les Davey de France

Alan and Pat live and work in Bordeaux. Alan is a pastor and Pat was a nurse. Now we work with UFM worldwide. Read on! (If you'd like to know what took us to Bordeaux, then start with the archives from September 2004)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Book review - Brian W Thomas - Wittenberg vs. Geneva (A Biblical Bout in Seven Rounds on the Doctrines that Divide) - New Reformation Publications

Am I stupid or what? I just don't know what anyone could do to help me. No, seriously, I really don't.

You see, I saw "Wittenberg vs. Geneva" and I thought it would be really cool to read some historical theology on Luther and Calvin and the areas of agreement and dispute between the great streams of the reformation, the Lutherans and the Reformed.

Then I saw that it wasn't that, but I thought that still it would be cool to read a book from someone who had belonged to today's Reformed stream and had by conviction switched to Lutheran convictions and so would be able to explain his path.

How come I didn't spot the rather giveaway title 'Bout in Seven Rounds'.

This isn't an irenical testimony or an exercise in tracing historical discussion. This book is modelled on a boxing match. Well, OK, there's historical precedent for robust speech in theological discussion -  Calvin didn't always pull his punches though I think Luther could show him a thing or two when it came to "plain speech".

However when I read the book I did feel a certain discomfort. I didn't always recognise myself in the reformed views presented and I didn't always feel that the boxing match was being conducted in a fair way. So here's my reflections on how to conduct a fair fight:

1) Define your terms. Reading brother Thomas' book made me realise that when we speak of "grace" we are not always speaking of the same thing. If you use the same word to mean different things than it will not be easy to reach agreement!

2) Define your opponent's position in a way that he will recognise and approve. No "straw men", no reduction ad absurdam, no weak arguments. Build your opponent's case so strongly it seems unassailable. Then how great will be the crash when you knock it down! Not only that, but surely this is the way of brotherly love.

3) Avoid vague terms. For example, at times brother Thomas writes of things that are taught "in the reformed churches". Well, frankly, depending on how you define "the reformed churches" you'll find anything and everything taught in them today, from atheism to pantheism. I imagine the same thing is true in "the Lutheran churches".

4) Discuss confessional statements rather than preaching. Preaching is ephemeral stuff and from time to time preachers say things that would not be their last word on the subject. Not only that, but not everyone would accept Pastor Siril as the best and finest spokesman for the reformed folk. Confessional statements, like declarations of faith, are worked over together by a team of people, reflected upon and presented as a position on with people stand, so it's best to discuss and debate these documents.

So there we are. If you are looking for a rollocking good rout of the reformed folk by a Lutheran heavyweight who doesn't pull his punches, this may be the book for you. If not, perhaps pass on.

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