Ulrik Huber (1636–1694) and John Calvin: The Franeker Debate on Human Reason and the Bible (1686–1687)

in Church History and Religious Culture
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In a doctoral dissertation De recta ratiocinatione (1686), Gisbert Wessel Duker claimed that “the divinity of Scripture cannot be demonstrated except by reason.” During the promotion session at the University of Franeker, the legal scholar Ulrik Huber (1636–1694) objected to this statement by reading from a copy of the Institutes he had in hand what John Calvin had written about the necessity of the testimony of the Holy Spirit. This article traces Huber’s use of Calvin in various writings published during the ensuing controversy, most notably the De concursu rationis et Sacrae Scripturae (1687). That Huber used him as an authority is significant because he was a legal scholar, and not a theologian, who appealed to Calvin in support of the need for the Holy Spirit and for humble piety in order to counter tendencies in the (legal) philosophy and theology of his day to grant natural human reason a normative status in religion.

Ulrik Huber (1636–1694) and John Calvin: The Franeker Debate on Human Reason and the Bible (1686–1687)

in Church History and Religious Culture




Ibid. pp. 5–6. CO 2: 58–59. The trans. is adapted from John T. McNeill and Ford Lewis Battles (eds.) Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion vol. 1 (London 1960) pp. 78–79. On the issue see Paul Helm John Calvin’s Ideas (Oxford 2004) pp. 246–281 and idem Calvin at the Centre (Oxford 2010) pp. 64–97.


Ibid.6. CO 2 60. The trans. is adapted from John T. McNeill and Ford Lewis Battles (see above n. 22) p. 80.


Ibid. pp. 102–103 (this is a quote from Calvin Institutes 1.7.4; CO 2: 59).


Ibid. p. 110 citing Institutes 1.7.5 (CO 2: 60).


Ibid. p. 111 with reference to CalvinInstitutes1.7.5 (CO 2: 60).


Ibid. p. 70 with reference to CalvinInstitutes3.2.34 (CO 2: 426; Huber’s reference to 3.2.14 is a typographical error).


Ibid. p. 75 (clearly a reference to Calvin’s text quoted in the previous note).


Ibid. p. 123 (obviously another reference to the text quoted above n. 31).


Ibid. p. 70 with reference to CalvinInstitutes2.2.20 (CO 2: 202).


Ibid. p. 94.


Ibid. pp. 215–216 (here Abraham Heidanus is quoted explicitly: Proeve ende wederlegginghe des Remonstrantschen catechismi 3rd ed. (Leiden 1645) pp. 19–21). On Calvin’s acceptance of the validity of rational arguments see also p. 220.


Ibid. p. 217 citing CalvinInstitutes1.7.4 (CO 2: 59).


Ibid. p. 73.


Ibid. pp. 70–71 with reference to Calvin Institutes 1.7.5 (CO 2: 60; already quoted in the Positiones juridico-theologicae (see above n. 16) p. 6).


Ibid. pp. 94–95 quoting from Calvin Institutes 1.7.5 (CO 2: 60: “persuasio quae rationes non requirat” etc.) and referring to Calvin Institutes 1.7.4 (CO 2: 59). The same twofold statement with quotations and references to Institutes 1.7.4–5 was made on pp. 197–198.




Ibid. p. 71 with reference to Institutes 3.2.14 (CO 2: 409).


Ibid. p. 95 (Huber quoted ibid. p. 78 Descartes’s Secundae responsiones in Oeuvres de Descartes ed. Charles Adam and Paul Tannery vol. 7 (Paris 1983) pp. 14727–14813). See also pp. 134–135 with quotations from Calvin’s commentary on 1John 2:17 about the need for humans to receive the Spirit.


Ibid. p. 125.


Ibid. p. 242 (cf. p. 125).


Ibid. p. 30; cf. Huber Positiones juridico-theologicae (see above n. 16) pp. 5–6 quoted above at notes 22–23.


Veen‘Huber,’ in Dictionary (see above n. 1) p. 459.


Wouter Goris‘Waarheid, geloof en weten—Thomas versus Bernardus,’ Philosophia reformata 73 (2008) 61–70there 70. The reflections of my Amsterdam colleague Goris have stimulated my thinking here.


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