Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nevin vs. Hodge on the Lord's Supper

In the 19th there was a debate between John Williamson Nevin and Charles Hodge over the Reformed doctrine of the Lord's Supper. The debate arose from a book that Dr. Nevin wrote called The Mystical Presence. Dr. Hodge reviewed the book and took issue with several of Nevin's conclusions. Keith Mathison with Ligonier Ministries has posted links to the primary sources on this debate. For what it's worth, I think that Nevin's book is one of the two best resources on this subject and that he was right on this question. This was written during a very tumultuous time in American history and in American Presbyterianism in particular. As Chair of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, Hodge was involved in virtually every major theological debate of the period (and many political/social debates as well). When comparing Hodge's Systematic Theology on the Supper and Nevin's book there does not seem to be nearly as much disagreement as Hodge's review of Nevin's book suggests. I think that due to how busy he was Hodge did not take the time to carefully read and understand Nevin's work. Still, it is interesting to have access to all of this material and a good chance to deepen our understanding of what we believe about the sacrament.

Darryl Hart recently wrote a biography on Nevin for the American Reformed Biography series (the next volume to be published in this series will be on Charles Hodge) that I would recommend for trying to understand more of Nevin's theology and motivations.

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