Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Three Forms vs. Westminster - Fourth Commandment Part 2

A commenter in the previous post made the point that the change from the “Continental” view of the 4th commandment to the “Puritan” view was simply a development of doctrine, and thus the Puritan view is the Reformed view.  A quick look at my labels of blog posts and you will see how I really detest the idea of Doctrinal Development.  It is a sword often wielded to help shield people from the fact of what they are really saying is “The first 1700 years of the church knew nothing of this, but thankfully we invented it”.  But I shall put that aside a moment and try to continue to show that it is truly two separate traditions or streams within the broader Reformed river.
The challenge has been made to show someone from the 17th century that held to the Continental View of the Sabbath as expressed in the Second Helvetic Confession or the Heidelberg Catechism.  It is true that in the 17th century we begin to see in the Netherlands the Nadere Reformation that brings the Puritan thinking into the Netherlands.  One could turn the challenge around and tell others to find someone not related to the Nadere Reformation who supported the Puritan view of the Sabbath, but I shall simply answer their challenge.
Let me start with the Dutch.  Here you had a large group who followed Johannes Cocceius.  Cocceius is a bit of a controversial figure, but nonetheless, he held to a Continental View of the Sabbath as did the vast majority of his followers.  The number of his followers should not be considered small either.  This is a large group of men since he taught at Frankener and Leiden, two major universities.  Now to go to the other end of the spectrum, we can grab Franciscus Gromarus.  Gromarus, most famous for his staunch opposition to Arminius, also held to the Continental view of the Sabbath.    Both of these Dutch Theologians were professors and taught a Continental view of the Sabbath.  
The commenter mentioned the French Reformed were represented at Westminster.  While I am unaware of who would have been there, it should be mentioned that by the time of the Westminster Amyraldianism was everywhere in the French church to the degree that the French church would soon be effectively split from at least the Swiss Reformed Churches.  It should also be noted that just because some French Reformed were there does not mean they agreed.  Earlier in the 17th century men like Antoine de la Faye, head pastor at Geneva, held to a Continental view.  
It is hard to find a lot of German 17th century people writing on the Sabbath, so it is hard one way or another to say for sure on many of them.  But David Pareus would be a Continental view pastor.  He died in Heidelberg where his career began, but also pastored in a few other places in Germany.  Johann Alsted taught at the University of Heborn and held to a Continental view.  It is more than likely that the majority of German Reformed churches held to the Continental view.  However, the German Reformed were busy fighting for their right to be reformed for a full third of the century while those in England did little to help the cause.  Thus, they were much more free to write and debate the new doctrine advocated by Bound (the Puritan view of the Sabbath).  
Lest we forget too much that many in England held a Continental view of the Sabbath or at least a non-Westminster view.  Archbishop Whitgift and Laud and Bishop Thomas Morton all appeared to have supported King James’s Book of Sports.  And James was raised a Scottish Presbyterian himself.  It is wrong to look back on the 17th Century England and assume that everyone agreed with the Westminster view of the 4th Commandment.  It was highly debated until the debate was settled when they cut off King Charles’s head.  
Let us also note that the idea that there is really only one position on the Sabbath is completely new.  Just listen to Herman Hoeksema.  "One cannot fail to observe a different conception of the sabbath in this Westminster Confession from that of the Second Helvetic".  He states one cannot fail.  It should be impossible to think they are the same.  
Hopefully this brief summary shows that there were plenty of 17th century who held to a Continental view.  And that Reformed theologians on both sides of the debate for literally centuries have agreed there were two different views on the Fourth Commandment.


Anonymous said...

It would be helpful for you to define what the "continental reformed view of the Sabbath" is that you're referring to, esp. when in reference to the 17th century debates, and how it differs from the "Puritan view", which also bears defining. Also, I'm not completely sure who issued the challenge to find one Continental Reformed theologian who dissented from the consensus Sabbath doctrine, for that shouldn't be hard, on pretty much any doctrine, that is, to find a dissenter. But I would like to see if anyone can produce a 17th century Reformed confessional document (or act of synod, etc.) that substantially disagrees with the Westminster doctrine of the Sabbath. My surmise is that one cannot.

Anonymous said...

By the way, the two French Reformed divines who were delegates at the Westminster Assembly were Philippe Delmé and Jean de la Marche.

Jeremy B said...

It should be noted that Gustavus Adolphus employed a healthy contingent of Scots involved in that Thirty Years War

Lee said...

That particular challenge is a little loaded since the Continent was in war for 30 years, and struggling to recover from it for the rest of the century. It is hard to find time to write a confession when you have been evicted from your homeland. You just don't see a lot of 17th Century confessions at all.

That said, the formula of Dordt is different from Westminster. It is not the same as Heidelberg's formula, but it is not Westminster either. That is early 17th century.

Perhaps a better way to analyze your theory is that if the Sabbath doctrine was developing and people were moving to the Westminster view, you should expect to find the Swiss, the Polish, the Hungarian, and the other churches that all adopted the Second Helvetic Confession to repudiate it since it directly condemns the equating of the Sabbath with the Lord's Day. But I surmise one cannot.

Why one would assume that their doctrine changed if their creed did not is beyond me.

Thanks for letting me know about the French divines. I appreciate it.

And yes, Jeremy, there were some Scots involved and occasionally a few hired English. But, for all the times that Germans begged King James to come and lead the Protestant Union, allowing some mercenaries to go over really counts as doing nothing. Don't forget Frederich V's wife is James's daughter. Everyone expected the English to do something.