Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mr. (Rev. Dr. Prof.) Herman Ridderbos' "Paul: An Outline of His Theology:" Historical Tour

Ridderbos, Herman. Paul: An Outline of His Theology (trans. John Richard De Witt). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975.

It is 587 pages, contains footnotes at the bottom of each page, but no bibliography at the end.

An edition is available at:

I. Main Lines in the History of Pauline Interpretation

1. Introduction, pages 13-15

“What’s the main entrance” to Paul? What is the “architecture” of his thoughts and proclamation? The Reformation revived and restored justification by faith alone. The ordo salutis came more to attention over the historia salutis. Pietism, mysticism, and moralism caused the center of gravity to shift. There was a move “more and more from the forensic to pneumatic and moral aspects.” This observation by Mr. Ridderbos is overwhelming and powerful; as one reads here one sees the “time-conditioned” hermeneutics of scholars. Mr. Ridderbos gives four shifts over the 100 plus years: the Hegelian Paul of the Tubingen school, the liberal Paul of liberal theology, the mystical Paul of the history of religions school, and the Heideggerian and “existentialist” Paul of Bultmann and his ilk. Re-raising these issues reactivate old inquiries.

2. F.C. Baur (the Tubingen School), pages 16-17

This presents the Hegelian, if not outrightly Gnosticized, Paul. F.C. Baur postulated it. The “Infinite and Absolute” (Spirit) opposes the “Finite” (the flesh). Salvation is freedom from the flesh. He postulated Paul v. Peter schools within the New Testament. (This brings back long memories of lectures by Mr. Rev. Dr. Prof. Richard Gaffin of yesteryears.) Of course, Mr. Baur, like Marcion too, has an amputated canon.

3. The Liberal Interpretation and its Decline, pages 17-22

Representative thinkers: Holstein, Ludeman, Pfeiderer, Holtzman. Two elements were put in opposition: the “juridical line” from Judaism and the “ethical line” from Greek-Hellenistic thinking. The Spirit (=rational) gains over the lower, sensual aspect (=flesh). This sounds like Gnosticizing Paul or putting Paul into those Platonic categories, willy nilly. What emerges is the “rationalistic-moralistic” Paul of liberals. Mr. Ridderbos somewhat slyly notes that the liberals “attempt to hide” other things in Paul. This too has not survived.

4. The History of Religions Approach, pages 22-29
Representative thinkers: Cumont, Rohde, Diederich, Reitzenstein and, famously, Bousett. Sometimes it is called the school religionsgeshictliche. Mr. Ridderbos notes this was a “typical product” of the WW1 period. The idea is that Paul was influenced by Hellenistic religion. Extended discussions ensued about Eleusinianism, Isis and Osiris, Baalism, Adonis, and Mithraitism. The idea was victory over death and hostile powers with a view to immortality. Some consequences were mysticism: the “Christ-experience,” “Christ-mysticism” and “Christ-communion.” Allegedly, these are Gnostic terms that Paul used: pschikos, pneumatikos, gnosis, agnosia, photizein, doxa, morphousthai, metamorphousthai, nous, and pneuma. Ah, yeah. Postulating this about a Jewish Rabbi, schooled in Israel, the Old Testament and with the apostolic teaching on Christ’s advent, suffering, death and resurrection? This school, Mr. Ridderbos notes, has been universally rejected.

5. The Eschatological Interpretation, pages 29-32

Diametrically opposed to the above, was the reconnection of Paul with his rabbinic background and the early church, notably, at Jerusalem. The “already but not yet” hermeneutic rooted in the resurrection.

6. Continuing Development, pages 32-43

As noted in #5 above, Paul has been put back into his Old Testament and Jewish connections. Ya’ think? Whoodda’ thunk that? Mr. Ridderbos points to a “redemptive historical and eschatological proclamation oriented to God’s saving activity in the advent, death, resurrection and ultimate consummation of the parousia.” All subordinate parts relate to that perspective. It sounds like the old liturgical calendar, although that’s not his intention.

Bottomline: delusionary, self-inflicted, governing, time-conditioned and philosophic subjectivism. Gnosticism, Marcionism, and more subjectivism.

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