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    Wednesdays With Words

    September 4, 2013 by Brandy Vencel


    The transformation of Calvinism was not, as Perry Miller would have it, from a theology of unbridled, inscrutable divinity to that of the “chained God” of the covenant. The covenant or federal theology goes back beyond the Puritans, even byond Cocceius, to Calvin himself. The real transformation effected by eighteenth-century Puritan thought was the individualization of the covenant, the appropriation of a corporate Old Testament image to described what became essentially a private psychological event. As Peter Bulkley, a later Puritan cleric, so explicitly stated:

    God conveys his salvation by way of covenant, and he doth it to those onely that are in covenant with him…this covenant must every soule enter into, every particular soule must enter into a particular covenant with God; out of this way there is no life.

    Rather than God entering into covenant with His people Israel or with His redeemed Church and the individual participating in the covenant insofar as he is related to Israel or Church, under this new form of Calvinism, the individual makes a covenant with God directly; it is a one-on-one relationship. The influence on North American Protestantism of this theological shift has been enormous.

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    4 Comments

  • Reply Carol September 4, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    A personal & communal issue – some cultures get this better than others. The whole individual idea can close us off to other Christians speaking into our lives I think.

  • Reply Brandy Vencel September 4, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    I continued reading, and I still. can’t. tell! It is driving me crazy, so I thought I’d share. 🙂

    Personally, I think salvation is both a private/personal *and* a communal issue…both-and, not either-or.

  • Reply Mystie September 4, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Interesting. From this quote I can’t really tell if he thinks this shift is a good one or a bad one, overall. Certainly God dealt corporately with Israel (and does with the church, also, as the New Israel), but even in the OT (as in the NT), being circumcised outwardly (being an objective member of the covenant people) did not correlate one-to-one with having a circumcised heart.

  • Reply Cindy Rollins September 4, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Hmm, that is food for thought. Our love for God must always end up being personal, I think.

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