“Expositio reverentialis”: Gisbertus Voetius’s (1589–1676) Relationship with John Calvin

In: Church History and Religious Culture
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  • 1 Evangelical Theological Faculty, Leuven

The important Dutch scholastic theologian Gisbertus Voetius (1589–1676) held John Calvin in high esteem and was very familiar with his work, although he did not like to be called a Calvinist. This article argues that Voetius’s reading of Calvin is reminiscent of the medieval practice of expositio reverentialis or “respectful explanation.” When Voetius evaluates in his Thersites heautontimorumenos and his Disputationes selectae Calvin’s rejection of the scholastic distinctions between the effective and permissive will of God and between his absolute and ordained power, he argues that Calvin only dismissed their abuse, but not their proper use. This way Voetius defends Calvin against charges by the Remonstrants or Roman Catholic theologians.

  • 3

    See Johannes van den Berg, ‘Die Frömmigkeitsbestrebungen in den Niederlanden,’ in Der Pietismus vom siebzehnten bis zum frühen achtzehnten Jahrhundert, ed. Martin Brecht [Geschichte des Pietismus 1] (Göttingen, 1993), pp. 57–112 (esp. pp. 78–88). As far as “pietism” is used as epochal concept, its application to Voetius is somewhat anachronistic; cf. Beck, Voetius (see above, n. 1), pp. 137–140.

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  • 42

    Calvin, Institutes, 3.23.2 (CO 2: 700). The second citation (ibid., 2.7.5; see above, n. 41) is less clear. However, Becanus could have referred to other places such as Calvin’s commentaries on Genesis 18,18 and 25,29, and on Isaiah 23,9 (see CO 23: 255; CO 23: 354; CO 36: 391). Cf. David C. Steinmetz, Calvin in Context (Oxford, 1995), pp. 40–52; Paul Helm, John Calvin’s Ideas (Oxford, 2004), pp. 328–333.

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  • 49

    David C. Steinmetz, ‘Calvin and the Absolute Power of God,’ The Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 18 (1988), 65–79, repr. Steinmetz, Calvin in Context (see above, n. 42), pp. 40–52.

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