When History Teaches Us Nothing is an early historical reflection on the recent Reformed debate over the late John C. («Jack») Miller's Sonship Discipleship Course. Miller (1928-1996), an erstwhile professor of practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary (Pennsylvania) and an influential pastor in the New Life congregations of the Presbyterian Church in America, sought to minister to the jaded by accenting God's grace in the gospel. Gradually fears grew that his approach was spawning, among other things, an antinomianism and a revivalism antithetical to Reformed theology and piety.
While not dismissing these concerns, Trumper argues that Sonship can only be accurately evaluated once it is understood in light of the practical loss within conservative Presbyterianism (i.e., within Westminster Calvinism) of the gracious Fatherhood of God and the sonship of believers. Drawing on his knowledge of the theological history of adoption, Trumper notes the significant parallels between Miller's protest of paternal grace and that of the early nineteenth-century Scottish churchman John Macleod Campbell (notably his stress on the life of sonship–"the prospective aspect of the atonement"). Trumper thus cautions today's Westminster Calvinists against repeating their forebears' mistake, which was to dismiss the validity of Campbell's protest on the basis of the problems with his proposed solution.
By so arguing, the author provides a more balanced and constructive response to the debate, highlighting its potential for the biblical renewal of Westminster Calvinism. Essential to this renewal is the recovery of the Fatherhood of God and of adoption, the evening out of attention accorded the Bible's forensic and relational (specifically familial) elements, and the better reflection of the theology and tenor of the New Testament (especially). Only such a renewal, Trumper argues, can render superfluous further protests for paternal grace.