On the Completion of Richard Muller’s Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics (4vols)

I wanted to offer a quick note: I have been working through Richard Muller’s four volumed Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics over the last season of years. I have read much of Muller’s corpus, but wanted to make my way through his opus to gain greater cogency of understanding in regard to his insights and impulses as a theological historian. My relationship to Muller has always been a strained one; my first introduction to Muller came from my mentor and professor in seminary, Ron Frost. Frost, also a historical theologian who specializes in Puritan theology, had a tango with Muller back in the mid to late nineties in Trinity Journal. As a result of that introduction my perception of Muller has always been on the critical antagonistic side; it still largely is.

I just finished Muller’s PRRD which came with a great sense of accomplishment. I certainly learned things from Muller through that process, and also had certain other misgivings about him only reinforced. He ultimately is not a fan of Karl Barth or Thomas Torrance, and believes they are part of a cabal of 20th century dogmatic theologians who he calls the ‘older scholarship.’ A large part of his work is motivated by the desire to correct and demythologize the older scholarship’s reading of people like John Calvin; as if Calvin was discontinuous from the later school theology that developed in the 16th and 17th centuries among the so called post Reformed orthodox theologians (the Calvin against the Calvinists thesis).

The greatest knock I have on Muller, when it comes down to it, is that he often wants to sell himself as an objective historian doing the work that others have failed to do. But the reality is that he comes to his historical conclusions by presuming upon certain a priori theological assumptions, just as much as Barth or Torrance do (or anyone else). In other words, and this has always bothered me about Muller, he is just as conditioned by his own historical situatedness as Barth and Torrance are; in other words, he is not as objective as he claims to be as a pure historian. This is not to suggest that he doesn’t make strong arguments in regard to the burgeoning of Reformed theology from the Reformers to the Post Reformed orthodox, but it is to intimate that Muller ought to be just as critically received as he claims Barth and Torrance et al should be when it comes to the reception of Reformed history and theology.

I have much more to say, but I really just wanted to register the fact that I just completed a read through—of Muller’s PRRD (all four volumes)—that beguiled me for a few years. Beguiled me because for some reason I felt compelled to read through it all; compelled because I am often a critic of Muller&company, and thus felt and feel that if I am going to be critical then I’d better do the homework that requires such criticism. Even though what I just noted sounds negatively critical I wouldn’t want you all to think that I didn’t learn anything positive from Muller: I did! I would say that his last volume dedicated to the theology of the Triune God is his best of the four.

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