Prolegomena and Principia

Richard Muller’s four-volume work, “Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics”, looks at three areas of study from the 1550 to 1750 time period: the prolegomena and the two principia, the doctrine of Scripture and the doctrine of God. Volume 1 deals with the prolegomena; Volume 2 looks at the doctrine of Scripture; Volumes 3 and 4 handle the doctrine of God (both “theology proper”, 3, and the Trinity, 4).

Here are definitions that Muller provides elsewhere.

Prolegomena, prolegomenon: introductory remarks; i.e., the introductory section of a treatise or system of thought in which basic principles and premises are enunciated. One of the most important contributions of Protestant scholasticism to the theology of Lutheranism and Calvinism was the development of theological prolegomena in which the fundamental principles of doctrine (principia theologiae, q.v.) were enunciated. In most of the [Reformed] orthodox systems, therefore, the reader encounters a prolegomenon before either the locus (q.v.) on Scripture or the locus on God. The prolegomena are also the place where the discipline of theology (See theologia) itself is defined.

Principia theologiae: fundamental principles or foundations of theology. According to the Protestant scholastics, theology has two principia, Scripture and God, i.e., the revelation and the one who reveals himself. The scholastic systems frequently begin with a definition of theology followed by a statement of its principia, viz., a locus on Scripture and a locus on God. Thus, (1) the principium cognoscendi, the principle of knowing or cognitive foundation, is a term applied to Scripture as the noetic or epistemological principium theologiae, without which there could be no true knowledge of God and therefore no theological system; it is sometimes further distinguished into the principium cognoscendi externum, the external, written Word, and the principium cognoscendi internum, the internal principle of faith which knows the external Word and answers its call, i.e., faith resting on the testimony of the Spirit. (2) The principium essendi, the principle of being or essential foundation, is a term applied to God considered as the objective ground of theology without whom there could be neither divine revelation nor theology.

Both of the above are from Muller, R. A. (1985). Dictionary Of Latin And Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally From Protestant Scholastic Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.

Right now, I’m working with Volume 1. This series is not going to strictly end up being “copy-and-paste-from-Muller”, but I hope to provide some commentary as I go along, both my own commentary, and commentary from other sources. And as it stands, I hope to be able to continue posting these types of blog posts on a frequent basis, while (I hope) prompting questions and discussions based on the materials from this period.

Published by John Bugay

"We are His workmanship," His poiema, His "poetry." If you've ever studied poetry, or struggled to write a poem, you understand the care God takes to "work all things together for good" in our lives. For this reason, and many others, I believe in the Sovereignty of God. I have seen His hand working in my life, and I submit myself to His merciful will, with all my being.

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