25 August 2007

harry potter and philosophy

I'm putting together a proposal to teach a course in the spring on "Philosophy and Harry Potter." The course will cover a number of pretty traditional philosophical topics: the virtues, evil, identity, the soul, free will, and so forth. I've already purchased (and plan to use) Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts edited by David Baggett and Shawn Klein.

I've asked around and received a number of other suggestions to look into (thanks Travis and Dave!), including some of John Granger's materials and several academic articles. Has anyone read and have an opinion about Critical Perspectives on Harry Potter edited by Elizabeth E. Heilman? I may also use Peter van Inwagen's essay on the ontology of fictional creations, an essay on literature as moral philosophy, and perhaps something on the theological dimensions of the books.

Do any of you have further suggestions? In particular I'm looking for articles or chapters, rather than book-length treatments.

craig on our allies

In 1930, Samuel G. Craig was ousted from his position as the editor of The Presbyterian, the denominational weekly of the Presbyterian Church USA. Craig had, at one time, been a board member of Princeton Theological Seminary, but in the wake of the controversy over Modernism and the re-organization of the Seminary and its board, his editorial leadership tended to be critical of Princeton and favorable towards the newly founded Westminster Theological Seminary.

Craig was ousted from his editorial post under the leadership of William Leonard McEwan, chairman of the Presbyterian Publishing Company, which published The Presbyterian, who was also, at the time, Princeton's board chairman. Craig went on to found a magazine later in 1930 called Christianity Today (which has no direct relationship to the magazine currently published under that name), as well as Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.

At the founding of Christianity Today in May of 1930, Craig noted that the publicaiton would be a magazine "of the Calvinistic rather than that of the Lutheran or Arminian Churches." Nevertheless, he went on to add,
...there will be the full recognition of the fact that what they hold in common with other evangelical Christians is much more important than what they hold in distinction from them. In fact while they will be as unflinchingly opposed to Rome as were their fathers they will not be blind to the fact that as the lines are drawn today — theism over against atheism; Christ the God-man over against the man Jesus; the cross as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice over against the cross as a symbol of self sacrifice; salvation as a divine gift over against salvation as a human achievement; the Bible as the revealed Word of God over against the Bible as a purely human product; the moral law as a divinely imposed rule of life over against the moral law as an everchanging resultant of human insight and experience — Rome, at the points at which the battle rages most fiercely today, is our ally rather than our opponent.
I thought that was an intriguing quotation, particularly from the founder of Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing.

23 August 2007

new school year

The orientation week was over Wednesday night, followed on Thursday morning with a faculty-wide, beginning of the school year meeting.

There are a lot of changes occurring on campus, in large part due to the demolition of an old building, the upcoming groundbreaking for a new science and technology center, the purchase of an adjoining 30+ acres that includes a hospital (which will become part of the nursing school), the completion of an $80 million capital campaign, and the plan to build a shopping center on campus with a Fresh Grocer, Starbucks, GameStop, and several other retail spaces. This major campus expansion and development, for a school our size, is a really huge deal and simultaneously exciting and disruptive.

After the faculty meeting that gave an overview of many of these changes, I came home and tried to collapse and get some sleep, though real rest and relaxation isn't in the mix for this weekend.

We've got a number of changes here at home too. We'd planned to enroll Claire in a Kindergarten program at a local Christian school this fall (she turned 5 last week). Yet after some testing, talking to the school's administration, and our own reflection and prayer, we decided to change plans and postpone full-time Kindergarten for a year. But we'd like Claire in some kind of pre-K or part-time Kindergarten program, somewhere, so we'll be meeting with some teachers and directors in the next week to try to make some decisions. This is all a bit last minute, but that's how things go sometimes, I guess.

Laurel is nearing completion of a novel she's been writing, but is also looking for part time work, once Claire is in school. So she's in the midst of job hunting and has already had several interviews. Still, it's not clear what the best sort of work will be, including the best hours and location. So things are up in the air a bit on that front.

For me, classes begin Monday and I still need to complete the syllabus and schedules for my courses, several of which need to meet new requirements suggested by the administration. So, I've got a busy weekend ahead, especially since we're trying to pull off a birthday party for Claire tomorrow with a small group of her friends and I need to swing by Target to buy a new bicycle while the current sale is still on.

I had better return to frosting some animal shaped cookies for the jungle-themed part on Saturday.

18 August 2007

summer over

This morning, in about 45 minutes, begins a five day orientation program for students admitted to my university as part of the Academic Enrichment Program (AEP).

The AEP is an admissions category for students who, for some reason or another, do not meet our normal admissions requirements. Yet the are students who the Admissions Office believes can succeed with extra support. Part of that extra support involves a five day, academically-oriented program to get them started on the right foot, to provide basic training in study skills, time management, and so forth, to familiarize them the university and the expectations of college-level work, and to explain to them the requirements of and support available through the AEP.

Students do not apply for admission to the AEP. Rather, a specified number of applicants are assigned to the program as a condition of admission. When admitted, they remain on a probationary status for their first year and must meet some basic requirements as a condition for continued enrollment.

Programs such as the AEP (as well as the Academic Discovery Program for low-income, mostly urban, minority students) are part of our university's mission as a Catholic university in the tradition of the Brothers of the Christian Schools of St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle.

Since I'll be busy with the AEP orientation through Wednesday - which runs 8am - 9pm daily - I'm not certain how much time I'll have to blog until its over.

16 August 2007

regional accents and dialects

While watching a show last night, Laurel and I were discussing the accent of one character, trying to determine in which part of England the person might have grown up.

Of course, we do this sort of thing all the time - even unconsciously - with American accents. It's not always easy to pinpoint a person's native region precisely, but in general its not difficult to distinguish, for instance, between New Yorkers, Minnesotans, New Englanders, Texans, and folks from the deep South. As with many Brits and "Received Pronunciation" (aka, the "BBC Accent"), Americans end up gravitating towards the "General American" of television news, though when tired, tipsy, or recently returned from a trip home, they revert back to their home accents.

What I always find interesting about the UK is that there is a tremendous amount of regional variation in accent and dialect in a nation that is roughly the size the Wyoming. The British Library maintains an extremely interesting and educational website on British regional accents and dialects called Sounds Familiar?, which includes various sound recordings, with a number of extended clips from various parts of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Still, even the regional variation within a country as small as the UK can be put into perspective by comparing it to the combination of Pennsylvania, lower New York State (including NYC and Long Island), New Jersey, and Maryland. Those of us from this region - I'm a Philadelphia native - are probably aware of and can distinguish between a number of regional variations: Philadelphia, Main Line, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania German, South Jersey, North Jersey, Long Island, Brooklyn, Baltimore, etc.

At any rate, we're still not sure what part of England the woman might have been from, though I suspect somewhere in the North. Nonetheless, we enjoyed learning more about the history of the shared language that distinguishes us all.

14 August 2007

assurance and epistemology

I was teaching an upper level epistemology course this past spring term, and found myself wondering sometimes if discussions of assurance of salvation intersect in some interesting ways with discussions in epistemology between "internalists" and "externalists" about justification of belief.

The following are some thoughts on that topic, mostly of an exploratory nature, not designed to settle matters, but to think about how issues in contemporary epistemology might illuminate and intersect with issues of faith.

Briefly, the difference between "internalists" and "externalists" is this.

Internalists about epistemic justification say something to the effect that:
[I] S is justified in believing that p, if and only if S has some kind of cognitive access to the adequacy of the grounds for S's belief that p.
The definition of internalism can come in weaker or stronger forms. [I] is fairly weak. More strongly, S might not only need access to the grounds of S's belief, but S might also need to justifiably believe that the grounds for believing that p are adequate.

So, for instance, on an internalist view, for S to justifiably believe that there's a tree outside her window, not only must S have an experience of the tree as outside the window, S must also be aware that this experience is the basis of her belief and, furthermore, that such an experience is an adequate basis for her belief.

Strong forms of internalism tend to run into difficulties of infinite regress, but even weaker forms seem to run up against the difficulty (among others) that, in our experience it is often the case that we don't recall just why we believe certain things we're quite sure we know.

At any rate, in epistemological internalism the bottom line is some kind of introspective awareness of or access to the reasons why a belief has justification.

Externalists about epistemic justification say something to the effect that:
[E] S is justified in believing that p, if and only if S's belief that p is the output of a reliable process of belief-formation and there are no conditions that would override that reliability.
There are a variety of ways of tweaking externalist definitions of justification, but [E] is fairy typical. In particular, it is tricky spelling out precisely what counts as "reliability."

Returning to the previous example, on an externalist view, S justifiably believes that there's a tree outside her window if her belief is the outcome of reliable sense perception, correct functioning of concepts about tree-identification, and there are no conditions in place (e.g., ingestion of hallucinogenic drugs) that would undermine or override this reliability.

It doesn't matter so much whether or not S is aware of any or all these things but simply that they are, in fact, in place. Thus, in epistemological externalism the bottom line is the proper functioning some kind of actually reliable belief-formation process.

We can apply these epistemological issues to questions of assurance of salvation.

Let's say that "assurance of salvation" is a belief to the effect that "Jesus Christ is my Savior and, in him, I have salvation." Personal assurance, I assume, is not merely a generalized belief that "Jesus saves" or "Any who come to Christ in faith will not be cast out." Rather, it is the belief that Jesus is Savior for me. Thus, assurance is more like believing "I see the tree outside my window" than it is believing merely that "There are such things as trees."

Now, given the distinction between epistemic internalism and externalism, we can construct two different sorts of accounts of how such assurance works.

In both cases assurance is grounded upon looking to Christ as he is presented to faith in the promises of the Gospel, held out to us in word and sacrament. "Faith" in the case of assurance is like "seeing" in the case of the tree outside of the window - it is the means by which the reality is apprehended and a condition under which confidence in the truth of the reality is possible.

We can imagine cases of improperly seeing (mistaking a mural of a tree for a real tree, looking out windows while under the influence of drugs, daydreaming, wishful thinking, etc.) where the experience that may seem like "seeing" turns out to be only an analogue of real seeing (and in some cases, a pretty shoddy and second-rate imitation of seeing). Likewise, we can imagine cases of improperly exercising faith (temporary faith, hypocrisy, false hope, presumption, etc.) where the experience that may seem like "faith" turns out to be only an analogue of true, saving faith.

Now, an epistemologist more inclined towards internalism about epistemic justification might parse out assurance of salvation in the following way: It is not enough simply to receive and rest upon Christ by a true, saving faith in order to be assured of salvation. Rather, it is also necessary that one be aware that assurance is only rightly grounded upon a true, saving faith and, moreover, one must have access to the fact that one's faith is actually of the true, saving variety and not some lesser analogue of faith.

On the other hand, an epistemologist more inclined towards externalism about epistemic justification might parse out assurance of salvation in the following way: True, saving faith is an outcome of election in Christ and the effectual call of the Spirit, bearing witness by and with the word of the Gospel. As such, it receives and rests upon Christ and, in doing so, is an infallibly reliable kind of assurance-formation. One need not be aware that one's faith is true, saving faith in order to be assured, but only that it is in fact the case that one's faith is of that kind.

With regard to other supporting means of assurance (e.g., the testimony of the Spirit, evidence of grace in the fruit of faith), these would play out in different ways on different approaches.

For the internalist, these supporting means provide the evidence that one's faith is actually of the true, saving variety. Having this evidence is a necessary step in arriving at assurance since assurance requires access to the fact of one's faith being true and saving.

For the externalist, these supporting means provide evidence that there are no overriding conditions present and thus, by pushing aside items that might undermine such assurance, bolster an assurance already formed by faith itself. Moreover, they serve as further processes of assurance-formation, supplemental to faith itself and are rightly countenanced from within the exercise of faith.

With regard to hypocrites, temporary believers, and so forth, the possibility of false assurance (what the Westminster Confession calls "false hopes and carnal presumptions") would similarly play out in different ways on different approaches.

For the internalist, the possibility of false assurance would seem to be somewhat problematic, since one would need to have a good reason for not thinking that one's assurance is of the false variety. Thus a project of assessing the Spirit's testimony, evaluating evidences of grace, and so forth would seem to be part and parcel of becoming aware of the true, saving nature of one's faith and thus would be a condition for obtaining assurance.

For the externalist, the possibility of false assurance could also prove problematic but in a somewhat different way. Since false assurance eventually cannot sustain itself, considered over time temporary faith and hypocrisy do not consistently mimic true, saving faith and thus do not undermine its reliability in assurance-formation.

In other areas of life, some people may make mistakes about sense perception or judgments of character, but these mistakes not undermine the reliability of sense perception or character judgment globally. "Seeing a tree," after all, when a product of misperception is only analogous to and not univocal with "seeing a tree" in a case of actual perception. Likewise, the possibility of false assurance, does not necessarily undermine the reliability of faith and, even when faith-like, only proves analogous to and not univocal with saving faith.

Moreover, while ongoing patterns of sin, vehement temptation, times of spiritual darkness, and so forth might provide sufficient reasons to undermine assurance, apart from the presence of these experiences, there is no reason for faith to doubt its own assurance. While evidences of grace, the Spirit's testimony, and so forth provide further reliable assurances, they are secondary to the assurance that results from faith itself receiving and resting upon Christ as he is presented to faith.

As a philosopher, I'm inclined towards epistemological externalism even apart from the question of assurance. When applied to issues of assurance, moreover, I find it a more felicitous approach that, at least to my mind, is more in keeping with biblical data.

I think both approaches are consistent with the Westminster Confession of Faith's teachings on assurance and doubt that the Westminster Divines intended to settle detailed issues of epistemology. The Westminster Confession everywhere presents assurance as the assurance of faith, underscoring that it is a function of faith's own receiving and resting upon Christ. Thus, in the chapter on saving faith, it speaks of such faith "growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith."

Moreover, with regard to good works, the Confession says that such works are "the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers...strengthen their assurance," suggesting that assurance is not initially obtained by countenancing the evidence of faith's reality, but is obtained by faith itself, apart from works, though works serve to strengthen that already existing assurance of faith.

If one is an externalist, then the question "how do I know that my faith is true faith" is a distinct question from "how can I be assured of salvation," since the necessity of discerning the genuineness of faith is not built into the structure of assurance. Such discernment is not ordinarily a requirement of assurance any more than discerning the genuineness of sense perception is a requirement for knowing there's a tree outside my window.

Of course, there are contexts in which such questions can be raised (and sometimes rightly so), but it seems to me that they are questions about the reliability of one's means of assurance rather than questions about assurance itself.

In a more extensive discussion I'd want to place my comments on epistemic justification in the context of the doxastic practice approach to epistemology that operates in terms of the cultivation of epistemic virtue (in which faith and its analogues, as a theological virtue, have a central role, something akin to Aristotle's observation that knowledge begins in wonder - and not Cartesian doubts, I might add).

I'm also fairly persuaded by Wittgensteinian sorts of considerations about practices of knowing, how raising doubts already presupposes particular language games, and how all this is rooted in a life-world. That's barely a thumbnail sketch of my wider epistemological proclivities, but it'll have to do for the present context.

It is also the case that someone hell-bent on skepticism isn't going to rescued from that by any particular epistemological approach. After all, even if we could agree on accounts of what reliability consists in (and I say "accounts" because I very much doubt that there's any one uniquely correct account that spans across all contexts and practices), actually showing that a specific doxastic practice is in fact reliable will necessarily involve epistemic (though not vicious) circularity.

Still, I think these sorts of epistemological considerations have bearing on how one approaches the question of assurance of salvation and prove a useful theological and philosophical exercise.

12 August 2007

of the church visible

The Reformed Scots always had a high regard for the church visible and her privileges.

It was, in large part, the efforts of the Scots commissioners at the Westminster Assembly that Chapter 25 of the Confession maintains that not only the church invisible, but the church visible "is also catholic or universal under the gospel" and likewise "is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation" (25.2).

In this section, then, the Confession goes further than most earlier Reformed confessions, including even the Scots Confession (1560) which maintained only that all true believers are part of one Kirk, "which Kirk is Catholic, that is, 'universal'­ because it contains the elect of all ages, all realms, nations, and tongues, be they of the Jews, or be they of the Gentiles" (Chapter 16). While the Scots Confession states that "this Kirk is invisible, known only to God," it also confesses that "we comprehend the children with the faithful parents."

In general, many English Puritans thought of the visible church in terms of particular congregations and typically applied the term "catholic" to the invisible church of the elect. This was even more the case among the Independents, several of whom registered their dissent from the Westminster Confession at this point.

So, then, how did the Confession's affirmation of visible catholicity arise? (Much of the following is drawn from R.D. Anderson's "Of the Church: An Historical Overview of the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 25" in WTJ 59.2, Fall 97.)

As I noted above, it was due in large part to the efforts of the Scots at the Assembly. Debate first arose in the Assembly on the topic, not so much in connection with the Confession itself, but in the construction of the Westminster Form of Church Government, which was to espouse Presbyterianism over against Episcopacy or Independency (i.e., congregationalism).

In the course of discussion, the question arose whether it was even proper to speak of "the church" of England or Scotland, rather than simply of particular local congregations. The English Presbyterian, Edmund Calamy, responded by citing several places in Acts (8:1; 9:31; 12:1, etc.) where "church" refers to a visible collection of particular congregations or, indeed, of the church visible in general.

Under debate was a proposition that spoke of "one general visible church," the Independents objecting that this would make the church into something akin to a body politic, like a people or nation.

Samuel Rutherford, one of the Scots commissioners, argued that this was indeed precisely the case, citing 1 Corinthians 12, which, on his understanding, must refer to a "politic body...for verse 28 so explains it," when it speaks of the church's visible government, that "God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers" and so on. Ephesians 4 was cited to similar effect with Gillespie and Baillie supporting such a perspective, along with their English Presbyterian colleagues.

In the end, the language of both the Form of Government and the Confession were approved, affirming the notion of a catholic church visible. Debate, however, continued with regard to proof texts, which were taken up immediately in the case of the Form of Government, particularly the use of 1 Corinthians 12, especially verses 13-14: "For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many."

Ephesians 4 was also at issue in this connection, with both passages speaking of the "one body" of Christ as sharing "one Spirit" and "one baptism" and to which is given the ministerial authority of outward church government. Thus, according to the Presbyterians present, the passages had the church visible in view, even if not to the exclusion of the church in her invisible aspect. In the end the text of the Form of Government was approved, speaking of "one general church visible" with 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 appended as biblical proof.

The Independents argued, however, that 1 Corinthians 12 could not be speaking of the church visible since it made reference to baptism by "the Spirit" and so the "body" in question must be the invisible body. The Scots commissioners and a number of English Presbyterians objected stridently to such an interpretation, seeing outward profession and baptism as works of the Spirit drawing individuals into the outward church as Christ's body and, thereby, into the ordinary means by which God's salvation was enjoyed. Thus John Downame, appointed by the Assembly to license ministers and grant imprimatur, wrote,
"No man says 'Jesus is the Lord,' but by the Spirit of God" (1 Cor 12:3), that is, the grace even but outwardly to profess him, is a work of the Holy Ghost. And so does the Apostle there go through the rest of the parts: gifts of knowledge, faculties and ministries. "All which," he says, "one and the same Spirit works." (from The Sum of Sacred Divinity 1630)
He goes on to add, "the same Apostle calls Christ 'the foundation' even of the visible Church (1 Cor 3:11)."

Along similar lines, Thomas Blake, a prominent English Presbyterian whose influence formed part of the indispensable context for the Assembly, wrote,
It is the external Covenant, not the inward, that exactly and properly is called by the name of a "covenant": and to which priviledges of Ordinances and title to Sacraments are annext. (The Covenant Sealed 1655)
Thus Blake maintained that "the outward part of the Covenant" contained "a promise of the Spirit" and was a necessary "step in God's ordinary dispensation of the inward." Blake, therefore, denied "that saving grace could be had, in God's ordinary way, without this privilege" of membership within the catholic visible church (Infants Baptisme 1645).

The language of the New Testament, with regard to the church, was interpreted as referring to the church in both its visible and invisible aspects. Thus, in addition to various references to 1 Corinthians 12 on the floor of the Assembly, Stephen Marshall cited Ephesians 4 in upholding the importance of the unity of the catholic church visible: "he doth exhort everyone so to walk as that there may be no rent in the body of Christ, which body is granted by him to be the general body."

According to the Presbyterians at the Assembly, then, it is to the catholic church visible that God grants various privileges and benefits, which are then exercised within the local congregation and administered through the word and sacraments.

Richard Vines, for instance, asserted, "That when Scripture speaks of our duties to be done, it speaks of a particular church; but when it speaks of God’s benefits or blessings given, that is of the catholic church, which is according to the proposition" (that is, the "catholic church" in the sense of the general visible church, the proposed language for the Form of Government). In answer to an objection from an Independent, Marshall added, "while it is true that it is local congregations that actually use the ordinances, they do so legitimately only as members of the one true church."

Along similar lines, Downame writes,
I call it a "visible Church," because it may be seen and known who are such professors, though the Church of the elect cannot be seen. This outward Church universal, is further to be considered in the beauty it receives by companies and assemblies, drawn by the power of Christ's Spirit to associate and join themselves together in the profession of his Name, which is a singular ornament and marvelous gracing of the whole, thus to be distinguished into particular meetings, as it were, the field of the Lord into several closures or garden into several beds or alleys, whereby God's glory is much the more conspicuous. (from Sum)
A couple main points follow from these observations about the Westminster Assembly and its context.

First, it is quite proper and confessional to regard the visible catholic church as the "body of Christ." The omission of "body of Christ" from Westminster Confession 25.2 cannot reasonably be taken to exclude such terminology from its teaching without rendering it inconsistent with the Form of Government and its own prooftexts. As Anderson notes, "The omission of the image of the body in WCF 25.2 is probably either stylistic, or an oversight, especially since 1 Cor 12 is included as a prooftext at this point" (187, note 39).

This perspective can be substantiated as a common Presbyterian perspective in a variety of ways. For instance, the old Scottish Book of Common Order, in its rite of excommunication, prescribed the following form of words:
It is clearly known to us that N., sometimes baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and so reputed and accounted for a Christian, hath fearfully fallen from the society of Christ's body...We, having place in the Ministry, with grief and dolour of our hearts, are compelled to draw the sword granted by God to His Church; that is, to excommunicate from the society of Christ Jesus, from His Body the Church, from participation of sacraments and prayers with the same, the said N....
Elsewhere in the rite, the Minister is instructed to explain further:
It cannot be but dolorous to the body that any member thereof should be cut off and perish: and yet, it ought to be more fearful to the member than to the body, for the member cut off can do nothing but putrefy and perish, and yet the body may retain life and strength...Lawful excommunication is the cutting off from the body of Jesus Christ, from participation of His holy Sacraments, and from public prayers with His Church, by public and solemnal sentence...
Overall, the rite repeatedly presents the act of excommunication from the outward, visible church as a cutting off from the body of Christ, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. The rites, at several points, allude to 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, which present outward ministerial authority as pertaining to the one baptized body of Christ, in both its visible and invisible aspects.

It is unsurprising then that we should read Scots divine Thomas Boston writing in the 18th century, again with an allusion to 1 Corinthians 12, that,
Christ has not two Churches, one invisible and the other visible; but one Church, that in one respect is visible, and in another respect is invisible. Christ is a not a Head with two Bodies, but we are "all baptized into one Body"...(from Works, volume VIII).
And so the current Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America is quite in keeping with traditional Presbyterian understandings, when it states,
Our blessed Saviour, for the edification of the visible Church, which is His body, has appointed officers not only to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments, but also to exercise discipline for the preservation both of truth and duty. ("Preface" II.3)
On the Presbyterian understanding, then, the one church of Jesus Christ is, in its visible aspect, the Body of Christ and household of God, given for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, to which the privileges of the ministry of word and sacrament pertain, and outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

Second, when we look at Westminster Confession 25.2 in its historical context, the insistence upon one visible catholic church has a particular force and intent: that there should be visible unity. Local congregations, as shown earlier, were seen by the Assembly as legitimately administering the word, sacraments, and other privileges only by virtue of their membership within the catholic church visible. And so, Westminster Confession 25.3 states that Christ gives the "ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God" to the catholic visible church, then to be exercised in the local congregation.

Part of the intent of Confession 25.2 and 3 was to exclude the possibility of Independency, that is, congregationalist separation from the given church structures of any particular area or nation. Indeed, early on the Assembly voted to exclude from licensure to the ministry anyone who considered the Church of England to be a false church or who harbored similar separatist tendencies.

In the Assembly's view, to be a local congregation of the visible catholic church of Jesus Christ required maintaining visible fellowship and unity with other local congregations regionally (that is, in the presbytery or diocese), nationally (in this case, in the churches of England and Scotland), and internationally (that is, at least, with other Reformed churches on the Continent).

Thus, Samuel Rutherford wrote in his 1644 work, Due Right of Presybteries,
There ought to be a fellowship of Church communion amongst all the visible Churches on Earth; Ergo de jure and by Christ his institution there is an universall or catholick visible Church. I prove the antecedent: Because there ought to be mutuall fellowship of visible Church-duties, as where there is one internall fellowship, because Eph 4.4. we are one body, one spirit...
Thus, Rutherford maintained that there should be "externall fellowship" among churches locally, nationally, and internationally, through acts of mutual prayer, discipline, and sacramental fellowship. These acts all "are Church-acts of externall communion with the reformed catholick visible Churches."

While many Reformed Christians today may see the primary form of catholic unity to be the fellowship of the Spirit enjoyed by the invisible church, thereby rendering visible unity unimportant and separatism permissible, it was just such views that the Westminster Confession sought to exclude. Of course, we exist in a different context, where denominationalism has grown up and become prevalent in a way never countenanced by the Assembly and the possibility of which it was seeking to foreclose.

This makes the American revision of the Westminster Confession rather ironic since, in its re-working of 23.3, it assumes denominationalism as virtually normative: "it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the Church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest." One might well see this revision as in implicit tension with 25.2.

At the very least, it is not possible to claim to subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith 25.2 and 3 while failing to work for visible unity in sacraments and discipline among at least all Reformed churches locally, nationally, and throughout the world. In light of that, it is good to see organizations such as the World Reformed Fellowship undertaking just such a task. We might also consider ways in which such visible unity might take form even across the barriers that divide Reformed Christians from their non-Reformed sisters and brothers.

10 August 2007

wizard rock

After spending a very fun day at the New Jersey shore yesterday, we were pretty beat and slept in quite late this morning. Once we downed a hearty breakfast of blueberry pancakes and bacon, we did manage to get ourselves out to the concert at the Free Library, featuring wizard rockers: the Moaning Myrtles, the Whomping Willows, and - all the way from California - the Remus Lupins.

Given our beach trip, we didn't have time to put together costumes for ourselves, though a number of the other 100 or so attendees were decked out in various attire ranging from robes, wands, and pink hair to Hogwarts school uniforms. And it was really fun.

These kids are pretty talented and sharp, with clever lyrics and obviously enjoying themselves. They all bring a message of literacy and the importance of reading, which they play out through their own imaginative engagement with Rowling's characters and world.

The Moaning Myrtles, from nearby New Jersey, are Lauren and Nina, two gals, now college-aged, with a guy named Justin who plays drum and accordion for them occasionally. Their emo-ish music comes through the eyes of Moaning Myrtle, vindicating Hagrid of her death, expressing her dislike of Hermione, talking about what its like to live in plumbing, giggling about spying on hot prefect boys, and so forth.

The Whomping Willows, from Rhode Island, is a guy named Matt who sings stuff that sounds like the Ramones with a penchant for Harry Potter, amazingly largely from the perspective of the magical tree, scolding Ron for crashing his dad's Ford Anglia or lauding the fact he's made of wand materials. Some of his lyrics do, however, veer off into, shall we say, not exactly G-rated territory.

The Remus Lupins is a fellow named Alex Carpenter from southern California, touring this summer with a couple of other guys on drums/sax and bass, producing pretty straightforward classic rock, though often going acoustic. While the songs include Lupin-oriented numbers such as "Teenage Werewolf", they run the gambit of HP-related themes.

When we got home from the concert, I looked up some of their websites and then more about wizard rock (or "wrock" or "wizrock") and was absolutely astounded to see the number of groups out there making this stuff. Here's a partial list of groups:
Draco and the Malfoys
Harry and the Potters
Justin Finch-Fletchley & The Sugar Quills
The Parselmouths
DJ Luna Lovegood
The Hermione Crookshanks Experience
The Hungarian Horntails
The Grey Ladies
The Cedric Diggorys
Dobby and the House Elves
The Loony Lunas
Ministry of Magic
The Bludger Kids
For the Love of Butterbeer
The Parselmouths
Oliver Boyd and the Remembralls
Ginny and the HeartBreakers
Roonil Wazlib
Severely Snaped
Gred and Forge
Privet Drive
The Half-blood Princess
Romilda Vane and the Chocolate Cauldrons
Talons and Tea Leaves
Sibyl and the Centaur
Umbridge and the Inquisitorial Squad
Dubmledore's Army
Siriusly Black
Thestral
The Fleur Delacours
StellarVeela
Blast Ended Skrewts
Danny Dementor
The Weasley King
The House of Black
Marietta and the Sneaks
The Greybacks
The Sectumsempras
The Avada Kadavras
The Mudbloods
Number 12 Grimmauld Place
The Hinky Punks
Order of Merlin
Peeves and the Poltergeists
The Marauders
A Lightning Bolt Scar
We Are Wizards
Hermione and the Grangers
Neville and the Longbottoms
The Bludger Kids
Bella's Love
After listening through some, I thought a number were really pretty good. "The Weasley King" seems pretty talented, "Ministry of Magic" does music that's synth-heavy in an '80s kind of way, "Dobby and the House Elves" of course veer towards "house." It's a fascinating phenomenon, to say the least.

07 August 2007

crowded houses and wizards

Well, there's a free Crowded House concert at noon on Friday at World Cafe Live, sponsored by University of Pennsylvania's public radio station WXPN. Unfortunately, it's already filled to capacity. Alas. Would have been fun!

Fortunately, there's an alternative at the Free Library's Central Branch: Wizard Palooza. That's right - real live wizard rock for all the Harry Potter fans. The show will feature the Remus Lupins, the Whomping Willows, and the Moaning Myrtles. Hmmm, should we go in costume?

06 August 2007

transfiguration

Today, August 6, is the day the church celebrates the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus had climbed a mountain with three of his disciples in order to pray when he received a visitation from the great prophets Moses and Elijah. They came to bear witness to and, in their holy conversation, to help prepare Jesus for his final journey to Jerusalem. There Jesus would undergo his passion and death, the greater ministry of which the ministries of Moses and Elijah were only preparations and shadows.

And, in the midst of their meeting, Jesus' humanity suddenly burst to overflowing with the light of the divine presence, shining brightly with the glory of God himself - the eternal Son of God, the image and radiance of the Father, filled with the power of the Spirit. A voice from heaven explained, "This is my beloved Son."

While the church has understood this light as the light of God, the church has not, I think, understood this at the expense of Jesus' true humanity. Rather, it is in mediating the radiance of the glory of God that Jesus' humanity momentarily gives a foretaste the greatest possibilities for us as creatures who bear the imprint of the divine as beloved sons of God.

Were I to conclude here, the message would be one of hope and marvel at the glory that is to come. Yet, without denying any of that, I would be remiss to conclude at this point.

August 6 marks not only the commemoration of our Lord's transfiguration, but also an event that Dorothy Day called an "anti-transfiguration" - the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which resulted in tens of thousands of directly-targeted civilian deaths.

That day also brought a blinding light, suddenly bursting into the humanity of a city in southern Japan. Yet that radiance did not elevate our humanity or reveal humanity's grace-given possibilities to manifest the divine. Rather, though it brought us closer to ending a dark era of war, the detonation of that weapon of mass destruction opened subsequent history to and was itself one of the worst possibilities for our own inhumanity bent by evil.

On this day when the church remembers Jesus' transfigured determination to exhaust the powers of evil by setting his face to Jerusalem and handing himself over to them unto death, we should also allow this divine logic to question utilitarian reasoning that can too easily justify any means to achieve even noble ends against a determined, cruel, and relentless enemy. Questioning doesn't give us immediate answers, but it is necessary in order for the church to maintain - with Moses before Pharaoh and Elijah before Ahab - her prophetic distance over against all powers of this present world.

We may also recall that southern Japan was the center of Catholic Christianity in a nation that remains otherwise so resistant to the gospel of life.

Among the witnesses to the bombing of Hiroshima was Fr. Pedro Arrupe, a priest with medical training and the former Superior General of the Jesuits. At the time of the blast, he was a missionary in Japan living only a few miles from the city in a Jesuit residence house. The residence was heavily damaged and Fr. Arrupe was thrown across the room. He later wrote:
I will never forget my first sight of what was the result of the atomic bomb: a group of young women, eighteen or twenty years old, clinging to one another as they dragged themselves along the road. One had a blister that almost covered her chest; she had burns across half her face, and a cut in her scalp caused probably by a falling tile, while great quantities of blood coursed freely down her face. On and on they came, a steady procession numbering some 150,000.
Several days later, a second atomic bomb was dropped from the US B-29 Bockscar onto the city of Nagasaki, arguably the center of Catholic Christianity in Japan at the time. While the target was set between two Mitsubishi arms plants, and some of the city was protected by hills, the blast killed thousands of civilians, including entire religious communities of Christian nuns and brothers and worshippers preparing for the mid-day eucharist at the Catholic cathedral, which was destroyed (picture above).

We should be mindful, then, of all of our Christian sisters and brothers around the world who even today suffer as the collateral victims of conflicts not of their own making - in Sudan, Iraq, Palestine, and elsewhere. We can pray for their deliverance and safety. We may pray that wars would cease and peace prevail. We may ask that God's Spirit would give them a vision of the hope embodied in the transfigured Jesus who shows us God's intended redemption of this broken, anti-transfigured world.

Many Christians also find themselves serving in the military of various governments and regimes, sometimes maintaining peace and sometimes entering into unavoidable conflict, sometimes caught in situations of deep moral ambiguity and sometimes themselves the perpetrators of unspeakable acts.

In 1945 Fr. George B. Zabelka was the Catholic military chaplain for the 509th Composite Group that carried out the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Whatever the moral discernment one makes about those actions, it is difficult to conceive the emotional and moral toll on the soldiers involved and on this priest who was called upon to bless those involved.

Many years later Fr. Zabelka still struggled with what happened and returned to Japan. He explains:
In August of 1945, I, as a Christian and as a priest, served not as an agent of reconciliation but as an instrument of retaliation, revenge and homicide. My explicit and tacit approval of what was being done on Tinian Island that summer was clearly visible for anyone to see. Beyond this, I was the last possible official spokesman for the Church before the fire of hell was let loose on Hiroshima on the Feast of the Transfiguration 1945 – and I said nothing. I was the officially designated Catholic priest who by silence did his priestly patriotic duty and chose nationalism over Catholicism, Caesar over Christ, as the Bockscar, manned by Christians in my care, took off to evaporate the oldest and largest Christian community in Japan – Nagasaki. No, the fact that I was not physically on the planes is morally irrelevant. I played an important and necessary role in this sacrilege – and I played it meticulously. I am as responsible as the soldier who stuck the spear in the side of Christ on Calvary. I come to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to repent and to ask forgiveness from the Japanese people, from my faith community at Nagasaki and from God.
Whether or not one agrees with the priest's judgment, it is difficult not to empathize with his tremendous sense of responsibility.

We may also today be mindful, then, of those Christians who are pressed into service by their various civil rulers to carry out actions which, even when perhaps justifiable, nonetheless come at a great human cost to both the lives of those who are affected by their actions and the souls of those who carry them out. It is not without reason that the medieval church required all returning soldiers, even those involved in justifiable conflicts, to take up the garb of mourners and penitents before re-entering the community of faith.

Again, we can pray for their deliverance and safety. We can pray that God would grant discernment and protect them from wrongdoing. We may ask that God's Spirit would give them too a vision of the hope embodied in the transfigured Jesus who shows us God's intended redemption of this broken, anti-transfigured world.
Father in heaven,
whose Son Jesus Christ was wonderfully transfigured
before chosen witnesses upon the holy mountain,
and spoke of the exodus he would accomplish at Jerusalem:
give us strength so to hear his voice and bear our cross
that we too by faith may be transformed into your image;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

05 August 2007

growing into union

Throughout the 1960s, the Church of England embarked upon a plan for uniting with the Methodist Church in England, from which it had separated at the end of the 18th century.

In recent years further progress on this has occurred, but in the 1960s the proposed Scheme had failed under criticisms from Anglicans, both Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic. Yet, apart from shared opposition to the Scheme, Evangelicals and Catholics in the Church of England were hardly united in outlook.

At the recommendation of a friend, I've been reading through a book, published in 1970, called Growing into Union: Proposals for forming a united Church in England. The authors were two Anglican Evangelicals and two Anglican Catholics, and they attempted to work through some of the differences that separated them - particularly with regard to Scripture and tradition, grace and justification, church and sacraments, and episcopacy and ministry.

The Anglo-Catholic authors were E.L. Mascall, the well-known systematic theologian, and Graham Leonard, the Bishop of Willesden at the time of publication. The Evangelical authors were Colin Buchanan, a liturgical and sacramental theologian, and J.I. Packer, a scholar of Reformed and Puritan theology. There was a remarkable degree of consensus among these four men on issues of theology, as well as the way forward ecumenically in their context.

The participation of Packer is noteworthy, especially in light of the surprise in some American quarters with regard to his signing of Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) in 1994. While this later document involved Roman Catholics and Evangelicals, it shared many issues in common with Packer's ecumenical work with Anglo-Catholics in the quarter century prior, as well as his publications in the later 1960s on Roman Catholic and Anglican relations. At any rate, his participation in ECT really ought not to have been so surprising to friends and observers.

The content of Growing into Union is already distilled and dense to the point that it is difficult to further summarize. Yet some quotations from the doctrinal section might be of interest, especially given that the book is not readily available. The practical proposals for ecumenism in the 1970s Anglican context are also fascinating - especially their interaction with the South India Scheme - but probably of less interest to a general audience and so I will not quote from that part of the book.

Scripture and Tradition

The chapter begins by attempting to outline and set aside mutual misrepresentations and misunderstandings - the Evangelical perception that Catholic distinctives are "directly due to an improper use of Tradition as a second source of doctrine, over and above the Scriptures" and the Catholic perception that Evangelical distinctives are "directly due to an improper use of the Bible which has isolated it from its true context in the Church's continuing life...and has pressed it into service of unbiblical negations" (30).

The authors go on to complete a quick survey of the notion of "Tradition" historically and competing notions of Tradition, including the evolution of the notion of Tradition as a "second source" distinct from and alongside Scripture. They present their own agreed-upon perspective in the following terms:
The ground of both Scripture and Tradition, the reality to which they both point, is the fact of divine Revelation given fully and finally in and through Jesus Christ, who is both the Word and the Wisdom of the Father and who, by his crucifixion and resurrection, has redeemed the human race. (33)
The revelation of Jesus Christ was itself witnessed to by the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and normatively and authoritatively recorded and interpreted in the writings of the New. The church in time came, by the Spirit's guidance, to recognize the intrinsic authority of the New Testament writings.

In this context, then, the authors were able to agree and assert that
...what the traditionary process passes on should be view in the first instance as a primary and provisional exposition of the biblical fail, and that what is written in the biblical documents should be viewed in the first instance as the archetypal and normative tradition, the authentic apostolic paradosis which must both form and, where necessary, reform the later paradosis in order that the knowledge of Christ should not be obscured. (37)
The authors agree with the Protestant Reforms that the Scripture is "clear in its meaning and sufficient in its content for purposes of salvation" so that there is no need for an infallible magisterium (38). Yet, they affirm, "the witness of Scripture to Christ will be made clearer, and its contents come to be better known and appreciated, within the living fellowship of the people of God" since, in giving the Scriptures, God never meant them "to be self-sufficient as a means of instruction and life, but to operate within the common life of the Christian community by way of preaching, sacrament, fellowship, and prayers" (38).

God and his Grace

With regard to grace, the authors begin with the observation that the absolute distinction between Creator and creature means that humanity and all of creation are utterly dependent up God and that all of reality has the character of radical giftedness. And this grace is what we recognize and celebrate in Christian worship: the "free, unmerited, unsolicited love" of God that takes "the initiative to rescue the undeserving an enrich the unlovely" (41).

Thus the Church and its worship have always stood against every form of Pelagianism. They go on to note that for Paul, in the New Testament, the Gospel theme of grace is exposited most importantly in the doctrine of justification which is, they say, "in truth, of the essence of the gospel" (42).

After a reviewing the Protestant Reformation and its central concerns, and outlining six issues that tend to polarize debates between Protestants and Catholics, the authors note that an ecumenical rapprochement has begun. They suggest that "the revival of biblical theology throughout the Church has produced a wide consensus" on the topic of justification, which they summarize in four points:
(a) justification in the New Testament belongs to a basically forensic model of man's relations with God, into which, speaking purely conceptually, sanctification does not enter;

(b) God's justifying act belongs to a total salvation "in Christ," of which subjective renewal is an integral part;

(c) Christ's unique priesthood is all-sufficient, and his priestly ministry is that on which our salvation directly depends;

(d) the fiducial element is essential to faith in God and in Christ. (44-45)
To this they add historical scholarship that indicates that Luther never wished to "separate justification from sanctification ontologically" and that even Trent can be responsibly read in ways that are more amenable to Protestant concerns (45).

Out of this discussion, the authors are able to affirm together eight theses regarding divine grace:
(1) Grace is the Triune God loving men.

(2) Grace in this fallen world is the Triune God enriching sinners in and through Jesus Christ.

(3) God's way in grace requires of us total dependence upon God in Jesus Christ for our salvation.

(4) Justification is God's acceptance of sinners through Jesus Christ, and in Jesus Christ, into a new life of forgiveness, communion, and hope.

(5) The divine act of grace, in which the declaration that a believing sinner is justified, is central and basic and is in its totality and act of effective and vital union with the living Christ, and hence is constitutive of new creation.

(6) Faith, in its beliefs about God in Christ, in its trust in God's promises, and in its persevering hope of God's glory, disclaims all self-confidence, relies on God only, and praises God alone.

(7) Grace is personal meeting between God and man.

(8) The purpose and effect of God's work of grace is to establish a redeemed community, to which he stands in covenant relation, and which he fills constantly with his Spirit. (46-49)
On points (4) and (5) the authors explain further that the forensic model of justification is central, normative, and not able to be reduced to and explained in other terms. Nonetheless, an "organic incorporation-model" is equally ultimate and a biblical doctrine of justification "is only achieved when set in the context of incorporation" (48).

Moreover, while God's justifying word is, at the same time, a creative word so that "new status and new life are complementary and inseparable aspects of what it means to be in Christ," it nonetheless must be emphasized that "the word of aquittal and acceptance is pronounced on the basis of Christ's vicarious obedience and suffering for us, not on the basis of any aspect of the new creation itself" (48).

Church and Sacraments

The authors begin by drawing attention to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, without which there would be no Church and upon which rests the possibility for a new corporate form of life as Christ's own body and temple. They continue
This type of imagery - body, temple, etc. - which emphasizes the unity of the Church "in" Christ carries strong implications for our understanding of membership. If to belong to Christ in discipleship is to be "in" Christ in membership, then the members, by the sheer fact of discipleship, belong organically to each other. It is unthinkable that a man should first be converted and later "join" a or even the Church. As the New Testament sets out the evidence, and as the Church of the Fathers practised for centuries, a man is confronted by a community proclaiming Christ and serving him, and if he comes to believe in that Christ he comes ipso facto into that one community. Discipleship and membership are inseparable. (52)
Out of these observations, the authors posit three agreed upon doctrinal points with regard to the sacraments.

First, "both sacraments declare Jesus' death and resurrection and mediate to us both their benefits and their challenge" (54). Second, "both sacraments relate to the organic corporate character of the Church," which is marked out and entered through baptism and sustained and revealed through eucharist (54). And third, "both sacraments bear the same relationship as each other to faith and to God's grace" (55).

On this last point there is a tension between Catholic and Evangelical understandings. Scriptural language with regard to the sacraments is "the language of sheer unqualified efficacy" with the "simple expectation...that those who partake of the sacraments are partakers in them and by them of God's grace" (55). Yet, Evangelicals want to emphasis that, in the biblical language, "faith was taken for granted" and that the same language is used of God's word and Spirit so that the efficacy of the sacraments seems "dependent upon a prior acceptance of the word of God by faith" (55).

The authors admit there is no final resolution to this tension readily available. But perhaps the tension itself is salutary. They explain:
We dare not argue as to which comes first, the sacrament or the faith. Without faith it is true that a sacrament is not in itself salvific. Without the sacraments it is true that the Church has no warrant for treating men and women as in Christ. The two simply belong together. If the sacraments are to be placed alongside the word then they are comparable to the word administered and received, not simply to the word as preached.
With regard to baptism in particular, the authors note that just as sin is corporate and involves human solidarity in Adam, so also faith is corporate and involves human solidarity in Christ.

Thus "baptism and faith only unite us with Christ in his death and resurrection by incorporating us into the one body" so that in baptism we enter upon the corporate life of the Church as the "sphere within which is being worked out the restoration of the unity between man and Gd, the unity between man and man, as also seminally between man and creation and (often quite notably) within man himself" (57). Thus a person "has no warrant for looking for this restoration outside the unity of the one Body of Christ which he enters at baptism" (57).

With regard to the eucharist, the authors see the common life entered in baptism as sustained and nourished in Christ so that we are, in the Supper, "newly re-apprehended by Christ and thus enabled by his grace to love out the death-to-life of our baptism" (59).

From this point they take up the thorny issue of the senses in which the eucharist may be said to be a "sacrifice." The authors share a concern "to proclaim the uniqueness of Calvary and the total dependence of man upon God's redeeming acts" so that any notion of eucharistic sacrifice cannot appear to "rival or dim" these facts.

In the final part of this chapter, the authors address the unity of the Church. They see such unity as of a piece with the Church's holiness and mission, as sought visibly particularly on the local level, as retaining and exhibiting diversity, and as raising questions of church authority and consensus.

Episcopacy and Ministry

One of the difficulty faced by any attempted union between Anglicans and most non-Anglican Protestant bodies is the question of the historic episcopate. This chapter is, in many respects, the most difficult to summarize and involves a number of biblical and historical considerations. They attempt to work through the issues by addressing three main questions:
1. What is said in the New Testament about the appoint of ministers in the Church?

2. What is the relationship between the New Testament ministry and the subsequent episcopate?

3. What is the relationship between the existing non-episcopal ministries and the episcopate?
How they answer these questions is complex and nuanced and I would commend the actual discussion if it is an issue of interest to you.

All in all, Growing into Union is a thoughtful and provocative volume of ecumenical theology, both in its positive doctrinal project and in the way it serves as a window on one particular ecumenical scheme in a concrete time and place. As such, it might be helpfully read alongside something like Lesslie Newbigin's The Reunion of the Church: A Defense of the South India Scheme.

02 August 2007

carleton on puritanism

Laurel and I have both been sick since Monday - a vague sort of virus: aches, sore throat, chills, now devolving into something more respiratory with coughing and congestion. But we're on the mend. Claire's been a trooper cooped up most of the week with two ailing parents.

In between naps, I've been doing some reading, mostly 17th century English Reformed divinity. Bishop George Carleton was part of the English delegation to the Synod of Dort and learned defender of Reformed doctrine over against opponents, especially those of Bishop Laud's party who gravitated towards Arminianism.

An Arminian interlocutor makes scoffing reference at one point to "your Puritan doctrine of final perseverance." Bishop Carleton, writing in the mid-1620s, finds this an odd rejoinder and replies, addressing his readers:
This is the first time that ever I heard of a "Puritan doctrine" in points dogmatical, and I have lived longer in the Church than he hath done. I thought that Puritans were only such as were factious against the Bishops in the point of pretended discipline; and so I am sure it hath been understood hitherto in our Church. A Puritan doctrine is a strange thing, because it hath been confessed on both sides, that Protestants and Puritans have held the same doctrines without variance. The discipline varied in England, Scotland, Geneva, and otherwise: yet the doctrine hath hitherto held the same, according the harmong of the several Confessions of these Churches. Not one doctrine of the Church of England, another of the Church of Scotland, and so of others.
So, Carleton goes on to ponder, what would motivate the use of the term "Puritan" as a term of derision and with regard to matters of doctrine, none of which would distinguish a person from the rest of (at least non-Lutheran) Protestantism. Carleton speculates:
What is your end in this, but to make divisions where there were none? And that a rent may be made in the Church? Forsooth! that place may be given to the Pelagian and Arminian doctrines. And then all that are against these must be called "Puritan doctrines."
Carleton suspects that by labeling something within the mainstream of Reformed doctrine "Puritan" his interlocutor is attempting to position it at an extreme in order that his own Arminian-friendly extreme might seem less out of the ordinary. This is a common rhetorical move that works in both directions and Carleton rightly calls him on it.

What interests me most in Carleton's response is two-fold.

First, there is the description of international Calvinism and a witness to the fundamental doctrinal commonality between the churches of England, Scotland, Geneva, and elsewhere - at least at the beginning of the 17th century, despite differences in worship, polity, and discipline. That commonality had been the basis for attempts at pan-Protestant union earlier in the 17th century, though the attempt failed to bring the Lutheran churches on board, especially in the wake of Dort.

Second, there are hints about Puritanism, or at least perceptions of it by a non-Puritan Calvinist in England, though one with sympathies towards conforming Puritans. Puritanism, according to Carleton was a matter of discipline rather than doctrine, particularly with regard to areas in which the bishops of the English church wished to determine matters in a manner to which Puritans objected.

Richard Hooker, who had died some 25 years earlier, gives us some idea of these areas of disciplinary difference in his Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity: the manner of receiving communion, the use of wafers, the role of godparents in baptism, and so forth. Hooker points out that the churches of France, Geneva, and Scotland differed among themselves on a number of these matters as much as the English church.

I get the sense that over time and in the wake of more forceful attempts by the bishops to establish discipline - especially under Laud, with whom Carleton had few sympathies - Puritanism did slowly radicalize. Matters of discipline became matters of principle, and a desire for liberty of conscience evolved into dogmatic objections to various practices.

Some Puritans began to live in terms of the caricatures others had drawn of them, especially with the rise of what came to be called "Brownism," which even began to infect the Church of Scotland, over the objections of the General Assembly and figures such as Baillie and Rutherford.

One witness to this change in Puritanism is a curious 1642 volume by John Geree entitled The Character of an Old English Puritan, in which he contrasts the original motivations and beliefs of the Puritan movement with what he perceives in his own day - a radicalization moving towards contentiousness, over-scrupulosity, schism, and independency.

At any rate, these items are among the many windows available in understanding the nature and development of 17th century English Reformed divinity and the way in which religious movements shift and change over time, both in the eyes of those who observe them from the outside and by those within.