The Real Reason for Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation: And How that Confronts and Contradicts what is Known as Reformed Orthodoxy Today

I was first introduced to Martin Luther’s theology, for real, in my 2002 Reformation theology class, during seminary, under the tutelage of Dr. Ron Frost (who I would later serve as a TA for, and be mentored by). Ron had written an essay for the Trinity Journal back in 1997, which caused an exchange—by way of rejoinder—by Richard Muller; who wanted to dispute Frost’s arguments (which I think he failed, because he didn’t really address Ron’s basic thesis and thus subsequent argument). So I wanted to share, with you all, just the first few opening paragraph’s of Ron’s essay in order to give you a feel for what he argued.

Given the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation that is upon us, I thought it would be more than apropos to get into this through Frost’s essay. It throws how we think of the reason for the Protestant Reformation into some relief; relief in the sense that for Luther the indulgences weren’t the real driving force for him; what really motivated him had to do with Aristotle’s categories infiltrating Christian theology—primarily through Thomas Aquinas’s synthesis. What Frost convincingly demonstrates in his essay is that Luther’s primary concern had to do with a theological-anthropological locus; i.e. that humanity’s relation to God was set up under conditions that were philosophical and intellectualist rather than biblical and affectionist.

Here is a lengthy quote from Ron’s essay; I will follow it up with a few closing thoughts.

Aristotle’s Ethics: The Real Reason for Luther’s Reformation?

What was it that stirred Martin Luther to take up a reformer’s mantle? Was it John Tetzel’s fund-raising through the sale of indulgences? The posting of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses against the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences in October, 1517, did, indeed, stir the public at large. But Luther’s main complaint was located elsewhere. He offered his real concern in a response to the Diatribe Concerning Free Will by Desiderius Erasmus:

I give you [Erasmus] hearty praise and commendation on this further account-that you alone, in contrast with all others, have attacked the real thing, that is, the essential issue. You have not wearied me with those extraneous [alienis] issues about the Papacy, purgatory, indulgences and such like-trifles rather than issues-in respect of which almost all to date have sought my blood (though without success); you and you alone, have seen the hinge on which all turns, and aimed for the vital spot.1

The concern of this article, then, is to go behind the popular perceptions-the “trifles”-of Luther’s early activism in order to identify and examine this “hinge on which all turns.”

What was this vital spot? Luther was reacting to the assimilation of Aristotle’s ethics within the various permutations of scholastic theology that prevailed in his day. Indeed, Luther’s arguments against Aristotle’s presence in Christian theology are to be found in most of his early works, a matter that calls for careful attention in light of recent scholarship that either overlooks or dismisses Luther’s most explicit concerns.

In particular, historical theologian Richard A. Muller has been the most vigorous proponent in a movement among some Reformation-era scholars that affirms the works of seventeenth century Protestant scholasticism-or Protestant Orthodoxy-as the first satisfactory culmination, if not the epitome, of the Reformation as a whole. Muller assumes that the best modern Protestant theology has been shaped by Aristotelian methods and rigor that supported the emerging structure and coherence of Protestant systematic theology. He argues, for instance, that any proper understanding of the Reformation must be made within the framework of a synthesis of Christian theology and Aristotle’s methods:

It is not only an error to attempt to characterize Protestant orthodoxy by means of a comparison with one or another of the Reformers…. It is also an error to discuss [it] without being continually aware of the broad movement of ideas from the late Middle Ages…. the Reformation … is the briefer phenomenon, enclosed as it were by the five-hundred-year history of scholasticism and Christian Aristotelianism.2

The implications of Muller’s affirmations may be easily missed. In order to alert readers to the intended significance of the present article at least two points should be made. First, Muller seems to shift the touchstone status for measuring orthodox theology from Augustine to Thomas Aquinas. That is, he makes the Thomistic assimilation of Aristotle-which set up the theological environment of the late middle ages-the staging point for all that follows in orthodox doctrine. It thus promotes a continuity between Aquinas and Reformed theology within certain critical limits3-and this despite the fact that virtually all of the major figures of the early Reformation, and Luther most of all, looked back to Augustine as the most trustworthy interpreter of biblical theology after the apostolic era. Thus citations of Augustine were a constant refrain by Luther and John Calvin, among many others, as evidence of a purer theology than that which emerged from Aquinas and other medieval figures. Second, once a commitment to “Christian Aristotelianism” is affirmed, the use of “one or another of the Reformers” as resources “to characterize Protestant orthodoxy” sets up a paradigm by which key figures, such as Luther, can be marginalized because of their resistance to doctrinal themes that emerge only through the influence of Aristotle in Christian thought.

An alternative paradigm, advocated here, is that Luther’s greatest concern in his early reforming work was to rid the church of central Aristotelian assumptions that were transmitted through Thomistic theology. To the degree that Luther failed-measured by the modern appreciation for these Thomistic solutions in some Protestant circles-a primary thrust of the Reformation was stillborn. The continued use of Aristotle’s works by Protestant universities during and after the Reformation promoted such a miscarriage. Despite claims to the contrary by modern proponents of an Aristotelian Christianity, Aristotle’s works offered much more than a benign academic methodology; instead, as we will see below, his crucial definitions in ethics and anthropology shaped the thinking of young theological students in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries who read the Bible and theology through the optic of his definitions. Luther recognized that Aristotle’s influence entered Christian thought through the philosopher’s pervasive presence in the curricula of all European universities. In his scathing treatise of 1520, To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Luther-who for his first year at Wittenberg (1508-9) lectured on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics four times a week-chided educators for creating an environment “where little is taught of the Holy Scriptures and Christian faith, and where only the blind, heathen teacher Aristotle rules far more than Christ.” His solution was straightforward:

In this regard my advice would be that Aristotle’s Physics, Metaphysics, Concerning the Soil, and Ethics which hitherto have been thought to be his best books, should be completely discarded along with all the rest of his books that boast about nature, although nothing can be learned from them either about nature or the Spirit.

This study will note, especially, three of Luther’s works, along with Philip Melanchthon’s Loci Communes Theologici. The first is Luther’s Disputation Against Scholastic Theology, presented in the Fall of 1517, at least a month before he wrote his more famous Ninety-Five Theses. Second is his Heidelberg Disputation, which took place April 26,1518. The third is his Bondage of the Will-which we cited above written in 1525 as a response to Erasmus. Melanchthon’s Loci was published in 1521 as Luther was facing the Diet of Worms.4 A comparative review of Augustine’s responses to Pelagianism will also be offered.[1]

It is interesting that we rarely if ever hear about Luther’s Disputation Against Scholastic Theology; Luther posted 97 theses a month prior to his famous 95 that kicked off, at a populace level, what we know of as the Protestant Reformation of today. But because the “indulgence theses” are elevated to a level wherein we associate the Protestant Reformation with that, we miss the real reason Luther was so invigorated to Protest in the first place; and insofar that we miss his motivation we, as Frost notes, may well be living in the wake of a ‘still-born’ Reformation; a Reformation that has very little to do with Luther’s real concern in regard to the impact that Aristotelianism has had upon Christian theology.

Furthermore, as we can see, as Frost is going to argue (and does), because of folks like Richard Muller who have championed the idea that what happened in the Post Reformation Reformed orthodox period of the 16th and 17th centuries, wherein an Aristotelian Christianity developed, the theology that Reformed and evangelical theologians are largely retrieving today—for the 21st century—lives out of the hull of a theological development that if Luther were alive today would cause him to start Protesting once again. This is ironic indeed!

And so maybe you, the reader, might gain greater insight into what has been motivating me all these years. I am really a Luther[an] in spirit; along with Frost et al. I am desirous to live out Protestant Reformation theology that is in line with Luther’s original intent; i.e. to genuinely get back to the Bible, and to think and do theology from God’s Self-revelation in Christ in a kataphatic key (or the via positiva ‘positive way’). When I came across Thomas Torrance’s (and Karl Barth’s) theology the original attraction and hook for me was that he was operating under the same type of Luther[an] spirit; in regard to recovering the original intent of the Protestant Reformation. To be clear, Ron Frost’s work has no dependence whatsoever on Torrance (or Barth), his work is purely from a historical theological vantage point; indeed, Frost is Augustinian, whereas Torrance et al. is largely Athanasian. So while there is convergence in regard to the critique of Aristotelianism and its impact on the development of Reformed theology, the way that critique is made, materially, starts to diverge at some key theological vantage points. Frost finds reference to Luther, Calvin, Augustine, and to the Puritan Richard Sibbes as the best way to offer critique of the Reformed orthodox theology that developed in the 16th and 17th centuries. Torrance et al. look back more closely attuned to Athanasius, Cyril, Calvin, Jonathan McLeod Campbell, and Karl Barth.

For me, as I engage with all of this, you might see how I have viewed both streams of critique (the Frostian and Torrancean, respectively) as representing a kind of full frontal assault on something like Muller’s positive thesis in regard to the value he sees in Aristotelian Christianity. It’s like opening all canons, both from an Augustinian and Athanasian, a Latin and Greek movement against an Aristotelian Christianity that has taken root; and contra what is now considered ‘orthodox’ theology when it comes to what counts as the Reformed faith.

Evangelical Calvinism, on my end, involves all of these threads; it is not just a Torrancean or “Barthian” critique. And the relevance of it all is that it alerts people to the reality that: 1) The Reformed faith is more complex than it is represented to be; 2) the Reformed faith is much more catholic in its orientation; 3) popular developments like The Gospel Coalition and Desiring God (i.e. John Piper), and the theology they present, is given proper context and orientation—i.e. there is historical and material resource provided for in regard to offering challenges and critique to what they are claiming to be Gospel truth; and 4) the theology that we find in something like the Westminster Confession of Faith, insofar as it reflects the Aristotelian Christianity that Richard Muller lauds, is confronted with the sobering truth that Martin Luther himself would be at stringent odds with what they have explicated for the Reformed faith in general.

I hope you have found this interesting.

 

[1] Ron Frost, “Aristotle’s Ethics: The Real Reason for Luther’s Reformation?,” Trinity Journal 18:2 (Fall 1997): 223-24.

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This entry was posted in Classical Theism, Critiquing Classic Calvinism, Evangelical Calvinism, Martin Luther, Reformation, Reformed Theology, Ron Frost, T. F. Torrance. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Real Reason for Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation: And How that Confronts and Contradicts what is Known as Reformed Orthodoxy Today

  1. Pingback: The Real Reason for Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation: And How that Confronts and Contradicts what is Known as Reformed Orthodoxy Today — The Evangelical Calvinist | Talmidimblogging

  2. Dave K says:

    I’m not sure I agree. While Luther was clearly not a fan of Aristotle, I think it is doubtful whether a rejection of Aristotle was the motivating force behind his theology.

    Philosophical is not necessarily opposed to Biblical, anymore than the intellect is opposed to the emotions. Even this blog post is quite philosophical and very intellectual!

    The real reason for Martin Luther’s reformation was assurance. His problem was not in the first place method of thinking and writing (what a dry thing to argue about!). On my reading, when Luther attacks Aristotle it is usually for the outcomes of his philosophical thinking, not for him thinking philosophically.

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  3. Bobby Grow says:

    Dave K,

    Are you sure you’re sure of what you’re not disagreeing with though? It doesn’t seem so. It’s too presumptuous for you to make the claim you do without at least reading the whole of Frost’s argument; have you?

    I never said philosophical, per se, is opposed to biblical; in fact I’ve written loads on that through various posts at the blog and elsewhere. Are you familiar with how the faculties function within the medieval deployment of a tripartitie faculty psychology? It doesn’t seem you are, based upon your comment. It has less to do with being “intellectual” and more to do with what counts as constitutive for what it means to be human within and under those faculty pressures.

    Your last comment is quite triumphalistic; especially lacking any substantive argument (in other words it’s just an assertion). I really haven’t a clue what you mean about “thinking” and “writing,” that makes me think you’re not tracking with what’s going on here or what’s at stake. No, you’re not tracking, in fact. It’s not the philosophical aspect, as if that’s a purely considered from within naked or abstract parameters; instead it has to do with an unevangelized metaphysic; a metaphysic that is construed prior to revelation rather than after it (and this is where Barth’s critique is STILL so important!).

    I thank you for the comment, but I don’t think you’re actually engaging with what’s actually being communicated here. And Frost offers critical research to make his argument, it isn’t just a fluff attempt at identifying a novel consideration of what in fact was motivating him to Protest. The issue is to do with theological anthropology and its impact on a variety of things (i.e. soteriology, ecclesiology, theory of authority, etc.).

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  4. Bobby Grow says:

    And one more point, in general: it’s a thesis; it’s Ron’s thesis which he argues intelligently for. Everyone can disagree with the thesis, and the argument, but you all at least need to read it in fully prior to simply glossing over or disagreeing with it. To me, if that’s how you want to approach this, I’m not going to take you seriously. It’s a thesis that I think is substantial and credible, particularly in the way that Frost (et al McGrath) makes the argument. He is a PhDd historical theologian who has gone through the proper peer channels in order to get his work vetted etc. Let’s remember that everything communicated in this metabox is indeed in a blog metabox.

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  5. Don says:

    This discussion brings to mind TFT’s article “The Roman doctrine of Grace from the Point of view of Reformed Theology.” in THEOLOGY IN RECONSTRUCTION (SCM,1965) pp.169 -191.

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  6. Bobby Grow says:

    That’s a good one, Don!!

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  7. It is an interesting concept, but I think that the Reformation was bound to happen with or without Luther and was already developing along several vectors going back into the Scholastic tradition. I think that some of these directional swings toward the Reformation were philosophical and theological, and others were cultural, and some might seem somewhat auxiliary (the cultural, technological, and political changes in late Medieval society) but probably had as much influence in the Reformation gaining traction as the philosophical and theological ones brought to the surface with Luther and other first generation Reformers. I think it is also important to remember that the Reformers and the post-Reformation scholastics were trying to establish their catholic bona fides over and against the universal claims of Rome and they employed Aristotelian logic to do so. If you don’t mind me putting it crudely, the Reformation and counter-Reformation were, in many respects, and Aristotelian arms race. I suppose we can look back at some figures, such as Luther, and see that not everyone wanted to enjoin the Aristotelian wars, but it is not as if there were a plethora of rhetorical tools at the disposal of late medieval and early modern theologians – you could employ Platonism, Aristotelianism, or nominalism. So, I am a little less inclined to fault them on the flaws of their project, and it would have been incredibly hard to see a figure like Luther stem that tide given his occasionalism and variability on several key matters in his own theology. And when it comes to modern theology in the wake of Kantian idealism, give me Aristotle all day long – Kant almost totally eliminated our ability to think about God in any meaningful sense and has done, in my opinion, more damage to Christian theology than any philosopher before or after The Critique of Pure Reason.

    This is why I push back is on the question of whether or not Aristotelian categories and metaphysics need to be wholly discarded as a counterpart to theology. I think that it is more than fair to point out that Aristotelianism has limitations, as do Newtonian physics or Euclidean geometry. But, one of the important strengths that Aristotle brought us was understanding that truth corresponds to reality – maybe the elaborate system that has been developed during the medieval and early modern periods is something we don’t want to replicate. But, I am not so sure I am willing to discard the value of their insights simply because they took some matters too far. It’s not as if apophatic theology was an Aristotelian aberration, it was a dominant feature of many of the Greek fathers who were more Platonic in their outlook. I don’t think I could abandon the via negativa when it gives a fuller understanding of Divine eternality, infinitude, or impassibility (all of which have a place, even if they can be overemphasized). I would prefer to employ an approach that strikes a balance between apophatic and kataphatic theology.

    As we seek to confess Christian orthodoxy in our time, I think it might be best to look at theology as a tentative mode of inquiry that is in many respects a versimilitude of the Truth as revealed in Christ and in Scripture, which can always be reformed and revised when a better articulation of the truth is achieved. As I am reading through Torrance, I am seeing this line of thinking clearly shine through, which I wholeheartedly endorse. I am also greatly encouraged by how well he incorporates the Patristics. But, I am hesitant to discard the value of the great medieval theologians on the same grounds that I am hesitant to reject the Fathers – it’s not as if antiquity should guarantee pride of place, and the Fathers were not without their excesses (I could point out Augustine’s penal views on hell, for example which have gone almost unquestioned in the West for the last 1500 years). Of all of the advances in our understanding of reality, 20th century innovations in physics (relativity and quantum theory) might be most useful in theological formulae. As much as we might need our forebearers as we are more fully united in the truth, they also need us, because we are all part of the same Body being summed up and completed in Christ, and that project is an ongoing one. Maybe this is why theological ossification is so dangerous – it keeps us from growing in our understanding of truth (and this is something I am really appreciating as I read through your material as well as what you recommend0>

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  8. Bobby Grow says:

    Jedidiah,

    Thanks for the developed comment. I’m going to be briefer in my response than your comment was, but that’s only cause I don’t have much time at the moment. I do agree that the conceptual pool was limited—just as it is now—by what was indeed available at that time in the period. And yes, Aristotelianism, Scotism, proto-nominalism, nominalism, platonism the via antiqua the via moderna etc. were all at play during that time. So I don’t think the critique is against that, as if there was some sort of incipient Enlightenment metaphysic or post-metaphysic available. With reference to Frost, his critique has to do, as noted, with the impact that Aristotle’s ethics had on the development of a theological anthropology; so as a locus I suppose we could see this a material reality that had formal consequences (in regard to the shape that theology was done). What Frost is identifying is that even in the mix available there was a genuinely Augustinian theology of affections available; something we can find in Bernard of Clairvaux, Bonaventura, Jean Gerson, Johann von Staupitz et al (Luther). The idea of Marriage of Mysticism that we see so prevalent within Luther’s Works and writings. So Frost is identifying a competing anthropology as reflective of a competing theological method and approach toward God that was present in and alongside of the more intellectualist stylized theology we find in the Thomist synthesis or even in Lombard’s Sentences. This is what is still being missed in much of the reconstruction and ressourcement of this history—Frost would argue—and one that informed Luther’s own motivation for protestation even as he worked from a more via moderna approach himself. In my view, this still gets behind and under what you’re arguing for in regard to the reality of Aristotelianism. I think there is a more relational approach to God even present throughout the development of all phases of medieval theology and into the magisterial Reformation; one that has a deeply seeded Augustinian affectional anthropology undergirding it. This is Frost’s positive alternative that he offers alongside his critique of the impact of Aristotelian impact; and what he sees as present in Luther’s own theology. And if so, it is still at odds with what ended up developing in the post reformation reformed orthodox period of the 16th and 17th centuries; writ large. Even so, Frost also demonstrates, I believe, based upon his PhD work on Richard Sibbes and William Perkins that even during the 16th and 17th centuries this affective theology mood persisted (and Sibbes picks up on that and develops that in his own theology—i.e. marriage mysticism etc).

    The basic point is this: even though there was indeed a finite range of possibilities in regard to how the theologians of these periods, respectively could develop their theological projects, it was still possible to develop theology (even under such conditions) that repudiated the type of substance metaphysics that elevated intellectualist accounts of what defines what it means to be both human and by analogy, God; and instead to develop theology that focused on God’s Triune personal love revealed ever so winsomely in and through Jesus Christ. Janice Knight, as she writes on the Puritan period makes the distinction between The Spiritual Brethren versus The Intellectual Fathers. In other words, personally, and along with Frost et al, I don’t think its necessary or wise to follow certain historians, like Perry Miller, who tell us that the history and development of such things is monolithic; it’s possible to critically identify differing strands in the development, and attempt to develop that by way of resource that presents a theological understanding that is more proximate to the reality of the Gospel rather than others.

    I went longer than I thought I would.

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  9. Thanks for your thoughts Bobby, we all have life outside internet conversations (or should at least), so even in brief I think your points are well said. I have no expectations that you need to develop an in-depth response, I simply appreciate the thought-provoking quality of your posts, as it is a launching pad for me to think into these issues.

    The basic point is this: even though there was indeed a finite range of possibilities in regard to how the theologians of these periods, respectively could develop their theological projects, it was still possible to develop theology (even under such conditions) that repudiated the type of substance metaphysics that elevated intellectualist accounts of what defines what it means to be both human and by analogy, God; and instead to develop theology that focused on God’s Triune personal love revealed ever so winsomely in and through Jesus Christ.

    I think you hit a really important vein here. I do think that Luther and Calvin among other early Reformers were trying to develop their theological formulae along Augustinian lines, even if they have distinct emphases. Inasmuch as the early Reformation was trying to be self-consciously Augustinian, I think that your main point that the Aristotelian emphases of Scholasticism took the early Reformers theology and codified it into ways that I am not entirely sure that the Reformers themselves would have entirely endorsed. J. Wayne Baker’s argument for a two-fold Reformed tradition has been, as I see it, too easily dismissed by the likes of Muller and his sympathizers. I do see some marked differences between Calvin and Bullinger, and I think that in Bullinger there was a far greater chance at Lutheran-Reformed rapprochement that was lost after Dordt when the double predestination of Calvin was both strengthened and elevated in ways that are absent in Bullinger, especially in the 2nd Helvetic. I also think that one of the great tragedies of the Reformation was that it was fought so strictly along the concerns of Western Christianity that there were significant opportunities lost in conversing more fully with Eastern Orthodoxy.

    Even in my limited contact with Torrance, which drives me further into his work, I think that his interactions with the East, Athanasius in particular has opened up wonderful opportunities to reform what it means to be Reformed wile still being self-consciously Protestant. Even from my early interactions of what your project in Evangelical Calvinism, I see tremendous ecumenical potential in rapprochement with the East, and Torrance has gone a long way to lay the foundation for this (I loved Dragas lecture on this in the Torrance Society lecture he gave a few years back, as well as some of the articles in the 2013 edition of Participatio). My own intuitive sympathies tends to eschew any hard-line commitment to any philosophical school that is used as a sole rubric in dogmatics. I cut my eye teeth theologically speaking studying the great biblical theologians such as Eichrodt, Von Rad, Klein, and Waltke, so I do think that the diachronic approach in BT cannot be ignored in Dogmatics. I would call myself more of an artist, and my interests are in writing Christian fiction in the tradition of Dante, Milton, Bunyan, et. al. I am more philosophically inclined to the intuitive approach of Henri Bergson, who incidentally has had a profound influence on one of the greatest Christian literary artists of the past 200 years, TS Eliot – as I put my own cards on the table.

    Inasmuch as you are suspicious of the repristination movement to recover an older Reformed orthodoxy as normative for what it truly means to be Reformed or Calvinistic, I have found your approach imminently refreshing. I can think of no other figure that has promoted an undue suspicion of Barth, and by extension Torrance than Van Til, who almost completely misreads Barth (Ironically without ever acknowledging how much he too is influenced by post-Kantian idealism). The one weakness I see in Barth is how hard it is to understand how he ties Christ to history, I am sure he does, but in my interaction with him (limited albiet), he is not as developed on this matter as Torrance who exceeds Barth in this respect. I am gaining a deep respect for your project, and I do think that there is incredible potential for the church at large if it is able to grapple with what you are proposing. I look forward to more interaction with your musings, and I do think you are onto something that has incredible value.

    Feel no pressure to respond. But, I will enjoy digging further into your writings. So, in the words of the inimitable Gandhi, “Thanks amigo, keep on trucking”

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  10. dlk50 says:

    I’m sorry if I did not read your part sufficiently carefully and that my response was impressionistic. Sadly I don’t have lots of time these days.

    I have read frost, torrance and you on this subject before though so I’m not unfamiliar with the argument and your responses don’t surprise me, so i think I did track you to some degree. I’m sorry I don’t have the time to show my working, but I think reading Melanchthon and the secondary literature on him, his relationship with Luther and the development of Lutheran theology would be fruitful if you wanted to pursue it.

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  11. Bobby Grow says:

    DLK50, I’m assuming this is DaveK,

    I have read such literature, and I fail to see how it militates against Frost’s thesis in this essay of his. We worked through the literature in his Reformation theology class; if anything it bolster’s Ron’s thesis in regard to an intellectualist anthropology; one that, unfortunately, and latterly, Melanchthon began to orient himself to as well. And the development of Lutheran theology only, in its own way, mirrors what happened in Post Reformed Orthodoxy. Melanchthon’s influence—the later Mel.—had something to do with Lutheran theology’s development, rather than Luther so much.

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  12. Bobby Grow says:

    Jedidiah,

    I will respond more later to your comment. But, yes, I think Muller is too overwrought in some real ways. The Eastern component of TFT’s theology—of getting back to the Father’s which is the stuff of real ad fontes—is one of the most exciting things about his theology (to me). I think too often many proponents of recovering post reformed orthodox theology fail to recognize how significant the Fathers were to people like Calvin, Knox, et al. That Irenaeus for Calvin was very significant (which Julie Canlis shows in her book Calvin’s Ladder) etc. There is just a significantly different mood in Reformed theology to be recovered, and us Evangelical Calvinists are seeking to recover that through a variety of streams; but TFT plays a significant role in that, obviously.

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  13. Canlis’ book was a watershed read for me, and drove me much deeper into Irenaeus. One of the things that I think the West lost with Augustine is Ireaeus’s pedagogical view of the fall over and against Augustine’s penal view, and that man fell from perfection. It seems to me that Irenaeus sees the fall in terms of a morally intact but incomplete humanity that falls into sin, but the problem of sin is being undone as humans are brought up into completion in Christ. I find a great deal of affinity with his teleological view on creation-fall-redemption. I am reading in Athanasius now, and I am curious to see what continuities he has with Irenaeus.

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  14. Bobby Grow says:

    I really like Irenaeus’s recapitulation theory; I’d say Irenaeus is one of my favorite Fathers. In the stream of Orthodox theology I am currently reading Maximus the Confessor’s Cosmic Christ. He’s also very instructive towards an “EC” recovery.

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