Richard Muller’s Operating Assumptions

Among other things, Muller is going to look for, and find, continuities among the Medieval church, the Reformation, and the “Post-Reformation” Reformed writers.

An operating assumption of the work has consistently been that the theology of the Reformers is not utterly identical to the theology of their orthodox successors, and that continuity between the theologies of the two eras is not to be equated with identity nor discontinuity with development and variation. Accordingly, it is one of the negative elements of the thesis that those studies that have declared a major discontinuity between the Reformation and orthodoxy have, frequently, been guilty of the rather banal expectation that theology in the mid-seventeenth century be identical with theology in the mid-sixteenth century and that the identity be established rather simplistically in the one-to-one comparison of representative thinkers: “Calvin against the Calvinists,” with the latter exemplified by one or two writers, such as Perkins or Turretin.

Throughout our examination of the Reformed orthodox, we will find more overt, positive reference to medieval theology, more overt use of scholastic distinctions, and a broader reliance on reason for the development of theological concepts than we can find, in general, among the Reformers—but even these elements of discontinuity will need to be balanced against the implicit medieval background of much Reformation era theology, the scholastic distinctions imbedded in the writings of the Reformers, and the elements of the medieval philosophical tradition that formed the basic understanding of theology in the Reformation itself.

Muller, R. A. (2003). Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise And Development Of Reformed Orthodoxy; Volume 1: Prolegomena To Theology (2nd ed., p. 38). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Here is what Muller is saying: The Reformers can’t be known, without situating them in their medieval setting, with all its understandings and practices. And the generations of writers who followed the Reformers also can’t be known, without situating them in their own settings – which, despite the development of the Renaissance and humanism, still had very strong ties with the medieval universities. His areas of special concern will include:

* continuity and discontinuity across a broad spectrum of thinkers and documents in the Reformed tradition

* the theological methods of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

* the failure of various forms of the central dogma theory to explain the development of Reformed theology

* trajectories of intellectual history that extend through the sixteenth into the seventeenth century

* the history of exegesis and the history of philosophy

There is, of course, much, much more of this. It is, after all, a four-volume set.

I’m looking forward to exploring all of this over time. I think that this period of Christian history is one of the most fruitful, if also among the least known. My thought is that sharing these insights with the broader church today is one of the best services that I can provide to the broader church. I’m glad you’ve decided to stop in for a brief time.