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August 11, 2010


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Cheryl B.

What a great article. It helps me to understand why I find myself drifting away from things "Reformed", as I try to journey closer and closer to Jesus.
"Evangelical Sandherin" is a phrase that I have never heard before but is sure to be a permanent part of my psyche--thanks!!
I had the pleasure of making Ron's acquaintance in the 80's when I was taking a religious studies course at UBC and he was the TA. There was always the aroma of Jesus about him, but he did not fit into any of the Christian molds that we were offered then (or now for that matter). This article gives me more insight into why that was. Keep stretching us "thou good and faithful."

Wayne Northey

Thanks Ron for drawing attention to “the weightier matters of the law”.

I first met Dr. Packer on a Regent College committee to select a new ethics professor after Dr. Klaus Bockmuehl had died. When Dr. Packer heard that I worked at the time for the Mennonite Central Committee Canada, he offered me a spontaneous and succinct critique of Anabaptists. While I share with you, Ron, that Anabaptists were part of the “DNA of schism” that at the Reformation sowed ever since disunity in the body of Christ, that was not Packer’s critique who idolizes the Reformed tradition. In response, I remember quoting James (2:18): “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do…” In short, the “Sanhedrin” in Jesus’ day as in ours fails to do “justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Jesus in Matthew 23:23 – quoting the high water Hebrew Bible ethical text of Micah 6:8:
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.)

When I was doing my Master of Theological Studies at Regent College, I was given a Systematic Theology reading list of a few thousand pages drawn up by Dr. Packer. When I eventually mentioned to him that (as I recall) only one publication was not by or about Reformed theologians/theology, he smiled and said his philosophy was getting to know one tradition well before examining others. I was grateful at the time that he was on a Sabbatical and another list was made available that represented instead 2,000 years of Christian thought.

Over against the “Sanhedrin”, we are called to this profound ethical impulse: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’( Matthew 9:13) ” Matthew’s Gospel twice quotes Jesus quoting Hosea (6:6): “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” In the end all theology (“acknowledgement of God”) is heresy (false choice) if its central dynamic is not mercy towards/love of neighbour. This is the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2–17; Deuteronomy 5:6–21) boiled down to two by Jesus (Matthew 22:37 – 40 on which “All the Law and the Prophets hang…”) boiled down in Paul (Romans 13:8 – 10) and James (2:8) to one Royal Law: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.” In this context, Hosea, Jesus, Paul and James would have all added, “you are doing right ‘theology’ ”. Love is “the most excellent way” (I Corinthians 12:31, 13:1 – 13), for “God is love (I John 4:16).”


Note that we've posted a significantly revised version of the essay.


What is interesting to me, having grown up in a primarily Arminian/Wesleyan environment (which was, however, being eroded, at least politically, by neo-Evangelicalism some 35-45 years ago), is that this tradition represents a turn away from Calvinism and back toward Roman Catholicism/Orthodoxy.

Logan Runnalls

Helpful. Thank you.

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