Resources on Reformed Scholasticism

From the middle of the 19th century until the late 1970s the dominant story about Protestant scholasticism generally and Reformed scholasticism in particular was that it marked a departure from the warmly biblical spirit of the Reformation, that it marked a turn (or return) to arid, soul-killing rationalism wherein Aristotle and syllogisms replaced the dynamic biblical theology of the Protestant Reformers. The Reformed were said to have deduced their entire system from a a priori doctrine of predestination. For much of the 20th century that narrative evolved to say, especially about Reformed theology, that Calvin had a gracious, Christ-centered,  theology but his orthodox and academic successors corrupted that theology with federal theology, made it legalistic with the covenant of works, and organized it around a doctrine of predestination.

As Robert Preus had returned to the sources (ad fontes!) of Lutheran orthodoxy in the 1950s–70s, Richard Muller returned to the sources of Reformed orthodoxy beginning in 1978 and brought bear a professional historical methodology upon the study of Reformed orthodoxy, Reformed scholasticism, and the history of Reformed theology. Methodologically, Muller followed in the footsteps of Heiko Oberman (1930–2001) and David Steinmetz (1936–2015).

  1. Richard Muller Bibliography Chronologically Ordered
  2. Trueman Carl R. and R. Scott Clark, eds. Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment (1999).
  3. Muller, Richard. Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 2nd edition, 4 vol. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002—).
  4. Muller Richard. Christ and the Decree: Christology and Predestination in Reformed Theology from Calvin to Perkins (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986).
  5. Muller, Richard. After Calvin: Studies in the Development of a Theological TraditionOxford Studies in Historical Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  6. Muller, Richard. Calvin and the Reformed Tradition.
  7. Trueman, Carl R. Carl Trueman, The Claims of Truth: John Owen’s Trinitarian Theology (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 1998).
  8. Trueman, Carl R. John Owen, Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man.
  9. Rehnman, Sebastian. Divine Discourse: The Theological Methodology of John Owen (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002).
  10. Preus, Robert D. The Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism, 2 vols (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1970-72 )
  11. Godfrey, W. R. “Tensions within International Calvinism: The Debate on the Atonement at the Synod of Dort, 1618–1619,” (Ph.D. Thesis, Stanford University, 1974).
  12. Godfrey, W. Robert. Saving the Reformation: The Pastoral Theology of the Canons of Dort (2019)
  13. Dever, Mark E. Richard Sibbes. Puritanism and Calvinism in Late Elizabethan and Early Stuart England (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2000).
  14. Clark, R. Scott. Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant: The Double Benefit of Christ. Rutherford Studies in Historical Theology, ed. David F. Wright (Edinburgh: Rutherford House, 2005). Reprinted 2008 by Reformation Heritage Books in the Historical-Theological Studies series.
  15. Clark, R. Scott [with Dr. Joel Beeke], “Ursinus, Oxford and the Westminster Divines,” The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century: Essays in Remembrance of the 350th Anniversary of the Publication of the Westminster Confession of Faith, 3 vols, ed. Ligon Duncan (Ross-Shire, Scotland: Mentor, 2003-), 2.1-32.
  16. Clark, R. Scott. ”Janus, the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel and Westminster Theology,” in David VanDrunen, ed., The Pattern of Sound Words: A Festschrift for Robert B. Strimple. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2004.
  17. Clark, R. Scott. “Unconditional Election and the Free Offer of the Gospel,” in Joel R. Beeke and Martin I. Klauber, ed. The Synod of Dort: Historical, Theological, and Experiential Perspectives. Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht. Forthcoming.
  18. Clark, R. Scott. “Law and Gospel in Early Reformed Orthodoxy: Hermeneutical Conservatism in Olevianus’ Commentary on Romans,” in Jordan J. Ballor, David S. Sytsma and Jason Zuidema editors, Church and School in Early Modern Protestantism: Studies in Honor of Richard A. Muller on the Maturation of a Theological Tradition. Leiden: Brill, 2013.
  19. Clark, R. Scott. “Christ and Covenant: Federal Theology in Orthodoxy,” in Herman Selderhuis, ed., Companion to Reformed Orthodoxy. Leiden: Brill, 2013.
  20. Clark, R. Scott. “The Reception of Paul in Heidelberg: The Pauline Commentaries of Caspar Olevianus” in ed. R. Ward Holder, A Companion to Paul in the Reformation. Leiden: Brill, 2009, 297–318.
  21. Clark, R. Scott. “Election and Predestination: Sovereign Expressions of God,” in David Hall and Peter Lillback, ed. A Theological Guide to Calvin’s Institutes: Essays and Analysis. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008, 90–122.
  22. Clark, R. Scott. “The Benefits of Christ: Double Justification in Protestant Theology Before the Westminster Assembly,” Anthony T. Selvaggio, ed., The Faith Once Delivered: Celebrating the Legacy of Reformed Systematic Theology and the Westminster Assembly (Essays in Honor of Dr. Wayne Spear). Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2007, 107–34.
  23. Clark, R. Scott. “The Catholic-Calvinist Trinitarianism of Caspar Olevian,” Westminster Theological Journal 61 (1999): 15–39.
  24. Clark, R. Scott. “The Authority of Reason in the Later Reformation: Scholasticism in Caspar Olevian and Antoine de La Faye,” Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment, ed., Carl Trueman and R. Scott Clark. Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 1999, 111–26.
  25. Platt, J. E.  Reformed Thought and Protestant Scholasticism. Leiden: Brill, 1982.
  26. Mallinson, Jeffrey. Faith, Reason, and Revelation in Theodore Beza 1519-1605. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  27. van Asselt, Willem J. “The Fundamental Meaning of Theology: Archetypal and Ectypal Theology in Seventeenth-Century Reformed Thought,” Westminster Theological Journal 64 (2002): 319–35.
  28. van Asselt, Willem J. The Federal Theology of Johannes Cocceius 1603–1669 (Leiden: Brill, 2001).
  29. van Asselt, Willem J. “The Theologian’s Tool Kit: Johannes Maccovius (1588–1644) and the Development of Reformed Theological Distinctions,” Westminster Theological Journal 68 (2006): 23–40.
  30. Beach, J. Mark, “The Doctrine of the Pactum Salutis in the Covenant Theology of Herman Witsius,” Mid-America Journal of Theology 13 (2002): 101–142.
  31. Backus, Irena Dorota. Life Writing in Reformation Europe: Lives of Reformers by Friends, Disciples and Foes. Aldershot, Hampshire, England: Ashgate Pub, 2008.
  32. Backus, Irena Dorota. The Reformed Roots of the English New Testament: The Influence of Theodore Beza on the English New Testament. Pittsburgh, Pa: Pickwick Press, 1980.
  33. Raitt, Jill. Shapers of Religious Traditions in Germany, Switzerland, and Poland, 1560-1600. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981.
  34. — The Eucharistic Theology of Theodore Beza: Development of the Reformed Doctrine. Chambersburg, Pa: American Academy of Religion, 1972.
  35. Raitt, Jill. The Colloquy of Montbéliard: Religion and Politics in the Sixteenth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
  36. van Asselt, Willem J.  Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism. Reformed Historical-Theological Studies. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011).
  37. van Asselt, Willem and Eef Dekker, eds, Reformation and Scholasticism: An Ecumenical Enterprise (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001).

Select Sources

  1. William Ames, A Sketch of the Christian’s Catechism, trans. Todd M. Rester, Classic Reformed Theology Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Press, 2008).
  2. Caspar Olevianus, An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, trans. Lyle Bierma, Classic Reformed Theology Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010).
  3. Johannes Cocceius, Doctrine of The Covenant and Testament of God, trans. Casey B. Carmichael, Classic Reformed Theology Vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016).
  4.  J. H. Heidegger, A Concise Marrow of Christian Theology, trans. Casey B. Carmichael, Classic Reformed Theology vol. 4. Trans. Casey Carmichael. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2019.
  5. Robert Rollock, Commentary on Ephesians, Classic Reformed Theology  vol. 5, trans. Casey B. Carmichael (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2021)
  6. Theodore Beza, Amandus Polanus, Francis Turretin, Justification By Faith Alone. Selected Writings from Theodore Beza, Amandus Polanus, and Francis Turretin, Classic Reformed Theology vol. 6, trans. Casey B. Carmichael (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2023).

Heidelblog Resources

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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14 comments

  1. Dr. Clark,

    Being the theological historian that you are, I have a question regarding Ussher’s Body of Divinity. What do you make of the fact that Charles Richard Elrington (Regius Professor of Divinity at Dublin University) refused to include that work in his collection of Ussher’s work for the following reasons:

    “During the Primate’s residence in Wales, a book was published under his name by Mr. Downham, entitled: ‘A Body of Divinity, or the Sum and Substance of the Christian Religion.’ The Archbishop lost no time in writing to the editor, and sent him the following letter, disavowing the work:

    “‘Sir,— You may be pleased to take notice, that the Catechisme you write of is none of mine, but transcribed out of Mr. Cartwright’s catechisme and Mr. Crook’s and some other English Divines, but drawn together in one method as a kinde of common place book, where other men’s judgments and reasons are strongly laid down, though not approved in all places by the collector; besides that the collection (such as it is) being lent abroad to divers in scattered sheets, hath for a great part of it miscarried; the one half of it as I suppose (well nigh) being noway to be recovered, so that so imperfect a thing copied verbatim out of others, and in divers places dissonant from my own judgement, may not by any means be owned by me; But if it shall seem good of any industrious person to cut of what is weak and superfluous therein, and supply the wants thereof, and cast it into a new mould of his own framing, I shall be very well content that he make what use he pleaseth of any the materials therein, and set out the whole in his own name: and this is the resolution of,

    your most assured loving friend,

    Ja. Armachanus.
    May 13, 1645’

    “When the Primate thus positively declared that the book was in divers places dissonant from his own judgement, and that it could not by any means be owned by him, it might have been supposed that it would never have been republished with his name, or quoted as his work.”

    (The Whole Works of the Most Rev. James Ussher, D.D., [Dublin: 1847], vol. 1, pp.248, 249)

    Is there other information which explains why this work is still commonly attributed to Ussher? Thank you for your consideration of this.

    Phil D.

    • Dr. Clark,

      Here are some things I found in researching the authorship of “A Body of Divinity.”

      First, the Anglican literary scholar Hasting Robinson noted that, due to his exceptionally high reputation in Puritan circles, on more than one occasion Ussher was victimized by having his name spuriously attached to various religious treatises. In fact there were several instances in which, at Ussher’s request, Parliament had to officially declare that certain works that had been published in his name weren’t his! With this in mind, Robinson thought it was then significant that while Ussher stated he hadn’t composed all of ABOD, he did acknowledge that some of the writing was his (Robinson estimated this part to be well over half of the volume), and that he had personally compiled the rest. In addition he thought Ussher‘s remark that he disagreed with some points that are expressed in the work was made “in a moment of just displeasure” as he saw yet another of his works being published apart from his own initiative. In summary Robinson writes:

      “The most probable account of the following work may be summed up in the words of Mr. J. Dan, one of the later editors. ‘The method,’ he says, ‘and most of the materials, are the incomparable Bishop Usher’s, a man whose younger days wonderfully outdid the most grave, experienced, and thoughtful age of the greatest number of men that ever lived in the Christian world.’ The most reverend Author, he adds, and we have no reason to doubt the assertion, ‘in his elder days, blessed God for its publication, though at first it started into the world without his consent; because he perceived that it had done much good.’ This statement, we apprehend, is indirectly confirmed by the Primate himself, who, speaking of two shorter catechisms which he had drawn up, and which his chaplain, Dr. Parr, represents as an epitome of the work before us, expresses himself respecting them in these terms. ‘Seeing, contrary to my mind, they have by many impressions been divulged, and that in a very faulty manner, I have been persuaded at last, upon some revision of them, to let them now go abroad in some more tolerable condition than they did before; hoping, that as at the first I had the favour from God that none did despise my youth, so now these first fruits of mine will not altogether be contemned, being again presented (to the reader) when my head is gray.’”

      In his preface to the 2007 SGCB edition of ABOD, Dr. Crawford Gribben (who specializes in Irish and Scottish Puritan literature) argues that Ussher was attempting to downplay his Puritan links in the turbulent mid-1640’s, but that those closest to Ussher believed it was reasonable to attribute the work to him. There does seem to be some circumstantial support for the claim that Ussher sometimes attempted to distance himself from “Puritanism” when we recall that while he was actually appointed to participate in the Westminster Assembly, he refused to fulfill that commission on account of his belief as a Royalist and COE prelate that all religious assemblies should be officially sanctioned by the monarch.

      In light of all this info, I think it’s probably most accurate to describe ABOD in the way that Robinson titled his 1841 edition, “A Body of Divinity…Collected and Arranged by James Ussher, D.D.” Having said that, I’m not really put off if someone wants to simply calls it “Ussher’s Body of Divinity.” I guess I’ve just always had an interest in being aware of the details behind church history and theological writings.

  2. Dr. Clark,

    I only recently ran into this discourse myself. Give me a day or two, and I’ll let you know what else I can find out.

  3. Phil,

    It was common practice for students for the ministry and pastors to keep a notebook on the commonplaces of theology and collect the opinions of others as a sort of personal reference work (see William Perkins, The Art of Prophecying, p. 25). This, according to Ussher in his letter, was the original design of the book. As a personal reference work, it was not intended to be published. Some well-meaning friend, however, pirated it and published it without his knowledge. According to Ussher, much of what is written is not his own thought but the thought of Thomas Cartwright and others. Perhaps it would be best to say that this work is not authored but edited or compiled by Ussher.

    That being said, this does not diminish the value of the work. It does represent an advancement in covenant theology, and it did have a considerable influence on the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. We could certainly wish that reference notes could have been supplied so that we could ascertain where each statement in the work came from, and thus determine which opinion belonged to Ussher and which belonged to someone else, especially since there are very few extant writings of Thomas Cartwright.

    • Steven,

      Thanks for your helpful remarks. While I always knew that Ussher had incorporated the work of other Puritan theologians into ABOD, I wasn’t aware of his direct assertion that he didn”t want it published in his name. I certainly agree with you that regardless of its authorship it is an oustanding and extremely profittable book that everyone should “pick up and read.”

  4. Dr. Clark,

    I know Dr. Muller has done a lot of work debunking the “Calvin vs. Calvinism” thesis. Does that include work on the Law/Gospel dichotomy? If he has, could you point me to it?

    Thanks!
    Jeremy K. Bowser

Comments are closed.