Theology, Social Order, & the Reformed Tradition

If it were not for James B. Jordan and his compadres I perhaps would have never decided to seek ordination in the Reformed church, and it is he (and others such as Peter Leithart and Jeff Meyers) who have provided the theological encouragement to keep  me in the PCA.

This excerpt from Jordan is the kind of thing I’m talking about (note especially the part on Descartes versus Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy near the end):

When Calvin did theology, his fundamental concern was with social order and the restoration of social order: the order between the triune God and human society, between people and people, etc. (See Benjamin Charles Milner, Jr., Calvin’s Doctrine of the Church. Studies in the History of Christian Thought 5 [Leiden: Brill, 1970].) Nor is this concern with order unique to Calvin’ s overall theological approach. It was a characteristic of all Renaissance-period thinkers, and indeed had been how theology was done from the time of Irenaeus forward, including Eusebius, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and all the Reformers. All were concerned with Jesus Christ’s restoration of order to all of life. The notion that Jesus came only to cherry-pick a few individuals out of the world and put them in a basket, leaving the rest of the world to flames, would have appalled them.

Doing theology in a context of social thought and with a concern for social order did not stop with the Reformation. The men at the Westminster Assembly were concerned with the same matters. After all, they met during the English Civil War, a time when they were trying to reorder all of society. Samuel Rutherford’ s political treatise Lex, Rex; or The Law and the Ruler begins in its opening paragraph by referring to a whole list of Roman Catholic writers who were also wrestling with the same issues. I mention this because one objection to “ Federal Vision” writers is that they dare to read Catholic, Lutheran, and Orthodox theologians and thinkers! Anyway, one need only read the literature of the Presbyterians and Puritans in England and New England to realize that they did theology in a context of postmillennial expectations and of concern with society….

Individualism as a perspective has been developing in Western thought for a number of centuries. When Descartes says, “ I can doubt that I exist, therefore I exist,”he reduces everything to the individual. When Rosenstock-Huessy counters, “ Others speak to me, and that’s how I know I exist,” he is rejecting that individualism in favor of a Christian view of reality. But Descartes is still more with us than is Rosenstock-Huessy, and so is individualism.  –  James B. Jordan, Biblical Horizons 194 (May 2007).

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