The orthodox movement

Orthodoxy insists on the correct doctrine of the reformers Luther and Calvin as on a respectful reading of the Bible.

The correct doctrine

  • Edmond de Pressensé (1824-1891)

Orthodoxy, which also claimed the name « evangelical », was characterised by its emphasis on the correct doctrine (‘orthodoxy’ means “the right or correct opinion”). It had to be conveyed through preaching and teaching.

For the orthodox, the correct doctrine is that which is inferred from the Bible and explained by the Reformers. Their aim is to maintain Luther and Calvin’s opinions as exposed in their writings (these were not very well known as new editions were not frequent) and likewise to sustain the claims of the 16th century Confessions of faith. The liberals on the other hand, saw the Reformation as the beginning of a process that is be continued, and considered the traditional Confessions of faith as outdated.

The orthodox wished for a « respectful » reading of the Bible. Some accepted limited and moderate critical study. Others claimed the Bible was an infallible text (the term used was « un-erring »), inspired or even dictated by God himself. They made no distinction between « the Word of God » and « Holy Scriptures. »

Moderate orthodox theologians, such as pastor Edmond de Pressenté, meant to combine faith with knowledge and intelligence. They considered knowledge and thinking as being compatible with the acceptance of essential elements of traditional doctrine. They were close to moderate liberals, and were sometimes referred to as « right centre » and « left centre ».

Though Orthodoxy and Revivalism were of different trends, the two often allied and shared common opinions. César Malan for instance preached both conversion of the heart and a return to Calvin’s dogmatic claims.

Associated notes

  • Jean Calvin (1509-1564)

    A generation after Luther, the Frenchman Jean Calvin became the organiser of the Reformation : he organised the Church, shaped the doctrine and defined the role of the Church in state government.
  • The conflicts

    Theological conflicts happened in every protestant community. They caused the creation of the new Churches separated from the State. In Reformed Churches they led to the division between orthodox and...
  • Revival Movements

    The 19th century revival movement took shape within the context of romanticism. Its piety is of a more existential and sentimental nature, a piety « revived » when compared to a faith...
  • Fideo-symbolism

    Fideo-symbolism insisted on faith – on the relation to God – and lessened the importance of doctrine. The knowledge of God is something that lies beyond human formulas and expressions.
  • A new theological climate

    During the 19th century, Protestant theology took a major turn. The new theological climate resulted from four factors : the development of biblical criticism, a new conception of truth, the secularisation...
  • Divisions and regroupings in the Reformed Church

    Betweeen 1802 and 1938 the Reformed Church underwent dramatic modification in their organisation.