Seventeenth-Century Reformed Orthodoxy, The Theological Methodology Of High Orthodoxy, John Owen, And Federal Theology -- By: Richard C. Barcellos

Journal: Reformed Baptist Theological Review
Volume: RBTR 05:2 (Jul 2008)
Article: Seventeenth-Century Reformed Orthodoxy, The Theological Methodology Of High Orthodoxy, John Owen, And Federal Theology
Author: Richard C. Barcellos


Seventeenth-Century Reformed Orthodoxy, The Theological Methodology Of High Orthodoxy, John Owen, And Federal Theology

Richard C. Barcellos*

*This article is an edited extract from the author’s dissertation The Family Tree of Reformed Biblical Theology: Geerhardus Vos and John Owen – Their Methods of and Contributions to the Articulation of Redemptive History . The dissertation is scheduled to be published by RBAP some time in 2009.

Much has been written in the last few decades concerning the reassessment or reappraisal of seventeenth-century Reformed orthodoxy.1 Older scholarship viewed the Seventeenth Century as a period of downward movement, increasingly tending toward rationalism and proof-texting, driven by a central-dogma (i.e., the decree of predestination), highly Aristotelian (in the worst sense), and a drifting away from the supposedly more biblical, Christocentric methodology of the sixteenth-century Reformers.2 For instance, while tracing the history of New Testament Theology, George Eldon Ladd says:

The gains in the historical study of the Bible made by the reformers were soon lost in the post-Reformation period, and the Bible was once again used uncritically and unhistorically to support orthodox doctrine. The Bible was viewed not only as a book free from error and

contradiction but also without development or progress. The entire Bible was looked upon as possessing one level of theological value. History was completely lost in dogma, and philology became a branch of dogmatics.3

Alister E. McGrath, a contemporary historical theologian, also adheres to this older position. In a chapter entitled, “Protestant Orthodoxy,” McGrath paints this dismal picture:

It seems to be a general feature of the history of Christian thought, that a period of genuine creativity is immediately followed by a petrification and scholasticism, as the insights of a pioneering thinker or group of thinkers are embodied in formulae or confessions. (The term Confession is particularly applied to Protestant professions of faith of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, such as the Augsburg Confession (1530)). For many critics of Orthodoxy, particularly within Pietistic circles, Orthodoxy merely guarded the ashes of the Reformation, rather than tending its flame. The period of Orthodoxy between the first phase of the Reformation and the Enli...

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