Fides et ratio, faith and reason. Christians adopt the position of fides quaerens intellectum – “faith seeking understanding.” Or, showing their hand a bit more, credo ut intelligam – “I believe that I may understand” (Anselm). While reason may distinguish humanity from the animal kingdom, Christians have distinguished ourselves by remembering the importance of faith. Rather than allowing our reason to dominate our decisions and days, or even trying to hold the two in an uneasy tension, divine revelation requires us to shape our understanding and experience of the world, and we aim for a reason that submits to revelation as received in faith.Continue reading
Gijsbert Voet (English – Gilbert Foot) not only overlapped with Herman Witsius (1636 – 1708) for 40 odd years, but he was an important subject in the Dutch Reformed world in which Witsius lived and breathed. Not only was Witsius heavily influenced by Voetius, but Witsius’ own work was – in a sense – an attempt to reconcile the best of Voetius and Johannes Cocceius and their respective methodologies. Any careful study into Witsius must grapple with Gijsbert Voet, and hopefully the following biography presents a clear albeit brief look into this important Dutch father.
Biography of Voetius
Born in the small fortified city of Heusden as the son of Paulus Voet and Maria de Jongeling, Gisbertus (or Gijsbert) Voetius’s early years were dominated by the experience of war. Heusden was on the front line in both a military and a religious sense, as it was situated on the southern bank of the river Meuse that would later form the borderline dividing Catholic and Protestant parts of the country. Voetius’s relatives were directly involved in the conflict with Spain. Grandfather Nicolaas Dirkszoon Voet, heir to a Westphalian noble family, died in prison in ’s Hertogenbosch where he was kept on account of his support of William the Silent. Several members of Gijsbert’s mother’s family would flee the city, leaving all their possessions behind in order to accompany the Prince of Orange to Breda. Voetius’s father meanwhile saw his own property being demolished in the rampage around Heusden. Having joined the State militias for a second time in 1592, he was killed in the siege of Bredevoort in 1597, leaving behind the sickly Maria with four children. Continue reading at Witsius On the Web…
In a Mars Hill Audio interview, Ellen Charry observes that the Protestant theologians of the seventeenth century, even before the Enlightenment, had a tendency to detach truth from historical reference. The truth of theology was seen in the coherence of the system of truth found in Scripture, rather than a truth of reference to historical events.
Charry’s comment was a passing one, no doubt a drastic oversimplification. Protestant scholastics, after all, defended the historical reliability of Scripture as well as its systematic coherence. But, the comment seems worthy of investigation, since it might provide a historical link between Protestant scholasticism and the development of liberal theology.
Maybe there is some truth to this claim, especially since “the Protestant theologians of the seventeenth century” (no reference to confessional position, orthodoxy, etc.) is a pretty wide generalization. I didn’t listen to the interview, and like Leithart noted, it was a passing comment.
That said, there are important nuances to this idea. If by “Protestant theologians of the seventeenth century” one is referring to Reformed Scholastics like Cocceius, Voetius, Brakel, Turretin, Owen, or Witsius, then qualifications should be noted. These qualifications follow in patterns that we, and Charry?, may not quickly set upon. First, the scholastics (and Protestant scholastic era) were some of the best with historically-referent theology, and secondly, despite their connections with history, some of these theologians were quickest into the liberal slide. Continue reading
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.