A Review of Petrus van Maastricht’s Theoretical-Practical Theology (vol. 1)

Petrus van Mastricht, Prolegomena, ed. Joel R. Beeke, trans. Todd M. Rester, vol. 1, Theoretical-Practical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018.

Recent (that is, pre-1992 A.D.) Reformed theology can be sadly described as a generation arising “which knew not the Reformed Orthodox.” To paraphrase Galadriel in The Fellowship of the Ring: Some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. Petrus van Mastricht’s theological method was one of those “things.” To be sure, he was not completely forgotten.  Some readers know that Jonathan Edwards spoke highly of him.  Be that as it may, his method, and more importantly, his conversation partners, has been lost.

Petrus van Mastricht (1630-1706) was a pastor and professor in the Netherlands in the last moments of “Reformed High Orthodox” (cf. Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics). This volume represents another fine release from Reformation Heritage Books.

Mastricht defines theology, ala Ames, as the art of living rightly to God. As God is not a God of confusion, but order, theology must have a proper method. His theology is not purely exegetical nor polemical nor simply devotional. Rather, it is theoretical-practical.  It is use of “method” that combines diligent thinking about God with ordered living for God.  Indeed, without order one can only live haphazardly for God, if at all. By contrast, the Reformed theologian will exhort “the will, so that what the intellect perceives is carried over into practice, for it is the chief end of theology and its highest apex” (Mastricht 65). As the translator notes, this is a modified Scotist view. The will follows the intellect in choosing among the range of goods. On the other hand, the will is actually moving the person, rather than simply accepting what the intellect offers.

Mastricht is most keen to present theology in a certain order, following the apostolic “pattern of sound words.” This is more than a mere defense of the discipline of systematic theology.  A method, or pattern, aids the memory, strengthens virtue, and equips the preacher. This method takes note of the covenant, as covenants are always rightly ordered (2 Samuel 23:5). In fact, that the whole biblical text, without doubt, is a “covenant ordered in every respect” (van Mastricht 67).
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J. B. Aitken | “Theoretical-Practical Theology vol 1 (Mastricht)” | October 26, 2023


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