‘Pleading for a Reformation Vision’ – A Review by Stephen Westcott
This interesting volume, Pleading for a Reformation Vision: The Life and Selected Writings of William Childs Robinson (1897-1982),1 is what a Christian biography should be; not just a laudatory ‘life’ (for we should guard against the tendency to a ‘Protestant hagiography’) but a work in two halves: firstly a detailed life of the subject, and then extracts from his writings, allowing the reader to both judge the man for himself, and benefit from his teaching. This is a difficult balance but one that David Calhoun achieves excellently, leaving the reader feeling that he has met William C. Robinson – and been blessed by the contact!
Robinson is little known in Britain, but his influence for good was widespread. Born into a Christian family in North Carolina in 1897 Robinson was converted early, and after training at Columbia Theological Seminary entered the ministry of the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1920. His pastoral experience was short, as his gifts as an inspiring teacher were recognised and he was called to a Professorship at Columbia Seminary in 1926: a position he held until his home-call in 1982! In this situation Robinson may be seen as the last in a distinguished line of famous Southern pastor-professors including J. H. Thornwell, B. M. Palmer, J. L. Girardeau and R. L. Dabney.
Robinson, however, was called to teach and train men to preach the everlasting gospel in a time and situation of ever increasing apostasy, as higher criticism, evolutionism, and ecumenicalism made their inroads, finally impacting the conservative ‘Bible Belt’ the US South and its theological Seminaries. Over the years Robinson became increasingly isolated from younger and more liberal colleagues and modernist students, although others made great sacrifices to sit under his teaching. It was these who Robinson saw as the real fruit of his calling – men who would go on to preach an uncompromised gospel to a needy world.
The second half of this book presents fine essays on the fundamentals of the faith and its practical application including: ‘The Trinity’, ‘The Meaning of Grace’, ‘The Saviour of Sinners’, ‘The Blessings of Worshipping Jesus’ ‘Predestination’, ‘God Incarnate for Suffering Men’, ‘The Joy of the Lord’, ‘Under His Wings’, ‘The Lamb in the Midst of the Throne’, plus extracts from ‘The Christian Faith According to the Shorter Catechism’, and others of more Southern Presbyterian interest, twenty-three in total (pps. 129-308). All are rich in content, relevant to contemporary issues, and of lasting value. In our present situation we are left wishing that the Lord had granted more W. C. Robinsons to his church!
As the book is published by ‘Banner’ it goes without saying that it is excellently produced and presented.
The Life and Selected Writings of William Childs Robinson
This interesting volume, Pleading for a Reformation Vision: The Life and Selected Writings of William Childs Robinson (1897-1982),1 is what a Christian biography should be; not just a laudatory ‘life’ (for we should guard against the tendency to a ‘Protestant hagiography’) but a work in two halves: firstly a detailed life of the subject, and […]
From the British Church Newspaper, March 2014.
On Doctrine and Practice July 16, 2019
A charge that is made repeatedly against historic Christianity is that its stress on doctrine makes it authoritarian, theoretical, and cold. The Christian religion is a practical affair; putting the faith in terms of truth to be believed alienates or repels many who would otherwise be sympathetic. As John Robinson puts it, ‘the effect of […]
Christianity and Culture July 12, 2019
One of the greatest of the problems that have agitated the Church is the problem of the relation between knowledge and piety, between culture and Christianity. This problem has appeared first of all in the presence of two tendencies in the Church — the scientific or academic tendency, and what may be called the practical […]