Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 08:2 (Fall 1987)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Christ and the Decree: Christology and Predestination in Reformed Theology from Calvin to Perkins by Richard A. Muller. Baker, 1988.240 pages. $12.95.

The new Baker edition of Richard A. Muller’s Christ and the Decree: Christology and Predestination in Reformed Theology from Calvin to Perkins (1988) is a revision of the original 1986 version published by Labyrinth Press. The most helpful change is an updated index and a selected bibliography that was absent in the original.

Christ and the Decree is a groundbreaking work that attempts to establish an essential line of doctrinal, rather than organizational, continuity between John Calvin and his theological successors up to the end of the sixteenth century. Muller, trained at Duke in the tradition of the Reformation historian Heiko Oberman by one of Oberman’s prize students, David Steinmetz, applies Oberman’s basic contention of continuity between late medieval theology and Reformation thought, to the post-Reformation period. In doing so, Muller argues for a basic continuity of scholastic method from the introduction of Aristotle in the West in the 12th century to the dethronement of Aristotle in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. This approach views the anti-scholastic biases of Luther and Calvin as short-term abandonments of the locus method. The followers of Calvin, responsible for systematizing and defending the theology of the first generation of the Reformation, relied upon the only model they had available, that of the schoolmen. Their dependence upon such an approach to formulate systematic theology does not mean that they agreed with the content of medieval scholasticism, but merely used its organizational structure.

This affinity between medieval scholasticism and Reformed scholasticism of the 16th and 17th centuries has led to some confusion among historians as to the definition of the terms “scholasticism” and “Reformed scholasticism.” Muller takes issue with Brian Armstrong’s characterization of Reformed scholasticism as “an extensive use of Aristotelian categories in logically, rationally defensible systems,” in which”reason assumed at least equal standing with faith in theology” (11). Muller disagrees with Armstrong’s contention that the scholastics emphasized”a more philosophically and metaphysically oriented theology grounded on a speculative formulation of the will than had been seen in earlier Protestantism.” This definition assumes a substantive change from a biblical christocentric theology to an Aristotelian system focused on the doctrine of predestination.

Muller forcefully argues that “Reformed scholasticism” ought to refer to the method of organizing theology rather than to its content. In addition, he ...

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