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Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism (Reformed Historical-Theological Studies) Paperback – April 1, 2011
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Willem van Asselt is one of the foremost scholars in the recent studies of the nature of Reformed Orthodoxy and Scholasticism, and its relationship, theologically, philosophically, and pedagogically, with late medieval thought. The field is highly technical and somewhat daunting to students; but here Dr. van Asselt and his colleagues have distilled their vast learning into a book which will be a sure guide to the field. I cannot think of a better introduction to the study of this significant, though often neglected and misunderstood, chapter in the development of Christian thought. --Carl R. Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History,Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia
An invaluable introduction to Post-Reformation Reformed thought, van Asselt and is colleagues have done a masterful job in surveying the field and providing the basic starting point for further research. This work is especially recommended for seminary students and for all who have interest in the development of Reformed theology. --Martin I. Klauber, Affiliate Professor of Church History,Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois
This Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism provides a valuable resource for the study of the various trajectories of early modern Reformed thought. It is not merely an introductory survey. It is a significant guide for the further study of the era. --Richard A. Muller, P. J. Zondervan Professor of Historical Theology, Calvin Theological Seminary
About the Author
Willem J. van Asselt taught church history and the history of Reformed theology at Utrecht University for years, and has recently become professor in historical theology at The Evangelical Theological Faculty in Leuven, Belgium. He has written numerous books and articles on Reformed theology, including The Federal Theology of Johannes Cocceius (1603 1669). Maarten Wisse teaches systematic theology and ecumenism at VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and KU Leuven, Belgium. He studied theology and philosophy of religion at Utrecht, Heidelberg and Tübingen. His Trinitarian Theology beyond Participation: Augustine's De Trinitate and Contemporary Theology will appear with T&T Clark International in 2011. T. Theo J. Pleizier is a minister in the Protestant Church in the Netherlands and researcher in practical theology at the Protestant Theological University. He studied theology in Oxford and Utrecht, and has done research on the concept of freedom in Francesco Turrettini's theological anthropology. Pieter L. Rouwendal studied theology at Utrecht University. He worked as a teacher of religion and is currently acquisitions editor for Kok ten Have Publishers in Kampen, The Netherlands. Among his publications are Calvin's Forgotten Classical Position on the Extent of the Atonement: About Sufficiency, Efficiency, and Anachronism. He is currently preparing a dissertation on Preaching and Predestination in Genevan Theology from John Calvin to Francis Turrettin.
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Several doctrinal highlights: these aren't entirely necessary to the book itself, but they are quite interesting:
Nature, Necessity, and Free Will
Contrary to Arminian and Catholic charges, the Reformed view of a "necessary" will is not incompatible with "freedom," provided both terms are understood correctly. Francis Turretin provides six different types of "necessity," four of which the Arminian/Romanist must affirm are compatible with freedom: 1) necessity of dependence of the creature on God; 2) [Asselt intended to list the second type of necessity, but I don't think he did], 3) every creature is dependent on God in terms of the future per God's foreknowledge and decree. 3a) Asselt writes, "However great the creature's freedom may be, these acts are still necessary from this perspective, otherwise God's foreknowledge could be false and his decree changeable." 4) free will must go with rational necessity, for must not a free action be a rational one? 5) Free will relates to moral necessity, or that of habit. If you do an action enough, whether good or bad, it becomes a habit, making it easier to do this action. Few will deny this observation. 6) The necessity of an event or the existence of a thing. If a thing is, it is necessarily.
In short, freedom can be determined because freedom is not absolute (Asselt, 162-163).
Necessity of the Consequent, Consequence
The necessity of the consequent is the necessity of a proposition behind the "then" in an if...then statement. The necessity of the consequence is the consequence itself. Ie, the implicative necessity. In the implicative necessity, neither the antecedent nor the consequent needs to be necessary. Only the necessity of the implicative relation counts. Take the two propositions:
(1) If I marry Marian, then Marian is my wife.
(2) It is necessary that Marian is my wife (if I marry her).
In proposition (1) it is contingent that I marry Marian. I did not have to do so. Only the implication between the antecedent and consequent is necessary. In proposition 2 it is the result of the conditional proposition that is necessary.
Proposition 1 does not imply proposition 2. Therefore, in an argument of implicative relation of necessity, both the antecedent and consequent can be contingent and not necessary. According to the Reformed scholastics, the necessity of the consequence corresponds with absolute necessity and the necessity of the consequent with hypothetical necessity. In this distinction, the Reformed scholastics combat the charge that the divine decree destroys the contingency and freedom of the world. Therefore, necessity and contingency are compatible and not contradictory.
Most important in this distinction is that it depends on God's will ad extra. If the decision of the divine will is directed to contingent objects ad extra, then God's will is contingent, too. In other words, God contingently wills all that is contingent. Created reality, therefore, is the contingent manifestation of divine freedom and does not necessarily emanate from God's essence. For if this were the case, all things would coincide fundamentally with God's essence, and the actual world would be eternal (198-199).
The book, with a few minor stylistic issues, is outstanding. The current Reformed seminary scene in America, with a few exceptions, has failed miserably. The students, outside of some reading Calvin and the Puritans, know next to nothing about their Reformed Scholastic heritage. They know nothing of the distinctions made in theology in response to Catholic, Arminian and now Orthodox critics. As a result, they are woefully underprepared to deal with these challenges (and not a few cross the Tiber). Van Asselt, happily, has presented Reformed Scholasticim in a strong and engaging manner, and has pointed the student in the direction that he may also become a Reformed Scholastic.