Theological Pedigree Does Not Determine Orthodoxy nor Faithfulness

Consider the following:Gomarus

  • Theodore Beza (1519 – 1605) was handpicked by Calvin to continue the Academy at Geneva.
  • While teaching there, Beza instructed a new student Jacob Arminius (1560 – 1609).
  • Arminius became an instructor at the University of Leiden, where he taught Gisbertus Voetius (1589 – 1676).
  • Voetius spent seven years at Leiden. Among his teachers were both Gomarus and Arminius.

Few theologians are known for a higher Calvinism than Beza or Voetius. And yet Arminius fits squarely within their pedagogical history. What conclusions can we draw from this?

  1. We must not become either too mechanical – as if good teachers automatically produce good students – or too indifferent (e.g., “it doesn’t matter who my professors are; I’ll turn out just fine”). Yes, Arminius studied under Beza, but he also learned from Johann Kolmann. True, Voetius learned from Arminius, but he also sat at Gomarus’ feet. Teachers do exert an effect on their students, but it is not automatic or without nuance.
  2. I thank God for the professors I had at Westminster West, but a theologically sound faculty is no guarantee for theological soundness. Students blessed to have excellent teachers should be cautious to proceed in their fathers’ footsteps, and never depart.
  3. Poor theological education is no final impediment to your theological growth. If you lament your professors or education, Voetius is an example of rising above your education and proving to be a master at his craft despite some inadequate examples.

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