What Evangelical Religion is not

According to J. C. Ryle, Bishop of Liverpool 1880–1900

Following our recent series of reminders of Bishop Ryle’s definition of Evangelicalism, I thought it would be interesting to post his descriptions of what isn’t Evangelicalism—especially because his first point  dovetails so neatly with Celinda’s recent post.

Slanders and false reports about Evangelical Religion are so sadly numerous, and shameless misrepresentations of its nature are so widely current, that I can hardly pass over this branch of my subject. We have many faults and defects, we humbly confess. But to many charges brought against us we plead “Not guilty.”

Having shown what Evangelical Religion is, it becomes my duty next to show what it is not. I am almost ashamed to take up time by saying anything on this point. But slanders and false reports about Evangelical Religion are so sadly numerous, and shameless misrepresentations of its nature are so widely current, that I can hardly pass over this branch of my subject. We are not perfect, we know to our sorrow. We have many faults and defects, we humbly confess. But to many charges brought against us we plead “Not guilty.” We say they are not true.

I begin then by saying that Evangelical Religion does not despise learning , research, or the wisdom of days gone by. It is not true to say that we do. In thorough appreciation of anything that throws light on God’s Word, we give place to none. Let any one look over the lists of those who in days gone by have been eminent for theological scholarship in this country, and I am bold to say he will find some of the most eminent are Evangelical men. Ridley, Jewell, Usher, Lightfoot, Davenant, Hall, Whittaker, Willett, Reynolds, Leighton, Owen, Baxter, Manton, are names that for profound learning stand second to none. To what school do they belong, I should like to know, if not to the Evangelical? What school, I ask confidently, has done more for the exposition and interpretation of Scripture than the Evangelical school? What school has given to the world more Commentaries? Poole’s Synopsis and Owen on Hebrews are alone sufficient to show that Evangelical men do read and can think. Even in the Egyptian darkness of last century, there were few English divines who showed more real learning than Hervey, Romaine, and Toplady.

Turn even to our own day, and I say, unhesitatingly, that we have no cause to be ashamed. To name divines of our own generation is somewhat invidious. Yet I do not shrink from saying that the three great books of Dean Goode on Scripture, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, remain to the present day unanswered by the opponents of the Evangelical school. Coarse sneers about ignorance and shallowness may be safely disregarded, while books like these are unrefuted.

But while we do not despise learning, we steadily refuse to place any uninspired writings on a level with revelation. We refuse to call any man “father” or “master,” however learned or intellectual he may be. We will follow no guide but Scripture. We own no master over conscience in religious matters, except the Bible. We leave it to others to talk of “primitive antiquity” and “Catholic truth.” To us there is but one test of truth— “What is written in the Scripture? What saith the Lord?”

And today we would add John Stott, F. F. Bruce, Philip E. Hughes, Tom Wright, Don Carson, Oliver O’Donovan, Bob Prichard, David Instone-Brewer,
Gillis Harp, Roger Beckwith, Peter Toon, Grant LaMarquand, Alister McGrath, J. I. Packer, Colin Buchanan, etc etc etc…

Leave a comment

Advertisements