Philosophical Language in the Reformation

Who depended on whom? Some have said that the Reformers simply traded the Aristotle of Aquinas for Plato. But who did the Reformers rely for their Reformation? Did they attempt to borrow from Greeks to establish their world view? The clearest answer to this is that the Reformers depended on the Greeks when they were necessary. For instance, in refuting the deadly arguments against the deity of Christ in the early church, some of the later Reformers made no quarrels about using early church apologist like Justin Martyr and others. Some in the church have despised so much of Scholasticism that they have forgotten that the majority of the terms they use to express their frustrations with scholasticism, come from that period itself. Further, let us not forget that the great Trinitarian lexicon comes from that same time. As Professor John Frame has mentioned: “It isn’t wrong to use extrabiblical language to formulate theology” (Docrine of God, p.3).

At this point we ought to differentiate between Pre-Reformation theologians, and Post-Reformation theologians. The scholastic tendencies were seen in the post-Reformation Reformers. One must remember that they were developing detailed treatement of certain areas yet not so well developed in the church (Covenant Theology comes to mind). My immediate response is that the Reformers emphasized a brilliantly holistic view of the Christian faith. Our religion (faith) is physical (opposing Plato) and spiritual (opposing pagan Hedonists). One may rightly assert that modern day Reformed churches have not embraced this totus approach. They have placed a largely spiritual emphasis on almost all matters of life. To escape or to abide in the heavenlies is their most desired quest. However, what makes the Reformed tradition entirely different in its hermeneutic is that it sees life and theology as one. The abstract is not really abstract and the mundane transcends life, and yay, the two shall meet.

About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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