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Sed Contra: Muhlenberg

A friend writes in to push back a bit on my Muhlenberg post. He says that while Dr. Guelzo’s presentation of the founders of the REC is accurate, the portrayal of Pastor Muhlenberg is sometimes disputed. The fact that Muhlenberg wished to extend apostolicity to non-Episcopalian ministers could just as easily prove that he didn’t believe that they yet possessed it. For Dr. Guelzo, this is taken as a strategic move, a way for Pr. Muhlenberg to work within an ecclesiastical group which held to a more restrictive view of historic order; he was trying to practically broaden its bounds. Dr. Guelzo believes that Pr. Muhlenberg himself held to episcopacy as a point of good order, even the best order, but not divine right or the esse of the church. This latter point, however, would need to be proven, and I am unable to do so, relying on Dr. Guelzo’s presentation for now.

And so if Muhlenberg were shown to still be sadly something of a high churchman, even if a rather broad-minded and ecumenical one, this would certainly seriously qualify my holding him up as an example. It would not undo the fact that such an example of an maximally adiaphorist evangelical can exist, though, and if Muhlenberg proves to not be such an example, then some of the REC founders could fill the void (though they are, admittedly, less famous), as could many others. Historically, the Elizabethan and early Stuart Anglicans would also fit this bill. Dr. Littlejohn’s suggested taxonomy is helpful here.

By Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the associate pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a Director for the Davenant Institute.

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