Why conservatives need Edmund Burke 

Edmund_Burke_by_James_NorthcoteIn another in our series of my-former-students-who-are-making-me-proud-by-their-writing, Gracy Olmstead explains why today’s conservatives need to pay attention to Sir Edmund Burke, the father of conservatism.

Burke, in criticizing the French Revolution, showed why social reform must “conserve” what is good in the society.  Rather than raze the society to the ground and start over from ground zero.   Interestingly, Burke supported the American Revolution, which–compared to what the Jacobins did–was actually conservative in its respect for God, insistence on English common law, and retention of traditional morality.

Some of today’s conservative activists are more like right wing Jacobins, opposing everything that represents the “establishment,” than Burkean conservatives, who, by definition, want to “conserve” something.

But my application isn’t to today’s political controversies.  I have been studying the Reformation lately.  The Lutherans really were advocating, in C. P. Krauth’s terms, a “conservative Reformation.”  The medieval church was in bad need of reform, but the Lutherans “conserved” what was good in it:  sacramental spirituality; the liturgy; the creeds; church art; the Christian intellectual tradition.  Later Protestants rejected everything that could remotely be considered “Catholic,” trying instead, in a succession of ways, to start the church all over from scratch.

Thus, in Burkean terms,  we had both a conservative Reformation and a Jacobin Reformation. [Read more…]

The Crusades, the Inquisition, and Protestants

President Obama told the National Prayer Breakfast that Christianity, like Islam today, has been used to justify violence, mentioning particularly the Crusades and the Inquisition, historical episodes that are always being brought up against Christians.  It’s kind of strange, though, for us heirs of the Reformation to be blamed for those particular incidents. [Read more…]

“No Sacraments, No Protestantism”

Reformed pastor Peter Leithhart says that Protestantism requires a high view of the sacraments.  He focuses specifically on baptism and its role in a key Protestant teaching:  the assurance of salvation. [Read more…]

Protestants who believe in Purgatory

Some Protestants, including some evangelicals, are trying to bring back the belief in Purgatory.  After the jump, read details and then my thoughts on the matter. [Read more…]

Was Luther a Calvinist?

Short answer:  NO!  But Calvinists often claim him for their own.  Douglas Sweeney,Trinity Evangelical Seminary church historian, takes up this question at the Gospel Coalition site, showing where Luther and Lutherans stand vis a vis the Five Points of Calvinism.  It’s a good discussion.

Prof. Sweeney stresses that the controversy between Calvinism and Arminianism, according to which Calvinists evaluate all theologies, is very much a disagreement among Reformed Christians, and isn’t easily applicable to separate theological traditions, such as the Lutherans, Anglicans, and Anabaptists.   What sets apart Lutheranism from the Reformed, of course, whether Calvinist or Arminian, is the issue of the Sacraments, which aren’t discussed here.  Still, read the analysis.  Is there anything missing? [Read more…]

The essence of Protestantism?

Dale M. Coulter discusses H. Richard Niebuhr’s The Kingdom of God in America and the issue he raised of “constructive Protestantism.”  For Niebuhr, the essence of Protestantism is the unmediated relationship between the individual and God’s Word.  The issue then becomes how Protestantism can create or even support institutions.  Read the discussion.  What do you make of this? [Read more…]