R. Scott Clark Introduces a New Series

Before I let Dr. Clark speak, I will just put a plug in for the first volume, which is William Ames’s book A Sketch of the Christian’s Catechism.

Introducing the Classic Reformed Theology Series

The Reformed faith has deep roots in the patristic and medieval church, but its emergence as a distinct tradition, growing out of the Lutheran Reformation, may be traced to the early 1520s. The development of Reformed theology as distinct from Lutheranism is represented by documents such as Sixty Seven Theses written by Huldrich Zwingli (1584–1531) and the Ten Theses of Bern (1528).1 By 1530, in the wake of the failure of Luther and Zwingli to agree on the Supper at Marburg (1529), the Swiss Reformed were attempting to position the Reformed churches alongside the Lutheran churches as fellow Protestants with a common doctrine of justification but with significant differences over topics such as Christology, the Lord’s Supper, and worship. These sorts of developments are represented by the Tetrapolitan Confession (1530), drafted in part by Martin Bucer (1491–1551).2

Reformed theology, piety, and practice continued to mature in the second stage of the Reformation. For example, in 1539, John Calvin (1509–1564) published the second edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion. The development of the Institutes from a relatively simple, bipartite, common places, to a more elaborate and detailed summary of his ongoing biblical study and exposition of the Apostles’s Creed symbolizes the growing theological maturity of the Reformed movement.3

Despite the impression sometimes created by both popular and academic literature, the theology, piety, and practice of the Reformation ended neither in 1546 (with Luther’s death) nor in 1564 with Calvin’s death. Rather, the ecclesiastical, civil, and theological developments of the Reformation were gradually secured and elaborated. By 1530, a pattern of ecclesiastical-confessional consolidation was well underway. With the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, that confessional definition was also reflected in and refracted by a process of civil confessionalization (cuius regio, eius religio).4

After Calvin, the Reformed reformation continued and was adapted from a predominantly ecclesiastical setting to an increasingly academic setting in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Scholars of Reformed orthodoxy have identified three periods of Reformed orthodoxy: early (1565–1640), high (1640–1725), and late (post 1725).5 In the early phase, Reformed theologians began to achieve a degree of precision and to create the categories and vocabulary that would mark the period of orthodoxy. A significant example of this process was Franciscus Junius’s development of Luther’s distinction between the theology of glory and the theology of the cross and Calvin’s distinction between the Creator and the creature into the distinction between archetypal and ectypal theology.6 In the high orthodox phase, Reformed theology developed its definitive responses to the Roman Catholic counter-reformation, Arminianism, and faced the internal crisis created by the Amyraldian movement. In this period, Reformed covenant theology also reached its highest level of development articulating a pre-temporal covenant of redemption (pactum salutis), a temporal prelapsarian covenant of works (or covenant of life, covenant of nature, or legal covenant), and a covenant of grace with the elect administered in a series of covenants through the history of redemption. Where high orthodoxy was grappling with the rationalism of René Descartes (1596–1650) in the late period, Reformed theology underwent little development but had to address the growing tidal wave of rationalism represented by Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646–1716) and Christian Wolff (1679–1754). The late orthodox responded to modernity in three ways: by resisting, by seeking a middle way, and finally, by re-stating the achievements of the earlier phases of orthodoxy. If early and high orthodoxy were eras of confessionalization, late orthodoxy was an era of “deconfessionalization.”7

Since the middle of the nineteenth century, critical research has focused upon the initial stages of the Reformation. In modern scholarship, until quite recently, Reformed orthodoxy has been relatively neglected. The approach of two significant nineteenth-century scholars dominated the perception of Protestant orthodoxy generally. Alexander Schweizer (1808–1888) argued that there was in Lutheranism and in Reformed theology a series of “central dogmas.”8 The Lutheran central dogma was said to be justification by grace alone through faith alone. The Reformed central dogma was said to be predestination from which the Reformed orthodox deduced a speculative theology. Schweizer’s account of Reformed theology was not organized according to the logic of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century systems, but according to the requirements of his own Schleiermachian theological system.”9 This approach was followed by the so-called “mediating” (between the tradition and the historical-critical method) theologians I. A. Dorner (1809–1884) and Paul Althaus (1888–1966) in 1914.

A second influential scholar in the same period, Heinrich Heppe (1820–1879), argued that there were two competing strains within Reformed theology, the Calvinists-predestinarian strain and the Melanchthonian-covenantal strain.10 Heppe regarded the latter to be a reaction to the former. Thus, in his view, German Reformed theology was “standing halfway between the Lutherans and the Calvinists.”11 Heppe’s presentation of Reformed theology became particularly important for two reasons. First, his idiosyncratic source book of quotations from a host of Reformed writers from the classical period was likely the way the most influential twentieth-century Reformed theologian, Karl Barth (1886–1968), became aware of Reformed orthodoxy.12 Second, the English translation of Heppe’s Reformed Dogmatics has been and continues to be used widely by teachers and students of Protestant orthodoxy.13 Those who relied upon these summaries, not having read the primary sources in context, often failed to recognize that Heppe’s presentation was “marred by a series of profound problems.”14

Beginning with Robert D. Preus’s 1955 study of the doctrine of Scripture in Lutheran orthodoxy and continuing with his two-volume survey of the theology of Lutheran orthodoxy, the scholarship in this field matured considerably.15 In the early 1970s, Reformed orthodoxy also began to receive renewed attention using a more careful, developmental historiography modeled and taught by Heiko Oberman (1930–2001). Jill Raitt, W. Robert Godfrey, Lyle Bierma, and especially Richard Muller applied versions of Oberman’s approach to the study of Reformed orthodoxy.16

There are at least three reasons why classic Reformed theology ought to be studied and thus why this series of critical English translations should exist. First, Reformed orthodoxy forms the intellectual background of modern theology which can only be understood properly in light of its reaction to and rejection of Protestant orthodoxy. Second, Reformed orthodoxy obviously merits attention by those who identify with the Reformed confession; it is their heritage and thus shapes their theology, piety, and practice whether they realize it or not. Third, despite the disdain, disregard, and distortion which Reformed orthodoxy suffered during the Enlightenments in Europe, Britain, and North America, contemporary scholarship has shown that, whatever one’s view of the theology, piety, and practice of orthodoxy, on purely historical grounds it must be regarded as a vital intellectual and spiritual movement and thus a fascinating and important subject for continued study.

We call this series “Classic Reformed Theology” because, by definition, a period is classical when it defines an approach to a discipline. During the period of Protestant orthodoxy, Reformed theology reached its highest degree of definition and precision. It was then that the most important Reformed confessions were formed, and the Reformed churches took the form they have today. For these reasons, it is also it is more than surprising to realize that much of the most important literature from this period has been almost entirely ignored since mid-eighteenth century. As difficult as it may be for those in other fields to understand, the list of scholars who have extensive, firsthand knowledge of some of the most important primary texts in the study of Reformed orthodoxy (e.g., the major works of Olevianus, Polanus, Voetius, Cocceius, Heidegger, and van Mastricht, to name but a few) can be counted easily. Further, few of the texts from this period, even some of the most important texts, have been published in modern critical editions. Thus, until recently, even those with the ability and will to read the texts from the classical period of Reformed orthodoxy could do so only with difficulty since some of these texts are difficult to locate outside of a few libraries in Europe and Great Britain. Technological developments in recent years, however, are beginning to make these works more widely available to the academic community. Coinciding with the development of technology has been a growing interest in classic Reformed theology.

Finally, a word about the plan for this series. First, the series seeks to produce and provide critical English translations of some of the more important but generally neglected texts of the orthodox period. The series does not intend to be exhaustive, nor will it be repetitive of critical translations already available. Most of the texts appearing in this series will be translated for the first time. It is the sincere hope of the editor and the board that at least one volume shall appear annually.

The editor thanks the members of the editorial board for their guidance, skill, and scholarship; the publisher for undertaking this series; and especially Jay T. Collier, Director of Publishing, for his tireless and outstanding work toward bringing this series from conception to reality.

R. Scott Clark, Editor

Westminster Seminary California

1 E. F. Karl. Müller, Die Bekenntnisschriften Der Reformierten Kirche, 2 vols. (Leipzig: A. Deichert Verlag, 1903; reprint Walrop: Spenner, 1999), 1.1–6, 30–31. English translations are available in Arthur C. Cochrane, The Reformed Confessions of the Sixteenth Century (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1966), 36–44, 49–50; James T. Dennison, Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation: 1523–1552 (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008), 1–8, 40–42.
2 See, for example, chapters 3, 11, 18, and 22 of the Tetrapolitan Confession (1530) in Müller, Die Bekenntnisschriften, 1.57, 64, 72, 75–78; Cochrane, The Reformed Confessions, 57–58, 66–67, 75–76, 80–81; Dennison, Reformed Confessions 1523–1552, 142–43, 150–51, 158–59, 163–65.
3 See Richard A. Muller, The Unaccommodated Calvin, Oxford Studies in Historical Theology (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
4 For an excellent orientation to this question, see Ute Lotz-Heumann, “Confessionalization,” in Reformation and Early Modern Europe: A Guide to Research. ed. David M. Whitford (Kirksville: Truman State University Press, 2008), 136–57.
5 See Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, Ca. 1520 to Ca. 1725, 2nd ed., 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 1.30–32. Hereafter, PRRD.
6 Willem J. Van Asselt, “The Fundamental Meaning of Theology: Archetypal and Ectypal Theology in
Seventeenth-Century Reformed Thought,” Westminster Theological Journal 64 (2003): 319–35; Muller, PRRD, 1.225–69; R. Scott Clark, Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice (Philipsburg: P&R, 2008), 119–51; idem, “Janus, the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel, and Westminster Theology,” in The Pattern of Sound Doctrine: Systematic Theology At the Westminster Seminaries. Essays in Honor of Robert B. Strimple, ed. David VanDrunen (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2004), 152–61.
7 Muller, PRRD, 1.32.
8 Alexander Schweizer, Die Glaubenslehre Der Evangelisch-Reformirten Kirche, 2 vols. (Zürich: Orell, Füssli und Co, 1844–47). See also Muller, PRRD, 1.124.
9 Muller, 1.131.
10 Lyle D. Bierma, “Federal Theology in the Sixteenth Century: Two Traditions?,” Westminster Theological Journal 45 (1983): 304–21.
11 Muller, PRRD, 1.130.
12 Heinrich Heppe, Die Dogmatik Der Evangelisch-Reformierten Kirche (Elberfeld: K. R. Friderichs, 1861).
13 Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics Set Out and Illustrated From the Sources, trans. G. T. Thomson (George Allen and Unwin LTD, 1950).
14 Muller, PRRD, 1.130.
15 Robert D. Preus, The Inspiration of Scripture. a Study of the Theology of the Seventeenth Century Lutheran Dogmaticians (Mankato, MN: Lutheran Synod Book Company, 1955); idem, The Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism, 2 vols. (St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1970).
16 Jill Raitt, The Eucharistic Theology of Theodore Beza: Development of the Reformed Doctrine (Chambersburg, PA: American Academy of Religion, 1972); W. Robert Godfrey, “Tensions Within International Calvinism: The Debate on the Atonement At the Synod of Dordt 1618–1619” (Ph.D. Diss, Stanford University, 1974); Lyle D. Bierma, “The Covenant Theology of Caspar Olevian” (Duke University, 1980), now published as idem, The Covenant Theology of Caspar Olevianus, Reformed Historical-Theological Studies (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2005); Muller, PRRD; idem, After Calvin: Studies in the Development of a Theological Tradition, Oxford Studies in Historical Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003); Trueman and Clark, eds., Protestant Scholasticism; Willem J. Van Asselt, et al., eds. Reformation and Scholasticism, Text and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001).



  1. greenbaggins said,

    September 10, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Rey, you need to read several books before making such outlandish claims. First up, read Hughes Oliphint Old’s book _The Patristic Roots of Reformed Worship_. Second, read Thomas Oden’s _The Justification Reader_. Thirdly, read Ligon Duncan’s Ph.D. thesis on the origin of covenant theology in the Patristic theology. Fourthly, read Richard Muller’s _Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics_. These books really ought to disabuse you of every single one of your ridiculous claims.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    September 10, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    But you claimed that the Reformation was wholly Medieval. The Reformation does not believe in two of the three things you listed as something that Augustine popularized. The Reformed do not believe in purgatory or in priestly celibacy. So that seriously undermines your claim.

  3. G.C. Berkley said,

    September 10, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I think Rey just slipped on a banana peel…

  4. September 10, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Rey, are you claiming that the Reformed were not reading or influenced by ANY fathers prior to Augustine?

  5. its.reed said,

    September 10, 2008 at 4:50 pm


    Rey can answer for himself. But be warned, to paraphrase Rey here:

    “[Rey] in a very similar manner follows [who knows???], always having never said what [he] said, when challenged, but when the challenger is gone, [Rey]go[es] back to saying it.”

    Rey, you are one of the most anachronistically confused individuals I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

  6. Stephen said,

    September 11, 2008 at 7:46 am

    Ray, you are clearly outnumbered on this one. You need to look at the history of doctrine to discover that celebacy and purgatory were late inventions in the church, not something that Augustine taught. Augustine was not perfect in his theology anymore than you are. The apostolic Fathers were not all heretics as you suppose. It sounds to me like you have enbraced the restorationist non-sense of the Campbellite movement, that the church fell into apostacy after the apostle John. Do us all a favor and spend more time reading.

  7. ray said,

    September 11, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Hello Stephen, for clarification … in message 10 you stated “Ray” rather than “Rey” .

    Ray does not agree whatsoever with Rey’s arminian/semi pelagian advocacy of freewillism.

    Augustine is no god in the reformed faith. He was a wretched sinner in need of the sovereign grace of God …Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

  8. Stephen said,

    September 11, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks, for the clarification Ray. I was addressing Rey and not Ray. Sorry for the confusion. Yes, Augustine was a wretched sinner like the rest of us but he did make some great contributions to the church.

  9. greenbaggins said,

    September 11, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Rey, that’s enough. Hardly anyone in Christendom would agree with your assessment of Augustine. Your outright Pelagian theology is the heresy that the church has condemned for hundreds of years. You just denied original sin, which even the Catholics don’t deny. You are outside even the ecumenical creeds. Your teaching outright contradicts Romans 5, which explicitly tells us that condemnation came upon all because of the sin of one (Adam), see especially verse 19, which says that the many were made sinners by the one man’s disobedience. In Adam’s fall, we sinned all. He was our representative, just as in Christ, all who are represented by Christ have His righteousness imputed to them.

  10. greenbaggins said,

    September 11, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Not to mention verse 15, which says that many died through one man’s trespass. We are all born sinners, as David says in Psalm 51, and which you deny. You seem to think that everyone deserves heaven, when no one does, and it is only by God’s great mercy that anyone gets to heaven. You deny predestination, which is not only a biblical concept, but a biblical word (see Romans 8-9 and Ephesians 1).

  11. September 11, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    So we get to choose between St Augustine and St Rey. Hmmm. I’m torn.

  12. ReformedSinner said,

    September 11, 2008 at 7:52 pm


    Read Paul’s treatment of first man and second man in 1st Corinthians 15. One is a sinner way before he can “follow” Adam’s example, one is a sinner by the very nature of being associated with the first man.

    As for your exegesis, that’s the most absurb abuse of Greek grammar. Go read up on Mounce and his Greek book, he talked about that.

    Also, your treatment of early Fathers are laughable. In the beginning stage of Christianity they don’t have the curtesy of 2,000+ years of advancements, therefore we can twist everything the early Fathers say to what we want to hear if we really wanted to. That’s poor patristic theology scholarship. You seem to be high on Justin Martyr, then I’m sure you realize he incorporated so many Greek philosophy into his apologetics right? I know because I actually read him in Greek. That doesn’t make him an evil man, but it sure makes patristic theology interesting and we need to read him and evaluate his Christian theology in his own context, and not force our anti-philosophical ideas unto him and declare him useless since he borrowed and rely on Greek philosophy in his apologetical works.

    So Mr. protector of pure patristic Christianity, are you a firm believer of Chiliasm?

  13. G.C. Berkley said,

    September 11, 2008 at 9:49 pm


    If sin isn’t inherited, then where is the example (even one) of the sinless man? I have yet to hear someone who denies original sin provide me with even one such example, except Christ. Odd, isn’t it? No original sin, yet no sinless men?

    Read Henri Blocher on the subject in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series, volume 6 “Original Sin–illuminating the riddle”. He has a nice treatment of Romans 5.

    That is, unless you’re really here to teach us the right and true way while ignoring everything we say because we’re deceived heretics who serve the devil….

  14. Ron Henzel said,

    September 12, 2008 at 10:47 am


    You wrote:

    Fanaticism breeds so many lies. Not one of the 3 creeds teaches inherited sin. May God remember this lie of yours forever.

    May God not measure out to you the judgment you so scornfully heap on others, because I am certain you would not be able to bear it. Confusing the three ecumenical creeds with the decrees of the ecumenical councils is easy to do and does not even come close to deserving the kind of curse you pronounced on Lane.

    The essential point remains: your beliefs were condemned by the Council of Carthage, which clearly taught inherited sin when it condemned Pelagianism in 418. The ecumenical Council of Ephesus ratified the decision of the Council of Carthage in 451.

  15. Ron Henzel said,

    September 12, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Regardinbg my previous comment, #22: please pardon my typo—I should have typed 431 instead of 451.

  16. greenbaggins said,

    September 12, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Rey, how can you read Romans 1-3 and come to the conclusion that anyone can avoid sin in their natural state? He says it about 50 times, in case you didn’t get it the 49th time, which apparently you don’t.

  17. Ron Henzel said,

    September 12, 2008 at 1:49 pm


    Isn’t it interesting that those who are the most vociferous in their denials of original sin are also the most extreme in their violations of Matthew 7:1-2? Rey is a living demonstration of the fact that to be an enemy of the Reformed faith is to be a complete stranger to grace in so many ways.

  18. G.C. Berkley said,

    September 12, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Uh, Rey. Even if I concede your point, namely, “we all choose evil some of the time”…you just lost your case. “We all”, got it?

    Original sin.

  19. September 12, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    The Athanasian Creed begins, “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith.” It concludes, “This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.”

    The catholic faith, to which the Athanasian Creed refers, is the Trinity and two natures of Christ. Are these the “trite little things” you had in mind?

  20. September 13, 2008 at 2:39 am

    I have to admit that I’ve been absent from the boards for a few months, but have we really degenerated to the sole purpose of arguing with one pelagian? What happened to the great adult discussions that we used to have? Feeding the trolls just encourages them.

    Dr. Clark – Nice introduction to the series. The collection seems most timely and profitable. Thanks for taking the effort to coordinate and edit it.

  21. ReformedSinner said,

    September 13, 2008 at 2:01 pm


    Why not talk to Pelagians? Maybe this one is out there but I for now am not that interested to argue with Reformed people to death on a passive verb or fine prints of Justification.

    Talking to Pelagians forces me to rethink Reformed Theology and how I can reach out to them, and answer their challenges and concerns, and feed them with the truth.

    But that’s just me.

  22. September 13, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Maybe this one is out there

    That was my point. I’ve seen several threads here that deteriorated quickly to feeding just one troll.

  23. ReformedSinner said,

    September 13, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Oh ok.. in that case I agree… :)

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