We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about the name of our site. They usually sound something like, “You three agree on a lot; how are you contrarians?” So we’ve added a paragraph on our About page that explains where the name comes from. This week we’ll be discussing where we agree, where we part ways, and how we interpret and confess our collective statement. Check out Andrew’s post from Monday about how he came to find himself in the Anglican tradition, and Tom's post about his reformational and Baptist perspective.
The advantage of writing my piece last is that I have the benefit of reading the ones that come before mine, and thus having them to use as a sort of template for this post. So if there are any thoughts which seem profound in any way, they should be attributed to the prodding of my fellow Contrarians, and any shortcomings then are certainly mine to bear.
I think one of the interesting things about this little blogging community is the diversity of thought present here. Hopefully, you’ve read Tom’s and Andrew’s posts, so you know where they stand on some broad points of the historic Christian faith. It will come as no surprise to you, then, that we happily sit next to each other in chapel services once a week and recite the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds together. There’s much on which we agree, to be sure. Like both Andrew and Tom have noted, we all share a commitment to Scripture as authoritative, though we might nuance that in different ways. The Trinity and the Second Coming, the forgiveness of sins, and many, many more are all doctrinal pavilions under which we find the same refuge. This cohesion is, in large part, what makes us a “Collective.”
All that said, though, there are important things on which we disagree (some of which will be borne out in later posts, I’m sure), and a number of distinctives which might set me apart from my fellow Contrarians both quantitatively and qualitatively. Unlike Tom, a Baptist, and Andrew, an Anglican, I’m Reformed. I find myself amid a stream of theological tradition which locates its historical seat with Ulrich Zwingli, but draws theologically from John Calvin and the later Reformers. As a Reformed person, I joyfully affirm the Three Forms of Unity (The Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dordt) as doctrinal standards subordinate to the inspired and inerrant self-revelation of God in the 66 books of the Bible.
I affirm the sovereignty of God in all things, and in turn I affirm what are often called the Five Points of Calvinism (though they find their formal origin in the Canons of Dordt): Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints (or, more colloquially, predestination). With Calvin, I affirm that in the Lord’s Supper we feed on Christ by faith just as we feed on the bread and wine physically. Also, with Calvin and the later Reformed folks, I affirm the covenantal baptism of infants born into the Church of one or two believing parents. I also affirm a rich, optimistic, postmillennial eschatology and a robustly Van Tillian, or presuppositional, apologetic method.
As far as I can tell, Cornelius Van Til was right when he said that the biblical faith is the Reformed faith. If I didn’t believe that to be the case, I wouldn’t identify as a Reformed person. In the same way, my Wesleyan or Arminian brothers and sisters would likely say that the biblical faith is the Wesleyan or Arminian expression of it. However, I think folks in both camps would happily acknowledge the other to be a more than valid expression of the Christian faith. I worship with my Arminian, Wesleyan, Anglican, Baptist, and Lutheran brothers and sisters each week, and I couldn’t be more thankful to do so—a feeling which, I believe, goes both ways.
I think that’s part of the beauty of this group of three. Each of us has different convictions about different things, theological or otherwise. Presumably, we all think we’re right to some extent, or we wouldn’t hold on to those convictions. Even with that in mind, that we can work together on this blog and in real life is a helpful corrective to this postmodern age in which disagreement necessarily means dislike. The other two gentlemen who blog here embody these qualities of charity and collegiality to the uttermost, and I’m honored to work with them. They’ve taught and continue to teach me a lot about a helpful ecumenism.
So I guess that’s what makes this a “Contrarian Collective.” We all collectively affirm the great ecumenical Creeds of the Church, but we also differ and disagree on some finer, yet still very important, points of doctrine. Even in our differences, though, we dialogue in love and respect, for each of us finds good reason to hold the positions we do.