15 Apr The Catholic Calvin – Pro Ecclesia
In this article, I explore the implications of recent historiography on how to relate Calvin to the broader catholic tradition. I argue that, although anti-Roman Catholic in many ways, there are important ways in which Calvin maintained broad continuity with the broader catholic tradition. While many modern Reformed theologians seek to use Calvin in their own efforts to marginalize the exegesis and theology of pre-modern catholic theology, these efforts rely upon a decontextualized account of Calvin’s theological writings.
From the article:
“In the end, the catholic Calvin is one which disrupts the “either/ or” dichotomies that dominate much in contemporary theological discourse. It is a portrait of Calvin that is inconvenient for many of his Reformed followers and for his non-Reformed detractors as well. While there is no doubt that Calvin and his followers in Reformed orthodoxy were antagonistic to their Roman Catholic contemporaries, their theological vision was not formed by building a theology on wholly new grounds. Rather, the early Reformed tradition sought to be rooted in Scripture, the Church Fathers, and the best in medieval theology and method, as they perceived it. Calvin and Reformed orthodoxy did not always agree with these pre-Reformation authors. But their teaching ended up being profoundly shaped by pre-Reformation theological voices. lndeed, as Zachman has shown in Calvin’s own theological development, in some ways he was a recatholicizing influence for early Protestantism–an approach shared by many later Scholastics. As such, scholars such as Ganoczy and Tamburello have found Calvin to be a rich source for study in light of contemporary Roman Catholic concerns. For although Calvin was not Roman Catholic, he was, in many ways, a catholic theologian. ln particular, compared to many modern Reformed theologians who dismiss central claims in premodern catholic theology, Calvin and the Reformed Scholastics were on the catholic side of the divide. Before sola scriptura became an excuse to marginalize pre-Reformation exegesis and theology, there was another way of being Reformed. Ironically, while that earlier way often presented polemics against their Roman Catholic contemporaries, it also drank from the same catholic stream that many in the Reformed tradition have now left in search of new waters.” (134)
Click here for the full article:
J. Todd Billings, “The Catholic Calvin,” Pro Ecclesia 20:2 (Spring 2011): 120-134.