Perichoresis 14.3

Perichoresis 14.3 (2016)


Directions in the Study of Early Modern Reformed Thought

Richard A. Muller


Given both the advances in understanding of early modern Reformed theology made in the last thirty years, the massive multiplication of available sources, the significant literature that has appeared in collateral fields, there is a series of highly promising directions for further study. These include archival research into the life, work, and interrelationships of various thinkers, contextual examination of larger numbers of thinkers, study of academic faculties, the interrelationships between theology, philosophy, science, and law, and the interactions positive as well as negative between different confessionalities. PDF

Reformed Confessions and Scholasticism. Diversity and Harmony

Andreas J. Beck


This paper discusses the complex relationship of Reformed confessions and Reformed orthodox scholasticism. It is argued that Reformed confessions differ in genre and method from Reformed scholastic works, although such differences between confessional and scholastic language should not be mistaken for representing different doctrines that are no longer in harmony with each other. What is more, it is precisely the scholastic background and training of the authors of such confessions that enabled them to place their confessional writings in the broader catholic tradition of the Christian church and to include patristic and medieval theological insights. Thus proper attention to their scholastic background helps to see that at least in some confessions the doctrine of predestination, for instance, is not as ‘rigid’ as one might think at first sight. In order to demonstrate that the doctrine of the Reformed confessions was much in line with the scholastic theology of Reformed orthodoxy, this paper discusses, after having explained the terms ‘Reformed orthodoxy’ and ‘scholasticism’, the early Reformed scholastic theologians Beza, Zanchi, and Ursinus, who also have written confessional texts. The paper also includes a more detailed discussion of the Belgic Confession and the scholastic background of the Canons of Dordt and the Westminster Confession, thereby focusing on the doctrines of God, providence, and predestination. PDF

Reformed Orthodoxy in Puritanism

Randall J. Pederson


This paper explores the relationship between early modern English Puritanism and Reformed orthodoxy through a fresh examination of three ministers who have been described as Puritans: John Owen, Richard Baxter, and John Goodwin. By assessing their attitudes toward the Bible and specifically the doctrine of justification, this paper uncovers an evolving consensus of orthodox thought in the period. Their attitudes and approaches to doctrine and church tradition led to diverse interpretations and directions in the codification of their religion. Their theological interpretations reflect an inherent pattern of diversity within English Puritanism, especially in its attitudes towards the formation of orthodoxy. The relation of Reformed orthodoxy to Puritanism, then, is more complex than older modes of scholarship have allowed. For the Puritan mainstream, Reformed orthodoxy served as a theological compass and thermostat that tested ideas and was to govern both the direction and temperament of Reformed doctrine. For those outside the pale, such orthodoxy and their alleged disloyalty to the Bible and Reformed church tradition was vehemently contested. PDF

Reformed Orthodoxy on Imputation. Active and Passive Justification

John V. Fesko


The doctrine of imputation is common to Early Modern Lutheran and Reformed theology, but Reformed orthodox theologians employed the distinction between the active and passive justification of the believer. Active justification is the objective imputation of Christ’s righteousness and passive justification is the subjective reception of the same. This distinction is a unique contribution in Reformed orthodox dogmatics and was used in polemics against Roman Catholic, Arminian, and Socinian theologians. This essay also compares Reformed orthodox formulations with Lutheran orthodox understandings of how they preserved the extra nos of Christ’s righteousness in justification. The Reformed orthodox employed the active-passive justification distinction in conjunction with the decree and the doctrine of the covenant of redemption, whereas the Lutheran orthodox logically placed justification first in the order of salvation. Both groups maintain the extra nos of Christ’s imputed righteousness but do so in different ways. PDF

The Image of God in Reformed Orthodoxy. Soundings in the Development of an Anthropological Key Concept

Gijsbert van den Brink,  Aza Goudriaan


One of the less well-researched areas in the recent renaissance of the study of Reformed orthodoxy is anthropology. In this contribution, we investigate a core topic of Reformed orthodox theological anthropology, viz. its treatment of the human being as created in the image of God. First, we analyze the locus of the imago Dei in the Leiden Synopsis Purioris Theologiae (1625). Second, we highlight some shifts of emphasis in Reformed orthodox treatments of this topic in response to the budding Cartesianism. In particular, the close proximity of the unfallen human being and God was carefully delineated as a result of Descartes’s positing of a univocal correspondence between God and man; and the Cartesian suggestion that original righteousness functioned as a barrier for certain natural impulses, was rejected. Third, we show how, in response to the denial of this connection, the image of God was explicitly related to the concept of natural law. Tying in with similar findings on other loci, we conclude that Reformed orthodox thought on the imago Dei exhibits a variegated pattern of extensions, qualifications, and adjustments of earlier accounts within a clearly discernable overall continuity. PDF

The Relevance of Reformed Scholasticism for Contemporary Systematic Theology

Dolf te Velde


This article examines how Reformed scholasticism can be relevant for systematic theology today. ‘Reformed Scholasticism’ denotes the academic practice in which the doctrines of the Reformation are expounded, explained, and defended. It is primarily a method and attitude in search of the truth, based on a careful reading of Scripture, drawing on patristic and medieval traditions, and interacting with philosophy and other academic disciplines. In addition to these methodological features, important contributions on various doctrinal topics can be discovered. The doctrine of God has a foundational role in the sense that God is the primary subject of the other topics (creation, salvation, etc.). Reformed scholastic theology not only examines God’s inner essence, but also the concrete relation and operation of God toward his world. In a Trinitarian understanding of God’s essence, a distinction is maintained between God’s immanent relatedness as three divine Persons, and his outward relation to created reality. The doctrines of creation and providence gave occasion for Reformed scholastics to engage in debates with the emerging natural sciences, and also articulated important theological insights concerning the involvement of God in creaturely affairs. In Christology, the Reformed orthodox maintained the classic doctrine of the two natures of Jesus Christ, against Socinians and other opponents. These ontological statements are the necessary conditions for a proper understanding of the salvation by Christ. While the doctrinal positions of Reformed scholastic theology cannot be automatically transmitted to contemporary discussions, we can profit from this tradition on several levels of method and content. PDF