At some very deep level, the attitude with which both Catholic and Calvinist faced the world at this period was the same, and at a much more superficial level, some of their explicit arguments were almost identical. The Calvinist was generally, however, a much better humanist. — Richard Tuck
This website has its origins in the ferment of the recent evangelical catholic and “reformed catholic” movement. The writers are members of Evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition, profoundly dissatisfied with the “scandal of the evangelical mind,” but informed enough historically not to fall for the various “high church” reactions.
Instead, through prayer, patient research, and disciplined conversation, we sough to chart a new way, which turned out to be a very old way, forward. We have begun this endeavor by carefully identifying the crucial questions, and then pursuing the answers in piety.
Rather than rushing toward sweeping reinventions or fashionable new paradigms, we started by devoting ourselves deeply to the old evangelical tradition, most of which is still largely forgotten, and by using the new media as a means of communion rather than disconnection, we cultivated private circles of friendship and common inquiry free from the distractions of internet chatter and useless polemics. We worked privately to forge personal connections between public writers of promise who would otherwise only converse in comment boxes, and cultivated a programmatic conversation and called participants in it to go ad fontes, a movement which has grown speedily of late in large part due to the excellent work of independent scholars such as our friends at the PRDL who have made these sources increasingly available, and of course, the eminent Dr. Richard Muller who has pointed so many in the right direction toward our fathers in faith.
In all fields of doctrine, and in speculative and practical philosophy, we seek to recover lost wisdom; and already we have helped many find the orthodox and rational center they’d been eagerly seeking. It is in fact the case, as we have argued already and will continue to argue, that the “catholicity” which many young evangelicals sense to be missing is not to be identified with unreformed church practices or doctrines, but rather is simply a more cosmopolitan and rational approach to learning and to life within the ancient Reformed pathway. Recovering the ethos of the humanism and scholasticism of the Biblical Reformation does not take us back in time; rather, it equips us most fully for the present.
The method and the resourcement have delivered on their promise. Working from the political philosophy of the Reformers, we have begun to turn the conversation from “high church” to “high commonwealth,” caring for the city and providing for non-apocalyptic solutions to civic concerns. Perhaps our most significant achievement here has been the clarification of terms darkened by careless usage. For instance, we showed that “church and state,” on evangelical principles, actually mean ministerium and magistracy, and that, on the orthodox account, the one visible church in any given region underlies both estates equally. This lexical precision has clarified the picture and opened up new possibilities for evangelical politics.
Standing on the ground of the classical center we recovered, we have sought publicly and decisively to rebut internal deviations such as the Neo-Anabaptist tendency among the Reformed in both its aggressive and quietistic modes. And from the outside, when unreformed apologists impugned the integrity of Reformed Christology , we were able, answering the requests of bewildered pastors, to step forward and decisively settle the question. In all these engagements, we have shown that the catholic tradition runs most consistently through the Protestant Reformation—that, in the words of the great Philip Schaff, “The Reformation is… the greatest act of the Catholic Church.” To be a Reformed Catholic is simply to be Christian in full integrity, confidently laying claim to what is true and good in the whole length and breadth of Christian history.
In honor of the great irenic divines of the early 17th century, we have embraced the name of Reformed Irenicism. Originally the name of a school of civic-minded evangelical scholars and men of affairs who worked for the reformation, unity, and peace of Christendom against fanaticism on the one hand and indifferentism on the other, we are happy to employ it again to give a name to a conversation with similar aims and a similar spirit. Consistent with the original wisdom of the Reformers and their best heirs, the irenic way we follow here is wholeheartedly biblical and evangelical in theology, rigorously perennial in philosophy, catholic in scope, and pacific in spirit.
In this manner, we will consider the first things of religion, politics, philosophy, learning, and the arts. In a time of crisis and confusion in commonwealth, church, and academy, we aim to reexamine and renew for our day the archai, the first foundational elements, of the discarded image of Christendom.
This forum is deliberately generalist in approach. We regard the overspecialization of knowledge as a failure, not a necessity. As Aristotle said, the liberally educated man is a competent judge of arguments at least, and an open mind is able to traverse disciplines and see the unity of knowledge without falling into cheap simplifications and overgeneralizations. We aim to foster conversations which attain a mean between academic precision and popular exposition, with the rigor of the first but the common sense and synthetic judgment of the latter. This is but one public face of an ever-broadening circle of Christian friends and interlocutors across the world committed to reformation toward wisdom and peace.
For a more detailed consideration of certain things we believe to be of great importance, see here.