A Book Review: Calvinism in History by Nathaniel S. McFetridge (1882)

I get absolutely giddy over a used bookstore with books stacked floor to ceiling in every nook and cranny complete with an overflow of boxes of books in the narrow aisles. Its musty atmosphere beacons my bookish treasure hunting. New bookstores generally only stock the sorts of books that are new, popular classics, or best sellers. While I value keeping up to date with the latest good reads, I want to dig through the old books and find the books I would not know to search for on Amazon or would not see on a shelf at my local Barnes & Noble.

This past Thanksgiving, I treasure hunted in two used bookstores while I was out of town. I found this thin book entitled Calvinism in History: A Political, Moral, and Evangelizing Force by Nathaniel S. McFetridge. Little did I know how impactful this little book would be. Upon embarking on this read, I learned that the author, McFetridge, was an Irish born Pennsylvanian Presbyterian Pastor writing in 1882. His words carried the weight and force of true history and theology. Some of the history I had a vague knowledge of, but some of it I found to be previously unknown to me and exciting.

Beyond 5-Point Calvinism

David Hall

He wrote of Calvinism not as an ecclesial five-point doctrine, but as a historical nation building force from which we all benefit. The outworking of Calvinism did not stay cloistered into religious space but had a large civil impact on the liberties of men and the downfall of tyrants. McFetridge writes that “while Calvinism can live and do its divine work under any form of government, its natural affinities are not with a monarchy, but with a republic. This is the reason that it has made so splendid a record in the history of human freedom. Where it flourishes despotism cannot abide.”

In fact, quoting from another little book I read this year on Calvin, The Legacy of John Calvin by David Hall, “Many ideas that began with Calvin’s reformation in Geneva and later became part of the fabric of America were cultivated and crossbred in the seventeenth-century. Customs now taken for granted, like freedom of speech, assembly, and dissent, were extended as Calvin’s Dutch, British, and Scottish disciples refined these ideas” (Hall p. 27).  

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Worldview Bulletin: Kick the Buckets: Ditching the Sacred / Secular Divide

Christians far too often operate in what is called the “secular / sacred divide.” We bifurcate reality creating a private personal religion and a secular “neutral” public world. We essentially create two buckets. We erroneously categorize our lives to where God’s truth applies and where we believe it does not. We misjudge the secular as neutral, even sending our children to “neutral” secular education. Consider the two buckets where we compartmentalize sacred and secular.

In the religion bucket we have:

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Worldview Bulletin: Christian Thinking

Deception lurks in the unknown, or so we tell ourselves. Often what we do to guard against deception is precisely what opens the door to it. We want to stay in our current comfortable level of knowledge. If we explore beyond it, if we journey to the edge of what we know, we cannot be assured that that book, that speaker, that preacher, that journalist is not going to draw us into a snare of deception.

The Bible is safe. Perhaps we will only read that. We can eschew all other books and stay in the safety of only reading the Word. If we hear controversy surrounds an author, we steer clear. We wouldn’t want to get deceived. Is that not how the thinking goes?

However, we cannot grow staying cloistered in what we believe is the totality of safe truth. Maybe we have been unknowingly nursing bondage. What if someone has the truth that unlocks us from our entrapment?

If we had a modern-day Martin Luther, a reformer compelling us to see differently, would we want to shun him or her or grow in that greater truth despite becoming a rebel?

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Worldview Bulletin: Learning Discernment

I write often about the discipleship required to know truth in every sphere of society. I am usually speaking of learning truth through reading, listening to lectures or podcasts, learning in training events, classrooms, conferences, and small groups. But there is another level to learning truth and it involves learning to recognize its presence or its absence through spiritual discernment.

Recognizing truth or the lack thereof in this manner requires having your senses trained. I remember a conversation with a good friend one day. He was warning me about articles from a certain “news” source for they lacked truth and often good sense. I remember bursting out a bunch of questions. What are your sources for this? Did you research these articles and find out their information is wrong? Where can I find a good source that disqualifies this website as a source of truth? He did not have the answers to my questions. I was poised to dismiss his claims. He told me it was obvious to him that the site lacked credibility. It took me sometime before I could understand this. The website was saying things my circles validated as true. These were not questioned. I did not choose to dismiss him out of hand, because I knew him to be a wise friend. However, I had not yet gained understanding.

Once I learned to see from my spirit, to discern, I recalled this conversation and realized just how obvious I recognize malarkey even when others think it credible. Malarkey always has just enough of truth mixed in to make it believable. The spiritual discernment of truth heightens the natural senses as well to recognize where truth is lacking. The lack of spiritual discernment decreases the ability to see truth in the natural or to recognize where it is missing.

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Negative Nationalism v. Biblical Nationalism

I hear a lot of criticism of what gets dubbed “Christian nationalism” or “white nationalism.” Some of what I believe is being thus labeled is indeed worthy of some thoughtful constructive criticism. However, the more disconcerting occurrence is that people are eschewing the theology of nations altogether throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. If we do not have a healthy theology for nations, we cannot rightly judge unhealthy theology or praxis. It is just as dangerous as witnessing greed within capitalism and jumping over to socialism losing the theology for personal property in the process. We can reject ugly behavior or the wedding of religious zeal to politics without rejecting good theology. We do not have to reject patriotism, or the Pledge of Allegiance, or our national anthem because of the overzealousness of some. Our flag raised high with the great red, white, and blue should catch in our hearts as Americans as this is home. This is the near and dear place that we are to steward as people who are citizens of this nation and not a different nation.

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Worldview Bulletin: Worldview for Nations

I cannot think of a word strong enough to express just how much I love America. I am the girl who read the handbook on the American flag etiquette. I used that knowledge to write an editorial when the local fire department planned to stop keeping a Bible in their department. The Virginian Pilot ran my letter to the editor and my pastor printed it in the bulletin the next Sunday. I fought my way through the State University constantly fending off ideologies that undermine the American way of life because I love my nation. The anti-biblical worldview of secular humanism, Marxism, and postmodernism that has overrun the universities is detrimental to the stability of our nation. I have since published two books to argue for the reformation of America upon her biblical foundations.

I am an Evangelical Christian

I fit squarely within evangelical Christianity historically and yet I do not join without remainder all the modern voices that are so classified today. The more nuanced I become the more I cringe at some of the current trends of communicating a love of country. I am so happy that there are those who hold the fort even if it is with an extremity that I do not share.

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TRUTH DECAY: Inside Christianity

When truth is lost error grows exponentially in many different directions. We are watching the consequences of the loss of truth playing out in our nation. As a result, powerful people and businesses compete to control information as if it is a commodity of consumerism.

Information alone does not create knowledge – that requires wisdom to take accurate information of real facts and produce knowledge of what is true. Careful investigations take time, discipline, dedication, and integrity. Instant tweets, pictures, and videos from a variety of vantage points all dumped into social media do not produce knowledge. It takes more work to arrive at truth. We would do well to remember that when combing through all the instant information looking to make sense of it.

I understand in a world where we do not trust the professional journalists and investigators that we would want to look for alternative sources of information. But sometimes those who try to fill in the gap are simply not equipped to handle the burden of suddenly becoming an expert in investigative research and reporting.  

In these trying times it is imperative to practice patience, pausing before believing the latest meme claiming to have the real truth which fits neatly on a digital square. What is true would fill more than a book and still we would have unanswered questions. We can have partial information instantly, but truth takes time. Knowledge requires patience.

Reactionary Theology

Another loss of truth is in theology. There is a great deal of reactionary theology going on today. We witness the ugly results of one theological extreme and we pull hard the other way to avoid being like the ones we critique only to fall into the ditch on the other side. Case in point, I hear people react to extremism in support of the President with a denouncing of what gets termed “Christian nationalism” or “white nationalism.” As I have written before, at length, nationalism has no color. However, the very concept of nationhood comes from Judeo-Protestant theology. We cannot eschew nationalism without embracing a non-biblical theology destructive to modern nations.

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Worldview Bulletin: How Should We Then Live? A Nation in Crisis

Our nation is in crisis. The source runs far deeper than the current events which are terrible symptoms of a greater problem.

I am sobered and anguished watching the videos from the tragic attack on our nation’s Capitol Building. It is reprehensible. We can point fingers all day long, but we all have allowed anger, hatred, and animosity to boil over to this extent. These extremists disrespected the very fabric of our national heritage through their violent behavior. It is not about what extremist group did it, it is about that things got this far that it happened. This happened here in our nation, an attack on our Capitol.

I want to hear more Americans concerned for what their beliefs could cause in America. The Founding Fathers were consumed with posterity. What would generations hence learn from them, say about them, carry on because of their legacy and sacrifice? They took painstaking efforts to preserve their letters and writings so that we could learn from their wisdom.

We cannot reduce national discourse to Facebook memes. We cannot depend upon social media to the extent that we feel lost and silenced without it. The Founders had no internet. They could not reach the world in an instant with a knee-jerk reaction. They had to meet in a room with no air-conditioning and hash out their differences to work out our most cherished documents, The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison worked to create a series of essays, known as The Federalist Papers, to run in the New York newspapers to inform the public about the merit of ratifying the Constitution. This took time, deliberation, and thought.

Letters were written by hand, copied by hand, and carried by hand to their recipient. Thought took time to communicate. It was precious, not careless.

Preserving our liberty means preserving honor, history, integrity, civil discourse, robust debate, and conduct befitting men and women created in the image of God.

FAKE NEWS

We have lost trust in the institution of journalism in all its forms. The mainstream media has lost at least half of the public’s trust. It has become indefensible as a source of truth.

Journalists are to be a safeguard against government overreach. They are to investigate and inform as they did in breaking the Watergate Scandal (see the masterful film The Post). When we have lost all trust in the mainstream media, we enter new dangerous grounds. When public institutions fail to serve the people to benefit their own interests, the people look for underground sources.

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BOOK REVIEW: Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey

Twenty-twenty marks the year I finally met my long-time quest to read 52 books in a single year which is the equivalent of one per week. I met my goal concluding the year with a most excellent read – Love Thy Body by worldview apologist, Nancy Pearcey. I have had her book sitting expectantly upon my shelf for many months and while it was well worth the wait, I wish I had read it post-haste.

Worldview – Theology of the Body

Pearcey provides the worldview theology of the body with stunning clarity. In so doing, she thoroughly covers the dignity of life from conception to death. She reveals the worldview behind the personhood theory, the hook up culture, marriage, divorce, homosexuality, transgenderism, eugenics, euthanasia and so much more. Love Thy Body is not an expose of the sins of the world, but a worldview analysis of the bankrupt two-story philosophy which has so infected the world (and the church) that these travesties of sin run rampant in our society. It is an apologetic for the body, for life, for righteousness and for the merits of a biblical worldview. Pearcy writes with compassion for those suffering from disjointed lives due to worldview lies which pervade our culture as liberating ideas. The brokenness that results from living outside of biblical theology is heart wrenching. The pain continues for generations, but the good news is that there is hope in Jesus. Changing the way we think thereby practicing repentance can restore the years the locus has consumed.

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Worldview Bulletin: Becoming a Thinking People: Slicing Through the Polarized Views

The last few days of 2019 found me suffering with the effects of a bad cold that had me sleeping instead of watching the ball drop as we passed into the now infamous 2020. Little did I know that instead of a year of 2020 vision we would have a year of great confusion, deep divisions, a health crisis, economic uncertainty, social turmoil, and a mad dash for toilet paper!

Despite such a tumultuous year, I have experienced deep enjoyment of the Lord and all His bounty. I have found joy in the smallest of things, a well-made sandwich, a juicy strawberry, a walk along the shore or around the block on a pleasant evening, or a great conversation with my husband. When all the fast-paced parts of life are sidelined the important things come into focus.

I have paid close attention to the ensuing cultural battles polarizing our nation. I watch the dueling swords wielded with unrestrained tongues. I see the fearmongering and shock tactics, the victim mentalities, and carelessness and strife in social media posts.

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