A Bibliographical Reflection on a recent debate

I keep coming back to the recent debate between OrthoBridge and myself.  I was puzzled by the admin’s insistence that I prove my case using only Calvin and Confessional documents (though he was fuzzy on the identity of the latter).  For what it was worth, I actually felt I was able to do that but I can’t seem to dodge people’s fascination with Calvin.  He’s a great theologian, sure, and I am generally in agreement with him, but he never intended his work as the “be-all” of dogmatics.  His work, by his own admission, was simply an outline to help young minister’s navigate the Bible.   Interestingly enough, few of the post-Reformation theologians felt any obligation to do their work around Calvin (and references to “Calvin said…” are increasingly rare as the generations go on).  For example, as Coffey notes, Samuel Rutherford never called himself a Calvinist (Coffey, p. 75 n 57).  This was likely universal among Reformed theologians.

So why the fascination with Calvin? I can surmise several guesses:  1) Calvin’s actually easy reading.   While the Institutes are long, with a few exceptions most sections within it are not.   One can easily read a section or two a day.  2)  In the 19th Century the Calvin Translation Society fastlaned the mass-production of Calvin’s works into English.  That’s obviously a good thing, but one of the negative consequences is that few people felt they had to read anything besides Calvin.  3) Turretin wasn’t translated in English (at least for the general public) until the early 1990s.

What sources should the Farrellians at OrthodBridge have used?

For starters, Charles Hodge.  I quoted Hodge in rebuttal to the admin (and the quote completely refuted his view of what Protestants think original sin was) and he said it was, “irrelevant.”  Let’s put Hodge into historical context:  in his 57 years as professor at Princeton Seminary, he trained up towards 10,000 ministers in the United States!  By the very nature of the case, Hodge is easily one of the most representative voices of Reformed theology.   I can only attribute the lack of use of Hodge to plain ignorance (more on that later).  And it is not that Hodge is too expensive:  CBD has him on sale for $30.

If not Hodge, then Dabney.  One can access all of Dabney’s works for free here.

What about Warfield?  I am iffy on Warfield.  His scholarship is impressive, but it is not systematic and organized enough to be helpful.

How about Thornwell?  Thornwell can be tough to read at points, and his works are not always accessible (which is inexcusable on the part of publishers), but he is one of the patriarchs of Southern Presbyterian theology and any quotes by him would be representative.