Time and eternity : a study in Samuel Rutherford's theology, with reference to his use of scholastic method
Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661), one of the greatest Reformed scholastic theologians, lived in the period of Reformed institutionalization known as ‘high orthodoxy’. Rutherford’s theological formulation is thoroughly trinitarian in structure, emphasizing Christocentric doctrine in its soteriological dimension. His main theological concern is the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human accountability: the amicable relationship between the divine eternal decree and its execution in time without jeopardising human freedom. In order to demonstrate this relationship in an orthodox manner, it is significant that Rutherford uses mainly ‘scholastic’ as well as Ramist, and analytical humanist method. All three featured prominently in the mainstreams of academic discourse in his period. Thus, Rutherford’s theological enterprise may be characterized as ‘Reformed orthodox scholasticism’. However, Rutherford’ theology is not the systematic development of central dogma-predestination, as the later ‘Calvin against the Calvinists’ model argues. Rather, scholastic orthodoxy should be understood in the context of Reformed Protestantism’s controversies with Jesuits, Arminians, Socinians, and Antinomians and the desire of its leading theologians to institutionalize their own dogma within the broader catholic Christian tradition. Rutherford thus shares his theological or dogmatic loci with Reformed orthodox scholasticism, using them to lay bare the ‘sophistries’ of his opponents, and at the same time to expound and defend the orthodox faith: orthodox soteriology in particular.