We’re back from a blogging hiatus over January term. I hope your J-term was productive -- or not, depending on your need. Some of yours, I’m sure, were more ambulatory than others, involving walks (or perhaps jogs) through airports on the way to some far-flung locations, and then more walking once you got there. Even those of us who stayed here, however, found walking on the ice covered sidewalks and streets of St. Paul to carry its own brand of excitement and adventure.
There was not a break from reading, however. In Minnesota, January and reading are made for each other and last month I came across a book I would highly recommend for those who have even a passing interest in knowing more about the impact that the doctrine of predestination has had in American church history. The book is Predestination: the American Career of a Contentious Doctrine (Oxford University Press, 2009). Its author is Peter J. Thuesen, a church historian who teaches at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. Thuesen writes that predestination has been “one of the most important but unacknowledged sources of discord in churches across the denominational spectrum.” Calling his work an “intellectual history,” Thuesen examines how struggles to understand and teach a doctrine of predestination led to numerous feats of interpretive gymnastics which, in turn, precipitated arguments, divisions, and general rancor in their wake, leaving few parts of American Christianity untouched.
In particular, I found fascinating the chapter discussing how North American Lutherans agonized over predestination. The rifts that came about during the decade of the 1880s when the controversy reached its peak altered the future course of Lutheran denominations and institutions. One example of the mind-numbing nature of attempts to reconcile predestination with other biblical teaching came in an 1881 colloquy held in Milwaukee. Disputing factions within the Synodical Conference met to debate all the key passages on predestination, but after 10 sessions they had hardly moved beyond Romans 8:29, (“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined . . .”). As Thuesen relates, “the correct sense of the verb ‘foreknow’ prompted days of disagreement.”
Thuesen has written a first-class work of church history, telling in an engaging way the story of how a doctrine marched across and changed the landscape of Christianity in America. To browse our library's holdings of this and other books on predestination, the following heading will provide a good list -- BE
|Predestination --History of doctrines|