From Dogma To Practice: Systematic Theology And Application In The Sermons Of The Scottish Commissioners To The Westminster Assembly -- By: Breno Macedo

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 77:2 (Fall 2015)
Article: From Dogma To Practice: Systematic Theology And Application In The Sermons Of The Scottish Commissioners To The Westminster Assembly
Author: Breno Macedo


From Dogma To Practice:
Systematic Theology And Application
In The Sermons Of The Scottish Commissioners
To The Westminster Assembly

Breno Macedo

Breno Macedo is a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPB). He serves as Assistant Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Teresina, Brazil, and is Professor of Historical Theology and Homiletics at the Presbyterian Seminary in Teresina.

Many still tremble when they hear the term Reformed orthodoxy. This reaction, far from being positive, expresses the reproof and rejection that some scholars nurture for the theological works produced from the late sixteenth century to the beginning of the seventeenth century.1 These scholars’ reproof has probably best been described by Richard Muller, who writes that “protestant orthodoxy has, in general, been declared ‘rigid,’ ‘dry,’ and ‘dead.’ Reformed orthodoxy in particular has been accused of being ‘speculative’ and ‘metaphysical,’ ‘decretal,’ ‘predestinarian,’ and ‘legalistic.’ It is said to deduce entire systems of theology from the central dogma of an eternal divine decree—and to draw its principles entirely from Aristotle. It is called by turns ‘biblicist’ and ‘proof-texting,’ or ‘rationalistic’ and ‘philosophical.’”2 It would seem obvious that a theological tradition with so many negative characteristics is unlikely to draw much attention to the works produced by its proponents.

Surprisingly, recent studies have turned the tables. Muller himself, along with many other able scholars, has demonstrated that instead of distancing themselves from the theology and principles of the Reformation, especially as articulated by John Calvin, the theologians who came after Calvin maintained

the same principles and kept in line with the same thought.3 This continuity between the thought of the Reformation and that of the post-Reformation was demonstrated, in general, through the analysis and study of the dogmatic works produced during both eras. It was particularly through the comparison and contrast of their systematic theologies that the similarities of ideas and differences of focus were detected and identified. But while the highly elaborated theological treatises were examined, the more practical and pastoral works were not so much investigated. Mark Beach rightly observes that there remains “a rich field awaiting further exploration … in how the Reformed orthodox engaged in the practical labor of ministry—especially catechesis and homilesis....

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