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Brief survey of the history of hermeneutics – 12. Post-Reformation Reformed Orthodoxy (I)

February 18, 2014 Leave a comment

The theological methodology of the post-Reformation Reformed orthodox: The theological methodology of the post-Reformation Reformed orthodox was, in the first place, exegetical. In order to get a firmer grip on their methodology, we will examine it from the vantage point of what it is not – 1. a hyper-syllogistic method; 2. an Aristotelian, rationalistic method; and 3. a universal method – and what it is – 4. a pre-critical method; 5. an exegetically-based method; 6. a redemptive-historically sensitive method; and 7. a multi-sourced method. The last four mentioned methodological characteristics are especially visible in the writings of John Owen, one of the premiere post-Reformation Reformed scholastics.[1]

1. Not a Hyper-Syllogistic Method: Their method was not reduced to syllogistic argumentation ad nauseam. In fact, Muller claims that “[f]ew of the orthodox or scholastic Protestants lapsed into constant or exclusive recourse to syllogism as a method of exposition.”[2] Syllogistic argumentation was utilized, but mostly in polemic contexts and not as an exegetical tool. Logic–the science of necessary inference–was utilized by the Reformed orthodox in the drawing out of good and necessary conclusions from the text of Scripture,[3] but it was a servant and not lord of the interpreter. Muller says that “the drawing of logical conclusions appears as one of the final hermeneutical steps in the [Reformed orthodox exegetical] method…”[4]

2. Not an Aristotelian, Rationalistic Method: The Protestant scholasticism of the post-Reformation era must be distinguished from rationalism. The Reformed orthodox did not place human reason above, or even equal to, divine revelation.[5] The place and function of reason was subordinate to the authority of Scripture. Reason was an instrument not an axiomatic principle.[6] The Protestant scholastics utilized a modified (or Christian) Aristotelianism “that had its beginnings in the thirteenth century.”[7] Muller explains:……

 

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