Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism

“Rabbi” Duncan on Protestantism

About a week and a half ago I posted some quotations from John “Rabbi” Duncan’s Colloquia Peripatetica that will perhaps be seen to be relevant to this evening’s event at Biola on “The Future of Protestantism.”

Here is another, that will, I hope, spark some pre-conversation reflection. It is Duncan’s view on “Protestant Dissent”:

We Protestants are all Dissenters. It is necessary to vindicate our dissent, but as necessary for those in the Protestant established Churches to remember that they are dissenters from the Church of Rome;–dissenters but not schismatics. Rome was schismatic in forcing us out. And it would be well for Christendom, if all the members of Christ’s catholic church would endeavour to preserve the unity of the spirit, and think oftener of the many and major points in which they agree, than the few and minor ones in which they differ. (pp. 80-1, emphasis his)

Some questions immediately spring to mind. Is he right? Is he right about Rome? Was he right then, but wrong now? Is the Reformation over? What is Christendom, especially in the twenty-first century? Is there a Protestant center to be preserved? Where is it found? What is catholicity, and how does it relate to denominational boundaries and distinctives? What are those distinctives, and how do we know whether they are major or minor? Does the command to maintain (eagerly, as Paul says) the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace apply only to institutional churches and denominations, or does it somehow cut across denominational boundaries?

It will be of great interest, I think, to see the ways in which Drs. Leithart, Sanders, and Trueman approach such questions as these, and I, for one, am rather looking forward to it.


By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.