The Reformed Principia Theologiae

Welcome to the Brickyard. This is a place to find quotes for use in your own research. The bricks are free but the building is up to you. The following quotes are from Richard Muller’s Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena to Theology. We turn specifically to the doctrinal formulation of the “Reformed Principia Theologiae.”

Muller describes the Principia Theologiae as

“the sine qua non, the necessary and irreducible ground of theology, apart from which not even the fundamental articles of the faith could be set forth and no articles of theology, fundamental or derivative, could be correctly stated.”

Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 9.3, A, 1. 430-431.

The “necessary and irreducible ground” of theology, the faith, and Christian fundamentals is known as the principia or first principles. Muller explains,

“From Aristotle and more recent commentators, Iaullus and Zabarella, Lubbertus draws the argument that principia are necessary and immutably true and must be known per se as both immediate and indemonstrable.”

Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 9.3, A, 1. 431.

Muller goes on,

“Furthermore, the principia of any given discipline must be identified as a principium essendi, literally a “principle of being” or essential foundation – and a principium cognoscendi, a “principle of knowing” or cognitive foundation. The former is necessary for the existence of the discipline, the latter for knowledge of it.”

Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 9.3, A, 1. 431.

So what are the principia of the discipline we call theology? Muller insists that

“By defining both Scripture and God as principal in the strictest sense – namely as true, immediate, necessary, and knowable or, alternatively, as both self-evident and indemonstrable – the early orthodox asserted the priority of Scripture over tradition and reason and gave conceptual status to the notion of its self=authenticating character in response to both Roman polemicists and philosophical skeptics of the era.”

Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 9.3, A, 1. 432.

Conclusion? The historically Reformed position is that both Scripture and God are principium. As such, each is true, immediate, necessary, knowable, self-evident, and indemonstrable in Christian apologetic and polemic endeavors. If true, then the Bible cannot be mostly true. If immediate, then knowledge of the Bible is not mediated by some more basic authority. If necessary, then true Christian theology cannot be had apart from the Bible. If knowable, then Scripture cannot be the ward of Christian academia. If self-evident, then textual criticism cannot be the primary means of knowing what is Scripture and what is not. If indemonstrable, an “embarrassment of riches” cannot be the means whereby Christians “prove” the Scripture to be what it says it is.

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