A Bibliology Primer and the Institutes of Elenctic Theology

This is the first of a new series entitled, A Bibliology Primer drawn Principally form Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology, or a Primer on Bibliology for short. Richard Muller writes of the term “elenctic,”

“elenchticus, -a, -um (adj.): elenctic(al), for the purpose of confutation or logical refutation;

a descriptive adjective frequently used by Protestant scholastics with reference to the polemical section of their dogmatic systems. Whereas polemical indicates simply attack, elenctic(al) implies refutation leading toward positive statement.”

Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally From Protestant Scholastics, Term: elenchticus.

As we make our way through this primer it is important to know that material under examination happens in a dogmatic context with the aim to confute [i.e., prove to be wrong] or refute [i.e., disprove] certain assertions under the give topic. The Protestants at this time were in a kind of intellectual combat over the soul of the believing community. This of course gives rise to tacitly militant language in terms like apologetic, polemic, and elenctic.

Regarding Bibliology, Turretin’s offering was written at a time when the Protestant orthodox were under political and theological assault, thus the observations he makes took place in an adversarial context. Rome had her Bible and the Protestants had theirs. Note, there was a time when both sides held to a standard sacred text – one Latin, and the other Greek and Hebrew. We here at StandardSacredText.com would like to see similar circumstance come about in the 21st century church.

On final note regarding Turretin’s Institutes. He begins his first topic with the existence and necessity of theology as a discipline and system of study. His second topic is not God, or sin , or the church. His second topic is Scripture. We see this in the Westminster Confession and its cousin, the London Baptist Confession. Again, for Turretin he saw fit first to start with Scripture, our epistemological foundation for Christian belief, rather than with God, our ontological foundation for Christian belief. Certainly this ordering is not the same with all Protestant scholastics, but in this case as in many others, it is.

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