‘Reformation’ Category

Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism: A Brief Review

July 2nd, 2014 Posted in 16th Century, 17th Century, 18th Century, Books, Church History, Historians, Reformation

By Ryan Patrick Hoselton

Many historians and theologians have described Scholasticism as dry, stodgy, and mechanical. Although Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism has not necessarily convinced me that the Scholastic literature is more exciting than reading Augustine or Jonathan Edwards, it has shown me that understanding Scholasticism is worth my time. Written by Dutch scholar Willem J. van Asselt with three other contributors, the work was translated into English from its original publication, Inleidung in de Gereformeerde Scholastiek.

The authors challenge the historiographical scheme that pits Calvin versus his Scholastic heirs. Following Richard Muller, they counter that Calvin was not the sole shaper of the Reformed tradition and thus should not represent the standard by which the rest are judged. Secondly, they argue that Scholasticism refers to a method rather than a doctrinal system. Theologians from a variety of traditions—including Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, and Arminian—all employed the Scholastic method but adhered to different doctrinal content. Thus, the authors define their study by narrowing it to Reformed theologians who employed the Scholastic method.

In the first half of the book, the authors provide a brief history of nineteenth and twentieth-century scholarship on Scholasticism, arguing that many have erred by either reducing the tradition to a Centraldogma or dismissing it as rationalism. They then examine the impact of the Aristotelian tradition on their method and the Augustinian tradition on their content. In chapters five through seven, they explain how Scholasticism operated in Medieval and Renaissance universities, outline the scholastic method and style of argumentation, and they define much of the difficult jargon like quaestio, disputatio, and fontes solutionum.

The second part of the book describes the eras of Reformed Scholasticism. Van Asselt follows Richard Muller’s classification of early (1560–1620), high (1620–1700), and late (1700–1790) orthodoxy, showing how Reformed Scholasticism developed from confessionalization and codification in the early stage to a sophisticated academic system with active debates and diverse schools of thought by the high and late stages. He highlights characteristics of each era, the positions represented in the leading universities and regions, and a theologian who is representative the period. The appendix offers a helpful study guide on how to access and navigate the primary source material of the Scholastics.

The work is accessible and comprehensive. I found the chapter on late orthodoxy especially useful in guiding one through the Reformed reaction to the Enlightenment. The work even addresses the role of Baptist theologians—like John Gill (1697–1771) and Andrew Fuller (1754–1815)—and their use of Reformed Scholastic categories in the debates during the period of late orthodoxy. Becoming familiar with Scholasticism is vital for understanding medieval theology, the Reformation, and the Puritans, and I highly recommend Van Asselt’s work as an introduction to the subject.

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Ryan Patrick Hoselton is pursuing a ThM at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife Jaclyn, and they are the parents of one child.

An excellent comment by Andrew Atherstone on reading history

April 14th, 2014 Posted in Books, Church History, Great Quotes, Historians, Reformation

By Michael A.G. Haykin

In a book review that appeared in the most recent Banner of Truth, Andrew Atherstone, whose work I admire, has this comment regarding Natalie Mears and Alec Ryrie, eds., Worship and the Parish Church in Early Modern Britain (2013)—he is talking about the way the Reformation impacted the Christian in the pew: “The lives of ordinary Christians in the Reformation world were filled with nuance, variety, contradiction and complexity, just as they are today.” So true! Budding historians as well as seasoned authors need to take note.

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Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.

Are Baptists Reformers, Radicals, or Restorationists?

March 25th, 2014 Posted in 16th Century, 17th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Church History, Historians, Puritans, Reformation

By Nathan A. Finn

If you spend much time studying Baptist history and thought, you know that a perennial debate concerns Baptist origins, early theological influences, and any bearing those topics might have on the nature of Baptist identity. Some scholars argue that Baptists are second or third generation reformers who are rooted in a mostly puritan identity. Barrie White and Tom Nettles come to mind as exemplars of this view, which is the majority position among historians. Other scholars argue that Baptists, though clearly emerging from English Separatists, are at least influenced by the evangelical wing of the Radical Reformation. William Estep and Ian Randall are two representatives of this school of thought. Still other historians argue that Baptists are evangelical restorationists: Doug Weaver makes this case. Some Baptist scholars opt for an eclectic or polygenetic approach to this question, notably Curtis Freeman.

I wonder to what degree one’s own theological and/or spiritual presuppositions play into how a scholar views this issue. Granted, none of the aforementioned categories are Landmark, so presumably their historiographies aren’t totally theologically driven. Still, does one’s understanding of issues like predestination, ecumenism, church and state, and church and culture affect where one “lands” on this question? I think this is at least possible in some cases.

For my part, I can see why different scholars champion each of these approaches. The historical genesis of the earliest English Baptists was most definitely in English Separatism and by the time of the Civil War the English Baptists were thinking in broadly puritan categories. However, at least some of the earliest General Baptists and perhaps a few of the earliest Particular Baptists had some affinity with some Anabaptists. And, of course, both Anabaptists and Baptists held to baptistic ecclesiologies, which would at least lend itself to the understandable (if not always charitable) assumption that the groups were connected in some ways. Baptists on the whole might not be restorationists, but there is no doubt there is a restorationist streak among some Baptists—how else does one explain the spiritual pilgrimages of John Smyth and Rogers Williams or the existence of the Independent Baptist movement? These factors are why I resonate with a more polygenetic approach to early Baptist theological identity, while still holding to English Separatist historical origins.

How do you think we should think about Baptist origins and/or identity? Are we puritans who got straightened out on the sacraments? Are we the more respectable wing of the Radical Reformation? Are we sane restorationists? Or, especially since the early eighteenth century, are we really just dunking evangelicals? I’m thinking out loud more than I am making any particular arguments, so I would love to hear your thoughts about this question.

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Nathan A. Finn is associate professor of historical theology and Baptist Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also an elder at First Baptist Church of Durham, NC and a fellow of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.

 

An Orthodox Catechism: New Book Edited by Michael Haykin and Steve Weaver

February 17th, 2014 Posted in 16th Century, 17th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Biblical Spirituality, Books, Church History, Puritans, Reformation

By Steve Weaver

Michael A.G. Haykin and I have edited Hercules Collins’ An Orthodox Catechism (1680). This catechism was itself a revision of the 1563 Heidelberg Catechism loved and used by Protestants world-wide. This edition by Collins edits the section on baptism in a way suitable to a seventeenth-century Baptist. Dr. Haykin and I have edited this historic catechism for a modern audience. We have also authored a historical introduction that explains the significance of the catechism along with Collins’ rationale for his edits.

Reformed Baptist Academic Press is now accepting pre-orders of quantities of 10 or more of An Orthodox Catechism

The product page for the book is up on the RBAP website, but you will have to wait until the book is in stock to order individual copies (should be available this week). The book retails for $12.00, but is available at a special price of $9.00 directly from the publisher. However, for churches or individuals who order 10 or more copies, the price is only $6.00 per copy. You pay shipping and $1.50 handling. These pre-orders must be paid via check. RBAP will invoice you via email. You need to contact RBAP directly to receive this offer.

The book is also available on Amazon for $10.80. Please note that the Kindle edition listed is not our edition, but a transcription of the unedited original.

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Steve Weaver serves as a research assistant to the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies and a fellow of the Center. He also serves as senior pastor of Farmdale Baptist Church in Frankfort, KY. Steve and his wife Gretta have six children between the ages of 3 and 14.

“There is No Middle Ground”

October 31st, 2013 Posted in 16th Century, Church History, Eminent Christians, Reformation

By Evan D. Burns

October 31, 1517 ought always to be remembered as the sacred day when the Spirit of God used the German Augustinian monk, Martin Luther (1483-1546), to launch the Protestant Reformation.  Luther was a prophetic voice that took no prisoners with his theological assertions.  His theological persuasion and unbreakable dissent emerged from his knowledge of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.  The Reformation was the rediscovery of the Word.  And it was through the languages that Luther unearthed the treasure of the gospel:  justification by faith alone.

The following excerpts from his commentary on Galatians exemplify his zeal for this doctrine:

  • There is a clear and present danger that the devil may take away from us the pure doctrine of faith and may substitute for it the doctrines of works and of human traditions.  It is very necessary, therefore, that this doctrine of faith be continually read and heard in public….  This doctrine can never be discussed and taught enough.  If it is lost and perishes, the whole knowledge of truth, life, and salvation is lost and perishes at the same time.  But if it flourishes, everything good flourishes.[1]
  • If the doctrine of justification is lost, the whole of Christian doctrine is lost….  For between these two kinds of righteousness, the active righteousness of the Law and the passive righteousness of Christ, there is no middle ground.  Therefore he who has strayed away from this Christian righteousness will necessarily relapse into the active righteousness; that is, when he has lost Christ, he must fall into a trust in his own works.[2]
  • Therefore we always repeat, urge, and inculcate this doctrine of faith or Christian righteousness, so that it may be observed by continuous use and may be precisely distinguished from the active righteousness of the Law.  (For by this doctrine alone and through it alone is the church built, and in this it consists).[3]
  • The second kind of righteousness is our proper righteousness, not because we alone work it, but because we work with that first and alien righteousness.  This is that matter of life spent profitably in good works, in the first place, in slaying the flesh and crucifying the desires with respect to the self.[4]

For Luther, eternal joy and eternal punishment were at stake in this doctrine.  To him, the minister of the Word ought to be fervent and constant in teaching this doctrine.  One cannot be casual and lackadaisical in proclaiming Christian righteousness.  As Luther said, there is no middle ground.  This doctrine is absolutely essential for salvation.

Luther’s invincible weapon of justification by faith was produced in the factory of the original languages.  Consider his grave concern that gospel ministers know Greek and Hebrew in “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools” (1524):[5]

  • In proportion then as we value the gospel, let us zealously hold to the languages….
  • And let us be sure of this: we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages. The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit is contained; they are the casket in which this jewel is enshrined; they are the vessel in which this wine is held; they are the larder in which this food is stored; and, as the gospel itself points out, they are the baskets in which are kept these loaves and fishes and fragments. If through our neglect we let the languages go (which God forbid!), we shall not only lose the gospel.
  • It is inevitable that unless the languages remain, the gospel must finally perish.
  • But where the preacher is versed in the languages, there is a freshness and vigor in his preaching, Scripture is treated in its entirety, and faith finds itself constantly renewed by a continual variety of words and illustrations.
  • We should not be led astray because some boast of the Spirit and consider Scripture of little worth, and others, such as the Waldensian Brethren think the languages are unnecessary.  
  • So I can by no means commend the Waldensian Brethren for their neglect of the languages. For even though they may teach the truth, they inevitably often miss the true meaning of the text, and thus are neither equipped nor fit for defending the faith against error. Moreover, their teaching is so obscure and couched in such peculiar terms, differing from the language of Scripture, that I fear it is not or will not remain pure. For there is great danger in speaking of things of God in a different manner and in different terms than God himself employs. In short, they may lead saintly lives and teach sacred things among themselves, but so long as they remain without the languages they cannot but lack what all the rest lack, namely, the ability to treat Scripture with certainty and thoroughness and to be useful to other nations. Because they could do this, but will not, they have to figure out for themselves how they will answer for it to God.

[1]Timothy Lull.  Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, 2nd ed.  Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005 (18).

[2]Lull (22).

[3]Lull (22).

[4]Lull (136).

[5]Luther’s Works, ed. W. Brandt and H. Lehman (Philadelphia Muhlenberg Press, 1962), 357-366.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.

Children and Church History

October 7th, 2013 Posted in Books, Church History, Conferences, Eminent Christians, Puritans, Reformation

By Dustin Bruce

Recent years have witnessed a recovery of biblical teaching related to the responsibility of Christian parents to be their children’s primary disciplers. Groups like The Center for Christian Family Ministry and events like the D6 Conference have championed the Bible’s command to “bring them [children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

In Deuteronomy 6:7, God instructs Israel to teach their children his commands throughout the course of the day. In Joshua 4, Israel constructs a monument of stones as a teaching tool to educate the coming generations of God’s mighty saving acts. And while it is vital to teach children God’s commands and how he has worked through salvation history, it is also important to educate children on how God has worked to preserve a people for his own possession throughout the history of the Church.

While this can seem no easy task, thankfully, there a number of good resources available to help. Here are a few of my personal favorites:

The Church History ABC’s: Augustine and 25 other Heroes of the Faith by Steve Nichols and Ned Bustard

Reformation Heroes by Diana Kleyn and Joel Beeke

The Christian Biographies for Young Readers Series by Simonetta Carr

History Lives: Chronicles of the Church by Brandon Withrow and Mindy Withrow

Heroes of the Faith Series by Sinclair Ferguson

The renewed emphasis on biblical family discipleship is something to celebrate. But let’s not forget to equip our children with a working knowledge of Church History.

Join in:

What are some of your favorite tools for teaching children Church History?

Are there any children’s books that focus on Baptist history?

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Dustin Bruce lives in Louisville, KY where he is pursuing a PhD in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Seminary. He is a graduate of Auburn University and Southwestern Seminary. Dustin and his wife, Whitney, originally hail from Alabama.

Understand Ourselves Through Understanding Our Past: Two Recent Publications

September 9th, 2013 Posted in 16th Century, 18th Century, 19th Century, Baptist Life & Thought, Books, Church History, Historians, Reformation, Theology

By Dustin Bruce

Despite what it may seem, your local Baptist church didn’t appear out of thin air. It falls within a long line of Christian history, much of which has shaped the way you understand your Bible and gather as a church, in ways that are hard to overestimate.

Baptists have been shaped by a number of individuals, institutions, and movements. Of the many, perhaps no movements have shaped us so much as the 16th century Reformation and the 18th century revivals that formed early Evangelicalism.

If you would like to know more about these movements, I recommend two recent publications.

First, the recent appearance of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Timothy George’s Theology of the Reformersmarks the revising and republication of a treatise that serves as a great introduction to the key leaders and theological contributions of the Reformation. If you want to know more about the 16th century Reformation, I heartily recommend this volume. Read it and you may be surprised how much you learn about why you do the things you do.

Second, the publication of Early Evangelicalism: A Reader, edited by Jonathan M. Yeager, comes as a great service to those interested in exploring the roots of the Evangelical movement. This work features a short introductory piece on over 60 persons of key influence, followed by a sampling of their work. This book also comes highly recommended as a helpful guide to exploring the roots of the larger movement of which we are a part.

I don’t believe it to be a stretch to say that you can’t understand yourself as a 21st century Baptist (or Evangelical) without understanding these two key movements. Whether you know little or much about these movements, these two volumes will undoubtedly be of service to you.

Pick up and read!

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Dustin Bruce lives in Louisville, KY where he is pursuing a PhD in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Seminary. He is a graduate of Auburn University and Southwestern Seminary. Dustin and his wife, Whitney, originally hail from Alabama.

Calvin versus the Anabaptists

July 30th, 2013 Posted in 16th Century, Church History, Eminent Christians, Reformation

By Dustin Bruce

In John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life, Herman J. Selderhuis attempts an unbiased telling of the Reformer’s story, counting him “neither friend nor enemy.”[1] Striving for balance, Selderhuis presents a nuanced relationship between Calvin and the Anabaptists. Against the common misconception of Calvin as a vitriolic persecutor of Anabaptists, Selderhuis states, “Calvin did not differ from his fellow Reformers in his stance toward them, but he did in his approach, for he thought that these Anabaptists had a point when they stressed sanctification of life, imitation, dedication, and devotion.”[2]

Calvin, willing to learn from Anabaptists, found commonalities with them even while feeling they went too far in some areas. For Calvin, the Anabaptist tendency toward perfectionism in the Christian life and church proved unbiblical. He sought to extend Luther’s insight of simul iustus et peccator from the individual saint to the church as a whole.[3] Calvin also took issue with “the absence of ordered, structured thought among the Anabaptists.”[4] Calvin served a God of order and he felt the absence of such to be inconsistent with divine revelation.

While the Magisterial Reformer undoubtedly took issue with the Anabaptists at points, Selderhuis makes a case for a much more understanding Calvin. As he summarizes, “He was very engaged with the Anabaptists, and even married an Anabaptist widow, providing a symbol of the way he dealt with them theologically. One had to win them over and bring them into one’s own house. In terms of the church, one might even marry them by taking into one’s own theological house the good that they bring with them.”[5] Whether you count John Calvin as theological friend of enemy, all would do well to model such a practice.


[1]Herman J. Selderhuis, John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life (Downer’s Grove: IL, InterVarsity Press, 2009), p. 8.

[2]Selderhuis, John Calvin, 74.

[3]Selderhuis, John Calvin, 75.

[4]Selderhuis, John Calvin, 75.

[5]Selderhuis, John Calvin, 74.

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Dustin Bruce lives in Louisville, KY where he is pursuing a PhD in Biblical Spirituality at Southern Seminary. He is a graduate of Auburn University and Southwestern Seminary. Dustin and his wife, Whitney, originally hail from Alabama.

Precious Doctrines: Quakertown Regional Conference on Reformed Theology

July 17th, 2013 Posted in Conferences, Reformation, Theology

Click to enlarge poster.

On November 15-16, 2013, Dr. Michael A.G. Haykin will be speaking at the Quakertown Regional Conference on Reformed Theology. The conference theme is “Precious Doctrines” and will also feature Voddie Baucham and Philip Ryken as speakers. Details on the conference can be found here. The conference is a regional conference of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

A series of video spots promoting the conference will be available here. The first has already posted.

Zwingli Against the Zwinglians?

May 7th, 2013 Posted in 16th Century, Church History, Eminent Christians, Historians, Reformation, Theology

By Ian Hugh Clary

Zwinglianism is the view that the elements of the Lord’s Supper are only a memorial and that Christ is in no sense present—what some have called the “real absence” view, or the memorialist view. The Eucharist was a hotly debated topic during the Reformation that resulted in deep lines drawn between the Reformed, particularly the Swiss, and the Lutherans. Luther could barely bring himself to say that Zwingli was a brother in the Lord because the Zurich theologian refused to believe in consubstantiation. It is often noted that Calvin sought to steer a middle course between the Lutheran and Zwinglian forms by offering a “spiritual presence” view, where the Spirit draws the believer by faith into true communion with Christ in the elements. The so-called memorial view had a continuing influence in subsequent Reformed theology, and even more so in broader evangelicalism. But was Zwingli a Zwinglian?

W. P. Stephens, in his Zwingli: An Introduction to His Thought (Oxford, 2001) puts Zwingli in perspective. The heat of Zwingli’s debate with Luther centred on the words of Christ who said of the bread, “This is my body.” For Zwingli, the word “is” should be understood as “signifies.” For Luther this was anathema. At the Marburg Colloquy (1529), though some headway towards agreement was made, the two Reformers could not agree on this point. However, this did not entail that Zwingli denied any presence of Christ in the supper. After the colloquy, Zwingli expressed his belief in the “real presence” of Christ. Stephens, pointing to Zwingli’s works like An Account of the Faith (1530) and The Letter to the Princes of Germany (1530), says, “Zwingli made it clear that the bread was not mere bread, and he began to affirm terms such as presence, true, and sacramental” (105). In the appendix to his An Exposition of the Faith (1531) Zwingli said, “We believe Christ to be truly present in the Supper, indeed we do not believe that it is the Lord’s Supper unless Christ is present” (Stephens, 105). This change in emphasis came with a greater stress on the bread and the wine, both of which were “divine and sacred” (Stephens, 107).

Stephens does an excellent job tracing out Zwingli’s overall Eucharistic theology. After establishing that Zwingli was not really a “Zwinglian,” as the term has become known, he also makes the important point that Zwingli was consistent in his theology from his early to his later years. While his earlier views were nascent, his later views did not contradict them. In 1523 Zwingli spoke of the soul being fed in the supper. Admittedly he emphasised the “symbolic” understanding of the elements after 1524, yet he held this view when he spoke of feeding on Christ. Stephens summarizes Zwingli’s overall thought saying, “The more positive notes in the later Zwingli do not indicate a real shift in his position, rather a difference of emphasis” (Stephens, 109). The concern for Zwingli, as for other Reformers at this time, was the place of faith in the communicant—he guarded against any gracious effect for the unbeliever who partakes. In this, he appealed to the early Luther who emphasized the need for faith. While issues of Christology and philosophy play into their differences, Zwingli was not as far from Luther as the German Reformer thought. Though he they did not share full agreement, Zwingli was much closer to Calvin, whose view Luther was not so scathingly against.

So, in a sense, Zwingli was against the Zwinglians.

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Ian Hugh Clary is finishing doctoral studies under Adriaan Neele at Universiteit van die Vrystaat (Blomfontein), where he is writing a dissertation on the evangelical historiography of Arnold Dallimore. He has co-authored two local church histories with Michael Haykin and contributed articles to numerous scholarly journals. Ian serves as a pastor of BridgeWay Covenant Church in Toronto where he lives with his wife and two children.