Calvin’s Theological Method: The Case Of Caroli -- By: Richard C. Gamble

Journal: Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal
Volume: RPTJ 02:2 (Spring 2016)
Article: Calvin’s Theological Method: The Case Of Caroli
Author: Richard C. Gamble


Calvin’s Theological Method: The Case Of Caroli

Richard C. Gamble

Professor of Systematic Theology
Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Introduction: Justification For The Investigation

Calvin’s early ministry in Geneva was marred by the intense controversy between his colleagues and himself, and a colleague from Lausanne by the name of Pierre Caroli. This fascinating period of church history has received very scant investigation in the English language. There is only one major article (published in 1972) which is a translation of an earlier Dutch article.1 Prior to that there was a five page study which investigated a small part of the controversy and addressed one specific problem,2 and there were a few pages analyzing Caroli from the perspective of the reforming movement at Meaux.3

The situation is not much better in German language study. A few pages of analysis are given by W. Kampschulte, O. Ritschl, and A. Lang.4 Their combined analysis accounts for less than ten pages of material. More lengthy is the work of E. Bähler, Petrus Caroli und Johannes Calvin,5 but it is unbalanced and at times inaccurate. More work has been done in Dutch and French. Very helpful is the biographical account of Caroli in Haag6 and two articles by Pierson.7

Combining the work of Nijenhuis, Haag, Pierson and Bahler, a relatively complete account of the historical background and theological results of the controversy may be obtained. Nevertheless, no thorough analysis has been undertaken examining the literature of the controversy from the more narrow focus of Calvin’s theological method.

The impetus for this investigation has come from two sources. The first is the necessity to prepare annotations to Calvin’s letters from 1535 to 1538 for a republication of Calvin’s Correspondence. Professor Neuser has been a great aid to the important cause of the production of the Editio Recognita of Calvin, of which the letters play a part. The second comes from the aforementioned article by Nijenhuis. One statement in particular underlines the need for further analysis: “In Caroli’s mode of thought and discussion..., Calvin detected the speculative and rationalistic method of theologizing which according to him were characteristic of the chur...

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