Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725; Vol. I, Prolegomena to Theology; Vol. 2, Holy Scripture; Vol. 3, The Divine Essence and Attributes; and Vol. 4, The Triunity of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003. Vol. I: 463 pp. Hardback. ISBN: 0-8010-2617-2. Vol. II: 537 pp. Hardback. ISBN: 0-8010-2616-4. Vol. III: 606 pp. Hardback. ISBN: 0-8010-2294-0. Vol. IV: 557 pp. Hardback. ISBN: 0-8010-2295-9. Set price $175.00.
The following is best described as a book announcement rather than a book review. Reviewers have presumably read all (or at least most) of a book. In this case, I have only read sections of this monumental work. Indeed, it is a work of monumental significance and is well worth the purchase of anyone who can afford it. Muller has done for Post_Reformation Reformed dogmatics what no one else has done with such detail since the beginning of the eighteenth century (and in its own way, what no one else has ever done). He has compiled and synthesized the thinking of Reformed theologians (from 1520-1725) on prolegomena to theology (vol. 1), Holy Scripture (vol. 2), the divine essence and attributes (vol. 3), and the Triunity of God (vol. 4). (On these subjects, Heppe's Reformed Dogmatics is only a scratch in the sand compared to Muller's castle).
However, Muller's work is not simply a theological compendium. Instead, it is primarily a study in the history of doctrine. And whenever possible, Muller brings the immediate historical context to bear on the discussion. In addition, he has introduced his subjects with extensive investigations into the preceding history of doctrine. Medieval precedents for each subject are thoroughly discussed. The following investigations build on this material, and it becomes clear how Reformed theology was in living dialogue with the church of the preceding ages.
Those looking for a research topic may also find this work suggestive. For in spite of his thoroughness, Muller admits that theologians in the seventeenth century wrote vast treatises on subjects he has only dealt with in sections of his work. Thus, there is still room to write whole monographs on these subjects, and Muller constantly refers the reader to his sources. Volume four contains an extensive list of sources; here Muller demonstrates that he is in constant dialogue with the vast range of original and secondary source material.
Along with the addition of volumes three and four, several changes to the first edition of volumes one and two should be noted. After several evaluations of his original work, Muller has tried to draw it all together with a brief thesis statement at the end of volume one and a more extensive thematic conclusion at the end of volume four. In addition, volume one has been expanded with two new sections: one on the academic study of theology; and the other on "the development of a Reformed perspective on philosophy." In volume one, he has "refined the argument . . . in a few places" and "recast some of the sections." In both volumes, he has rearranged some of the material and added second and third-level sub-headings for ease of reading.
Far more could be said on this work. Of course anyone working in the area of historical theology, intellectual history or philosophy cannot afford to miss these volumes. But they should not be left to the halls of academia. Equally, those working in Reformed churches cannot afford to be ignorant of this work (if for no other reason, it represents the most thorough historical study of their church's theological heritage to date). And due to the richness of Reformed theology, those looking for both historical and theological insights will be highly rewarded. And don't worry; it doesn't have to be read in one sitting. My recommendation? Buy it! Read it! Pass on the word to others!
Scott F. Sanborn