Book Review - Getting the Reformation Wrong

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Book Review - Getting the Reformation Wrong

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Image of Getting the Reformation Wrong: Correcting Some Misunderstandings
by James R. Payton Jr.
IVP Academic 2010
Paperback 272

“Hollywood history” is the name given to the movie industry’s presentations of persons and events in history. Implied in this term is the possibility that the “history” presented may or may not be accurate, or have even occurred—just as long as the story makes money for the producers. Sometimes in his attempt to find an illustration, a pastor does the same with Christian history. Payton’s book is an antidote to that kind of abuse and misuse of Reformation history.

He tells the reader:

This book arises from my ongoing fascination with and study of the Reformation. It was borne of a desire to expose, challenge and correct some misrepresentations of the Reformation which have become common. It comes as a call to appreciate, learn from and live out of the Reformation—not the Reformation of our fond imaginations, but the one which exploded on the European scene in the sixteenth century (p. 20).

It is my opinion that he succeeds with only one minor reservation, which I will mention later.

The chapter contents show that he has surveyed every side of the cauldron of events that we call the Reformation: (1) The Medieval Call for Reform, (2) The Renaissance: Friend or Foe?, (3) Carried Along by Misunderstandings, (4) Conflict Among the Reformers, (5) What the Reformers Meant by Sola Fide, (6) What the Reformers Meant by Sola Scriptura, (7) How the Anabaptists Fit In, (8) Reformation in Rome, (9) Changing Direction: From the Reformation to Protestant Scholasticism, (10) Was the Reformation a Success?, (11) Is the Reformation a Norm?, (12) The Reformation as Triumph and Tragedy.

Chapters 10-12 are his assessment of the Reformation. Chapter ten is a very good example of how to historically evaluate any movement. He cautions that as “a historical movement, it need not ‘succeed’ (whatever that might mean): it just was” (p. 211). But he “asks” each reformer what he would have “thought” of his own success. He then analyzes what happened in the second half of the sixteenth century. His answer? “It proved to be a significant but flawed product, often victor over opposition but also victim of its own weaknesses” (p. 233).

Some examples of “getting it wrong” would be Luther and his relationship to humanism and his use of the method of disputation. The Ninety-Five Theses were written out in the format used among the Scholastics. All of Luther’s university schooling was scholastic and this often brought him into conflict with those trained in the humanities. The Scholastics, and Luther too, loved “logomachies” (word wars) (p.64). The Humanists were disgusted with such verbal sparring. As Payton puts it:

The humanists initially did not realize that Luther had been trained entirely in the scholastic mode. They knew that he could not have become a member of a theological faculty without such training, of course: that was the norm in the early sixteenth century. But they assumed that somehow the Saxon professor had embraced their humanist perspectives…By the time it became unquestionably clear—sometime in the early 1520s—that Luther’s orientation was not entirely synchronized with that of Erasmus, many of the younger humanists had been captivated by Luther’s teachings and had become his followers. (pp. 81-82).

Payton also explains why Luther seemed slow in reforming. He was waiting until his congregation understood the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Luther did not want a reversion to the works-righteousness which had enslaved his own soul. “So, out of concern for the weak among the congregation who only slowly grasped the basic Reformation message, changes could only be gradually be introduced” (p. 95). This, of course, slowed change to a snail’s pace in Wittenberg. Luther also assumed that when the people understood the changes to be made, they “would gladly accept the changes and not even consider them as somehow commending them to God or earning righteousness before him” (p. 95). That seems a bit unrealistic, though, given the fact that at any one time a local church will include people at all levels of spiritual maturity.

On the other hand, some reformation advocates, especially those of the so-called Anabaptists, decided that spiritual maturity was necessary for baptism. Payton asserts that some Anabaptists insisted on disciple’s baptism.

To be sure, Anabaptists practiced baptism of adults, rather than infants. Indeed, Anabaptism means ‘baptism again’—a rebaptism which repudiated the baptism received as a child. However, while sixteenth-century Anabaptists rejected paedobaptism, they did not practice believers’ baptism (as it is commonly known today); instead, they practiced disciples’ baptism. The contemporary option of experiencing a conversion in one church service and being baptized in the next, a practice common in many such church circles, was foreign to sixteenth-century Anabaptists. They reserved baptism for committed disciples who had shown by their steadfast faith, self-discipline and wholehearted following of the ideal of the gathered community that they were genuine disciples. (p. 161)

Obviously, disciple’s baptism would contain within it the idea of believer’s baptism.

The only reservation I have about this book is how Payton describes the Reformation as a tragedy (chapter twelve). I found myself agreeing with his dismay over the 26,000 denominations in the USA, but disagreeing with what he says to do. He correctly laments the almost countless denominations that are scattered across the world, but his solution leaves much to be desired. He writes,

Even so, the multitudes of church splits which have ensued in Protestant ranks—beginning in the sixteenth century, and increasing in frequency subsequently and achieving breakneck pace by the early twenty-first century—have unquestionably managed to undermine the integrity of the gospel. (p. 257)

In Payton’s view this “integrity of the gospel” is the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17 (p. 251). It appears that Payton’s solution is the ecumenical one—that is, organizational union (p. 258). He writes,

We might find some significant help in this regard by listening to the Protestant Reformers’ recommendation that we look to the ancient church as a pattern to follow. While the Reformers held patristic teaching and practice in high regard in a host of ways, one of the undeniable strengths of Christian antiquity was the unity it manifested. Across the wide expanse of then-known world, in its various cultures and several languages, the ancient church managed to remain one. This unity was not a bland sameness: it allowed room for differences of emphasis, even for strong differences of opinion. But these were ‘family squabbles’ between brothers and sisters in Christ, not occasions for leaving the household and starting another. (p. 258)

Did not the Pope throw Luther out of the Church? Payton’s point seems to be driven by an ecumenical agenda, rather than by historical evaluation, and a historian of Payton’s caliber should know that there may be visible union without any unity.

Apart from the confusion regarding unity, I highly recommend this book. I have read it through three times. It will, no doubt, reward the repeated readings I intend to give to it.

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Ted Bigelow's picture
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Thanks

Thanks Bill. What is Payton's background?

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Alternative Review

From my own reading, I agree with this other review. Payton gets a lot wrong for someone writing a book by that title.

http://ia700101.us.archive.org/20/items/BookReviewOfGettingTheReformatio...

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Unity Fiasco

Great review, Bill. I agree with you on all points.

Many of us believe Jesus' prayer for unity was fulfilled at Pentecost. I think ecumenists overplay the idea that organizational unity is the cure-all for transforming the non-elect into the elect. When the Spirit of God is working on someone, Jesus becomes the issue, not the unity or disunity of the church. When the Spirit of God is not working on someone, any excuse will do.

I personally think having many denominations is a safeguard for the truth, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. When the "church" was "one," what a mess we had!

"The Midrash Detective"

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Good review

My own http://www.fundamentallyreformed.com/2010/10/29/getting-the-reformation-... review of the book was similarly positive. I also caught the problematic view on unity but we do need correctives on that point too, as you stated. As for his background, this comes from the book's back cover:

James R. Payton Jr. (Ph.D., University of Waterloo, Canada) is a professor of history at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada. He has studied, taught and been in dialogue with Eastern Orthodoxy for many years and is the author of a number of articles on Orthodoxy and Protestant-Orthodox relations. Another area of interest for Payton is the Reformation on which he has written many articles and book reviews. Some of his works cover subjects such as John Calvin, Martin Bucer and the influence of the Reformation in Ukraine. He is very involved in ministry to Eastern Europe, serving from 1998-2006 as executive secretary of Christians Associated for Relationships with Eastern Europe, and since 2006 as president.

I was actually surprised that I agreed with the book's premise as much as I did. I'll have to check out your counter point, Charlie. But from my reading I thought he was mostly spot on.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Charlie's link

In reading the review you link to, Charlie, I tend to agree with most of what he said. I still think for a general audience the book is good. He could have delved more into Anabaptist stuff but didn't. The scholasticism of the systematic theologians that followed the Reformers being different than the Reformer's emphases themselves, that bit, I wasn't entirely informed enough on to make an opinion. I do think there is a kernel of truth to Payton's argument but I can see he may well have overstated it. I don't think this makes his book worthless, and the fact that he doesn't demonstrate the connection between some modem errors and their incorrect view of the Reformation isn't all that big either. I think he does a service in highlighting those errors.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Ugh, Another Of These

What efforts like this often lack, despite their high-sounding high-mindedness, is a simple yet vital question: how does God view all this? Would it be pleasing to God if we were all still Roman Catholics? And to answer that question, one has to be honest about a subsequent one: is the Roman Catholic Church a legitimate expression of the Christianity that Jesus Christ gave to His apostles, the faith that was once delivered to the saints? Which is worse? 26,000 denominations? (And that is a problem why, exactly? So ... there was only one denomination the early church? What was its name? My copy of the New Testament doesn't seem to mention that information. News flash: atomization via aore denominations actually takes us closer to the New Testament model, which was individual churches led by pastors and elders under the headship of Jesus Christ.) Or transubstantiation (and a host of other Catholic abominations)? For all the alleged problems with being Protestant, it has the singular advantage of not being Catholic to make those problems worth bearing.

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura
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Reply to JobK

I'm glad you cut the first part of your comment because it doesn't apply to this book. He is not out to get us to all become Roman Catholics, by any stretch. His book is largely a needed corrective, and he admits that he has bias and prejudice just like every other author.

I disagree that 26,000 denominations is a good thing and what Jesus envisioned in John 17. Neither is a world-wide global church that doesn't get too clear on doctrine either. I'm all for being Protestant, but a little of a good thing can go a long way. And the splits that he most regrets in the book isn't the split between Protestant and Catholic, but Protestant and fellow Protestant.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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N.B.

A small word on Protestant Scholasticism. People like the reviewer Charlie linked to are common and I confess to finding their viewpoint tedious. The line goes like this. "In the Bad Old Days, Barth and other dubious dogmaticians pitted Calvin against the Protestant (esp. Reformed) scholastics. This however was rooted in these dogmaticians own theological agenda, not in historical fact. Nuanced historical research, primarily by Richard Muller and his followers have shown this decisively."

That's a kind of dangerous half-truth, repeated mainly by young Presbyterians who have read Muller and or studied at a few seminaries (I can basically guess someone's theological background if they present the Muller thesis in the above, unqualified form). The historical correction of Muller et al. was needed; it's been overstated; and it's nowhere near unanimous, as the Muller followers like to imply. It's especially popular among, surprise, confessional Presbyterians. Respected scholars, like Randall Zachman, take issue with Muller and his ilk, and for plenty of good reasons. So the idea that there has been some big, unanimous change is simply false; and the idea that it's been motivated and justified simply by historical research is silly, as it has an obvious theological and specifically confessional Reformed (and, one should add, anti-Barthian) agenda. In many ways it's a kind of historical turf-war Presbyterians and other Reformed folk are playing to claim their rightful place in the tradition, which is partly why the focus is so terrifically weighted towards Reformed and not Lutheran scholastics.

I am no scholar of the period and have no major research interest in it, other than as a theological student who seeks to understand his traditions. But it is prima facie absurd to me to imply, as Muller and others do, that the radical change in the form of theology evinced in how different Protestant Scholastic theology is written from that of Luther and Calvin - that such form indicates no major change (some discontinuities, certainly, but nothing to remotely support the Calvinst vs. the Calvinists claim) beggars belief. That Calvin's Institutes start with his dual knowledge of God and self statement; that Luther's theological is explosively personal, rhetorically incomparable (Dilthey said the power of some of Luther's writing makes all subsequent poetry look almost anemic and bloodless in comparsion (I paraphrase)) unsystematic in its structure, vehemently anti-Aristotelian, and that then the Westminster Confession of Faith deals with the divine decrees prior to Jesus Christ (!) etc. are not, it seems, merely issues of window dressing. The process of confessionalization, which had a great deal to do with the historical and social changes in Europe after the Reformation, is not merely an extension of Calvin and Luther's thought. For the sake of generosity to the Protestant Scholastics it seems only fair to see their changes as substantial, not just formal, even if Muller and others can dot I's and cross T's about whether they agreed on x point of dogma. Form matters; it's not independent of content and sensibility; and the form of theology radically changed in Protestant Scholasticism.

The point about form in particular makes the Muller thesis, in its unmitigated form, highly implausible to me (and I have run this reaction by at least one respected historian who thought it held water, for what it's worth).

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Payton's background

This is from the Redeemer University College website:

EDUCATION

Ph.D. (1982), History, University of Waterloo
Dissertation: "Sola scriptura and Church History: The Views of Bucer and Melanchthon on Religious Authority in 1539."

Th.M. (1975), Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary
Dissertation: "The Influence of Martin Bucer Upon the Development of Puritan Postmillennialism."

M.Div. (1975), Westminster Theological Seminary

M.A. (1971), Theology, Bob Jones University

B.A. (1969), Religion, Bob Jones University

JobK-- I don't think Payton's point is to become a Roman Catholic. Rather it seems that he is justly calling into question what C. S. Lewis, among others, termed the arrogance of the modern Christian: that anything before the 20th Century is worthless at best, and probably heretical at worst.

Charlie-- thanks for the link to the other review. The reviewer has indeed shown where Payton may have done a better job. That being said, the general view of Payton is that history is not very tidy, but quite messy and he may be reacting against some of the revisionist history (think, triumphalism or maudlin story) of some preachers. At least, that is my impression of the tone of the book. Payton does not strike me as being as careless as Bredenhof makes him out to be. Payton's portrayal of Protestant Scholasticism is a generalized, but not an inaccurate one. Perhaps Bredenhof's negative review will be the cause of a second edition, if the 'errors' are actually that grievous.

Bob-- Payton may have given the wrong impression about Protestant Scholasticism. Not all of the dividing and subdividing and seemingly endless nuances are evil, maybe just tedious. An example of what might be considered "good" Protestant Scholasticism is the "Christian Directory" by Richard Baxter. Someone has estimated that it contains over one million words. But I recently used his section on the duties of a Christian citizen toward government officials in a sermon on Romans 13 (I used only 8 out of over 40). On the other hand, the Protestant Scholastics were apparently trying to fight fire with fire in their battles against the Roman Catholics and against each other. They did use the categories of Aristotle, among other things, and did end up bickering in epic proportions.

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By way of responding to the

By way of responding to the review itself, I have only thanks to B-Lowry for presenting us a helpful review of what sounds like an excellent book. I was impressed with Payton's book on Eastern Orthodoxy, which I reviewed a while ago here at SI, so I'm unsurprised to hear good things about this recent book.

I may have mentioned this before, but I regard the reviews SI offers as one of its most helpful and perhaps in the long view important services.

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B-Lowry wrote: This is from

B-Lowry wrote:
This is from the Redeemer University College website:

EDUCATION
...

M.A. (1971), Theology, Bob Jones University

B.A. (1969), Religion, Bob Jones University

...

Bob-- Payton may have given the wrong impression about Protestant Scholasticism. Not all of the dividing and subdividing and seemingly endless nuances are evil, maybe just tedious. An example of what might be considered "good" Protestant Scholasticism is the "Christian Directory" by Richard Baxter. Someone has estimated that it contains over one million words. But I recently used his section on the duties of a Christian citizen toward government officials in a sermon on Romans 13 (I used only 8 out of over 40). On the other hand, the Protestant Scholastics were apparently trying to fight fire with fire in their battles against the Roman Catholics and against each other. They did use the categories of Aristotle, among other things, and did end up bickering in epic proportions.

First, thanks for digging up that Payton went to BJU. Very interesting. I thought some of his critiques with regard to Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura sounded awful close to home for our part of the evangelical galaxy. I have seen what he has seen, apparently.

Second, I agree that Payton pointing out a bit of an over reaction doesn't through out what the Scholastics gave us. I think he even explains the defensive posture they had to take against the Jesuits and their like, too, as being a contributing factor. I still think that Joseph's comments above are probably more correct than not. The heirs of Confessionalism are defedning the Scholastic thought which gave rise to their beloved Confessionalism. That bias does color the pot a bit. Still, I'm thankful for both Confessionalism and the Reformers. I just wish that Zwingli, Calvin and Luther would all have just sat around Joel Tetreau's campfire and cooked up some S'Mores with us here at SI. Then the Kingdom would certainly have come in full force!

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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More on Book Reviewing

Joseph wrote:
By way of responding to the review itself, I have only thanks to B-Lowry for presenting us a helpful review of what sounds like an excellent book. I was impressed with Payton's book on Eastern Orthodoxy, which I reviewed a while ago here at SI, so I'm unsurprised to hear good things about this recent book.

I may have mentioned this before, but I regard the reviews SI offers as one of its most helpful and perhaps in the long view important services.

I agree that book reviews are great. In fact, if you are a blogger, you should seriously do some book reviews. You can get free books, and make sure your blogging doesn't keep you from reading books that are a lot more enduring than the latest theology blog-war.

If http://sharperiron.org/books-for-review ]the books Sharper Iron offers don't suit you, (or if you think you might not want to be publishing articles in such a prominent place as SI)... here are a couple tips.

http://www.fundamentallyreformed.com/2008/11/26/blogging-for-books-part-2/ How to Blog for Books
http://crossfocusedreviews.com/extras/blogger-book-review-programs/ A Listing of available Christian Publishers' Books for Bloggers review programs

Sorry for going a bit off topic, but then again this is a book review after all!

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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By the way, if I were someone

By the way, if I were someone out there, I'd gobble up one of those http://sharperiron.org/books-for-review ]available books right now. CrossTalk by Michael Emlet is a fantastic and very practical book.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Joseph

I find your reply somewhat overstated. Mostly, your response is unfair to Bredenhof, especially because you ignore his actual writing and deal with him as a stereotype. Bredenhof dealt specifically with two issues where he thought Payton was factually incorrect in a way that undermined his thesis. Bredenhof supplied specific counter-evidence. So, whether you agree with everything Richard Muller says is beside the point. Payton lacks the corrective that you yourself admit Muller and others provide.

Regarding what you find prima facie absurd, I can say only that I'm not sure you really understand what you are inveighing against. I don't believe Muller seeks to eliminate the importance of form, or to deny discontinuities. In fact, he has probably done more than anyone else to demonstrate real discontinuities. However, the line for a long time has been that the change in form (or supralapsarianism or the syllogismus practicus) is positive evidence of Reformed Orthodoxy betraying the Reformers. I find this prima facie absurd, since it would require that virtually every phase of church history constitutes a betrayal of the prior phase (since there is little continuity in form), and because there is no one form that Reformation theology takes vis-a-vis Post-Reformation theology. Read Calvin's polemical tracts against Pighius or Castellio, and you will see a much more scholastic, even Aristotelian Calvin. Read Bucer, Bullinger, Beza, and Melanchthon and you will see quite a spectrum of forms, approaches, orders, and rhetoric. Luther's own rantings against scholasticism are hypocritical, and almost all Luther scholars will point that out. He dances with that whore when it suits him. Calvin's editions of Institutes vary the placement of the decree, and the elderly Calvin specifically approved of Beza's Tabula Praedestinationis, that supremely deductive, scholastic document (as some read it).

Also, it should be noted that the period of Reformed Orthodoxy brought us some of the most precious, existential texts ever written - Pilgrim's Progress, A Christian's Reasonable Service, and The Marrow of Modern Divinity. That period too had its diversity of forms.

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Nice Review

Hi Bill! Nicely done review. It is rather hard to argue with a man who has read a book through three times.

Not having read the book, I wonder how Payton comes to the conclusion that the Anabaptists believed in discipleship baptism and not believer's baptism? Their confessions and writings ( I have read several of their confessions) seem to say nothing about this, but rather emphasize genuine belief and conversion as the qualifications for baptistm. Of "maturity" before baptism I venture to guess one would not find a word in Anabaptist writings. But I am willing to be corrected. All the Anabaptist writings I have read marked Baptism as the beginning of discipleship. Only in this way could their baptism be called "discipleship baptism." But where does any confession of any denomination mark the beginning of discipleship, other than at baptism?

Jeff Brown

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Bredenhof's Review

Charlie, I read the review and, because I don't have time for more than this, want to comment on Bredenhof's view of Anabaptist theology. He demonstrates neither knowledge of nor interest in Anabaptist theology and history, except through the eyes of one opponent. Guido de Bres was a dear believer and faithful martyr of the Christian faith, but using his writings to pass well-reasoned judgment on Anabaptist theology is like asking Keith Olbermann to give an unbiased judgment about Sarah Palin's politics.

de Bres was the main writer responsible for the Belgic Confession, 1561. It says the following about his group's view of the Anabaptists: "Whey detest the Anabaptists and other seditious people, and in general all those who reject the higher powers and magistrates and would subvert justice, introduce community of goods, and confound that decency and good order which God has established among men" (Art XXXVI)" Not far from de Bres homeland, Menno Simons (d. 1561) had already organized an expanding movment of Anabaptists in the Netherlands that was pacifist, not seditious. He always taught reverence to authority. de Bres, like many protestants of his day, lumped all Anabaptists together as a spiritual and social menace. He thoroughly misrepresented the Dutch Anabaptists (As well as the South German Anabaptists and the Swiss Anabaptists).

Bredenhof cites Melchior Hoffmann and Menno Simons as proof that the real division between the Anabaptists and the rest of Protestantism (for they really were historically a part of protestantism) was Christology, not baptism. That is a bit of nonsense. If Bredenhof had cared to read the writings of leading theologians of the Anabaptists, he would have found most of them to be quite sound theologically on the subject of Christology. Hoffmann's views were repudiated by the Swiss Anabaptists before he had done much mission work. His views held sway among the radical branch of the Anabaptists, which was wiped out at Munster in 1535. Menno Simons, who became an Anabpatist in 1537, believed in the true Godhood and manhood of Jesus Christ but was convinced that the humanity of Christ came from heaven, since if it had come from Mary, it would have been tainted with sin. However, though he wrote on the subject, he refused to teach on it, since he felt the origin of Christ's humanity was a matter too difficult for most Christians to begin to comprehend. Only the Anabaptists in Holland held to his view. It was rejected by the rest of the Anabaptists. After Menno's death the Dutch Anabaptists dispensed with the doctrine as erroneus.

It is a real stretch to state that the main difference between the Anabaptists and the rest of the Reformers was Christology.

The writings of the Anabaptists, and most historical works about them show plainly that their contentions with the rest of the Reformers had to do with believer's baptism and the believer's church. That is a giant subject and I have said enough already.

Jeff Brown

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Charlie wrote: I find your

Charlie wrote:
I find your reply somewhat overstated. Mostly, your response is unfair to Bredenhof, especially because you ignore his actual writing and deal with him as a stereotype.
If I had wanted to interact with Bredenhof I would; I didn't because I had no desire to. I thus don't deal with him as a stereotype; my post was general, indicating that Bredenhof's repeats a common line, which I summarized, and then I stated my opinion regarding that position. I don't really care about Bredenhof per se; the focus of my post was the Muller thesis and its uncritical acceptance by advocates of repristinated confessional Reformed theology. Whether Bredenhof has any serious points about his two examples is moot, partly because I can't consult Payton, which is another reason I didn't concern myself with those details. That Bredenhof is a proponent of the Muller Thesis, as I summarized, is obvious, and that was my point of departure. I don't accept that Payton lacks the corrective Muller provides; he might just disagree with Muller's thesis, as plenty of people do. I'd be surprised if he is unaware of Muller's scholarship and, again, without consulting the book, I can't judge the matter.

Charlie wrote:

Regarding what you find prima facie absurd, I can say only that I'm not sure you really understand what you are inveighing against.
That's fine; plenty of others do (I noticed after I wrote my post last night, for example, that Peter Leithart makes the same point on his blog. As I said, I've run the reaction by a highly competent historian, and he understood and agreed with my reaction.) If someone doesn't instantly see a huge difference between Calvin's and Turretin's Institutes, for example, I surely won't argue with them. That's like trying to argue over the color of an object the parties don't even agree exists.

Charlie wrote:

Also, it should be noted that the period of Reformed Orthodoxy brought us some of the most precious, existential texts ever written - Pilgrim's Progress, A Christian's Reasonable Service, and The Marrow of Modern Divinity. That period too had its diversity of forms.
Charlie, I confess to being surprised here; you know as well as anyone it's practically meaningless to talk about what the "period" brought us as if it means Bunyan, for example, a noncomformist Baptist with little formal education was somehow the product of Protestant Scholasticism. As to people like Brakel and Ames, I don't see how their writings matter to the general point.

I personally have nothing against scholasticism, but I much prefer what I've know of the Medieval to what I've know of the Protestant scholastics, and I prefer Luther and Calvin to their scholastic epigones. None of that, however, has to do with the historical question about changes in form and content. I'm just noting my own views to make clear my biases. But I don't have some Barthian reason to drive a wedge between the Protestant Scholastics and the great Reformers; I just think theology changed, a lot, between the two.