The Era of High Orthodoxy

On pp. 73ff, Muller discusses the period of high orthodoxy (ca. 1640-1685-1725), and its relationship to earlier periods of Reformed orthodoxy. Again, he is out to quash once and for all the idea of “Calvin versus the Calvinists.” He says that “the architectonic clarity of early orthodoxy is replaced to a certain extent or at least put to the service of a more broadly developed and even discursive system” (73). By this he means the elaborations of Voetius, Cocceius, and Mastricht (plus their followers). What is important to note, however, is that the later authors used the former authors as a sort of skeleton on which to plan and elaborate their own systems (pg. 74). In other words, they did not abandon the works of former periods, but rather built on them, and elaborated those earlier systems. This can be seen, for instance, in the work of Bernhardus De Moor, who, in his seven-volume systematics, took Marckius’s larger work, and simply commented on it.



  1. Seth McBee said,

    March 20, 2007 at 4:41 pm


    Are you speaking of Peter Van Mastricht? I just bought and currently reading his book on regeneration (by way of recommendation of Jim) and not to mention Jonathan Edwards…

    Just curious on if this is the same guy?

  2. greenbaggins said,

    March 21, 2007 at 8:05 am

    Yes, it is one and the same. He has been called the Charles Hodge of high orthodoxy. I believe that the Dutch Reformed Translation Society is looking to translate his magnum opus in the next few years (Theoretico-Practica Theologia). “Petrus” of course, is simply the Latin version of “Peter.”

  3. Seth McBee said,

    March 21, 2007 at 8:34 am

    do you know how to pronounce his name?

  4. greenbaggins said,

    March 21, 2007 at 8:41 am

    Yes, it would be “Petrus Fan Mastricht,” with the “ch” pronounced like Scottish “loch.” The “i” would be halfway between short and long. Emphasis on the first syllable in both first and last names.

  5. March 21, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Lane, do you believe the Siniatic Covenant was a recapitulation of the CoW? If so, how do you account for the clear teaching of the Confession that it was an early administration of the CoG?

  6. Todd said,

    March 21, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    David loves to discuss the same topic on multiple blogs!

    Here’s one of the things to read on the Reformed precedent for Kline’s view:

    Here’s another:

  7. greenbaggins said,

    March 21, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    I believe that the only way to understand the Mosaic covenant is as having layers of the CoW and the CoG. WCF 19.1-3 proves absolutely conclusively that Adam had the moral law as a condition of the CoW, the same law that was later codified in the Ten Commandments. At the same time, it is equally clear that the Mosaic economy was part of the CoG (see the preface to the TC, for instance).

  8. Todd said,

    March 21, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    But it doesn’t follow that the presence of the moral law in the Mosaic covenant made it a republication of the covenant of works, any more than the presence of the moral law in the teaching of Christ makes it a republication of the covenant of works.

  9. greenbaggins said,

    March 21, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    One could always theoretically obey the CoW for salvation. It is just that no one has done it except Jesus, and He was vicarious. Face it, Todd, this is the logic of WCF 19.1-3. You have to completely distort English grammar to make it say anything else.

  10. Todd said,

    March 21, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    I don’t think I understand you, Lane. Are you saying that the claim that “one could always theoretically obey the CoW for salvation” is the logic of WCF 19.1-3?

  11. greenbaggins said,

    March 21, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    The continuity of CoW with the Mosaic economy is strongly implied in WCF 19.1-3. To say anything different is to distort the rules of grammar. Adam had the substance of the Ten Commandments in the garden, while it may not have been precisely in that form (though it may; that is a more speculative question. It could have taken any form). It is plain that the reason the Westminster Divines said this was to prove continuity between CoW and the Mosaic economy. The moral law was clearly the substance of the condition of the CoW. “Do this and live.”

  12. Todd said,

    March 21, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    I’m with you 100% until this sentence: “It is plain that the reason the Westminster Divines said this was to prove continuity between CoW and the Mosaic economy.”

    Did the divines intend to prove continuity between the CoW and the gospel as well?

    “The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it. Neither doth Christ, in the gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.”

  13. Todd said,

    March 21, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    There may be a bit of law/gospel confusion in that paragraph. In the gospel, Christ strengthens our obligation to the moral law?

  14. greenbaggins said,

    March 21, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    The statement has to be taken in conjunction with the understanding of the three uses of the law. When one understands these three uses, and then combines that understanding with the double-layered CoW CoG aspects to the Mosaic economy, then I think one understands the Mosaic economy.

  15. Todd said,

    March 21, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    But is the role of the moral law in the Mosaic covenant the same as its role in the CoW, or is it more similar to its role in the new covenant?

  16. jedidiah said,

    March 21, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    “He says that ‘the architectonic clarity of early orthodoxy is replaced to a certain extent or at least put to the service of a more broadly developed and even discursive system.”’

    I have read large sections of Muller’s vast scholarship and appreciate it as an excellent, detailed and careful reference. One thing that is puzzling about this clear insistence on Muller’s part however (and this is just something that’s come across my mind in the last few days, I would need to re-visit Muller to see if it is relevant), is that one cannot divorce how one does theology from the content of it. That’s a form of methodological dualism if you carry it out strictly. At the least, shouldn’t we agree with nineteenth century criticisms of Protestant scholasticism in contrast to the humanistic style of the early Reformers about the results (intended or not, negative or positive) of doing theology in this particular mode? I imagine a mold called scholastic method. Even if I dump the majority of Calvin’s Institutes into that mold, and let’s say for argument’s sake, all of the important stuff finds a place in that mold, it will still look different (some parts now tucked behind which once were prominent etc.) and have different results. There is no getting around the mechanical character of the Presbyterian consciousness.

  17. Lee said,

    March 22, 2007 at 11:13 am

    I am interested in Jedidiah’s comments. The Scholastic method was not always accepted by the Reformers. Some (like Ramus) rejected it outright, and it was a source of some disagreement at Heidelberg for sure. I would love to know Muller’s interaction on this controversy as it was contemporary to his subject. How does he handle those Reformers who rejected the idea of Reformed Scholasticism.

  18. greenbaggins said,

    March 22, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Jedidiah, those are interesting thoughts. The key to the answer lies in the definition of terms, I believe. What is scholasticism? I believe that the method involves defining the particular issue, setting forth the arguments for the position, dealing with the objections, and setting forth the practical ramifications of the position. According to this definition, everyone who was teaching was using the scholastic method, from the 11th century on up through modern times. Catholics, Calvinists, Remonstrants, Lutherans, they were all using this method, as were other disciplines. By this definition, Calvin’s Institutes *are* scholastic. If one reads Samuel Maresius, usually called a scholastic, one will find little difference between his method and Calvin’s. The only real difference is that Calvin inserts into his scholastic method many more rhetorical flourishes than Samul Maresius did. A proper definition of scholasticism eliminates the distance between Calvin and those who followed after him.

  19. March 22, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    “David loves to discuss the same topic on multiple blogs!”

    ~ There is wisdom in the counsel of many.

    In WCF VIII.5 there is no mention of recaptulating the CoW during the adminstration of the CoG. It is the clear teaching of the Confession at this point that the CoG was replacing the CoW as the means by which God was dealing with man. I agree the standards (God’s law) published in the CoW remain, and are fulfilled by Christ, yet the covenant itself was broken by man.

    “One could always theoretically obey the CoW for salvation. ”

    ~ This is Pelagianism which denies the ongoing effects of Original Sin in the life of Adam’s posterity. We are born in sin, w/o any inclination towards obeying God.

    To suggest the Siniatic covenant was a recapitulation of the Adamic covenant is to miss God’s covenant’s both w/ Noah and Abraham which were nothing if not covenants of grace. It is to regress in historical redemptive history, denying the progressive unfolding of divine revelation throughout the pages of Scripture.

  20. greenbaggins said,

    March 22, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    Are you suggesting that I am Pelagian? I’m talking hypothetically, man. The reality is that sin has made us completely incapable of fulfilling the CoW (contrary to the Pelagians). Now that I have successfully defended myself against the charge of heresy, let’s get to the issue. :-)

    The moral law was given to Adam and it was given to Israel. It was given to Adam as a CoW. That same law was given to Israel. This is what the WS speak of as the time of the law. Otherwise, we are flattening out the distinction between the OT and the NT, which most FV guys want to do. In other words, the first use of the law still points us to the hypothetical reality of CoW-keeping, which the CoG aspects of the Mosaic economy pointed out as impossible for us. If one understands Christ as fulfilling the CoW, then there is no regression in saying that the CoW was present in the OT. Israel did not ever fulfill the the CoW, and that was not the basis on which God was their God. However, Christ did indeed fulfill the CoW that Adam had broken. If you say that the CoW did not exist after the Fall, then you will also have to say that Christ did not fulfill it. This is a standard FV interpretation, but not Reformed.

  21. March 22, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    I think your confusing “law” with “covenant”, the Law remains, the covenant has been broken. By virture of it being broken it can no longer be. This is why Westminister calls the CoG a “second” covenant. It replaces the first. Yet the requirements of the first remain, what has changed, from Adam to today, is God’s condecension in accepting the keeping of the requirements of the first covenant, by a another in our stead. God requires perfect and personal obedience to His Law by everyone. But man is “unable” (WCF) to keep this, so it pleased God to make a second covenant by which He accepts the work of His Son as our own, by grace through faith alone. The old has gone away, and the new has come.

  22. Todd said,

    March 22, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    “The moral law was given to Adam and it was given to Israel. It was given to Adam as a CoW. That same law was given to Israel.”

    Right. But that same law is also given to us in new covenant. But not as a covenant of works, right?

  23. March 22, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Additionally, to suggest the Covenant of Works is recapitulated after the Abrahamic dispensation of the Covenant of Grace is unreasonable. It is unreasonable for in it is certainly the nature of regression, instead of a progression, whereas every consistent idea for the redemptive revelation and purposes of God are progressive in nature and therefore makes any contrary assertion unreasonable (again see WCF VIII 4-5). Both the Old and New Testaments present the Sinaitic Covenant as a privledge and honor to Israel. So that had Sinai been a regression from the “Gospel preached beforehand unto Abraham”, it would have been a covenant of curse, not a covenant of grace. This is confusion not order.

    The Mosaic Covenant, it is often suggested, was of ritual works only, in which an exact formal compliance was all that was required. Yet we know through the greater revelation of the New Covenant that even this compliance is insuffcient as terms for eternal life and God’s demands for perfect spiritual obedience. The Pslamist tells us, “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.” (Ps 40:6). God desires obedience over sacrifice. When under the Covenant of Sinai ritual obedience was accepted by the Lord, it was an act of grace, not works.

    Finally, just as with Abel, Noah and Abraham in prior gracious dispensations, the gospel was preached through a mediator, it was being done now at Sinai. It was through the same Christ to which all the “Law and the Prophets” spoke and to which the Patriarch’s were well aquainted. Therefore we must conclude the promises contained in the Covenant of Sinai were through the same Mediator, typified in the Levitical sacrifices, and that the terms for enjoying the promises were not legal, not an exact ritual obedience wherein the Pharisees were said to excel, but gospel faith in the antitype of Christ Jesus.

  24. greenbaggins said,

    March 22, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    I have already answered the regression argument by noting that if the CoW is completely defunct, then Christ couldn’t have fulfilled it. But he did. The plain implication of Romans 5:12-21 is that Christ stood in Adam’s shoes, but obeyed where Adam disobeyed.

  25. Todd said,

    March 22, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    Does the WCF teach, explicitly, that Christ fulfilled the CoW?

  26. greenbaggins said,

    March 22, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    I believe this is quite adequately proved by careful exegesis of Romans 5.

  27. Todd said,

    March 22, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    Ha! Careful exegesis of Romans 5 proves that the WCF teaches that Christ fulfilled the CoW! Nice one!

    Seriously, I asked about the WCF. I have no problem with saying that Christ fulfilled the covenant of works, but this way of putting things doesn’t seem to have been important enough to the divines to include in the confession. The CoW doesn’t quite function this way in the confession.

  28. greenbaggins said,

    March 22, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    19.1 “all his posterity” includes Christ, if one is to believe Luke 3. Christ still had to obey the perfect rule of righteousness, which is the law. The moral law forever binds all to perpetual obedience (19.5). Furthermore, it is Christ’s perfection of obedience (19.6) of which we have need. Since we did not obey the law, we need Christ’s obedience in our place. When we say “our place,” what we mean is for someone to correct the problem that Adam’s breaking of the CoW produced. Therefore, Christ fulfilled the CoW, according to the WS.

  29. Todd said,

    March 22, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    Not quite. Christ fullfilled the moral law, according to the WS. But the jump you keep making between moral law and CoW would imply that our obligation to the moral law in the new covenant means that we are also under a covenant of works. Again, the standards just don’t quite connect the dots the way you do.

  30. greenbaggins said,

    March 22, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    Wrong, Todd. The moral law was the stipulation of the CoW. Adam did not fulfill it. But just because Christ does fulfill it does not mean that we are therefore obligated to obey it as a CoW in the CoG. It is precisely because Christ fulfilled it that we don’t have to. You didn’t answer my exegesis of the WS. It is the principle of substitution and federal headship that is at stake here. Otherwise, why would Christ be called a second Adam? The law, which was our enemy, since it accused us of disobeying the CoW (which we did disobey in Adam) has now become our friend, having been fulfilled by Christ, and therefore it is binding not as a CoW, but in terms of the third use of the law. What you are doing is collapsing the CoW and the CoG into one covenant. Not acceptable.

  31. Todd said,

    March 22, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    Nah. We don’t disagree much on this one, Lane. I’m just leaning lightly against some of the ways your logic connects things that the documents themselves don’t connect. The CoW concept is simply not used in the standards’ exposition of the work of Christ. Law, yes. But not CoW.

  32. greenbaggins said,

    March 22, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    And I , in turn, would say that one cannot separate the moral law and the CoW so easily, especially the moral law in its first use.

  33. jedidiah said,

    March 24, 2007 at 8:47 am

    A little late on the reply, sorry. I think your definition of scholasticism is more broad than Muller’s. It is more broad because It somehow includes Calvin’s Institutes in its net. That seems to be a stretch. I’ve never heard anyone argue that. If the scholastic method is only what you say it is, than pretty much every theologian, maybe even before the 11th century has scholastic moments.

    Muller recognizes that the “post-Reformation” era is especially distinguished by an application of medieval scientific method to the the theology of the Reformers. His argument is that the content is essentially the same. Again, I think nineteenth century historians and later neo-orthodox protested too much. Everything does go back to Calvin et. al. My thought was simply that as a representation of Calvin’s thought, scholasticism, even if the content is all there, will necessarily obscure somethings Calvin simply by chopping it up, disecting it ramist style, and moving it around.

  34. greenbaggins said,

    March 24, 2007 at 10:02 am

    Jedidiah, I think the point, though, is that one cannot divorce Calvin’s own writings from the scholastic method itself. I don’t see Muller doing this either. In fact, Muller’s entire point is that one cannot drive a wedge between “Calvin and the Calvinists.” Maybe the post-Ref. tradition was a bit more intentional about it. But I would argue that just about every theologian and philosopher of the period was using the scholastic method. Page 30 of volume 1 indicates that scholasticism has to do with how theology was taught in schools. Even Calvin taught in schools. If Muller’s entire point is that we cannot drive such a wedge, then we shouldn’t in the area of scholasticism, either.

  35. jedidiah said,

    March 24, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    I’ll stop posting on this thread after this because I think it’s inconsequential and I don’t want to waste your time on it anymore. I’m still confused as to how you can get such a broad definition of the scholastic method that it includes Calvin, especially after reading Muller. Muller’s thesis is not to say, as you are, that their method is not all that different. My guess is that Muller would say it is a gross understatement to say “maybe the post-Ref. tradition was a bit more intentional about” applying scholastic method to Calvin’s biblical theology. That’s sort of the whole point of his work. He admits, explains and even gives a sympathetic apology for the post-Reformation Reformed theologians despite the drastic differences in the way they went about doing theology.

    Calvin was certainly a logical man, sometimes, arguably, to a fault. Calvin was not against philosophy or natural theology either. All this is granted. Calvin was not a scholastic theologian in the sense that Turretin was. He and Luther expressed and usually showed contempt for the methods of “the schoolmen” which where appropriately, according to Muller, used by their successors.

  36. greenbaggins said,

    March 25, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    I think that Calvin and Luther argued against *some* of the questions and against *some* of the answers that the “Schoolmen” gave. But the method itself seems to me to be in a different category than content. The differences between Calvin and the followers of Calvin revolve around the fact (I believe) that Calvin did not do most of his teaching in a school, but in the church. One does teach a bit differently in a church than one would teach in a school.

    You don’t have to stop commenting, Jed, if you don’t want to stop! ;-) These are actually very important issues, as they are related to the Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul.

  37. jedidiah said,

    March 27, 2007 at 9:07 am

    So you would find Muller’s categories too narrow?

  38. greenbaggins said,

    March 27, 2007 at 9:59 am

    No, I wouldn’t say that they are too narrow. I just would not exclude aspects of scholasticism in the works of Calvin. I think that pp. 34-37 of volume one of PRRD are especially instructive in this regard. Muller himself says this, “Not only is this scholastic or orthodox theology the historical link that binds us to the Reformation, it is also the form of theological system in and through which modern Protestantism has received most of its doctrinal principles and definitions” (pg. 37). Plainly here, scholasticism, by Muller’s definition, indicates *continuity* between us and the magisterial Reformation, not fundamental discontinuity. Furthermore, I don’t think that one has to say that Calvin, for instance, has to be *all* scholastic or nothing at all of scholasticism. The fact of the matter is that scholastic works would take earlier Magisterial works and expand them, comment on them, fill them out. The whole tenor of Muller’s argument is *against* discontinuity, not for it!

  39. tim prussic said,

    March 27, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Muller’s work is simply an identification and following out of both continuity and discontinuity from the Fathers, through the Middle Ages, through the Reformation , and into the age of Protestant Scholasticism. He seems to me to be maintaining that the Reformers both used and changed doctrine (and the form of that doctrine) that was handed down to them. So, too, with the Protestant Scholastics. In all his writing, Muller labors that we’re not working with all or nothing when it comes to any historical/theological movement (scholasticism included), but with continuity and discontinuity diachronically.

  40. jedidiah said,

    March 27, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    I agree Tim. According to my reading of Muller, the continuity does not lie in the mode of doing theology but in the substance of that theology and in the great Christian tradition of re-working the substance of Christian doctrine in modes that suit the historical context of the theologian.

    Lane, I never said that Calvin doesn’t do scholastic theology according to your broad definition. I challenged that definition as being so broad that it isn’t very helpful (especially in the context of the argument Muller is defending.) I don’t think Muller does this but am open to having missed it somewhere. He recognizes the discontinuity of theological method employed by the “Reformed Scholastics” (why the qualification?) and provides an improvement on Barthian diatribes against them (that is the school Muller is disputing with). He offers a sympathetic reading of the post-reformation reformed theologians because they have a different set of problems than their Reformed fathers had.

    My original comment was made to challenge Muller’s thesis just a little, and maybe not at all really.

    What I find ironic is that the work of Muller is taken by some to be a conversation stopper. If anything he and other careful historians of the period such as Chad B. Van Dixhoorn force us to have better conversations with one another about the tradition, not shorter, angrier ones.

    Muller is in essence, an apologist for continuous development (I chose those words very carefully). Those of us in the Scottish Enlightenment tradition have a hard time thinking of historical change as fitting any other category than heretical or at least very problematic. I don’t think it is right to read Muller and come away with a simplistic Calvin=calvinists. That’s not his main goal. He has always recognized that there is an “Unaccommodated Calvin.” Rather, it is to show both the substantial continuities and discontinuities. The discontinuities are mostly in the mode of theology. My original comment was only to say that that medium shapes (not is) the message.

    I should not post anymore on this, honest this time. It has been too long since I read Muller and I may have it all wrong. I don’t have time to go back to it today though.

  41. greenbaggins said,

    March 28, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    Well, it has been a good discussion, Jed. I’m glad you took the time to comment.

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