The Unaccommodated Calvin: Studies in the Foundation of a Theological Tradition

By Richard A. Muller | Go to book overview

PREFACE

There is truth in the saying that history is rewritten by each generation. Of course, few historians would claim to have entirely rewritten history—and those who have made the claim have usually been less than successful in convincing others of the validity of their conclusions. The task of rewriting or, more precisely, of reinterpreting history typically assumes the advances of the past, attempts to build on them, and, either through an increased precision or through the attainment of a different vantage point, moves on not to a new history but to a new perspective on a history already fairly well known. Recognition that the writing of history always involves a process of reinterpretation builds humility among historians. The young recruits of today are the old war horses of tomorrow. The latest reappraisal soon becomes grist for the mill of reevaluation. Once the historiographical task has been relativized and deprived of its finality, it nonetheless remains the case that the reexamination of sources with a view to greater precision in detail and with an altered sense of the legitimate context of investigation brings a certain kind of forward movement in study: if we never attain to finality, we at least can state with relative certainty that faulty or partial older perspectives have been set aside.

In the last decade, we have clearly come to such a shift—or to a series of shifts—in the interpretation of Calvin and Calvinism. Without making any claim to finality, we can review the history of recent scholarship and note that an older model, typical of the heyday of Barthian studies of Calvin, has become outmoded, albeit not entirely set aside. Movement away from the Barthian or neo-orthodox approach has taken at least two directions, the one quite promising, the other (to borrow a phrase from Calvin and his contemporaries) pressing deeper into a labyrinth of twentieth-century theologizing.

-vii-

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