Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Muller on the Reformation

The following is a very brief response I had written and placed on hold some time ago, but which I might as well post now. After that is some more recent news, brought to my attention by the helpful folks at Historical Theoblogy.

*** Older Portion ***

I've perceived that Ponter, battered and bruised by the Biblical (and Confessional) broadside against his bellicose and bilious banter, has pursued an even less productive path, pointing to his pal Muller as prince (or perhaps pope!) of Protestant pigeonholing (here's Ponter's Post).

Bah. [Both to the technique used and to my silly overuse of adjectives and consonation.]

Muller is part of the Calvin vs. Calvinist movement, which is a blemish on his record. As Dr. Chad van Dixhoorn recently noted, "Ward’s two chapters strike a more militant tone, and begin by chastening the public for their ignorant assumptions about the Assembly - a now commonplace introduction for lectures and studies about the gathering. He then takes up the hammer that Muller usually wields and batters away at the Calvin-versus-Calvinist arguments that continue to encrust otherwise attractive post Reformation research."(Emphasis added - source)

One doesn't have to be an anonymous internet apologist to recognize that just because one or two historians make a claim about the Reformation, doesn't make it so. Muller doesn't have anything better to back up his claims than Ponter has ... although perhaps Muller would be more circumspect about how makes such claims.


I had drafted the above some time ago, and left it in draft mode. However, now it seems Muller has provided a new article on Calvin and Calvinism which concludes that neither Calvin nor the Calvinists were Calvinists. Muller ends up qualifying himself quite heavily, but I suspect it will simply be more fodder for the cannon of our Amyraldian friends (link to report regarding Muller's paper - direct link to Muller's paper)

My comment about him not having anything better than Ponter is almost certainly an overstatement, though Ponter has scrounged for material quite doggedly. I encourage folks to read Muller's paper, if only to get a better idea of a more moderate stance on the "Calvin vs. the Calvinists" position than what one would see at Ponter's blog.



Anonymous said...

Even Satan isn't evil enough to be a Calvinist.

Turretinfan said...

It's not that Satan is not evil enough, but that Calvinism is far too depressing for Satan. He'd like to imagine that God is not sovereign over history.

Anonymous said...

So Muller is part of the Calvin vs. Calvinist movement. Really? I mean, he only made his career bludgeoning the Calvin vs. the Calvinists both in class, in print, and in public lecture for the past 30 years ... can you cite some sources that make you think so?

I am curious that you have read his corpus and think so. Really? Because he explicitly rebukes those lines of thought ...

Turretinfan said...

What makes you think he bludgeoned them at all? I've already provided some evidence (however unpersuasive it may be to you). Where's the counter evidence?

Anonymous said...

Have you read the Unacommodated Calvin, specifically chapter 3? How's bout After Calvin, chapters 2 and 3? Hows about Post Ref. Reformed Dogmatics vol. 1? Vol. 2? Vol. 3? Vol. 4? Muller's entire project is designed to refute the Calvin vs. the Calvinist argument. I think you may have mis-read VanDixhoorn, and misunderstood Muller's recent lecture at Calvin. Please read first, then write. Thanks. My work here is done.

Turretinfan said...

Thanks for your input. If it were more specific, it would be more persuasive.

Anonymous said...

More specific than chapter 2-3 of After Calvin? More specific than chapter 3 of the Unaccomodated Calvin?

ok ... more specific ... let's see

Try volume 1, page 8, footnote 29 of Chad B. van Dixhoorn's dissertation on the Westminster Assembly entitled "Reforming the Reformation: Theological Debate at the Westminster Assembly 1643-1652" submitted to Selwyn College, Cambridge in September, 2004 in which he pointedly notes that "Prof. Muller is the most active scholar in this revisionist school and contends that'orthodoxy is, from a historical perspective, the codification and institutionalization of the Reformation'". A revisionist school which van Dixhoorn labels as "continuity theorists".

You will be happy to note that the rest of van Dixhoorn's footnote cites such works of Muller as After Calvin (p47), Christ and the Decree (p12), God, Creation, and providence in the thought of Jacob Arminius (p207), PRRD (p33) [probably volume 1 but none listed] et al.

Furthermore, this footnote is wedded to the justification for the second aspect of van Dixhoorn's thesis, namely, "I examine on a synodical level what can felicitously be called "the continuity theory" an adjustment of the term which Willem van Asselt and Eef Dekker use to describe the relationship between the Reformation and the post-Reformation periods. Dekker and van Asselt join Richard Muller and others in arguing that Reformed orthodoxy in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is in essential continuity with the Reformation, although significant diachronic and synchronic discontinuities obtain among the Reformers and their orthodox successors."

Now then, you might say - aha Muller thinks there are discontinuities - but then that would be to run roughshod over the "essential continuity" that he insists upon whereas Torrance et al maintain a stark break with no continuity and only discontinuity. So you will forgive me if I find your comments regarding Muller shockingly odd if not worse than a mis-reading, and bluntly uninformed. Especially coming off a quotation of van Dixhoorn, who seems to be rather appreciative of Muller's work against "discontinuity theories" of the Protestant Reformation and the post-Reformation orthodox, such as those posited by the "Calvin vs. the Calvinists" schools of thought. To be fair, van Dixhoorn does mull about Muller in his concluding thoughts of his dissertation - How do you apply Muller's claim that the title Reformed belongs to all those that fall within the boundaries of the Creeds and Reformed confessions to figures at the Westminster Assembly who framed the confession but did not - as a matter of conscience - subscribe to man-made creeds and confessions! (see pp. 352-356, esp. fns 16 & 20)
Good question. But he certainly does not lump Muller with the Calvin vs. the Calvinists crowd ... so when you cite van Dixhoorn's review of Muller's work on the Westminster Assembly (a disagreement one should read as a matter of opinion on detail with significantly broad agreement, given van Dixhoorn's appreciation and use of Muller and other "continuity theorists" in his dissertation as a justification for his project) it leaves me wondering why you would write off Muller "as just a historian" when van Dixhoorn is playing the same game with the same play book.

I invite you to read the works mentioned more carefully as I do not have time to further enlighten you when other scholars of much more weightier pedigree, accomplishment, and caliber than I disagree so starkly with you.

Turretinfan said...

Other scholars? Are you claiming to be a scholar?