Richard Muller, a world-class Reformation scholar, examines the relationship of Calvin’s theology to the Reformed tradition, indicating Calvin’s place in that tradition as one of several significant second-generation formulators. Muller argues that the Reformed tradition is a diverse and variegated movement not suitably described either as founded solely on the thought of John Calvin or as a reaction to or deviation from Calvin, thereby setting aside the old “Calvin and the Calvinists” approach in favor of a more integral and representative perspective. Muller offers historical correction and nuance on topics of current interest in Reformed theology, such as limited atonement/universalism, union with Christ, and the order of salvation.
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“In brief, most versions of the theological narrative have elevated Calvin out of his context and identified him as the founder either of the Reformed tradition or of ‘Calvinism’ or have identified his Institutes of the Christian Religion not only as the fundamental source of his own thought but as the norm for understanding all subsequent developments in the Reformed tradition, breeding debates over the relationship, whether positive or negative, of Calvin to the Calvinists and mistaking the nature of a tradition.” (Page 17)
“Calvin was quite clear on the point: the application or efficacy of Christ’s death was limited to the elect. And in this conclusion there was also accord among the later Reformed theologians.” (Page 61)
“Calvin himself viewed the term ‘Calvinist’ as an insult and thought of his own theology as an expression of catholic truth.” (Page 54)
“Calvin taught that the value, virtue, or merit of Christ’s work served as sufficient payment for the sins of all human beings, and provided the basis for the divine promise that all who believe will be saved, assuming that believers are recipients of God’s grace and that unbelievers are ‘left without excuse’” (Page 105)
“his own version of this doctrine on a speculative doctrine of the divine decrees” (Page 158)
Meticulous attention to texts and their contexts, expressed in Muller’s own lively, precise language and expressing his astute assessment of the theologians he studies, marks this collection of new and old from the leading living scholar of the practice of Reformed theology in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Muller takes readers into the intellectual world and the thinking of Calvin and a number of others, representatives of Calvin’s own time and of the following generation. Muller plumbs the depths of their teaching in their historical settings with judiciousness and acumen while clarifying the intricate relationships among Reformed thinkers. He places his own monumental work into the framework of current scholarly discussion and of the sources which have produced his insights in ways that will bring readers at every level of familiarity with Reformed theology much deeper into its riches.
—Robert Kolb, missions professor emeritus, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis
Calvin and the Reformed Tradition is a masterful and penetrating look into critical dimensions of Calvin’s soteriology in relation to the Reformed tradition… Sometimes he gives us a satellite view of conflicting master narratives in retelling Reformation and post-Reformation theology. At other times he gives us a microscopic view of specific texts in Calvin’s works, carefully analyzed in their context. At every turn he calls scholars to careful definition of terms and the avoidance of imposing anachronisms on early modern writers. Students of historical theology with an interest in matters such as the divine intent of Christ’s death, the free offer of the Gospel, the will of God for salvation, union with Christ, and the relation of assurance of salvation to the fruit of the Spirit will find this book challenging, illuminating, and helpful.
—Joel R. Beeke, president, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
Richard Muller has been the key player in the extensive revision of how the theology of Calvin and his contemporaries is understood to relate to that of the later Reformed tradition. In this collection, he provides the reader with an outstanding selection of essays on this topic. Wide-ranging in scope, penetrating in argument, and breathtaking in scholarship, these essays are representative of Richard Muller at his very best. A scholarly cornucopia.
—Carl R. Trueman, Paul Woolley Professor of Church History, Westminster Theological Seminary