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In the mid-nineteenth century, Reformed churchmen John Nevin and Philip Schaff launched a fierce attack on the reigning subjectivist and rationalist Protestantism of their day, giving birth to what is known as the "Mercersburg Theology." Their attempt to recover a high doctrine of the sacraments and the visible Church, among other things, led them into bitter controversy w In the mid-nineteenth century, Reformed churchmen John Nevin and Philip Schaff launched a fierce attack on the reigning subjectivist and rationalist Protestantism of their day, giving birth to what is known as the "Mercersburg Theology." Their attempt to recover a high doctrine of the sacraments and the visible Church, among other things, led them into bitter controversy with Charles Hodge of Princeton Seminary, as well as several other prominent contemporaries. This book examines the contours of the disagreement between Mercersburg and and Hodge, focusing on four loci in particular-Christology, ecclesiology, sacramentology, and church history. W. Bradford Littlejohn argues that, despite certain weaknesses in their theological method, the Mercersburg men offered a more robust and historically grounded paradigm for the Reformed faith than did Hodge. In the second part of the book, Littlejohn explores the value of the Mercersburg Theology as a bridgehead for ecumenical dialogue, uncovering parallels between Nevin's thought and prominent themes in Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox theology, as well as recent debates within Reformed theology. This thorough study of one of the most creative movements in American theology offers an alluring vision of the question for Reformed catholicity that is more relevant today than ever. "Deeply sympathetic to the Mercersburg theologians, Nevin and Schaff, Littlejohn presents a plea for Reformed theology to take Church, sacraments, and apostolic succession seriously as divine means of salvation. By linking Mercersburg to the Oxford Movement, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Catholic movement of nouvelle théologie, this book contributes toward a renewal of Reformed theology. Littlejohn's ressourcement of the Mercersburg Theology is courageous and stands as a model of solid ecumenical theology."--Hans Boersma, author of Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross and Nouvelle Théologie & Sacramental Ontology


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In the mid-nineteenth century, Reformed churchmen John Nevin and Philip Schaff launched a fierce attack on the reigning subjectivist and rationalist Protestantism of their day, giving birth to what is known as the "Mercersburg Theology." Their attempt to recover a high doctrine of the sacraments and the visible Church, among other things, led them into bitter controversy w In the mid-nineteenth century, Reformed churchmen John Nevin and Philip Schaff launched a fierce attack on the reigning subjectivist and rationalist Protestantism of their day, giving birth to what is known as the "Mercersburg Theology." Their attempt to recover a high doctrine of the sacraments and the visible Church, among other things, led them into bitter controversy with Charles Hodge of Princeton Seminary, as well as several other prominent contemporaries. This book examines the contours of the disagreement between Mercersburg and and Hodge, focusing on four loci in particular-Christology, ecclesiology, sacramentology, and church history. W. Bradford Littlejohn argues that, despite certain weaknesses in their theological method, the Mercersburg men offered a more robust and historically grounded paradigm for the Reformed faith than did Hodge. In the second part of the book, Littlejohn explores the value of the Mercersburg Theology as a bridgehead for ecumenical dialogue, uncovering parallels between Nevin's thought and prominent themes in Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox theology, as well as recent debates within Reformed theology. This thorough study of one of the most creative movements in American theology offers an alluring vision of the question for Reformed catholicity that is more relevant today than ever. "Deeply sympathetic to the Mercersburg theologians, Nevin and Schaff, Littlejohn presents a plea for Reformed theology to take Church, sacraments, and apostolic succession seriously as divine means of salvation. By linking Mercersburg to the Oxford Movement, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Catholic movement of nouvelle théologie, this book contributes toward a renewal of Reformed theology. Littlejohn's ressourcement of the Mercersburg Theology is courageous and stands as a model of solid ecumenical theology."--Hans Boersma, author of Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross and Nouvelle Théologie & Sacramental Ontology

30 review for The Mercersburg Theology and the Quest for Reformed Catholicity

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    A wonderful introduction to the thought of the Mercersburg Theologians. I especially enjoyed Littlejohns comparison of Mercersburg with the Oxford movement as well as Eastern orthodox thought.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dan Glover

    I used this book last year for a paper I wrote on Nevin's incarnational eucharistic theology. It is a very good work. I hope that many people will read it and Nevin's thought will become far better known. I used this book last year for a paper I wrote on Nevin's incarnational eucharistic theology. It is a very good work. I hope that many people will read it and Nevin's thought will become far better known.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Adam Ross

    This is a marvelous book. It is simple, clear, to-the-point, and able to pin-point the "ultimate things" in both the theology of John Williamson Nevin, who you probably haven't heard of, and Charles Hodge, who you probably have. These two had a debate back in the nineteenth century over a wide variety of issues, like the nature of Reformed faith, sacraments, nature of the church, the visible and invisible church, theological rationalism, and the history of Reformed views on these and many more s This is a marvelous book. It is simple, clear, to-the-point, and able to pin-point the "ultimate things" in both the theology of John Williamson Nevin, who you probably haven't heard of, and Charles Hodge, who you probably have. These two had a debate back in the nineteenth century over a wide variety of issues, like the nature of Reformed faith, sacraments, nature of the church, the visible and invisible church, theological rationalism, and the history of Reformed views on these and many more subjects. It is astounding the rationalism and minimalism of the theology of Hodge, who goes to great pains to deny any sort of mediation between God and man. As Nevin argues, and Littlejohn shows, this position destroys any conception of the Church as the corporate incarnation of Christ's body on earth, and indeed, destroys any hope for a church that exists as anything more than a breezy, voluntary social club. Readers will find the echo of current events in this debate, as the Federal Vision issue continues to crackle, and the reason for the familiarity is because Reformed men have argued these things back and forth for centuries. Nevin and Hodge were the nineteenth century incarnation of this discussion, and the Federal Vision is the contemporary manifestation of the same set of questions. The first three chapters of the book are devoted to Nevin vs. Hodge, and I think Nevin is the clear winner. The last three chapters address how Mercersburg theology can create genuine ecumenical dialog with Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics. These are intruiging chapters, which provide both areas of similarity between Mercersburg and these other traditions, and the very real differences that still divide them, creating the first major attempt, it appears to me, towards true Reformed catholicity.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Maria Copeland

    I found it really interesting that the central issues responsible for the debates and divisions surrounding the Mercersburg Theology movement/Hodge and Princeton backlash continue to be as relevant in Reformed circles now as they were in the 1804s: dualism, low view of ecclesiology and sacramentology, etc. A useful companion to Leithart's The End of Protestantism and generally an insightful read. I found it really interesting that the central issues responsible for the debates and divisions surrounding the Mercersburg Theology movement/Hodge and Princeton backlash continue to be as relevant in Reformed circles now as they were in the 1804s: dualism, low view of ecclesiology and sacramentology, etc. A useful companion to Leithart's The End of Protestantism and generally an insightful read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steve Frederick

    Interesting introduction to a debate I was unfamiliar with. Some of the links with Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy felt a little forced. Littlejohn’s later books seem to value the resources and breadth of earlier Reformed writers more than he does in this book. It felt a little more like a defense of Nevin, than a thorough scholarly work of theology/history. Perhaps written before he’d done his PhD?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Chris Comis

    Very good and very informative. Especially enjoyed the chapter dealing with the intersections between Mercersburg and Constantinople (ch. 5, Facing East). The rest of the book was really good as well. Couldn't recommend it highly enough. Very good and very informative. Especially enjoyed the chapter dealing with the intersections between Mercersburg and Constantinople (ch. 5, Facing East). The rest of the book was really good as well. Couldn't recommend it highly enough.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chris Griffith

    A good introduction to the history and mystery of the theology of John Williamson Nevin and Phillip Schaff a.k.a. "Mercersburg Theology." Littlejohn spends the first half of the book delving into what they believed and taught within the German Reformed Church in the 19th Century in Pennsylvania: Nevin- the theologian, Schaff - the historian. The controversy centers around the church with the primary question: Are we in the church because we're in Christ or are we in Christ because we are in the A good introduction to the history and mystery of the theology of John Williamson Nevin and Phillip Schaff a.k.a. "Mercersburg Theology." Littlejohn spends the first half of the book delving into what they believed and taught within the German Reformed Church in the 19th Century in Pennsylvania: Nevin- the theologian, Schaff - the historian. The controversy centers around the church with the primary question: Are we in the church because we're in Christ or are we in Christ because we are in the church? Their teaching broke into something of a controversy which centered around Nevin's book The Mystical Presence and Princeton professor Charles Hodge. Littlejohn explains how Hodge largely misunderstood what Mercersburg Theology was about, especially with regards to Hodge's truncated view of the visible/invisible church. The second half of the book exposes similarities between Mercersburg and three similar movements: Oxford Movement (High Church Anglicans), Eastern Orthodoxy and the Roman Catholic movement known as Nouvelle Theologia. A friend and I read through this book together over the course of several months. It's deep stuff and sort of tough to get one's mind around but has the potential to benefit the Reformed church - especially with regards in how she understands herself as being and becoming more "catholic."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Peter Jones

    I am giving this book a three, not through any fault of the author, who I respect,but because I do not know enough about some of the subjects to evaluate his arguments accurately. His evaluation of the Hodge-Nevin/Schaff debates is excellent. I have enjoyed everything I have read by Nevin and Schaff. I am in agreement with his assessment of those men in the early part of the book. But his chapter on Eastern Orthodoxy was odd to me and made little red flags pop up in my brain. However, I do not k I am giving this book a three, not through any fault of the author, who I respect,but because I do not know enough about some of the subjects to evaluate his arguments accurately. His evaluation of the Hodge-Nevin/Schaff debates is excellent. I have enjoyed everything I have read by Nevin and Schaff. I am in agreement with his assessment of those men in the early part of the book. But his chapter on Eastern Orthodoxy was odd to me and made little red flags pop up in my brain. However, I do not know enough about that group to properly evaluate Littlejohn's argument. He could be spot on or wrong. Honestly, I just don't know enough to say. The previous chapter on Anglicans interacting with Mercersburg was outside my realm of expertise as well. I still felt like I learned a lot and look forward to more interaction with Mercersburg Theology.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joe McClure

    Littlejohn provides helpful comparisons between the Mercersburg theologians and the Oxford Movement, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism. I was struck by the similarities and am fascinated by the new paths of dialogue that Littlejohn has cleared. And, as always happens when I think about Mercersburg, I can't get over that a pair of theologians teaching at a tiny frontier seminary in Franklin County, Pa., in the 19th century were producing such creative, provocative, yet orthodox, theology Littlejohn provides helpful comparisons between the Mercersburg theologians and the Oxford Movement, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism. I was struck by the similarities and am fascinated by the new paths of dialogue that Littlejohn has cleared. And, as always happens when I think about Mercersburg, I can't get over that a pair of theologians teaching at a tiny frontier seminary in Franklin County, Pa., in the 19th century were producing such creative, provocative, yet orthodox, theology that's still relevant. One criticism: way too many block quotations, some of which were repeated. Good heavens. Summarize! Summarize!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Really good over view of the Mercersburg men, Schaff and particularly Nevin. Good coverage of the Nevin-Hodge debate which brings out the differences over the church, and the relation of visible/invisible, spirituality fo the church, sacramental efficacy, historical development and more. The second part relates the isues that Mercersburg rakises to the Oxford Movement, Eastern Orthodoxy and the novelle theologie sof De Lubac etc.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andreas Jongeneel

    De Mystica Unio slaat de brug tussen de ordo salutis en de theosis van de Oosterse Orthodoxie. Mercersburg is door de patristieke oriëntatie gereformeerd en in staat om fundamenten te leggen voor eucumene. Er zijn parallellen met de nouvelle theologie en de Oxford beweging. Hegeliaanse invloeden zijn bijzonder, die zouden nog eens doordacht moeten worden. Uitdagende theologie met kansen in een helder boek uiteen gezet.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Irwin

  13. 5 out of 5

    CJ Bowen

  14. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Carlson

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rick

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Faulkner

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eric Ledermann

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kent

  19. 5 out of 5

    K.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Zach

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mark Brooks

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Paterson

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Evans

  25. 5 out of 5

    Aurora Grace

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Davis

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jordan B Cooper

  28. 5 out of 5

    Scott Moonen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alex Strohschein

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alex

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