Is Reformed Theology "Rationalist"?

A great lot of folk think so. The confessional Lutherans think we are rationalist for our Christology. They and some evangelicals, some liberals, most Amyraldians and most Arminians think we are rationalist for our doctrine of predestination. It has long been held that Reformed theology begins with an a priori (central dogma) doctrine of God from which they, it is claimed, deduced a system theology. In short, it is alleged that Reformed theology is more or less made up out of the human imagination.

Whether it is Pete Enns’ book or the several other volumes that are raising the question, after a 20 year hiatus, it appears that the doctrine of Scripture is back on the table.  Andy McGowan has a new volume out on Scripture that suggests that Reformed theology did to the doctrine of Scripture what we’ve often been accused of doing with the doctrine of God.

Martin, as always, has a helpful response.

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  1. IVP(US)[where I work] is planning on publishing that book later this year. I’ll be interested to read it alongside of Gaffin’s new book which I hear is more historically accurate.

  2. Dr. Clark Calvinism is a form of Rationalism. Sola Scriptura really means “My mind determines what is Dogma.” Cut off from an Infallible Church, you are left with your fallible mind, a mind full of sin. That is what we are left with? With S.S. you can never know with certainty what are the doctrines we must confess. You are left with your Van Tillian answer : S.S. is found in the Bible, the Bible is true; S.S. is Biblical. Excuse me?? Come to the true visible church, the Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation.

  3. Hi Pat,

    I’m glad that you wrote because if I tried to claim that some contemporary Roman apologists held what you just said, I’m sure folk would think that I was exaggerating.

  4. Hi Pat,

    *Even if* the RC has infallible teachings of theological subjects, you have to read them (or listen to them propounded), and there’s many a slip b’twixt the “infallible” cup and your fallible lip. So, you can’t be certain, either. Perhaps you’ve been dreaming? Perhaps a alien super scientists send gamma rays down to earth and garbble the transmission? Perhaps you have a brain lesion in the “religious” part of your brain 🙂 which causes you to mutate the message in some way. Or, since you don’t read all the “infallible” teachings every second of the day, you must rely on memory. Memory is fallible too. I could go on . . .

    Dr. Clark once mentioned a noteworthy phrase to me in an email exchange once: “The irreligious quest for religious certainty.”

    Any, if you were more philosophically and epistemologically sophisticated, you’d know tate the infallibilists (epistemologically speaking) and the certainists (again, epistemologically speaking) have fallen on hard times. It’s a rather depleted epistemology. Lofty, unattainable goals. Or, in the language of the masses: writing checks you can’t cash.

    You’d also have to distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable doubt. Of which us Protestants do not suffer from the latter.

    And, couple that with a robust Plantingan theory of knowledge, and the Protestant claim that Revelation is *testimony,* and testimony is a valid was to gain knowledge (and couple this with some Reidian constraints), and Protestants can easily know many of the doctrines they claim to know.

    Descartes is calling, he wants his epistemology back.

  5. I said:

    “You’d also have to distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable doubt. Of which us Protestants do not suffer from the latter.”

    I meant:

    “You’d also have to distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable doubt. Of which us Protestants do not suffer from the former.

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