|Philipp Melanchthon 1537 (by Lucas Cranach the Elder)|
Birth of Protestant Scholasticism
by Herman Dooyeweerd
Luther's view of temporal life was not informed by the spiritual dynamic of the Scriptural ground-motive. He too remained within the scholastic tradition by considering reason [Vernunft] the sole guide in the realm of nature. Unlike Roman Catholicism, however, he did not acknowledge a connection between natural reason and the revelation of God's Word. "The whore reason" [Die Hure Vernunft] had to capitulate whenever one desired to understand the voice of the gospel. With respect to the truths of faith reason was hopelessly blind. But in matters of secular government, justice, and social order man possessed only the light of reason. It was Ockham's rigorous dualism that sustained Luther's separation of natural reason and the Christian religion.
Clearly, in principle Luther had not severed himself from the dualistic ground-motive. For example, the great reformer expressed no more interest in "profane science" than his scholastic tutor Ockham. Although he fumed against Aristotle and pagan philosophy in general, he did not point the way toward an inner reformation of thought. From his dualistic starting point he did not see that human thinking arises from the religious root of life and that it is therefore always controlled by a religious ground-motive. Similarly, even his new insight into our calling in the world was infected by the dualistic ground motive. To be sure, his idea that every profession rests upon a divine calling was thoroughly in line with the Biblical thrust of the Reformation. And Luther certainly broke with the Roman Catholic view that monastic life had a higher value than worldly life. However, for Luther worldly life belonged exclusively to the realm of "law" and stood in an inner tension with the gospel of love.
But nowhere was the nature-grace dualism expressed more clearly than in Luther's view of the church. Luther was relatively indifferent to the temporal organization of the church, believing that wherever the Word and the sacrament were found the church was present. He did not grant the church its own exclusive, internal legal sphere of competence. He did not, for instance, see an inner connection between the typical qualification of the institutional church as a community of faith and its inherently ecclesiastical legal order. Guided by "natural reason," justice and order were "worldly matters." Justice belonged to the sphere of the law, to "sinful nature." Only proclamation of the Word and the administration of the sacraments belonged to the realm of grace. Thus it was relatively easy for Luther to leave the juridical organization of the church to the worldly magistrates even if this delegation of authority were only "of necessity." Ever since Luther's day the "state church" has been a typical characteristic of Lutheran countries.
The peculiar dialectic of the nature-grace ground motive led Luther's learned friend and co-worker Melanchthon [1497-1560] to attempt a new synthesis between the Christian religion and the spirit of Greek culture. Melanchthon became the father of Protestant scholasticism which even today opposes the truly Biblical approach in scientific thought with the unbending resistance of an age-old tradition.
Unlike Luther, Melanchthon was trained in the literary humanism of his time. He had a great love for classical, Greco-Roman antiquity. Because of his efforts to "adapt" Greco-Roman thought to the Lutheran articles of faith, the form-matter motive of Greek philosophy soon dominated the Protestant view of nature. Since Luther was basically indifferent to philosophy the Greek ground-motive had temporarily lost its prominence; with Melanchthon, however, it regained its claim on the view of temporal life and on the view of the relation between soul and body.
Thus the inherent dialectic of the unscriptural nature-grace ground-motive also infiltrated the Protestant mind. However, there was no pope who could maintain the new synthesis by means of official verdicts and decrees. And soon the unscriptural nature motive was filled with the new religious content of modern humanism, secularizing and absorbing the motive of grace.
(Extract from "Roots of Western Culture: Pagan, Secular, and Christian Options" pp 141-142, by Herman Dooyeweerd).
Free PDF of entire book (older edition) downloadable
Info regarding new paperback edition of book 2012 (revised translation)