Christ—The Revelation Or The Revealer? Brunner And Reformed Orthodoxy On The Doctrine Of The Word Of God -- By: Richard A. Muller

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 26:3 (Sep 1983)
Article: Christ—The Revelation Or The Revealer? Brunner And Reformed Orthodoxy On The Doctrine Of The Word Of God
Author: Richard A. Muller


Christ—The Revelation Or The Revealer?
Brunner And Reformed Orthodoxy On
The Doctrine Of The Word Of God

Richard A. Muller*

The great movement in twentieth-century theology known as neo-orthodoxy derived its name from the relationship in which it stood to the theology of the Reformation and to the doctrinal summation of Protestantism accomplished in the scholastic systems of seventeenth-century orthodoxy. As a major representative of neo-orthodoxy, Emil Brunner manifests throughout his systematic works a creative and frequently highly critical contact with earlier Protestant dogmatics. Both in form and in content Brunner’s four-part Dogmatics reflects—from a post-Kantian perspective—the order and teaching of the classic Reformed and Lutheran systems, particularly as they are presented in the standard nineteenth-century compendia, Heinrich Heppe’s Die Dogmatik der evangelisch-reformierten Kirche and Heinrich Schmid’s Die Dogmatik der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche. In many instances, therefore, the success of the neo-orthodox system depended upon its ability to appropriate or to reject and reformulate the structures of earlier Protestant theology.1

A specific instance of this relationship between the old and the neo-orthodox theology crucial to the understanding of both occurs in the discussion of theological principles: the prolegomena. There Brunner formulates his doctrine of the Word of God as a debate—largely negative—with the orthodox prolegomena. According to Brunner, a radical change occurred as Protestant theology passed from the age of Reformation into the age of orthodoxy in so far as the scriptural principle of Reformation theology was transformed into a dogmatic identification of the “Word of God” with the words of Scripture. As a corollary of this transformation, the Reformation emphasis on faith in Jesus Christ was changed into a stress on acceptance of doctrine about Christ. Since orthodoxy “under-

*Richard Muller is associate professor of historical theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.

stands revelation as revealed doctrine” it all too easily arrives at a system of “correct doctrine.”2 Against this position Brunner poses his own view of revelation, a view that he believes to be closer to the dynamic teaching of the Reformation and to the teaching of the NT itself.

I. Brunner’s Doctrine Of The Word Of God

At the very beginning of Brunner’s analysis of Word and doctrine a common ground appears quite briefly between Brunner’s teaching...

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