David Bagchi and David Steinmetz, eds., The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 289 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-521-77662-7. $25.99.
At the conclusion of this volume on the theology of the Reformation (the reader should not expect to learn about the history of the Reformation from these pages), the co-editor, David Bagchi, asks about the "way ahead," i.e., the future of scholarly research in Reformation theology. He is evidently confident that this volume has summarized the state-of-the-art on the topic to date. In the main, he is correct in that assessmentseveral of the essays in this volume are gems; in fact, models of summary and explanation of their respective topics. The authors of these outstanding essays have obviously been chosen for their expertise on their subjects: W. P. Stevens on Zwingli; David Wright on Scotland; David Steinmetz on Trent. What more can be said? Bagchi notes that the untapped corpus of the Reformers is their sermons. In this, he is certainly correct. The integration of the theology of the Reformers as it interfaces with pulpit and treatise has not greatly occupied scholars heretofore and thus, there is more work to do. While this reviewer does not expect any major revisions of the theology of the Reformers to arise from thorough analysis of their sermons, nonetheless this unexplored body of primary material remains a new frontier for the scholars of the future. Bagchi (254) also notes that the roots of Protestant scholasticism are indigenous to the 16th century and are not reserved to the post-Reformation (17th century) era. Vermigli, Musculus, Bucanus, Zanchius and others echo "Here! Here!"
However, Bagchi ignores the lacunae of this volumethe Reformation in Eastern Europe. The pages of our book include Reformation theology in England, Scotland, Germany, SwitzerlandHolland and France are mentioned (see the Index). But Poland, Hungary and Transylvania are absent. This is all the more striking in view of the important work on East European Reformation history and theology which has appeared in the past 15 years. Increasingly, the cross-fertilization and interdependence of the magisterial Reformation and the 16th century East European religious reform has been closely studied and explained to Western audiences. And as Eastern Europe was the scene of the Socinian and anti-Trinitarian movements of the 16th century, we miss a summary chapter on these heresies, particularly as they reprise age-old rationalisms, moralisms and reductionisms.
And yet this volume does give us Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, Bucer, Calvin, Cranmer, Knox, as well as the Anabaptists and Roman Catholicism of the Council of Trent. Zwingli's endorsement of the third use of the law (98), more balanced biblically than Luther's law-gospel antithesis, will also be advocated by Melanchthon against Amsdorf (60). Nor is this the sole modification of Luther advocated by his great successor. Luther's "bondage of the will" yields to a more natural ability of the sinful will, which Melanchthon defends in his debates with Spangenberg (74-75). Calvinism, as Muller argues, develops and matures; it is not mutated by a post-Reformation revisionism, as neo-orthodox scholars once argued. Reformed scholasticism of the 17th century is a more precise and mature form of orthodoxy, not a rejection of it. This reviewer might note that Muller's inclusion of Amyraldianism (17th century theology of the Academy of Saumur) in the orbit of Reformed orthodoxy (141) is probably more generous than the 17th century opponents of Saumur (i.e., Francis Turretin, André Rivet, Frederick Spanheim, etc.) would grant. Steinmetz's observation that Reformation covenant theology articulated one covenant of grace "under different administrations" (117) is certainly reflective of the primary documents.
The chapter on the Anabaptists reminds us of their `radical' posturerestorationist, not reformationist (208). This laying of the ax to the root of the 16th century tree does not just involve baptism (paedo- versus anti-paedobaptism). Anabaptism stressed orthopraxis over orthodoxythe emphasis falling on the practice of Christianity, not its abstract formulation. It is sufficient to be reminded of what the Reformers themselves regarded as problematic (even unbiblical) in the movement: Anabaptism was non-Reformed, non-Augustinian and non-Pauline.
All in all, a handy "companion" to the subjectcertainly helpful as an introduction and overview of the theology of the era, with attendant bibliographies (257-76) for more extensive study. Even lay persons will benefit from this title. And those seeking an orientation or refresher on the topic could not do better for $26.00.
James T. Dennison, Jr.