Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

Introduction

Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

Introduction

Article excerpt

Christopher Burchill's assessment of Zanchi's place in history captures well Zanchi's contribution to Protestant theology: "Girolamo Zanchi (1516-1590) was a member of the influential though informally organized group of Italian refugees whose diaspora as a result of the activity of the Inquisition was to have a major impact on the development of Reformed theology in the decades following the death of John Calvin." (1) Unlike Burchill, however, modern historical theologians have been reluctant to praise Calvin's successors for their role in the development of Reformed theology. Calvin scholars, until quite recently, have tended to pit Calvin's doctrinal formulations over against those of his later Reformed successors. (2) The argument was that orthodoxy became too "scholastic" and "rationalistic" in contrast to the more exegetical and confessional character of Calvin's theology. As research into the period of Reformed orthodoxy has progressed over the last twenty years, the formerly dismissive attitude toward it as "dead," "arid," "rigid," and "abstract" has been overturned in the secondary literature. (3)

Richard Muller, one of the leading scholars in the development of Reformed theology during the post-Reformation era, holds that the term scholasticism used in reference to the theological systems of late sixteenth-and seventeenth-century Reformed orthodoxy describes a method employed to formulate doctrine, not a school of thought that predetermines doctrinal content. He defines scholasticism as "the technical and logical approach to theology as a discipline characteristic of theological systems from the late twelfth through the seventeenth century.... [that] is not necessarily allied to any particular philosophical perspective nor ... represent[ed by] a systematic attachment to or concentration upon any particular doctrine or concept as a key to theological system." (4) Moreover, scholars who distinguish scholasticism in this way have become increasingly more aware of the continuities--as well as the discontinuities--the Reformers and their successors maintained with the doctrinal and philosophical formulations of the patristic and medieval eras in Christian theology. This has certainly been true for those interested in Zanchi's theology.

Due largely to the research of Otto Grundler (5) and John Patrick Donnelly, S.J., (6) Zanchi is most remembered for his use of the scholastic method in the articulation and defense of Reformed doctrine. Donnelly, in particular, has called attention to the fact that the key, early figures in Reformed scholasticism were Theodore Beza (1519-1605), Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562), and Girolamo Zanchi. While the use of Aristotelian logic and Thomistic philosophy are clearly discernible in each of the aforementioned theologians, Donnelly considers Zanchi to be the best example of what he calls "Calvinist Thomism," meaning that Zanchi was a Calvinist in terms of theological content and a Thomist in terms of philosophy and methodology. To appreciate Zanchi's contribution to the development of Reformed theology, it is necessary to provide a brief synopsis of his life and work. (7)

Zanchi was born on February 2, 1516, in the northern Italian city of Alazano near Bergamo. The death of his parents when he was fourteen occasioned his entrance into the local monastery of the Augustinian Order of Regular Canons. During his youth, he formed a close friendship with Massililiano Celso Martinengo (1515-1557), who would later flee Italy and become the minister to the Italian exile congregation in Geneva and in the spring of 1541 would transfer with Zanchi to the priory of San Frediano in Lucca. It was there that the two young men came under the influence of the new prior--Peter Martyr Vermigli--who would eventually become the most well-known and influential of the Italian Reformers.

Under Martyr's direction and mentorship, Zanchi engaged in daily exposition of the Scriptures and became acquainted with the works of such leading Reformation figures as Martin Bucer (1491-1551), Philip Melancthon (1497-1560), Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575), and John Calvin (1509-1564). …

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