New In Translation: Synopsis Of A Purer Theology Volume 2

The period of time around the Great Synod of Dort, the 400th anniversary of which we are celebrating in 2018–19, was an important time in the history of Reformed theology. During the Reformation, though the magisterial Protestants faced significant internal challenges, the greatest threats (e.g., Rome, hostile governments, the Libertines/Antinomians), were external. From about 1593–1619, however, the Reformed churches faced a great threat from within. A Reformed minister in Amsterdam, Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609) began subtly to undermine the gospel in a variety of ways. He downplayed the effects of the fall. He re-defined the nature of faith in salvation. He re-defined the nature of grace (and its relationship to nature). He made election conditional upon foreseen faith. He revised the biblical and Reformed doctrine of the atonement and suggested that believers could lose their salvation. In short, he undermined the Reformation recovering the gospel of salvation by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide) all the while posturing as a defender of the Reformation solas. It was very clever. It frightened the Reformed not only in the Netherlands but also in the British Isles, in France, in the Empire, and elsewhere. They were so disturbed that they called together an international Synod to address the issues he raised.

Around the time of the Synod of Dort several remarkable theologies were printed. In 1609–10, Amandus Polanus (1561–1610) published probably the greatest work of the period, Syntagma theologiae christianae. William Ames (1576–1633) published his Marrow of Theology (1634) and Johannes Wollebius (1589–1629) published his Compendium of Christian Theology in 1626.

One of the most interesting works to appear around the time of the Synod of Dort was the Synopsis of Purer Theology (1625), which records a cycle of academic disputations at the University of Leiden. It was “[c]omposed by four professors of Leiden University (Johannes Polyander, Andreas Rivetus, Antonius Walaeus, and Anthonius Thysius).” The Synopsis is generally considered by scholars to be one of the more important summaries of Reformed theology from the period. Until recently it has been unavailable to many English readers because it has been untranslated. Volume 1 appeared in 2015. Now volume 2 has appeared.

As I mentioned after the publication of volume 1, these are expensive academic volumes. They are intended for scholars and libraries. It has a limited audience and the publisher has to recover its costs by charging a premium for these volumes. If you live near a theological library (e.g., a seminary or Bible college) you might ask them to order a copy for their collection. The inter-library loan clerk at your local public library might be able to borrow a copy for you. Church libraries with serious collections (e.g., the Escondido United Reformed Church has a marvelous church library) might want to add this to their collection. Of course scholars of the period and of the history of Reformed theology will want a copy.

    Post authored by:

  • 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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  1. Do you know offhand if the Latin version of the document(s) might be available on line, unimpeded by paywalls?

  2. Hi Dr. Clark,

    Thank you for letting us know about this book.

    Would you ever consider publishing (possibly with the CRT series?) Pierre Du Moulin’s, “The Anatomy of Arminianisme”? (c.1620). I am interested in this book, but cannot find it.

  3. ” As I mentioned after the publication of volume 1, these are expensive academic
    volumes. They are intended for scholars and libraries. It has a limited audience &
    the publisher has to recover its costs by charging a premium for these volumes.”

    Hello Scott,
    I can’t for the life of me, understand the mentality of some of these publishers,
    This particular set wouldn’t be anymore complex than other theological books
    that are already on the market, with the increase of published Reformed works
    in the recent past like Turretin & Bavinck, which have seen relatively large
    print run, there would be interest among many Reformed Ministers, particularly
    those who have or serve in a Reformed Church of continental heritage, this
    would increase sales greatly over just a targeted few scholars & libraries!

    say sell 3 times the amount of books at 1/2 price, would be a 50% increase in sales!

    • Robert,

      You’re making some false assumptions. I asked several publishers about the CRT series. Only RHB was willing to do it. The demand is simply not that great. I do my work gratis to make the series possible. Paying translators is expensive. The print runs are small. The Turretin volumes relied on an existing translation and perhaps had less overhead.

      Second, the market for an English-only work is larger than for a Latin-English work.

      Third, because of his role in history and his influence upon Princeton, the market for Turretin is rather larger than for the Synopsis. Few seminaries apart from WSC even mention these works let alone have courses in which they are read and studied.

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