On Conviviality

In the words of Cicero’s Cato the Elder:

In my Youth I had always a Set of select Companions; for those Societies or Clubs now in Practice, took their Beginning when I was Quaestor, at the Time when the Mother of the Gods was brought to Rome. My Friends and I then had our Meetings and Collations duly; but these were always moderate, tho’ it was at an Age when our Blood was warm, which inevitably cools as Years come on. Nor did I ever measure my Pleasure in those Entertainments by any sensual Gratifications whatever, but solely by the Conversation or Discourses we held on various Subjects. For our Ancestors very wisely called those Meetings of Friends to eat and drink together, by the name of Convivium, or Living-together; as if Society were the Design of them: A Term much more proper than that of the Greeks, whose Name for them imports nothing but Eating and Drinking together; as if they preferred that Part of the Entertainment, which is truly in itself the least valuable.

— Cicero, De Senectute, ch XIII.

Indeed.

Reading Recap: July – Dec 2013

July

  1. Kirk, The Roots of American Order // A very helpful survey of the title subject (though misguided in a few places). Most helpful to me were the surveys of the Graeco-Roman civilizations and their impact on the development of “order, above all.” Most irritating to me was his tired appropriation of the Mosaic economy as “useful” apart from its place in the history of redemption. (See Machen’s comments on using the Scriptures to promote ‘patriotism’ in What is Faith?, ch. 4 “Faith Born of Need”.)
  2. Goldwater, The Conscience of a Conservative // A modern-day classic, very brief, worth reading. Changed my mind on 1) the validity of trade unions–provided they’re voluntary–based on the freedom to associate; and on 2) the validity of many Gov’t departments we take for granted today (i.e., the Dept. of Education, etc.). Worth a read for anyone on either side of the political spectrum.
  3. Farmer, The Metaphysical Confederacy: James Henley Thornwell and the Synthesis of Southern Values // The race-based slavery, manstealing, physical abuse, and marriage-wrecking issues aside (and that’s a lot!), I’m otherwise fascinated by the Southern complex of social thought. Same with the Boers in South Africa, before things went so awry regarding race. De Tocqueville’s dictum on the French Revolution–that “Half-way down the staircase we threw ourselves out of the window, in order to get sooner to the bottom. Such, in fact, is the common course of events. It is not when a system is at its worst that it is broken up, but when it begins to improve; when it allows men to breathe, to reflect, to communicate with one another, and to measure the extent of their rights and of their grievances by comparing their present with their past state.“–seems to apply to the American Civil War. Forcing change on those whose proper responsibility it is to see it done, in a culture of honor, only provokes resistance and a decreased impetus to effect that change. Good quotes here. I have more sympathy for the social and political reasons for their secession now–while retaining an objection to race-based slavery, abuse, manstealing, etc.

August

  1. Berry, Watch With Me // Beautiful, haunting. Sehnsucht.
  2. Durant, The Lessons of History // Helpful survey apart from his departure into godless speculation about where history can “prove the existence of God.” Very interesting insights otherwise, about the effect of geography on civilizations, etc. Worth checking out of library–probably not worth owning.
  3. Dreher, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming // Good for what it is. Oddly, what I took away most was his account of a poor preacher’s funeral sermon. I’ll leave that little gem for you to find on your own. I wept on “the occasion.”

September

  1. Robertson, The Current Justification Controversy // Perhaps it’s just an early-onset of a midlife crisis, but this volume made be weep for another reason. The recounting of the Norman Shepherd controversy at Westminster Theological Seminary — which took, incredibly, seven years to resolve. As our pastor has wondered aloud, “isn’t it simply amazing that the Church still exists at all?” Sadly Shepherd’s ghost still haunts too many halls.

October

  1. Helm, Calvin’s Ideas // Rigorous, patient, and insightful. Helm is a brilliant man who writes simply and clearly, able to condense and simplify complicated arguments. This has been a helpful and enjoyable read. I believe others (e.g., Oliphint) have misread him. An aroma of depth and seasoned maturity rise from every page. Helm is the kind of “elder” who one would treasure to have as a neighbor and frequent dinner guest. No doubt the after dinner conversation on the front porch would be deeply life-changing.
  2. Selderhuis, John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life // I read this acclaimed biography to prepare for my 2nd annual Reformation Night performance (for the young kids of our congregation)–this year I was Calvin, last year I was Luther. Not quite as good as I was expecting, but Selderhuis does present a side of Calvin I hadn’t seen from his other biographers.

November

  1. Hyde, Welcome to a Reformed Church // Complimentary when I visited Danny Hyde’s church while on travel for work. A great little read; likely the gift I’ll give to each of my family at Sean’s baptism.
  2. Waters, The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology // Waters makes his way through the development and major players of the so-called “Federal Vision.” Helpful as this was, I think it could have been better. The OPC Report on Justification (pdf) is just as helpful (if not more so), though without as many source quotes. The complex of dangerous positions, and influencing streams, led to the chimera that is the Federal Vision; lion-headed enough to deceive, fire-breathing enough to burn. It is grievous and remarkable how many have been led astray by these men. While I may be a co-belligerent with them against ‘easy-believism’ and against the revivalism-influenced introspective stance of “evangellyicals,” co-belligerents are not always the best of allies. Claiming their differences to be only “exceptions,” their exceptions are better called “rejection of the entire system.” To draw a parallel, one cannot claim to affirm the Trinity as described by the confession, while “taking exception” to the hypostatic union.
  3. Petto, The Great Mystery of the Covenant of Grace // Rev. Brown first introduced me to the work of Samuel Petto on his excellent (but now defunct) blog a few years ago. Petto would’ve been a Savoy-man, with Owen, but for understandable reasons. The relation of the Mosaic economy to Covenant Theology is still a hotly debated issue today.
  4. VanDrunen, A Biblical Case for Natural Law (cheaper, cheaper still) // For anyone interested in the very old, but (oddly) “controversial,” idea of natural law, this is a very concise (and affordable) little introduction to one of VanDrunen’s arguments for the continuing validity of natural law–yes, even for Protestants.

December

  1. Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification // If not for Stonehouse’s bio of Machen, this would have been the best-of-year. An absolutely fantastic resource, highly recommended. Buchanan rehearses the historical and exegetical foundations for the Protestant Reformed doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone.
  2. Brown, Christ and the Condition // I’ve been wanting to read this for a while, but with the upcoming overture to the OPC GA regarding the doctrine of republication, it was an especially helpful read. Brown makes his case that the Mosaic covenant, for all its difficulties, has often been seen to have, “in some sense,” a works-principle involved. (Of course, the reward was temporal and typological, and based on meritum ex pacto, not meritum de condigno nor meritum de congruo).

Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading in 2014!

Helm Reviews Wright

I’ve just stumbled across a few excellent posts, wherein a new-found favorite theologian of mine, Paul Helm, reviews Bishop NT Wright’s Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision (London SPCK):

  1. Wright in General
  2. Why ‘Covenant Faithfulness’ is Not Divine Righteousness (and cannot be)
  3. Wright and Righteousness
  4. Wright and the Reformation

Professor Helm provides a very helpful analysis. He writes at Helm’s Deep.

Reading Recap: Jan – Jun 2013

January

  1. Harry S. Stout, The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism (Library of Religious Biography) // Surprisingly cynical at times, but nevertheless a revealing study of this “first American celebrity.” (more)
  2. Lyle Dorsett, Billy Sunday and the Redemption of Urban America (Library of Religious Biography) // Another religious celebrity, and contemporary of Machen. A tragic figure, but telling of his times. Machen initially supported him as one “who preaches the true gospel,” and as a fellow fundamentalist, but would later cool to his overly “roughhouse” antics (per Stonehouse).
  3. Daniel Hyde, In Living Color: Images of Christ and the Means of Grace // Re-read this with the men’s reading group at Church. The 2nd commandment is largely ignored today, as are the divinely appointed means of grace in general. Typical of its author’s work, this brief book is clear, concise and convincing.
  4. Ned Stonehouse, Machen: A Biographical Memoir. // A thoroughly enjoyable tour of Machen’s life and work. I enjoyed every page of this 400+ tribute. (Front-runner for best of year.)

February

  1. Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology // How might one escape our technopoly without becoming too much of a Luddite? “To ask the question is the solution.” Filled with great insights and quotes. “In short, a technological resistance fighter maintains an epistemological and psychic distance from any technology, so that it always appears somewhat strange, never inevitable, never natural.” (185)

March

  1. Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations // Lasch is a newcomer to my mind and my library. I will need to read more of him, especially after the new horizons opened to me upon reading his two articles “What’s Wrong with the Right?” and “Why the Left Has No Future” (available here). This volume discusses the advent of the breakdown of personality. Disturbing. It probably deserves another reading.
  2. Twenge and Campbell, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement // Lightweight in comparison to Lasch, but nevertheless some interesting insights into modern culture. They seem to focus on vanity rather than true Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as Lasch does above. Longer than it needed to be. (more)

April

  1. Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness // If you’ve read Owen’s Mortification of Sin, or much of Jerry Bridges, this is in the same vein and just as helpful. I read it somewhat begrudgingly because I’ve read so many books on this topic (“to no avail”) but I’m glad I did. What stuck out to me most was the sections on worldliness in entertainment–I’ve said many times before that “adultery isn’t entertainment,” but DeYoung kicks it up a notch or two. To commandeer a phrase he quoted from Tozer (I think): “The greatest need of my [family] is my holiness.” Amen. May God assist me in making another turn. Another helpful thought: “…the only way to extraordinary holiness is through the ordinary means” –a similar theme to Hyde’s book above.
  2. Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains // Fantastic little book. Quite similar to Postman’s Technopoly in places, but fascinating nonetheless. Discusses neuroplasticity.

May

  1. Mark Noll, Christians in the American Revolution // Classic Noll. Some very helpful insights in this little book. The (over?) emphasis on experience in conversion contributed to the rise of American Baptistic theology/ecclesiology. Three similarities between Whig libertarianism and colonial Christianity led to their mingling: 1) human depravity 2) the mutual dependence between virtue, liberty, and societal welfare, and 3) a view of history as cosmic battle between forces of good and evil.  This is a fantastic little book; of all the books I’ve read on the conflation / confluence of Great Awakening-style religion and libertarian politics in the past few years (and there have been a few) this one seems to be answering the most questions for me. This is the book I’ve been looking for for years. (Of course, the “Notes on Sources” and bibliographic essay will prove expensive…)
  2. Sherry Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other // More about robots than I’d expected, but I see where she’s going–the device as ‘relational artifact,’ as external emotional crutch. Many important questions and lessons in this book. Disconnect from phone as much as possible. No phones at table, when we are (or have) guests, in meetings. Phones not just out of sight but OFF during family meals. Be where we are. Bodes very poorly for any hope for depth of culture in the future. As she slowly begins to close the book, I have to admit Ms Turkle’s prose seems to blossom in beauty. The book has been engaging from the start, but now she displays her gifts as a writer not only as a psychoanalyst/researcher/etc. The epilogue, I’m almost embarrassed to say, nearly brings a tear to my eye. I would say to her, “Yes–yes, I understand.”
  3. John Piper, This Momentary Marriage // While I appreciate Piper’s dead-earnest intensity about all things, I sometimes get a slight hint of — not quite gnosticism, but a devaluing of the here and now, a lessening of the gifts of God in and of themselves. Yes, we ought to be thankful, but we’re thankful because the gifts are, themselves, enjoyable. Must there be such a ferocity to our devotion? Isn’t there a sense in which I say to my wife that I love her for who she is? Loving her for Christ’s sake sounds like the legalism Luther freed us from in order to love more genuinely. Some really good chapters in here, I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised. The chapter on spiritual offspring held forth a somewhat thin view of God’s grace as mediated in and through natural families (said the Reformed guy about the Baptist). Overall, especially for its length, this is a decent hortatory read, and I would recommend it. He makes a pretty strong argument about the illegitimacy of remarriage after divorce (even in the case of adultery/fornication), but I don’t think it’s ultimately convincing. For all the reasons one marries in the first place, including the prevention of fornication, remarriage after the departure of an unbelieving spouse is, I think the Scriptures teach, permitted–possibly even recommended. Does the unwilling victim of divorce suddenly gain the “gift of celibacy”?
  4. J. Gresham Machen, What is Faith? // So relevant today! I would’ve expected nothing less from Machen’s pen; this is a wonderfully edifying read. Has the affirmations of orthodox faith as well as nearly sermon-like exhortation to belief and amazement at the gospel about (not of) Jesus Christ. And I absolutely love his ‘older’ writing style, so clear, so eloquent, so careful. Who writes like this today?

June

  1. William Powers, Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age // Another one on the “technology is killing us and our culture” topic, highly recommended to me by my brother Joseph. What a great little book. The survey of the 7 philosophers was a lot of fun, and even helpful. (I’m further inspired to read some more of Seneca, Cicero, and some of the other classical authors.) Despite Alan Jacobs’ recent rant (‘Enough is Enough‘), and even though people have been saying these things for centuries (‘Plus ça Change‘), I think some of these things bear repeating from time to time. Because, “If we stop remembering, then we’ll forget.” Of the handful of books I’ve read on this topic, this was probably the most fun.
  2. Ted Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart // A very wise and balanced book. I will no doubt return to it often as our children grow. A few ‘new to me’ insights or principles, but overall just what I’d expected. Together with Beeke’s Parenting by God’s Promises one is well equipped for child-rearing.

Reading Recap: July – Dec 2012

July

  • Alan Heimert, Religion and the American Mind : From the Great Awakening to the Revolution. Nearly disputed as often as cited, this is a well-respected study of the title subject. Using categories that appear both confused and confusing to this OPC-er who has imbibed his fair share of Hart, Noll, Hatch and Marsden, Heimert attributes the pro-revivalists of the first Great Awakening as the “Calvinists” and those who opposed it as the “rationalists” and “Arminians.” Ground-breaking in its day, he successfully decoupled the then-prominent view that it was Liberal Christianity that cultivated the rise of Democracy. (See also Jeff Waddington’s helpful extended review here.) Edwards was the key figure here, whose peculiar experience-based soteriology and ecclesiology spilled over into society at large and influenced a throwing off of tyranny for the sake of love to our neighbors.
  • Nathan Hatch, Sacred Cause of Liberty. Hatch carefully disputes the above interpretation, relocating the impteus of Revolutionary New England to the widespread belief that the Millennium was imminent, if not already blossoming in the colonies. Both books above provide fascinating insight into the coupling of politics and religion that seems to affect our culture even today.

August

  • Thomas Weinandy, Does God Suffer? An advanced yet very readable account of God’s immutability and impassibility, relying primarily on Aquinas. Following Dolezal’s advice, I steered clear of the last couple chapters, but the first 6 or so were, as promised, outstanding. A strong argument against any heretical understanding of a changing, learning, perpetually actualizing God. God is actus purus, pure being, perpetually perfect, without potential. God as God does not suffer, being simple and eternal, yet God really does exist as a man, and really does suffer as a man.
  • Michael Brown, Sacred Bond. A very helpful little book on Covenenat Tehology / Reformed Theology. If you, a friend, or family member is unsure or hesitant about what Reformed Theology is all about, this is a great little introduction. Also helpful for those who would claim the ‘Reformed’ moniker – it’s not something available for the wanting, but applies if one adheres to Covenant / Federal Theology as a system…

September

  • J. Budziszewski, Written on the Heart : The Case for Natural Law. I’ve been planning a deeper study about Natural Law for some time, this was my entry into the study. Being convinced of covenantal /presuppositional apologetic, and of the mantra that religious neutrality is a myth, I wanted to learn about the basis of civil, positive law. Theocracy is not an option, the nation of Israel having long since expired. So, what then? This was a helpful introduction, college-level.
  • David Koyzis, Political Visions and Illusions: A Survey and Christian Critique of Contemporary Ideologies. This book has been somewhat formative on my understanding of the various ‘isms’ of political ideologies. Looking back now, I believe Koyzis was instrumental in toning down by libertarian bent (though it remains to some degree) and turning me on to a more sympathetic understanding of sphere sovereignty (modified by a 2k understanding). If you’re interested in the marketplace of political ideas, this is a very highly recommended read. The author is quite obviously of a Kuyperian bent, but presents fair descriptions and arguments all around.
  • Stephen Graybill, Rediscovering Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics. Grabill makes a compelling case that Natural Law is and has been a part of the Reformed tradition since the very beginning. The key understanding however is that “right reason” is “regenerate reason,” though common grace has left enough “natural light” for the recognition of natural law and the resulting establishment of common and positive law flowing from it.

October

  • David VanDrunen, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms. I re-read this eminently helpful little book in preparation for leading our men’s reading group through it. Even better the second time through – highly recommended.
  • David VanDrunen, Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms. VanDrunen’s extended historical survey of the related doctrines of Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms. Convincing, scholarly, fair, and–in typical VanDrunen style–presented with a precise economy of words that is largely unmatched.

November

  • James Dolezal, God Without Parts. Another in the series of books I’m reading on the Doctrine of God, particularly in defense from the attacks of Open Theism. Sometimes difficult, but ultimately convincing. Dolezal presents a version of the identity account–that God is identical to his attributes, he is not complex or made of parts, is fully actualized in his being (and thus not subject to change). This deeper study was actually among the most worship-evoking I read this year. Our God is Absolutely Sovereign, fully perfect in his intense love for his holy name and his church, without variation in his perfect and perpetual love. Amen!

December

  • Thomas Weinandy, Does God Change? I found his Does God Suffer? so helpful that I decided to take up this earlier and foundational work. Reiterated his argument for the orthodox view of God’s immutability and the incarnation: “he became what he was not, without ceasing to be what he already was.” In other words, “God truly is man, it is truly God who is man, and it is truly man that God is.”
  • R. C. Sproul, Are We Together? A Protestant Examines Roman CatholicismIn this short book Sproul covers a lot of ground, citing source documents and condensing debates that have spanned centuries. Contrary to some claims that the Reformation is Over or no longer relevant, Sproul proves conclusively that as long as certain official anathemas stand, the Reformation is not over. Recent ecumenical proclamations and statements have only been liberal Protestants agreeing with liberal Roman Catholics, nothing more.
  • D. G. Hart, Defending the Faith : J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America. I really enjoyed this short but surprisingly well-researched biography of a personal hero of mine. Hart does a great job of putting Machen into familial and cultural context, bringing out something of the essence of the man, and providing insightful condensations of his greater known, even a few lesser known, works.

Christianity and Sentimentality

Historians have identified the mid-eighteenth century as the crucial point of transition in which a new culture of romantic love began to replace traditional matrimony determined by community and parental involvement. The same forces of mobility and marketplace anonymity that were transforming religion and creating an unprecedented focus on the self were transforming the family and relations between the sexes. “Falling in love” was becoming to marriage and the family what being “born again” was to religion and the church. In both cases, the experience was intensely subjective and personal, transcending understanding and rationality and appealing to the passions for corroboration and “assurance.” Trends begun in the 1750s continued into the nineteenth century, leading to the triumph of Victorian sentimentalism in the family and of highly emotional “great revivals” in Anglo-American evangelical Protestantism. Both were expressions of the same transformations. With the public square increasingly devoid of extended family, community, and national churches, the private self and its experience became the locus of meaning.

— Harry S. Stout, The Divine Dramatist : George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), p. 157.

Reading Recap: January – June 2012

January:

  • Lewis, Letters to Malcom, Chiefly on Prayer // Helpful, sometimes humorous, thoughts presented via an interesting literary device.
  • Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross : Reflections on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation // A tad hard to follow in places, but some consider this a classic. Contrasts a ‘theology of glory’ against a ‘theology of the cross’ – very relevant to some of today’s trends. Probably deserves another reading or two. (I have a hard time grasping the Germans sometimes – e.g., Bonhoeffer.)
  • Hart, The Lost Soul of American Protestantism // A great argument for the historical category of ‘confessional Protestant’ – a community largely overlooked by historians and survey-takers of American evangelicalism. Hart has become, punchy as he can be, a ‘read everything he writes’ author.
  • Lewis, The Four Loves // An engaging, inspiring, correcting look at the different kinds of love we have for one another. Deepening.
  • DeYoung and Gilbert, What is the Mission of the Church? // A helpful third-of-three books in a series calling the younger generation (YRR’s) to a deeper understanding of God, Salvation, Church, etc. This area is probably the most needed in the YRR movement – though they spent surprisingly little time talking about Word and Sacrament ministry for a ‘Reformed’ position.
  • Berry, What Are People For? // A very enjoyable read. A gifted writer, Berry calls us to be more human, and to live with a mind toward place and greater stewardship of our particular piece of the Earth. He paints an attractive picture of the hard work and simple pleasures of a simpler, more agrarian, lifestyle. (I almost quit my job and bought a farm.) Thank you, Joel P., for introducing me to Mr Berry.

February:

  • Fesko, Word, Water, Spirit // A fascinating historical and biblical-theological study of the doctrine of baptism. Even if you’re convinced of the ‘household’ formula of baptism, this is a great read. Hefty at 400+ pages, but it reads quickly enough.

March:

  • Jewett, Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace // A surprisingly poor argument against infant baptism, the main thrust of which being ‘they read the Old as if it were the New, and the New as if it were the Old.’ He seems to equate the Old Covenant with Genesis-Malachi and the New Covenant with Matthew-Revelation and, well, that’s just not how Jesus or the Apostles interpret all of Scripture to us. Galatians alone renders Jewett’s thesis shockingly inaccurate.
  • Beeke, Parenting by God’s Promises // I will return to this book often. Beeke sets a high standard for parenting (and he ought to) so it seems overwhelming at times. But we do have a mighty charge to keep and Beeke provides a helpful guide. Another longish book, but it too reads rather quickly.

May:

  • Wilson, Reforming Marriage // Classic Wilson Family stuff here. Equal parts stick and carrot.
  • VanDoodewaard, The Marrow Controversy and Seceder Tradition // Very interesting study of the Marrow Controversy. Answers the specific question “Where did the stream of Marrow Theology meander / thrive / dry up in the decades / centuries after the controversy?”
  • Horton, Where in the World is the Church? // Now here’s a book I really should have read 15 years ago. Gives a proper understanding of vocation, of worship, and much else. Very helpful. (A little dated though – he makes reference to Carman “…who?” and makes one thorn-in-my-side historical assertion that was inaccurate: Adam Smith was not influenced by Hegelian philosophy; if anything, it was the reverse–but this is a minor wart on a mountain’s-worth of a good book.)

June:

  • Machen, What is Faith? // Another fantastic read. Similar in spirit to his Christianity and Liberalism but focused more on the locus of faith as primarily (but not solely) intellectual rather than experiential. Still extremely relevant and worth re-reading.
  • Hyde, Jesus Loves the Little Children // If you read or recommend only one book about baptism, make it this one. Places baptism in the far grander scheme of covenant theology relying primarily on Scripture but with a healthy portion of Vos, Kline, the historic confessions thrown in to boot. I hesitate to say this about any book, but this is as close as one can get to a ‘must-read’ for everyone on baptism–it’s that good. Hyde continues to impress with these short, concise books on the basics of Reformed faith!
  • Welch, When People are Big and God is Small // I’m making my way through most of the CCEF counseling books (simply to be a better husband, father, brother, and friend) and this one was unsurprisingly quite helpful. Follows the typical nouthetic method but with gentleness and care. Welch is one of those ‘read everything he writes’ authors.

Reading Recap: July – Dec 2011

July

September

October

November

December

The Bench vs The Catechism

From Chapter 3:

Unlike [Finney’s] system of the [anxious] bench that made the conversion experience “the all in all of the gospel economy,” the [system of the] catechism was designed to care for believers over the entire course of their lives, from birth to death. Nevin’s theory of the catechism did not hide the significant stylistic differences between the bench and the catechism, which involved contrasts such as number of converts versus greater spiritual maturity or mechanical techniques for attracting converts versus natural and organic means of generating faithful devotion. “It is in the kingdom of grace,” he explained, “as in the kingdom of nature; the greatest, deepest, most comprehensive and lasting changes are effected constantly not by special, sudden, vast explosions of power, but by processes that are gentle, and silent, and so minute and common as hardly to attract the notice of the world.” Or to put it another way, “The extraordinary,” in the case of the catechetical system, “is found ever to stand in the ordinary, and grows forth from it without violence so as to bear the same character of natural and free power.” As such, the catechism was not opposed to revivals. Rather, the system of catechetical religion involved a different notion of revival, one where the church enjoyed “special showers of grace” through the regular ministrations of the pastoral office.

– Darryl Hart,  John Williamson Nevin : High Church Calvinist (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2005), p. 99.

Nevin and Hart use the term ‘catechism’ as symbolic of an altogether different view of piety, church life, conversion, etc. This view, established (ordained?) long before Finney’s day, revolves largely around the family, pastoral visitation, catechesis, and Word and Sacrament ministry.