Causes of the Rise of Scholastic Orthodoxy

From pp. 61-66, Muller gives us a sketch of the causes of the rise of scholastic orthodoxy. The first point he makes is that the polemic in which the Reformers were continuously engaged formed part of the reason why the orderly scholastic method would become necessary (pg 61).

Another factor besides polemics is the method of Ramus. This factor is one among several pedagogical developments in this time period. Ramus (1515-1572) “produced a method of logical discourse by means of partition or dichotomy which gave to Reformed theology an extreme clarity and conciseness of approach.” Scholars influenced by Ramus include Perkins, Polanus, Ames, Yates, Scharpius, and (to a lesser extent) Walaeus and Maccovius (pg. 62). His method was not accepted by all. In fact, Beza and Olevianus rejected the method utterly.

A third factor in the rise of scholastic orthodoxy is “the development and alteration of method in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries…educational progress of the Renaissance, an educational progress related to the application of new forms of logic and rhetoric to the entire arts curriculum of the university and to the advanced study of such fields as philosophy, theology, and law” (63). It is important to note here that “The rise of a revised scholasticism, tuned by Renaissance logic and rhetoric and alied to the study of the classical and biblical languages occurred in the theological disciplines as a result, not of doctrinal change, but of the participation of theological faculties in the academic culture of the age” (63).

To sum up, the four main forces contributing to the rise of scholastic orthodoxy are fourfold: polemics, pedagogical needs, the working out of systematic issues, and the striving for philosophical breadth and coherence (pg. 65). He rules out a fifth commonly cited reason (concentration on a metaphysical principle or central dogma).                                                                                


  1. Lee said,

    November 11, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    I am interested in how Muller thinks Ramnus aided Reformed Scholasticism. Ramnus hated the method of scholasticism, and critiqued Aristotle and the method of Scholasticism his entire life. How this turns out to be an aid in the development of Reformed Scholasticism I do not know.
    I also have to say that J.I. Good in his history of the RCUS and his book on the influences on the Heidelberg Catechism claims Olevanius was accepting of Ramnus, and his methods, when he came to teach at Heidelberg. It was Ursinus who opposed him and led to his eventual dismissal.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    November 11, 2006 at 4:43 pm

    Lee, I don’t know if Muller is right or wrong. He certainly seems to be at odds with your sources. By the way, does your source say “Ramnus” or “Ramus?” Muller spells it “Ramus.” He says fairly unequivocally that Olevianus did not appreciate the method of Ramus. Muller does say that Ramus’s method had an opposite effect to the massive expository treatment of loci that other systematicians were doing at the time (such as Zanchi, pg 62). I think that Muller’s position here is that Ramus’s method of partition was helpful. On pg. 183, he says this: “The seventeenth-century understanding of Ramism was, thus, not as model that set aside Aristotle and scholastic method, but as a model that modified and adapted both. Ramism emerges, therefore, not as an opposition to Protestant scholasticism but as a significant element in its frameworkd and fashioning.” He does acknowledge that Ramism “had, in fact, as many opponents among the Reformed as it had advocates” (183). On pg. 184 he says that “What Ramus provided was an impetus toward extreme clarity in the organization of argument, as witnessed by the method of Polanus’ _Partitiones_, Alsted’s _Methodus_, and Ames’ _Medulla_.

  3. Lee said,

    November 11, 2006 at 7:21 pm

    My source reads, ‘Ramus’, I am just an idiot. Anyway, while I do agree that Ramus did not completely set aside Aristotle, I still find it hard to believe that Ramism aided Protestant Scholasticism. He seems to be a bigger influence in the development of Reformed Pietism than he does scholasticism. As Mueller confesses, Beza refused to let Ramus enter Geneva, and Protestant scholasticism takes its highest form at Geneva. So, I find it difficult to see this.

    By the way, I re-read my sources and Olevanius is claimed to be a supporter of Ramism by J.I. Good. Good goes onto claim that the brillance of the Heidelberg Catechism is because it takes the Ramist mind of Olevanius and the Aristotellian mind of Ursinus and makes the greatest catechism ever written. I am inclined to agree.

  4. greenbaggins said,

    November 13, 2006 at 12:40 pm

    Protestant scholasticism takes its highest form at Geneva? I think that Holland could take a shot at that honor, don’t you? There was Voetius, who alone is equal to any of the Genevans.

    Well, you just admitted that if Olevianus was influenced by Ramus, then Ramus had a positive effect on Protestant scholasticism, unless you are going to withold Olevianus from the status of a scholastic.

  5. Lee said,

    November 13, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    I think one could easily hold Olevianus from the status of scholastic. Not every reformer should fall into the scholastic category.

    As for Voetius, yes, he is terrific. Far undervalued today. Yet, no matter what one thinks of Dort and those who came after it, Turretin probably should be considered the height of Protestant Scholasticism. And he was in Geneva.

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