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Francis Turretin (1623-1687) was a pastor and taught at the Academy of Geneva. An "elenctic" theology is one that trys to demonstrate the truth of a doctrine while refuting false doctrines. Volume 1 covers Theology, Scripture, God in unity and trinity, the decrees of God and predestination, creation, the providence of God, Angels, the state of man before the fall and the covenant of nature, Sin, and, finally, the free will of man in a state of sin. There is nothing else like these books in the realm of reformed dogmatics. The closest thing to them that I can think of is Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica except that Turretin upholds a sounder form of doctrine (Roman Catholics would heartily disagree with me there). Charles Hodge used Turretin in teaching Theology as did John Gerstner. Dr. James M. Boice hits the nail on the head when he says of Turretin's Institutes: "If ever a great theological work has been unjustly neglected it has been Francis Turretin's masterful volumes on the whole of Christian doctrine... I heartily commend [them] to preachers, theological students and lay persons everywhere." These are not easy reading but they are well worth your while.
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Francis Turretin was a learned, pious, and brilliant man who used all of his skill to defend the Reformed doctrine of an absolute predestination on the part of God. Personally I do not think that that his defense of an absolute predestination was quite as brilliant as Jonathan Edwards' was, but his work should be read in spite of this because it covers all points of Christian doctrine in great detail and with exquisite dialectical skill, including, for instance, a rousing defense of the view that vindicatory justice is essential to God's nature, as well as one of the very best attacks on the divine command theory I have ever read. Nevetheless, I cannot agree with the unalloyed praise of this work that Reformed readers who have purchased it engage in. In spite of all his subtlety, Turretin really never answers those who hold that the Reformed doctrine entails that God is the cause of sin. He, indeed, protests that God does not efficiently move rational creatures to sin, nor does He council them to, but rather commands them not to, and he further insists that rational creatures destitute of God's efficient grace will sin "according to there very nature as finite beings" (is this not a kind of surrender to the view that rational creatures are essentially evil?). But he never really answers this question "How could a good God punish a creature for doing what he could not help but do, granted that God withdrew the grace necessary for the creature not to do it?" This becomes all the more glaring a problem in light of the fact that Turretin, in concert with Reformed Orthodoxy in general, holds that God 'secretly wills' that certain persons should sin in order to manifest the "Glory" of His punishment in damning them.Read more ›
Recent (that is, pre-1992 A.D.) Reformed theology can be sadly described as a generation arising "which knew not Turretin." To paraphrase Galadriel in The Fellowship of the Ring: Some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. Turretin's categorical form of argumentation was one of those "things." Turretin's strength is in identifying precisely the issue in question. This allows him to accept and acknowledge points of agreement with his opponents,rather than simply seeing everything as "Arminian." Recent Reformed (and Arminian-Papist) polemics have all focused on a few issues: predestination, free will, assurance, the Canon, etc. Turretin understood that there were other issues, too: anthropology, middle knowledge, etc. which also need to be addressed. The English translation of Turretin fills a woeful lacuna. This review, due to the limitations of space, will focus on a few of Turretin's loci.
While it might be anachronistic to label Turretin's epistemology as "Common Sense Realism," one can see similarities. Reason is not ultimate, but it is a reliable guide not only in matters of "nature" but also in "grace." In using reason in theology, Turretin distinguishes between two extremes. Unlike the irrationalists (Anabaptists, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox), reason can function as a principia in theology. It is not the fundamental principia upon which all theology rests (that is the principium essendi); rather, it is an instrumental principle (I: 24).
Turretin does ascribe a functional role to "natural reason." Natural man, whatever that phrase means, can understand axiomatic truths (29-30). Reason is of particular instrumental use in terms of inference and middle premises.Read more ›
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Francis Turretin (1623-1687) was a Swiss-Italian Calvinist theologian, who was a firm opponent of Amyraldianism, and one of the authors of the Helvetic Consensus (which defended the Synod of Dort's formulation of double predestination). The other volumes in this set are Institutes of Elenctic Theology Vol. 2 and Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. 3: Eighteenth Through Twentieth Topics. There are ten topics in the first volume: Theology; The Holy Scriptures; The One and Triune God; The Decrees of God and Predestination; Creation; The Actual Providence of God; Angels; The State of Man Before the Fall; Sin In General and In Particular; The Free Will of Man.
He asserts, "The mysteries of faith are beyond the sphere of reason to which the unregenerate man cannot rise." (Pg 24-25) He later adds, "to reason belongs the judgment of discretion in matters of faith... But in things known only by revelation ... the only rule is the word of God, beyond or above which we must not be wise." (Pg. 29)
"The question is not as to the particular corruption of some (Bible) manuscripts or as to the errors which have crept into the books ... All acknowledge the existence of many such corruptions. The question is whether ... they cannot be restored and corrected... We deny the former." (Pg. 71) He states that "the fathers neither can not ought to be regarded as judges in our controversies, but as witnesses who... give testimony to the truth of Christianity and prove... the falsity of the doctrines introduced by the papists beyond and contrary to the Scriptures." (Pg.Read more ›
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