense”, as he would put it. However, Nevin did not simply buy Schleiermacher lock, stock, and barrel, and he can’t fairly be read as having done so on any point. Most importantly, he explicitly rejects Schleiermacher’s understanding of sin and redemption.

    But such qualifications were not enough for Hodge. Hodge was a great theologian, but that doesn’t make him the infallible interpreter of all things theological. He made mistakes, and in this controversy he made some pretty big ones. It’s impossible for me to honestly read the sources in any other way.

  22. Todd says:


    Thank you. I have not put in the hours you have in this debate, and I never suggested Hodge got all the history right, or Nevin for that matter, but the quote above still doesn’t convince me that Nevin held to imputation. I think his qualifications end up stripping the doctrine of its true meaning. Imputation in justificationis only forensic, union with Christ (mystical) begins after justification, as a result. I think Hodge was right in seeing the problem, but no need to go back and forth, the info is all out there and people can read and decide for themselves.



  23. Zrim says:


    Thanks for so helpfully weighing in.

    My point in this post wasn’t so much to get into the finer points about Nevin, etc., but rather to see where he might prove helpful, however controversial. My sense is that he becomes less suspicious the more carefully he’s read.


    I think I understand your concerns about the FV connection. But, heck, I still think Jeff Meyers’ “The Lord’s Service” is a worthwhile read on worship and ecclesiology, despite its author’s highly unfortunate connections to Moscow. FVers give high church Calvinists a pretty good black eye, that’s for sure.

  24. Jonathan Bonomo says:


    As you probably know, the relationship between Union with Christ and justification is still an in-house debate among the Reformed. (The recent online debate between Drs. Fesko and Gaffin in Ordained Servant is one evidence.) I honestly don’t see Nevin as saying anything different in this regard than what is taught at my own institution: WTS philly, where I’m currently a student. WSC, on the other hand, is closer to Hodge. But I think both are within the bounds of Reformed orthodoxy.

    And just a word with regard to FV: There may be some similarities, but there are also some important differences. Most importantly, Nevin was not wont to speak of works or “covenant faithfulness” as occupying a role in salvation. Rather, his concern was to emphasize the role of the incarnation and the mystical union by which we receive Christ himself with all his benefits. We receive Christ and obtain his benefits by faith alone apart from any works. Nevin taught this, and never denied it.

    Thanks again for the dialogue.


  25. sean says:

    Ooh Gaffin, Union, WTS, WSC, Forensic, Organic, wheels, spokes, priority. Somebody get the confessional maximalists to adjudicate this one rightly and I’ll sign on the line.

  26. Todd says:


    This may be an in-house debate, but that doesn’t mean the consequences for getting this wrong are not serious. Nevin, I believe, got this wrong. Scott Clark’s work on this issue has been very helpful, as seen here:

  27. sean says:


    I think the issues are “essential”. I don’t think either side has much credibility on the issue. WTS for defending and championing it, and WSC for letting them get away with it for so long. RSC doesn’t get to call me or anyone else as far as I’m concerned, to confessional maximalism without adjudicating monocovenantalism and it’s illegitimate children, and get it right.

  28. Todd says:


    Not sure I’m following your criticism of Scott. I appreciate you seeing the seriousness of the issue, (and that you are on the right side), but hasn’t Scott been fighting monocovenatalism for years, or am I misunderstanding your concern here? How would he adjudicate a problem in a different seminary?


  29. sean says:


    I’m mainly responding to Clark’s call for confessional maximalism. Secondly, I don’t appreciate or trust much the “faculty lounge” phenomenon that has gone on between the seminaries as it’s regarded their trajectories. Thirdly, there’s been enough seminary profs populate denominational committees to earn a black eye, from me anyway, for their abdication of responsibility on these issues. I could call it something else, and in any other endeavor with which I’m acquainted it would’ve been, but I’m being nice.

  30. sean says:


    In other words, say Kinnard (sp?), and I could both sign off on confessional maximalism as it regards, justification, but because of monocovenantalism and Gaffin’s union, we aren’t going to understand justification similarly, though we’re both claiming confessional orthodoxy.

  31. Todd says:


    While I appreciate your doctrinal concerns, I try not to make enemies out of friends. When people speak the truth, I am happy. Some are more agressive than others in how they pursue truth, but I don’t mind not knowing which way is ultimately better.

    Well, Friday break is over, enough blogging for a while.

  32. sean says:


    Not declaring enemies, just calling balls and strikes

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