Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Reformed orthodoxy and the art of propaganda

Dick Gaffin, in his essay in The Faith Once Delivered, warns of the "widespread but severely distorting model abroad today for reading the history of theology since the Reformation, especially its sweepingly negative assessment of seventeenth-century Protestant orthodoxy."

He follows this up with an illuminating footnote (which I have adapted). The model can be set out as follows:


the Reformation

The Fall:

seventeenth-century orthodoxy

The effects of the Fall:

eighteenth-century rationalism and nineteenth-century liberalism

[MD: you could also add twentieth century fundamentalism/conservative evangelicalism, in the eyes of some this is further evidence of the Fall]


primarily Karl Barth and the trends he initiated

Gaffin contin
On this view Reformed orthodoxy brings little other than the darkening clouds of medieval synthesis with its baleful dualisms, reappearing after the temporary respite brought by the bright sunshine of the Reformation. Characteristically, this theology is branded with the pejoratives "scholastic" and "scholasticism" (though it is remarkable how seldom an effort is made to define these labels; presumably they are self-evidently bad).

Under attack here, if we need reminding of what is obviously at stake, are the biblical integrity and continuing viability of major Reformed confessions such as the Canons of Dordt and the Westminster Standards, which stem from this "scholastic" mind-set.
The Faith Once Delivered, p. 7