In the combox of our last thread, Tom (Mormon) posted (HERE) a well-written response to Ken (Reformed), on some important issues pertaining to doctrinal development and Scriptural exegesis. That response brought to memory an insightful essay in the Spring 2008 issue of the prestigious Reformed periodical, The Westminster Theological Journal, with the title, “Some Observations On The Theological Method of Faustus Socinus”, written by Alan W. Gomes (a professor at the Talbot School of Theology). The following are some selections from that essay:
There is hardly any insight of the magisterial Protestant Reformation stated with more vigor than Scripture as the sole principium for dogmatics; it is Scripture and Scripture alone that furnishes the material for theological system. However, when one examines the Socinian doctrine as articulated by Faustus himself, one finds little to distinguish it from the classic Protestant position.
In one of his letters Socinus repels the charge of being a vicious heresiarch who teaches doctrines contrary to Scripture, claiming that he “advances nothing” apart from an accurate and careful examination of the Scriptures, “with which [his] writings are filled.” (Page 52)
Commenting, albeit adversely, on the primacy of Scripture in Socinianism, Harnack states, “The New Testament as the sole regulative authority, source, and norm of religion cannot be declared more positively and dryly than by Socinianism.” McGiffert makes the same point with comparable derision, stating, “Christianity became in their hands more completely than ever before a book religion.”
Now, perhaps one may attempt to argue that that glowing Socinian statements about the efficacy and authority of Scripture are insincere, and offered for rhetorical effect. To state the matter bluntly, talk is cheap. Yet, when one actually examines the use that is made of Scripture in the early Socinian system, the claims of Faustus and of the Socinian generations in close proximity to him fundamentally ring true. For one thing, the Socinians produced voluminous commentaries on Scripture…and perhaps most importantly, the Socinians do not merely comment on the Bible, but use the fruits of their exegesis in their doctrinal formulations. (Page 53)
Certainly some thought provoking reflections from an Evangelical scholar who is willing to present the facts in an objective, non-polemical, manner.
Grace and peace,