Francis Turretin on Biblical Accommodation: Loyal Calvinist Or Reformed Scholastic? -- By: Martin I. Klauber

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 55:1 (Spring 1993)
Article: Francis Turretin on Biblical Accommodation: Loyal Calvinist Or Reformed Scholastic?
Author: Martin I. Klauber


Francis Turretin on Biblical Accommodation: Loyal Calvinist Or Reformed Scholastic?

Martin I. Klauber

Francis Turretin (1623–1687)1 was one of the great champions of Reformed theology during the high orthodox period. His quite prosperous Italian ancestors fled from Lucca during the Inquisition, and his grandfather, Francis, brought the family to Geneva in 1580 where they soon established themselves as one of the leading families of the city, being accepted into the bourgeois class in 1627. The son of Benedict Turretin, the Genevan delegate to the Synod of Dort, Francis studied theology at the Academy of Geneva and then took the traditional sojourn to the major intellectual centers of Reformed Europe including Saumur, Nîmes, Montauban, and Leyden. Upon his return to his native city, he accepted a pastorate of the Italian congregation in Geneva and then a theology post at the Academy in 1652 where he soon established his own reputation as one of the leading Reformed scholars in the post-Dort era.2

Although he had studied briefly at the Academy of Saumur, Francis was opposed to the distinctive doctrines of the Amyraut party that attempted to mitigate the harshness of the canons of Dort. Moise Amyraut (1596–1664),3 professor of theology at Saumur, had espoused the concept of hypothetical universalism, which held that God’s redemptive plan included all men but cannot be fulfilled unless man believes. The first stage of election would therefore be universal but only hypothetical. Since man cannot believe without the power of the Holy Spirit, a second, limited stage of election would be necessary for the

elect.4 Turretin, among other Reformed theologians, saw this as the first step toward Arminianism and rejected it both in his lectures and in the formulation of the Helvetic Formula Consensus.5 Turretin cosponsored the Formula with Johann Heinrich Heidegger of Zurich and Lucas Gernler of Basel in 1675 and it was approved by the Genevan city council in January, 1679. All candidates for ordination were required to sign the Formula on penalty of forfeiting their ministerial credentials. It therefore became a kind of litmus test for orthodoxy throughout Switzerland.6

As a result of Turretin’s support for the Formula, he has usually been portrayed as the bastion of orthodoxy who typified the type of arid scholasticism that betrayed the pristine Christocentric emphasis of Calvin. Tur...

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