The Relevance of Reformed Scholasticism for Contemporary Systematic Theology

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Abstract

This article examines how Reformed scholasticism can be relevant for systematic theology today. ‘Reformed Scholasticism’ denotes the academic practice in which the doctrines of the Reformation are expounded, explained, and defended. It is primarily a method and attitude in search of the truth, based on a careful reading of Scripture, drawing on patristic and medieval traditions, and interacting with philosophy and other academic disciplines. In addition to these methodological features, important contributions on various doctrinal topics can be discovered. The doctrine of God has a foundational role in the sense that God is the primary subject of the other topics (creation, salvation, etc.). Reformed scholastic theology not only examines God’s inner essence, but also the concrete relation and operation of God toward his world. In a Trinitarian understanding of God’s essence, a distinction is maintained between God’s immanent relatedness as three divine Persons, and his outward relation to created reality. The doctrines of creation and providence gave occasion for Reformed scholastics to engage in debates with the emerging natural sciences, and also articulated important theological insights concerning the involvement of God in creaturely affairs. In Christology, the Reformed orthodox maintained the classic doctrine of the two natures of Jesus Christ, against Socinians and other opponents. These ontological statements are the necessary conditions for a proper understanding of the salvation by Christ. While the doctrinal positions of Reformed scholastic theology cannot be automatically transmitted to contemporary discussions, we can profit from this tradition on several levels of method and content.

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