I see that my initial post on a “Westminster Captivity” has raised an eyebrow or two, and also an amen. In addition, this week my Regent colleagues, Richard Kidd and Scott Pryor have entered the discussion with Kidd talking about Reformed roots and Pryor suggesting that I may have a point with respect to forensic justification while at the same time challenging me on the importance of penal substitution.
In this post I wish to renew my invitation to the “New Calvinists” by a brief look at Reformed pneumatology in light of my two concerns: the possibility of being Reformed and charismatic and the possibility of an evangelical core centered upon a theology of conversion. The Reformed readers of my blog rightly intuited that my “beef” is with the way Reformed theology–and by extension evangelicalism–has been co-opted by a particular stream that can cloud its rich diversity. It is most definitely not an assault on Reformed Christianity, but a call not to allow one interpretation of the Reformed faith to define the whole.
The kind of Reformed Christianity I hope the “New Calvinists” will embrace is a particular stream that moves from the early Reformed thinkers to the Puritans and into the present. This does not mean that other streams must be rejected, but that this stream should become the interpretive lens rather than Old Princeton/Westminster (OP/W).
First, another confession: As a sympathetic outsider to Reformed Christianity, I admit that my brush strokes were a bit broad. Hart has helped me to see that, in some respects, the current faculty of WTS PA may be more in my corner than I realize. I still do not think I’m chasing ghosts, but, rather, exorcising spirits. The cessationist wing is alive and well, and telling people you can’t be Reformed and charismatic; the forensic folks are still emphasizing the juridical over the participatory; and the literature spawned by OP/W continues to be cited frequently. If I have the “spirit” of Thomas Muntzer (a ghost from the past to be sure), then other spirits remain with us as well, and it begins to make me wonder whether Westminster CA has not become “possessed” with the drive for doctrinal purity. In addition, there are some fine Reformed theologians operating today who have been connected to WTS, but not captive to its penchant for doctrinal purity.
And, some clarification: If you pay attention to the verbs I used with respect to forensic justification (emphasized, embraced, dominate) you’ll notice that none call for repudiation. Some may wish that I had because it would make life much easier for them; they could dismiss me as a “radical” Anabaptist, a theological judgment that lacks such historical sensitivity I know not what to do with it. In an ironic twist, the penchant to highlight forensic justification and classify me with the “enthusiasts” suggests that I was on the right track. As Edwards remind us, the choice between spiritual experience and justification is a false dichotomy. As to the Bierma thesis that Olevianus does not fit Heppe’s older paradigm of two covenantal streams, well, it was not even on the radar and is inconsequential to my point.
Bucer, Pneumatology, and the Puritans
The reason why I said that Bucer never really embraced forensic justification has to do with the question of whether the righteousness of Christ is extrinsic or intrinsic to the believer rather than the language of imputation. As Oberman made clear in an early article on Luther’s mysticism and the New-Finnish perspective has affirmed, imputation language does not forensic justification make. Bucer certainly uses the language of imputation within his scheme of double justice, but his pneumatological framework places the righteousness of Christ within the believer.
First, Bucer talks about a “living and efficacious faith,” which involves an interior motion generated by the Holy Spirit. He carefully distances this movement from the medieval scholastic idea of an infused habitus. He also indicates in several places that by this motion the individual apprehends the mercy in Christ and senses (sentire) that his sins are forgiven. The verb sentire seems experientially driven to me because Bucer will say that this person cries out (clamare) to God Abba. It is quite close to what came to be defined in the 18th century by Francis Hutcheson, among others, as a moral sense, which Jonathan Edwards employed to talk about the “sense of the excellency of God.” In other words, the Spirit makes the language of family possible, and the believer senses that s/he is a child of God. There is a conscious awareness on the part of the individual that is connected to his/her affectivity, regardless of whether that awareness involves “ejaculatory prayer,” as it did with Edwards, or some other emotive reaction.
In Bucer’s 1542 On True Reconciliation and Agreement of Churches, he connects pistis and its verbal cognate to fides and takes them to mean a “firm persuasion” the Spirit brings. Fiducia (confident trust) is linked to the verb peitho and its cognates, which Bucer finds expressed in Eph. 3:12. Bucer goes on to suggest that fuducia is an affective movement of the human spirit. Thus what gives faith its confidence is the interior affective movement generated by the Holy Spirit. In other words, faith is both cognitive apprehension and affective reliance. So, my point still stands about a robust experientially-driven encounter with affectivity at its center. Word and Spirit must always be held together.
Second, the entire point behind “double justice” is to hold together imputed and inhering righteousness by placing them in a pneumatological framework. The participatory precedes the judicial. Union with Christ as a pneumatological event gives rise to everything else. In addition, both types of justice are present within the believer–albeit in different modalities–through the Spirit who makes Christ to dwell within. Imputation occurs because Christ shares his own alien righteousness with the believer not in some mystical way (as Osiander was want to suggest), but through the power and presence of the Spirit (see Stephens). This sets the tone for the Reformed view of the Lord’s Supper in which the Spirit makes Christ present in the bread and the wine. As the psychological and experiential ground of justification and sanctification, pneumatology allows Bucer to hold both together, rather than privilege one over the other. He was, after all, an Erasmian, and his very first work was on love and faith (not justification), and he did promote the reform of life and morals. I’ve always come back to Steinmetz’s provocative thoughts that Bucer is the spiritual, and possibly direct, ancestor of John Wesley, and that the Puritans could consider Bucer one of their “seminal” thinkers.
By way of conclusion, the Puritans would exploit the connection to affectivity in order to construct their ‘experimental’ piety. If experience is Anabaptist, then the Puritans are Anabaptist too. How quickly we forget that the Baptists and Quakers both came out of non-conformist Puritanism (as did John Owen, who found a way to affirm the ongoing validity of the charismata in his Pneumatology). There is much here to connect the Reformed and the Wesleyan streams. A common pneumatology centered upon faith as an affective movement that makes Christ present within and holds together justification and sanctification without privileging either. So, again, I call for an end to the captivity that over emphasizes juridical models so that it obscures the gospel as the living power of God.