Jean-Alphonse Turrettini and the Abrogation of the Formula Consensus in Geneva -- By: Martin I. Klauber

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 53:2 (Fall 1991)
Article: Jean-Alphonse Turrettini and the Abrogation of the Formula Consensus in Geneva
Author: Martin I. Klauber


Jean-Alphonse Turrettini and the Abrogation of the Formula Consensus in Geneva

Martin I. Klauber

Jean-Alphonse Turrettini (1671–1737)1 was the last of the line of theology professors from his family at the Academy of Geneva, following his grandfather Benedict (1588–1631) and his father François, the famed Reformed scholastic theologian (1623–1687).2 Jean-Alphonse started his theological career as the pastor of the Italian congregation in Geneva in 1693; he was then named professor of church history at the academy in 1698, rector in 1701, and professor of theology in 1705. His central academic focus was the defense of the faith against the growing tide of deism and atheism. As a result, he did not compose a formal systematic theology; his primary work was a two-volume text on apologetics divided between natural and special revelation.3 Stressing the value of reason to establish the reasonableness of the faith, he deemed the traditional

Reformed use of the interior witness of the Holy Spirit as inadequate in light of the changing intellectual currents of Europe.

In addition to Turrettini’s desire to defend the Reformed faith, he constructed a theological system based upon the fundamental articles of the faith. Significantly, Turrettini never constructed a systematic approach to the issue of predestination, which he deemed not essential for salvation and the main stumbling block to Protestant union. Although his father was one of the principal architects of the Helvetic Formula Consensus, Jean-Alphonse led the movement away from such credal religion through the abrogation of the Formula in 1706 and the secularization of the curriculum of instruction at the academy.

Turrettini believed that the Formula was essentially divisive and outdated. Furthermore, the issues addressed in the creed were no longer serious threats to the faith by 1700. In fact, it can be argued that the Formula should have more properly been passed in 1650 or earlier. By the turn of the century, new items of concern threatened the very fabric of the faith and made the articles of the Consensus pale in comparison. As a result, he saw the Formula as the major obstacle to his plans for a Protestant union that he deemed crucial for the sake of the church.4

Jean-Alphonse Turrettini contributed to the demise of what he referred to as Reformed scholasticism through the abrogation of the Formula Consensus, his emphasis upon the fundamental doctrines of Christianity, his use of Cartesian phil...

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