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The Reception of Calvin: Historical Considerations

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The question of the reception of Calvin’s ideas in later Reformed theology requires, first, a clear understanding of the various forms of reception. Often historians think of this in terms of continuity or discontinuity, but there is a danger that such terms can lead to the surreptitious intrusion of anachronistic criteria into the historical task. Instead, the historian should set the question of continuity within a broader context, constructed from analysis not only of matters of doctrine, but also of philosophical framework, and the specific questions to which the texts under consideration were addressed. Then, reception itself needs to be understood as a complex matter. There is the reception of specific texts, and the reception of particular ideas and concepts. Both are susceptible to their own particular forms of historical analysis. The former, being textual and empirical, is relatively easy to assess; the latter involves careful attention to communal context, both synchronic and diachronic. Only as these various issues are addressed will scholarship truly begin to map the complex relationship between the theological work of men like Calvin and that of later generations.

Affiliations: 1: Westminster Theological Seminary, PA, USA


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