Reformed Confessions and Scholasticism. Diversity and Harmony

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Abstract

This paper discusses the complex relationship of Reformed confessions and Reformed orthodox scholasticism. It is argued that Reformed confessions differ in genre and method from Reformed scholastic works, although such differences between confessional and scholastic language should not be mistaken for representing different doctrines that are no longer in harmony with each other. What is more, it is precisely the scholastic background and training of the authors of such confessions that enabled them to place their confessional writings in the broader catholic tradition of the Christian church and to include patristic and medieval theological insights. Thus proper attention to their scholastic background helps to see that at least in some confessions the doctrine of predestination, for instance, is not as ‘rigid’ as one might think at first sight. In order to demonstrate that the doctrine of the Reformed confessions was much in line with the scholastic theology of Reformed orthodoxy, this paper discusses, after having explained the terms ‘Reformed orthodoxy’ and ‘scholasticism’, the early Reformed scholastic theologians Beza, Zanchi, and Ursinus, who also have written confessional texts. The paper also includes a more detailed discussion of the Belgic Confession and the scholastic background of the Canons of Dordt and the Westminster Confession, thereby focusing on the doctrines of God, providence, and predestination.

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