Against the Golden Mean

In this year of John Calvin’s 500th anniversary, this week saw the anniversary of someone half his age – Charles Simeon born 24th September 1759.

Simeon was vicar of Holy Trinity, Cambridge, a church which exerts a strong evangelical influence to this day.  His Simeon Trust still places evangelical ministers in Anglican churches across England.

Simeon “has sometimes been called a Calvinist.”  John Piper has written an excellent post about how he approached his Calvinism in a discussion with John Wesley, someone with whom he should perhaps have been theologically at odds.

I’d like to add one of my favourite quotes from Handley Moule’s excellent biography:

My endeavour is to bring out of Scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there… Perhaps you little thought in what you said against the golden mean, that you would carry me along with you. But I go even far beyond you, for to you I can say in words what these thirty years I have proclaimed in deeds, that the truth is not in the middle, and not in one extreme, but in both extremes.

Moule cites many examples to show that Simeon did not intend simply that he steered some vague middle course in his theological outlook:

I have since read Paul, and caught somewhat of his strange notion, oscillating (not vacillating) from pole to pole. Sometimes I am a high Calvinist, at other times a low Arminian, so that if extremes will please you, I am your man; only remember, it is not one extreme that we are to go to, but both extremes.

Food for thought in Simeon’s 250th year and Calvin’s 500th!

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