Reading notes on Muller’s PRRD, volume 3

I usually don’t take copious notes when I read books.  This book, though, is of importance.  Further, it is out of print (I will forgo the usual slams against Baker Academic at the moment) and I acquired it temporarily via ILL.  So anything I learn from the book has to last permanently. Hence, the notes.

 

Notes on Muller, PRRD 3

Simplicity in pre-Reformation

The scholastic understanding of “identity” assumes various levels of identity (essential and formal), so the term “identity” does not indicate radical equation in every sense posssible (40 n. 63).

The goal is “to argue a certain manner of distinction (for the sake of manifesting the three) while at the very same time denying other kinds of distinction (for the sake of confessing the one)” (41).

Normally speaking essence and existence are not identified. The essence “humanity” is not synonymous with any one human (52).

Simplicity and Predication

Many critique absolute divine simplicity as eliminating the possibility of any real predication (on our part) of the divine essence. But when medievals used this term, all they meant was that God is not composite (54-55)

Plurality in God is secundum rationem, not secundum re (55).

Development and Decline of late orthodoxy

Interestingly, the medievals viewed “space” and time,” not as things but as relations (148).

Existence and knowledge of God

The orthodox followed three ways of approach to the problem of the knowledge of God (166):

  1. via causationes (a cause can be known in some manner from its effects)
  2. via emimentiae(we attribute to God all the perfections known to creataures)
  3. via negationis (we remove from God the imperfections known to creatures)

Rules of predication

“Predication is the logical act of attribution by which a subject is united with a predicate” (197).

Disproportionality between finite and infinite.

Bradley Nassif said what?!?

The author [Richard Muller] has painstakingly provided us with the means to master the technical vocabulary of the Protestant heritage.  The dictionary is clear, concise, and carefully nuanced.  It is a trustworthy and precise reference tool that deserves wide acceptance from seminaries and libraries.  The book will accomplish its goals for its intended audience with great success.  It will also go far to promote a more responsible understanding of Protestant scholasticism among those outside the Reformed or Lutheran traditions.

Who is Bradley Nassif, you ask?  Just one of the top EO commentators today.  And yet people accuse Muller and me of making this stuff up.  Admittedly, while I appreciate Nassif’s remarks, he was a bit naive on that last sentence.

(From the back blurb of the 1995 edition)

The ambiguity with the term Calvinism

I’ve been accused of trying to weasel out of what Calvinists believed.   From my point of view, I don’t see why I am obligated to adhere to a term which Calvin himself rejected and which is anachronistic of most any Reformed thinker before the 18 century.   As to setting the context, it’s pretty obvious that people aren’t dealing with the sources.    But here goes again:

There were some misconceptions about my objections to Arakaki’s post on predestination.  I was not suggesting that we reread Reformed sources to mitigate the presence of predestination.   I argued, by contrast, that Arakaki had a surface level understanding of Reformed theology.  Some points of clarification are in order:

  1. I have no problem with his use of the Canons of Dordt.  I simply dispute that the Canons reduce to the issue of predestination, and then cover the entire Reformed faith with this reduction.

  2. I have even more problems with his reduction of Reformed theology to TULIP.

  3. This raises the larger problem of whether we can even speak of the term “Calvinist.”  It might apply to soteriologically Calvinistic Baptists, but as an appellation of a specific church body, it is illegitimate.   It is even illegitimate in regards to individual theologians.  As Richard Muller observed, “Should a theologian almost a decade older than Calvin, trained in the Universities of Padua and Bologna, who subsequently taught in Strasbourg, Oxford, and Zürich, and who, for all his general agreement with Calvin did not speak of a double decree of predestination but rather identified predestination with election, who drew more positively on medieval scholastics (notably Thomas Aquinas and Gregory of Rimini) than Calvin, who did not view himself as a follower of Calvin, and whose abilities in Hebrew extended far beyond Calvin’s be called a Calvinist? The theologian in question is Peter Martyr Vermigli, whose work was quite influential in the development of post-Reformation Reformed theology” (Muller 5-6).

  4. I’ll add my own observation:  Should Martin Bucer, a generation older than Calvin, a man whom Calvin called the greatest exegete living, who was trained a Dominican and retained his Thomistic epistemology all his life, be considered a follower of Calvin?   Phrased in this way the question and problematic is not only wrong, it is silly.
  5. In perhaps the most thorough rebuttal to the idea of TULIP = Calvinism = Reformed theology, Muller notes, “It is really quite odd and a-historical to associate a particular document written in the Netherlands in 1618-19 with the whole of Calvinism and then to reduce its meaning to TULIP. Many of you here know that the word is actually “tulp.” “Tulip” isn’t Dutch — sometimes I wonder whether Arminius was just trying to correct someone’s spelling when he was accused of omitting that “i” for irresistible grace. More seriously, there is no historical association between the acrostic TULIP and the Canons of Dort. As far as we know, both the acrostic and the associated usage of  “five points of Calvinism” are of Anglo-American origin and do not date back before  the nineteenth century (Muller 8).

In conclusion it must be restated that we affirm the propositions listed in TULIP.  We heartily reject, however, any reduction of the Reformed faith to a cute acrostic.  Where in TULIP, might I inquire, is any mention of the finitum non capax infiniti, the duplex cognito Dei, the archetypal/ectypal distinction, or even the Covenant?  I feverishly hate everything about the Federal Vision, but at least they were perceptive in this regard (if erring in the opposite direction). In some respects I retract my former post.  Not because I think it is wrong, but because in answering it I gave credence to a flawed and problematic understanding of the Reformed faith and Reformed historical sources.

For documentation Muller lists See Ken Stewart, “The Points of Calvinism: Retrospect and Prospect,” in Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology , 26/2 (2008), pp. 187-203. There are, of course, many early references to the “five points” or “five articles” in controversy between Reformed and Arminian: e.g., Peter Heylin, Historia quinqu-articularis: or, A declaration of the judgement of the Western Churches, and more particularly of the Church of England, in the five controverted points, reproched in these last times by the name of Arminianism  (London: E.C. for Thomas Johnson, 1660); and Daniel Whitby,  A Discourse concerning I. The true Import of the Words Election and Reprobation … II. The Extent of Christ’s Redemption. III. The Grace of God … IV. The Liberty of the Will … V. The Perseverance or Defectibility of the Saints . London, 1710; second edition, corrected, London: Aaron Ward, 1735), often referenced as “Whitby on the Five Points” or “Five Arminian Points”: note George Hill,  Heads of Lectures in Divinity (St. Andrews: at the University Press, 1796), p. 78. Occurrences of phrases like “five distinguishing points of Calvinism” also occur earlier, referencing the Canons of Dort without, however, specification of the points  themselves: see, e.g. Daniel Neal,  The History of the Puritans and Non-conformists … with an account  of their principles (London: for J. Buckland, et al., 1754), I, p. 502; Ferdinando Warner, The Ecclesiastical History of England, to the Eighteenth Century (London: s.n., 1756-57), II, p. 509; note also that the editor of Daniel Waterland’s sermons identified  justification by faith alone as one of the “five points of Calvinism”: see Waterland, Sermons on Several Important Subjects of Religion and Morality, preface by Joseph Clarke, 2 vols. (London: for W. Innys, 1742), p. xviii. 16.

Towards a proper use of Reformed sources (updating)

I gather folks weren’t expecting me to use Richard Muller as my base of operations.   It was even suggested that my use of him represented “novelty scholars.”   I was floored when I read that.  Muller is to the Reformed academic community what Thomas Kuhn was to the scientific elite:  he is the game changer.   It’s not to say that Muller says that everyone else was wrong.   No, he is noting two important things:

  1. After 1750 the intellectual worldview of everyone subtly shifted.   People, for better or worse, stopped using some of the older lines of approach.   This means key arguments of the scholastics were simply forgotten.
  2. In the 20th century the Barthian schools offered a new interpretation of Calvin.  Muller is simply debunking their interpretation.

None of this is to suggest that the Reformed do not believe that predestination is a big deal.  It certainly is.  We simply reject that it is the central dogma around which the rest of theology is to be deduced.

I was then told that I needed to make my argument simply based on either Calvin or the Reformed confessions.  I reply, “Says who?”  Why should I accept those parameters?  That makes as much sense as my telling him that he can only use either Athanasius or the 5th Ecumenical Council.

So, I will put my cards on the table.  Here is where I am coming from.   The first four resources are free.  Even if you don’t like Reformed theology, you will appreciate Muller’s talks.  He is an engaging and thoughtful speaker.  You can be a hard-core semi-Pelagian who thinks, “I cause my own salvation.”  Fair enough, but at least listen to Muller.

Recovering the Past

Was Calvin a Calvinist

The Practical Syllogism

Rebutting Jonathan Edwards on Free Will

As to resources, the following are necessary for any real understanding of Reformed theology that seeks to go beyond debates on the five points.

Muller, Richard.  Dictionary of Greek and Latin Theological Terms.  This is the most important theological resource I own.   Ironically, it was an Eastern Orthodox apologist who urged me to get it.

 

Rejoinder to Plucking the Tulip

Robert Arakaki has since given a fuller reply to my initial critique of his “Plucking the TULIP.”  I will try to clarify some initial points and note instances where he advanced the argument.   My initial contentions were he did not actually argue a position, since an argument includes premisses and conclusions, whereas he simply asserted x and y.  The problem with predestination is, as R. Scott Clark winsomely notes, that it is “not enough” (Clark, 2008, 343-345)

He writes,

“Double predestination is one particular doctrine taught by Calvin among others, but it cannot be denied that it was significant and integral to his theology.”

Yes, it can be denied.  Outside of the neo-Orthodox camp, few scholars would dare argue a “central theme” in Calvin (and if they did today, they would argue union with Christ, not predestination).   For what its worth, based on my reading of both the Institutes and sermons/commentaries (which in many ways are far more authoritative), the central theme would be the duplex cognito Dei.

“Further, I would assert that for many adherents of Reformed Christianity the doctrine of double predestination is central to their theology because it arises from their understanding of divine sovereignty. “

That’s true more of Calvinistic Baptists than it is of the classic Reformed.

“ But the working premise of my blog posting was that for many Reformed Christians TULIP = Calvinism.”

Now we are getting somewhere.   Change many to some and I agree 100%.

Questions I am supposed to answer

He asks, “One, is it not a fact that for many adherents to Reformed Christianity the doctrine of double predestination is an integral and indispensable doctrine?”

Answer:  I haven’t done a head count, so I really don’t know.  I hesitate  to answer this question because I don’t agree with the premise, namely that one orients a theology around a central dogma.   Yes, it is an important doctrine and I think indispensable, but I don’t make it a central focus.   Another hesitation I have is that when we speak of predestination, few take the time to work through the decrees of God and how they are distinguished, with the result that a lot of important points are not raised.

He asks, “Two, are you saying that double predestination falls into the category of adiaphora, that one can be Reformed without holding to double predestination?”

No.

He asks, “Three, if so what is the distinctive core doctrine(s) to Reformed theology?”

I reject the premise behind the question.   As J. Gresham Machen pointed out to the Fundamentalists in the 1920s, we don’t defend doctrines per se, but a system of doctrine.

Confessional Authorities

He wrote, “It should be noted that I did not assert that there was no binding confessional authority in the Reformed tradition; what I asserted was that there was no confessional authority similar to the normative stature of the Formula of Concord among Lutherans. To refute my footnote about the Lutheran Formula of Concord, all Mr. Aitken needs to do is demonstrate that there is one confessional statement binding on all Reformed churches or at least comparable in stature to the Formula of Concord”

I was very specific:  the Westminster Standards for Anglo-American Reformed and the 3 Forms of Unity for Continental Reformed.   He wants one example binding on all.    That is not necessary.  I agree with the theology and piety of the 3 Forms of Unity, they are not ecclesiastically binding on me.  I am not Dutch or German.  Further, I noted how the Westminster Standards and the SL & C were politically binding as well.  I don’t know what else to say.

He says, “I took care to supplement my quotes from the Canons of Dort with that from the Westminster Confession and other Anglo Reformed confessions”

I don’t remember his quoting the Belgic Confession or the Heidleberg Catechism.  The Canons only address a specific aspect of Reformed theology in response to a specific situation.

Mr. Aitken has unwittingly called into question the scholarship of the widely respected Yale professor of Christian history and author of the magisterial five volume: The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine.

I like Pelikan as much as the next guy, and I have read every word in all five volumes, but scholarship has come a long way in the past 20-35 years.  Further, Pelikan didn’t write from a neutral, serene transcendental base.  He had his own dogs in the fight.    Further, read volume 2 and see the acute problems Pelikan raises for Chalcedonian Christology.

He writes,

The largest Reformed body is the World Communion of Reformed Churches which represents about 80 million believers. That world body recognizes 3 confessions: the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, and the Heidelberg Confession. So there isn’t “a” single confession representing the Reformed Church, but rather three.

This is straining at gnats.  The 3 Forms of unity are considered a single piece.   And for what it is worth, the World Communion of Reformed Churches is composed of apostate bodies like the PCUSA.

He writes,

All that Mr. Aitken has to show us is a quote from Richard Muller: “We believe in liberum arbitrium, free choice, which is a more accurate rendering than “free will.” I challenge him to provide an excerpt from an official action by a Reformed body–past or present–that endorses Muller’s position on liberum arbitrium”

When the divines wrote these documents, they merely summarized the findings of at least one hundred years (and in many cases back to the medieval scholastics) of theology. Anyway, to answer his question:  the Confession’s use of the concepts of secondary causality, see particularly WCF 5.2.  The language of secondary causality is Muller’s position. This is also known by the scholastics as the doctrine of concurrence.  People who read and know the Confession know it wasn’t written in a vacuum, like any document (this is why the Federal Vision is so wrong).

Total Depravity

He writes, “But even if “defaced” means “marred,” what are we to make of the fact that the adverb “utterly” preceded “defaced”?”

Probably by what the word “radically” originally meant in Latin, radix, going to the root.  It means that sin touches every aspect of man’s being.

He writes, “If human nature was utterly marred as a result of the Fall, wouldn’t that lead us to think that it means the eradication of the divine image from human nature?”

If it were completely eradicated, then there is nothing there to mar.

He writes, “Further, Mr. Aitken makes two questionable quotations, one from the nineteenth Princeton theologian, Charles Hodge, and the other from the Lutheran Formula of Concord. While the two sources make statements that neatly and logically bolster Aitken’s position, their relevance has yet to be established.”

In other words, “I don’t have to listen to them.”

He writes, “ It seems to me that he is approaching the matter from the standpoint of ahistorical logic, whereas I am approaching the matter historically and ecclesially.”

I have yet to see an Orthodox apologist avoid the opportunity to take pot shots at logic.    It can “seem” to his understanding all he wants; that does not mean what I am saying is false.

Using the Fathers

He writes, “Two, I would note that neither did Mr. Aitken present a logical argument for preferring Augustine over Irenaeus. Since he is so concerned about logical argument it is incumbent on him to provide a logical argument for giving preference to Augustine over Irenaeus.”

I could offer a logical response, but would it do any good?  Would I not simply be told I am relying on Western logic too much?  That is what I am usually told.

He writes, “My response is that I am using the ancient theological method expressed in the Vincentian Canon which places emphasis on catholicity and apostolicity. “

The Messianic Jew “John” thoroughly challenged this a long time ago on Arakaki’s blog.  I really have nothing to add, save to restate the problem again.  How do we know the particular teaching of a Father is part of the Patrum Consensus?  You can’t say by comparing this father to other fathers, for that is assuming the thing you are trying to prove.

He challenges me accordinglY:  I issue a two-fold challenge to Mr. Aitken: (1) demonstrate the superior logic of medieval Scholasticism over the ancient patristic consensus method,”

I don’t remember saying we should use the medieval deductive model.  I simply noted that some of these models are quite helpful in clarifying terms.

He writes, “Christian theology is fundamentally evolutionary in nature.”

I never said it was, but I will ask where Palamas’ energies distinction is being taught in A.D. 80.

He gives me the following syllogism:

(1) Epistemological validity is commonly based on the finding of the majority. This is the method that forms the basis of scientific fact, democracy, and judicial opinion.

(2) Eastern Orthodoxy uses the consensus of the majority (Biblical, patristic, ecclesiastical, and lay) to inform its theology and practice.

(3) Therefore, Eastern Orthodoxy is epistemologically valid.

Premise 1 is clearly false.  For example, geocentrism was largely taught for much of human history; therefore, it is epistemologically valid.  Theologically the premise isn’t much better:  wasn’t much of the Empire Arian at one time?  Wasn’t Maximus the Confessor told that all of the other Patriarchs opposed his dyotheletism?

Premise 2 has some element of truth.  I have yet to see a good, non-circular argument on why Vincent of Lerins’ assertion (Commonitories 24.62)  that the church always taught inherited guilt is wrong but in the same book is prerequistes for the patrum consensus are right.   Regardless, without P1, P2 fails to establish epistemic validity.

As such, I reject the conclusion (C1).

Free Will

He writes, “What is striking is Mr. Aitken’s failure to quote from Calvin or the major Reformed confessions. “

I did.  See Wesminster Confession 5.2

He then gives a list of quotations from Reformed sources that deny that man can freely will salvation.  I agree.  What he is not realizing is that the Reformed (and their Romanist opponents) were both operating off a loosely Thomist-Aristotelian psychology.  The will is the faculty of choosing and it follows the intellect.   The will as such does not choose the good unto salvation because the intellect does not move towards the good unto salvation.

Conclusion

I am not trying to pick a fight with him.   I don’t always find the venue at his blog helpful for theological dialogue, but that’s mainly the way the server is set up (if the posting is too rapid by others, then it’s hard to keep track of who said what when).

He mentions his earlier response to my criticism of his use of the Vincentian Canon.  It’s been a while but has he responded to “John’s” contentions?   (see the quote at July 10, 2012.  My server has it listed at “4:08” PM) I find it hard to seriously affirm the Vincentian Canon in light of those criticisms.  I appreciate what the VC is trying to affirm, but the more specific it gets in its claims, the more problems it runs into.

Works Cited

Clark, R. Scott.  Recovering the Reformed Confession:  Our Theology, Piety, and Practice.  Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2008.

God, Creation, & Providence in Jacob Arminius

In this volume Richard Muller attempts to fill in a lacuna in the histories of Arminius and early Arminianism. Rather than focus on the debates of predestination, Muller notes that “[I]t must still be explained why Arminius’ doctrine developed along certain technical lines and with attention to such questions as the internal logic of the divine will, the character of human beings in their original created state, the relationship of the divine will, in its providential concurrence, to the acts of human beings, and the nature of the divine foreknowledge of future contingents (Muller, 10). Similar to Muller’s larger project (Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics), he attempts to set Arminius in a larger historical context, one that explores the connections between late medieval scholasticism and a burgeoning Reformed orthodoxy (or lack thereof).

Despite what many saw as his later theological errors, Arminius correctly placed his theological roots “in the presuppositional structure and foundational principles of [the Protestant scholastic] system, which is to say, in the definition of theology and in the doctrine of God, the so-called principium essendi of theological system” (Muller, 25).

The Method of Arminius’ Theology

Arminius follows the general outline of both Catholic and Protestant scholastics. He is perhaps a bit more metaphysical in his doctrine of God. Muller notes, “Arminius appears far more willing than Protestants of previous generations to draw ratinal metaphysics into the service of theology: (59). One should be careful, however, in inferring that this is or is not the cause of his theological downfall, so to speak. Arminius’s use of the scholastic method, particularly his emphasis on God as the principium essendi, stands in line with Reformed scholasticism. However, Arminius did phrase his method in such a way to deemphasize final causality, and hence to lessen a decretal theology (68).

After identifying the being of God as the ground of theology, Arminius makes the relationship between God and the world the “fundamental datum…rather than, as in the case of his Reformed contemporaries, a secondary issue predicated on the doctrine of God” (75). Perhaps this does condition Arminius’ later theology; Muller notes, “the conditions established by God in the act of creation become determinative of all subsequent discussions concerning God and the world.” Arminius has made the world a “subordinate principium essendi.” (Cf. pp. 100-101; 171 ff.). As Muller notes elsewhere,

“Whereas the theology of Arminius’ Reformed contemporaries tended to place the work of grace prior to the work of creation and, therefore, to understand creation increasingly as a means to God’s higher salvific end, , Arminius’s theology tends to conjoin nature and grace, to understand creation as manifesting the ultimate goodness of God, and therefore, to conceive of the divine act of creation as standing prior to all other divine acts ad extra and as establishing both the context and limitations within which those acts must occur” (233).

The Existence and Nature of God

On the surface level Arminius begins with the standard scholastic prolegomena, archetypal and ectypal theology, but as he expands it when begin to see his departure from Reformed theology. Arminus notes that existence (esse) and life (vita) must be the two fundamental categories for the essence of God (114). Arminius’s key point is in identifying these two terms as the “two moments” of God. His language is a bit confusing, for he isn’t using the word “moments” in the conventional use of the term. What does he mean by this? A sympathetic reading could simply gloss these terms as the traditional terms actus purus and actus secondus. It appears for Arminius that “there is no first moment of being in God without the second moment, life” (116).

As it stands this is not all that striking. He is not saying anything different from other scholastic theologians, whether Protestant or Romanist. The problem arises when Arminius applies this distinction to God’s will. As Muller notes, “If God is utterly simple, then the fact of God having a will and the divine willing must be identical” (117). Arminius’s distinction of “two moments” will posit a gap between what God intends to will and what he actually wills.

The Divine Knowledge and Will

Arminius does make a unique move concerning God’s knowledge: he refers knowing entirely to the intellect and misses an established Reformed point on the knowledge of God: God’s sapientia (144). Given that sapientia is a knowledge of purposes and goals, and that Arminus omits it, one must wonder if this will play out in his understanding of divine foreknowledge. Arminius further departs from Aquinas by taking the Boethian model that God knows future things because they are future (Muller1991, 152-153; contrast with Aquinas, Summa, Ia, q. 14, art. 8, ad obj. 1). As Muller notes, “[T]his provides a less than total conjunction between the divine will and the divine intellect” (153).

This novelty leads directly into Arminius’s use of the scientia media. After a lengthy discussion of how Aquinas and those following him dealt with “middle knowledge” (e.g., the idea that this knowledge of contingencies stands prior to any free act of God’s will), this means that for Arminius “God will, therefore, be able to ordain the means of salvation on the basis of a hypothetical or consequent knowledge of the creature’s free choice in a context of grace” (161).

The Object of God’s will 

Arminius posited the divine goodness as the object of the divine will; this means that God could not have permitted evil, only permitting the free function of the created human will to evil. This raises one problem that Arminius easily solved: if the divine will is the simple essence, how can we speak of a multitude of objects? Arminius does so by noting that God wills the plenitude of his divine goodness. This raises another problem which he doesn’t solve as well, notes Muller: how do we then speak of “experience[s] of freedom, contingency, and, indeed, of evil running counter to the will of God, in the finite order” (175)?

Arminius makes another subtle move. Muller gives a brief but succinct summary of the ways in which Arminius discussed God’s will. At first glance it is no different from the typical Reformed and medieval scholastic discussions, except for one point. Muller notes, “Arminius emphasizes the way in which the divine opus alienum is a response to the willing of contingent beings—over against the opus proprium as an absolute will of God” (185). In short, and in contradistinction to his Reformed contemporaries, Arminius places God’s will (both antecedent and consequent) as standing in relation to and as a response to the creature’s willing (187). Interestingly, Arminius switches terms. Scholastics had tradtionally spoken of God’s will as voluntas, the facutly that exercises volition, which for God is always perfect and complete. Arminius changed it to velleitas, an inchoate and imperfect will, because incomplete (188).

Creation 

This section is admittedly difficult. Muller gives a fine overview of the scholastic glosses on creatio ex nihilo, noting that the phrase ex nihilo does not mean “deriving its origin from the principle of nothing-ness,” but rather “an indication of the ontological and temporal limit and order of the creative process: first there was nothing and, then, after the creative act, there was something (216). The following, however, is not clear as to what Arminius and his contemporaries were aiming at, but given Arminius’s earlier contention of a connection between God and the world, seeing both in a reacting towards the other (75, 100-101; 171), it appears that one can reconstruct Arminius’s view. It seems that the concept of the nihil, rather than functioning as a “limit,” now functions as a material substratum, a realm of possible being existing independently of the realm of actual being (219).

Conclusion:

Muller effectively rebuts the common charge that Arminius rejected the scholastic method of his Reformed colleagues and chose rather a purer biblicism that rejected supralapsarian predestination. Arminius followed the method of numerous divines and gave careful attention to complex theological problems (26). In light of current intra-Reformed controversies today over the nature of election and the covenant—and this is my point, not necessarily Muller’s—we can see those who argue for a fresher, more biblical theology in contrast to stodgy Protestant Scholasticism, not only come to the same conclusions as later Arminianism, but they lack all of Arminius’ own theological strengths; they get all of his errors and none of this benefits.

Arminius can be seen as a theologian who took some elements of Thomism and modifed them for his own use. As it stands that is not too remarkable. Most every early Reformed orthodox thinker did that. It is the specific modifications Arminius made that set him apart: the use of scientia media and creation as a temporal limit upon God’s power.

A simple definition of the Federal Vision

I just received Richard A. Muller’s God, Creation, and Providence in the Thought of Jacob Arminius today.   I read several of Muller’s articles on Arminius earlier this spring and I couldn’t help noticing parallels between Arminius and the Federal Vision.  I’ve just realized what the Federal Vision is in a nutshell:   It is Arminianism minus all of the former’s strengths in scholastic theology.  This brings to mind Barth’s famous (and true, if not always lived out) dictum, “The fear of scholasticism is the mark of a false prophet.”   When you read the Federal Vision and Biblical Horizon guys, you will get the impression (if usually not stated so openly) that they are not chained by old Reformed categories and just do the bible (I actually remember hearing James B. Jordan preach a sermon to that effect at Auburn Avenue.  Don’t ask me what I was doing there). 

In other words, on their gloss scholasticism is a bad thing.   It is simply another version of the neo-Orthodox Calvin vs. the Calvinists narrative.  One finds this particularly among post-van tillians (though Van Til was too smart to say this.  He had read the earlier Berkhof on these points).