An Open Blog Post to Richard Muller on Behalf of all the Bloggers and Self Publishers Out There

If you Google Richard + Muller + theology my blog, and the category dedicated to Richard Muller pops up in third spot—just under the entries from Wikipedia and Theopedia on Richard Muller. I’ve been engaging with Muller’s work, very critically, for years and years; probably my whole time as a blogger, when I started in 2005. My enamor with Muller all started in seminary (back in 2001 – 2002); it was because of my historical theology professor, Dr. Ron Frost (he later would become a mentor of mine as well). Frost had had an exchange with Richard Muller in the Trinity Journal, I believe it was in 1997, it revolved around Frost’s argument that the Protestant Reformation, initiated by Martin Luther, was still-birthed because, as Frost argued, the Post Reformed orthodox went straight back to the Aristotelian/Thomist theology that motivated Luther to protest to begin with (see his Disputation Against Scholastic Theology). Frost was critical of Muller in his essay, and so Muller provided a rejoinder, which the Journal published. Muller essentially ignored the basic thesis and argument that Frost presented, but it was this engagement that got Muller on my radar; and he hasn’t been off since.

So I just started reading Richard Muller’s most recent publication (it just came out this year, 2017): Divine Will and Human Contingency: Freedom, Contingency, and Necessity in Early Modern Reformed Thought. It’s interesting, because in the preface of his book, while he’s finishing up his introduction to what the book will entail, and what brought it to fruition in the first place, he makes mention of “bloggers and self publishers.” After Googling Muller, and realizing that my blog is THE highest profile hit when it comes to Muller, and realizing that I’ve been critical of him for years and years, I couldn’t help indulging myself with the idea that he might just be referring to me (and others of course). Here’s what he wrote:

As a final note, although scholarly discussion has moved beyond the initial encounter between Vos and Helm, I register my surprise at the absence of a broader debate among scholars over the issues raised by Reformed Thought on Freedom, at the same time that the book and its arguments for use of the language of synchronic contingency among the early modern Reformed have created some stir in the typically uninformed and jejune world of internet bloggers and self-publishers. There is, after all, a significant body of scholarship on synchronic contingency and related subjects among medieval theologians and philosophers—and it is surprising that the careful and detailed work of Vos and his associates to show the connections between early modern Reformed thought and its medieval backgrounds has not resulted in the development of a body of literature on the early modern situation approaching the density of the medieval scholarship.

In my preparatory research for what follows I have used several online databases and what I would describe as legitimate, academically credible resources. Rather than heap confusion on confusion and appear to be granting an undeserved credibility to their arguments and assertions, I have not cited the bloggers and self-publishers—although, given these comments, they may conclude that I am aware of their existence.[1]

Now, he may well have others in mind; I don’t recall ever getting into the issue of synchronic contingency relative to Muller’s writings. Although I have hit upon related themes in the past, with reference to Muller; so maybe. But it’s also his reference to the “self-publishers,” I couldn’t help but think he might be referring to our two Evangelical Calvinism books published by Pickwick Publishers an imprint of Wipf&Stock Publishers. It’s not the case that publishing with Pickwick is self-publishing, they have many reputable lines, and many academic titles etc. But I have heard some make the claim, not just Muller, that publishing with Wipf&Stock is akin to self-publishing, which is absurd!

Anyway, Richard Muller, if you happen to read this I just wanted you to know that in our newest publication Evangelical Calvinism: Volume 2: Dogmatics&Devotion in the Introduction to the book, which I co-wrote with Myk Habets, my contribution to that chapter includes some critique of you. I use you and your constant adulation of scholasticism Reformed theology, and flip it on its head by alerting folks to what we are doing in EC as actually being more scholastic and consistent with (the historic) scholastic aims and methods than your own project has been. You might want to give it a read. It is not that long, but it makes the point with precision—I don’t have volumes and volumes of space to wax eloquent so I have to use an economy of language.

[1] Richard A. Muller,  Divine Will and Human Contingency: Freedom, Contingency, and Necessity in Early Modern Reformed Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017), preface. [emboldening is mine]

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