Subscribe to Christianity Today
Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment
edited by Carl R. Trueman and R. S. Clark
Paternoster Press, 1999
344 pp.; $35
The Identity of Geneva: The Christian Commonwealth, 1564-1864
edited by John B. Roney and Martin I. Klauber
Greenwood Press, 1998
228 pp.; $59.95
Thomas Boston as Preacher of the Fourfold State
by Philip Graham Ryken
Paternoster Press, 1998
357 pp.; $40, paper
If Protestants in general must sometimes plead guilty to forgetting the centuries of Christian history between the Apostle Paul and the start of the Reformation, evangelical Protestants must make the same plea for the period between Luther and Calvin and the outbreak of revival under Wesley, White field, and Edwards. Sheer ignorance is the most important reason for neglecting the nearly two hundred years of history between 1550 and 1730. But to ignorance is often added a negative stereotype. Wasn't this the period of that notorious "Protestant scholasticism," when churches and leaders turned their back on the vital faith, urgent exegesis, and courageous faithfulness of the first Protestants in order to fill up on arid philosophy, sterile disputes over theological arcana, and ego-driven quarrels about recondite church practices? The worst feature commonly thought to characterize the age of Protestant scholasticism was its propensity to substitute fascination about the secret will of God for Scripture's clear teaching about the work of Christ.
As with most stereotypes, the commonly held views on Protestant scholasticism are not completely fallacious. Yet as these three books, and a modest tide of other similarly well-researched, volumes have recently shown, there is a whole lot more to the subject. Of these books, the symposium edited by Carl Trueman and Scott Clark is most ambitious in correcting misconceptions and arguing new theses. Among its most successful contributions are arguments by David Bagchi (for Luther) and David Steinmetz (for Calvin) pointing out how aspects of medieval scholastic ...