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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Protestant scholasticism

John Calvin learned greek philosophy at the University of Paris. Now it is true, that he criticized Roman Catholic scholasticism, but it is also true, that Aristotelian logic can be found in his works. The next generation of Calvinists were Protestant scholastics for they found a good use of Aristotle in their cause?

sidenote:(the first generation of protestants, were schooled in Roman Catholic Scholasticism, eventually, some of them would reject it. However, later generations of Protestants [after calvin] would embrace it.)

Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan says in the book "Credo": on pages 481 & 482

"But many more of the Protestant confession came
from the second, third, and subsequent generations. Those confessions, moreover,
are not only more numerous but usually much longer, than the earlier texts had
been. Nor is the difference a matter only of comparative length as such. For it
was, paradoxically, the writers of confessions who had not been trained in
medieval, Roman Catholic scholasticism who laid the foundations for a new,
Protestant "confessional scholasticism." As Horatius Bonar put it, speaking
about The Westminister Confession of Faith from the seventeenth century in a
description that could as readily have been applied also to The Canons of the
Synod of Dort from the same century or to The Formula of Concord from late in
the preceding century,

It may be questioned whether the Church gained
anything by the exchange of the Reformation standards for those of the seventh
century. The scholastic mould(british form of "mold") in which the latter are
cast has somewhat trenched upon the ease and breadth which mark the former; and
the skillful metaphysics employed at Westminister [or in The Formula of Concord]
in giving lawyer-like precision to each statement, have imparted a local and
temporary aspect to the new which did not belong to the more ancient standards.

Bonar's use of "scholastic", therefore, which commonly refers to
Western Roman Catholic theology from the twelfth to the fourteenth century and
to the revival of that theology in the modern era, may also be applied to the
Protestant "confessional scholasticism" of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, which manifested itself in both Lutheran and Reformed theology.

One presuposition for its rise, as it had been for rise of medieval
scholasticism, was the cultivation of Aristotelian philosophy, which, after its
rejection by Luther and other Reformers, enjoyed a strong revival of interest
during subsequent generations of Lutheran and Reformed theologians.
It had been
Melanchton's ambition to prepare a new edition of Aristotle. Aristotelianism
gave the Protestant dogmaticians of the seventeenth century a precision in their
vocabulary and a capacity for making careful distinctions. Partly as a
consequence of this renewal of interest in the philosophy of Aristotle, another
component of medieval scholasticism, the investigation of "natural theology,"
played a prominent part in this Protestant scholasticism, too. Therefore an
exploration of what the unaided human reason could know about God, including the
traditional proofs for the existence of God, became the prolegomenon to the
systematic exposition of the revealed doctrines of Scripture.132"

[1] pages 481-482

Some would like to pick on Eastern Orthodoxy for using portions of greek philosophy in order to convert the Hellinistic World. The truth is, we all use aspects of greek philosophy.....all as in, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodoxy. We all use it at times when speaking about the Truths of the christian faith. Now we may not all use the same greek philosophers, nor do we all agree on our interpretation when we do use the same greek philosopher, but we all make use of them. Infact, the fact that Scripture itself is translated into pagan languages is proof that we do make use of "pagan words" in order to express the truths of the Faith.

Even the Apostle Paul made use of greek philosophy, when trying to express a "truth" of the Christian Faith.

Acts chapter 17
"28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30"

Plus, elsewhere, Saint Paul talks about being "all things" to "all men".

1 Corinthians 9:21-23
"21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you."

Now, just like in most things, there is discernment. Which is why Orthodoxy doesn't use every greek Philosopher under the Sun. But God has planted lesser forms of light in every culture. And it is the job of the christian to make good use of the lesser light that God has already givin to the peoples of the Globe, so that they can have cultural aids to help them understand the truths of the Faith.

So I guess in a way, the seeds of truth, that God has planted in every culture is a form of Prevenient(preceeding) grace.


[1] pages 481-482 from the book "Credo: Historical and Theological guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition", by Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan, copyright 2003 by Yale University. Published by Yale University Press.


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