Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism (Van Asselt)

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RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Van Asselt. Willem. Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism. Reformation Heritage Books.

This book changed my life. It should be required reading in at least one seminary course, preferably the first systematic theology class.

Imagine someone taking Richard Muller's four volume Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics and condensing it to an affordable single volume, and this would be what Van Asselt has done. His thesis does not differ significantly from Muller in that “Reformed Scholasticism” was a legitimate outgrowth of Calvin's own theology. Van Asselt takes his work beyond that statement and posits this book as a “how-to do” historical theology. He covers the basics of Reformed Scholasticism, the important players, the necessary bibliographies, and ends with a few appendices on how to write an historical theology essay for a post-graduate class.

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).

Van Asselt notes that the ectypal construction, if not the idea, has its origins with Duns Scotus. Scotus distinguished between theoleogia in se (theology in itself) and theologia nostra (our theology). This is an end-run, if not a rejection, of Aquinas on analogy. The difficulty with analogy was pinpointing where the realm of the Creator's knowledge ends and the creature's begins. Scotus cuts it cleanly down the middle. Far from being a rationalist construct, this radically limits reason's claims.

Conclusion

Many of today's 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 Scholasticism in a strong and engaging manner, and has pointed the student in the direction that he may also become a Reformed Scholastic.
 

Romans678

Puritan Board Freshman
Van Asselt. Willem. Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism. Reformation Heritage Books.

This book changed my life. It should be required reading in at least one seminary course, preferably the first systematic theology class.

Imagine someone taking Richard Muller's four volume Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics and condensing it to an affordable single volume, and this would be what Van Asselt has done. His thesis does not differ significantly from Muller in that “Reformed Scholasticism” was a legitimate outgrowth of Calvin's own theology. Van Asselt takes his work beyond that statement and posits this book as a “how-to do” historical theology. He covers the basics of Reformed Scholasticism, the important players, the necessary bibliographies, and ends with a few appendices on how to write an historical theology essay for a post-graduate class.

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).

Van Asselt notes that the ectypal construction, if not the idea, has its origins with Duns Scotus. Scotus distinguished between theoleogia in se (theology in itself) and theologia nostra (our theology). This is an end-run, if not a rejection, of Aquinas on analogy. The difficulty with analogy was pinpointing where the realm of the Creator's knowledge ends and the creature's begins. Scotus cuts it cleanly down the middle. Far from being a rationalist construct, this radically limits reason's claims.

Conclusion

Many of today's 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 Scholasticism in a strong and engaging manner, and has pointed the student in the direction that he may also become a Reformed Scholastic.
More books to buy. Thank you brother.

Sent from my SM-A326U using Tapatalk
 

Brian T

Puritan Board Freshman
Imagine someone taking Richard Muller's four volume Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics and condensing it to an affordable single volume, and this would be what Van Asselt has done.

On that endorsement, I just picked this up (and another title that van Asselt edited, Reformation and Scholasticism: An Ecumenical Enterprise) in Logos, to go along with PRRD, of which I am 2/3rds through volume 1. Thanks!

Many of today's 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).

I can vouch for this. A close friend of mine who left eastern orthodoxy the same time I did, was waffling back and forth between Lutheran and Reformed theology most of last year. He read some Sproul and considered himself "Reformed" for a few months, but then went back to Lutheran, then flirted with Anglicanism for a few weeks, then swam the Tiber. Very frustrating to see, but in our discussions (after he no longer considered himself Reformed), his "arguments" were pretty weak, because he never really took the time to develop a real understanding of the positions. The stuff he throws at me now can be blown away like lint by anyone who's got a handle on this material.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
On that endorsement, I just picked this up (and another title that van Asselt edited, Reformation and Scholasticism: An Ecumenical Enterprise) in Logos, to go along with PRRD, of which I am 2/3rds through volume 1. Thanks!



I can vouch for this. A close friend of mine who left eastern orthodoxy the same time I did, was waffling back and forth between Lutheran and Reformed theology most of last year. He read some Sproul and considered himself "Reformed" for a few months, but then went back to Lutheran, then flirted with Anglicanism for a few weeks, then swam the Tiber. Very frustrating to see, but in our discussions (after he no longer considered himself Reformed), his "arguments" were pretty weak, because he never really took the time to develop a real understanding of the positions. The stuff he throws at me now can be blown away like lint by anyone who's got a handle on this material.

When I stopped flirting with EO in 2012, I was originally considering Lutheranism. I respected Lutheranism because its view of Christology correlated with its archetypal theology. By the time I finished reading Muller volume 1 in June 2012, I was fully convinced of the Reformed position because of its view on Christology and ectypal theology.
 
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