Historical Conversations and Historical Context

Posted: January 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

If God permits, in the not too distant future I will spend some time comparing aspects of the thought of John Piper with the thought of John Calvin. There is a particular area of theology that I am especially interested in exploring, but what that is doesn’t matter at this point. What I am struck by at the moment is how important it is to make sure to understand the context of each man. In other words, if I am going to understand why Calvin say’s certain things, and why he says them the way that he does, I need to understand the historical context of Calvin. How are his opponents affecting him as he writes? What doctrinal errors, if any, is he combating? Are there pastoral concerns that are causing him to say what he says? These questions must be asked and answered with care if we are to fully understand any historical figure. The same questions apply to the writings and speaking of John Piper. If Calvin and Piper are to be brought into conversation, on any point, then both men need to be set in their proper historical context.

Carl Trueman has captured the idea in the following paragraph:

Our interest may well be in the question of whether the theology of the two men is different, but we cannot begin to answer that question simply by the use of theological or doctrinal categories abstracted from historical context. The contextual work needs to be done first. These books are historical actions and need to be understood historically before we can start addressing any such questions about differences in content in any thoughtful way.–Histories and Fallacies


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