From Reformers to Reformed Theology

There is a bit more to say in the digressions on Aristotle but I wanted to get back to Richard Muller’s Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics. Muller seems to have been attempting to provide a thorough understanding of the ways that the theology of the Reformers became more complicated and sophisticated than merely polemics with Roman Catholics.

Here in Volume 1 he provides a very helpful overview of how that happened.

The passage of Reformed theology into the era of early orthodoxy can be charted in terms of the movement from basic, discursive instruction to a more sophisticated, dialectical model.

Grounds or causes of the rise of scholastic orthodoxy.
Part of the reason for this development lies in the polemic in which the Reformers and their successors were continuously engaged. The growth and development, for example, of Calvin’s Institutes represents not only the positive creation of a more inclusive doctrinal statement but also the polemical engagement with an ever-increasing series of adversaries.

It is painfully apparent in the later editions of the Institutes that the discursive model was strained and its clarity of doctrinal exposition threatened by the addition of polemics that interrupt the flow of thought and frequently move in directions not dictated by the positive statements of doctrine. In order to offset some of these problems and in accord with the new intention for the Institutes outlined by Calvin in his great revision of 1539, the catechetical purpose of the first edition gave way to a larger instructional task consisting both in the presentation of positive doctrinal loci and polemical disputationes dogmaticae.

Just as Calvin’s colleagues and successors attempted to clarify the structure of argument in the final edition of the Institutes with an apparatus that identified the doctrinal loci and outlined the structure of Calvin’s disputations, so also did they provide clearer outlines and argumenta for their theology and, in addition, indicate with greater precision the distinction between positive loci and polemical disputationes.

The early orthodox development of larger, more detailed, dialectical or scholastic argumentation must be viewed, in large part, as an accommodation to the needs of debate. Thus Ursinus will argue in the form of the quaestio, with objections and replies, while writers like Scharpius and Trelcatius will add entire polemical sections to each doctrinal locus. In the later phases of orthodoxy, Wendelin and Turretin will write elenctical or disputative systems and Mastricht will include a polemical section alongside the exegetical, dogmatic and practical divisions of his loci.

Muller, R. A. (2003). Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise And Development Of Reformed Orthodoxy; Volume 1: Prolegomena To Theology (2nd ed., p. 61–62). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.