Special Issue of Theology Today on the Mercersburg Theology

I am proud to announce that the journal Theology Today, published by Princeton Theological Seminary, has featured the work of the Mercersburg Theology Study Series, which I am editing, in a special issue of their journal (vol. 71, no. 4) devoted to the Mercersburg Theology. The issue, featuring articles by Linden DeBie (editor of vols. 1 and 2 of the Mercersburg Theology Study Series), Ted Trost and David Bains (co-editors of vol. 3, forthcoming), Bill Evans (editor of vol. 4, just published), and Lee Barrett (editor of vol. 10, forthcoming), as well as myself (I also co-authored the article with Linden), grew out of the special panel on the Mercersburg Theology at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Baltimore, MD.  After that panel, Gordon Mikoski proposed adapting the papers presented for a special issue of the journal, and I added a version of the paper I was preparing as a Keynote Presentation at the 2014 Mercersburg Convocation.

In his introduction to the issue, Gordon Mikoski highlights five enduring lessons to be learned from the Mercersburg theologians, which he thinks can still challenge the church today: (1) their dynamic re-application of the Reformed tradition in their own day, (2) their recognition of how new philosophical insights may serve as tools for the theologian, (3) their emphasis on the Incarnation and embodiment, (4) their recovery of the importance of the Eucharist, (5) their attention to church history and insistence that it must continue to guide theological reflection.  He then summarizes the five articles as follows:

The articles in this issue probe various aspects of the Mercersburg Theology.

“Barrett’s piece [“The Distinctive World of Mercersburg Theology: Yearning for God or Relief From Sin?”] locates the source of the tensions between Nevin and Hodge in the relationship between the infinite and the finite. He argues that Hodge worked to keep a clear distinction between them; whereas Nevin looked for reconciliation between them. Barrett then traces this root of controversy through the formulations of several key theological loci: anthropology, cosmology, doctrine of God, soteriology, sanctification, and sacramentology. The article by Evans [“The Mercersburg Christology and Reformed Ressourcement”] assays Nevin’s christology as a source for Reformed ressourcement. He explicates the central importance of the Incarnation and of Christ as the Second Adam for the Mercersburg theology. He makes the fascinating claim that Nevin was above all ‘a biblical theologian with deep patristic and Reformation roots, who found the apparatus of German idealism useful for providing an idiom for articulating certain concerns.’ Littlejohn’s contribution [“Sectarianism and the Search for Visible Catholicity: Lessons from John Nevin and Richard Hooker”] considers the ecclesiology of Nevin and Schaff to see if we might find there resources for moving beyond a number of contemporary impasses in the church. He argues that Nevin’s ecclesiology needs supplementation if not correction from Richard Hooker in order to realize the promise of its impulses. Bains and Trost [“Philip Schaff: The Flow of Church History and the Development of Protestantism”] look at Schaff’s inaugural lecture in Mercersburg ‘The Principles of Protestantism’ and lay bare the Hegelian dialectic in the deep substructure of his approach to church history. DeBie’s article [“Reformed Eucharistic Theology and the Case for Real Presence”] revisits Nevin’s Calvinist eucharistic theology and explores some of the unresolved tensions in Calvin’s approach to the sacrament. DeBie argues that what was at issue for Nevin was the mode of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and its implications for Christian belief and practice. This rich collection of recent assessments make clear why Mercersburg should be revisited for theology today.”

You can download the PDF of my article (or the pre-pub proof, at any rate) here.

One thought on “Special Issue of Theology Today on the Mercersburg Theology

  1. My goodness! My head is swimming and my heart is “burning within me”.
    I am a Presbyterian pastor who has always felt more like an Anglican at heart. I’ve never quite felt at home without a liturgical & sacramental expression of my faith. I have only recently discovered Mercersberg Theology. In fact, it was just today that I really decided to dig in and find out “what this thing is all about”. And I must say that I’m utterly blown away.

    I never imagined that there might still be room for someone like me in the Reformed tradition. I figured I would be faithful to the place where God has called me, but resigned myself to feeling like a Eucharistic fish out of water.

    Lo and behold, I stumble across your work (which I can’t wait to read) and this article, which I see was just published today. It seems like too much coming together at once to just be coincidence… I suspect sovereign grace.
    Egads! Now I’m really starting to sound like a Calvinist!

    Thanks for this. Not just the article, but the work you’ve put into reviving the Church’s awareness of this important theological stream. It is a blessing.


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