Wendelin's "Christian Theology": Definition, Object, End, and Principal Efficient of Theology
Updated: Feb 10
Thesis I: The Προλεγόμενα/Prolegomena of Christian Theology are set forth in five heads. Explanation: What προλεγόμενα/prolegomena are. Thesis II: Theology is defined. Explanation: 1. The Etymon of Theology: *The Manifold Definition of the Pagans: 2. An Analysis of the Definition: 3. It is proven that Theology is a practical, rather than a Theoretical, discipline: 4. Contrary arguments are refuted. Thesis III: The Object of Theology, the true religion, which is defined. Explanation: 1. The Etymon of Religion: 2. Superstition is in opposition to religion. Thesis IV: The Marks, whereby the true religion is distinguished from a false. Explanation: 1. The Christian religion alone has these. 2. The method of salvation is not threefold. Thesis V: The proximate End of Theology. Thesis VI and VII: The principal Efficient of Theology.
THESIS I: The Προλεγόμενα/Prolegomena of Christian Theology are set forth in five Arguments, of which are, 1. Its Definition. 2. Object. 3. Final Cause. 4. Efficient. 5. Distribution. EXPLANATION: The Προλεγόμενα/Prolegomena are certain Heads, which in the place of a Preface, as it were, are set before the Methodical treatment of arts and disciplines, whereby the nature of the treatment of each art or discipline is explained. The sum of these is expressed in the Thesis. THESIS II: Theology is the doctrine concerning the true Religion revealed by God for the obtaining of salvation, and fully committed to the written word of God for His glory. EXPLANATION: I. Theology is to be defined, which term is composed of Θεὸς/Theos/God and λόγος/logos/word/discourse or λὸγιον/ logion/oracle: Whence it is evident that by force of its appellation Theology is speech or a doctrine concerning God and divine things: or, an acquaintance with the oracles of God. Now, we define, not archetypal Theology, which is in God, and of God, indeed, is God Himself, who knows Himself in Himself, and outside of Himself all things and everything, through Himself, by and eternal and indivisible act. But rather ectypal Theology, not natural, but supernatural, which is a likeness of the archetypal, communicated by God through a gracious revelation to His Church. *The Theology of the Pagans, according to the manner of handling, is distinguished into fabulous, natural, and political or civil. The first was introduced by the Poets; the second, by the Philosophers; the third, by the Priests, and approved by public laws. II. The Definition consists of a Genus and its Difference. The Genus is doctrina/doctrine, διδαχὴ/didache in Greek, because it is delivered and learned by docendo/teaching, not from those common principia of the arts, sense, experience, or induction, but by special revelation delivered in the word of God, which alone teaches Theology particularly so called. Christ Himself makes use of this Genus, John 7:16, My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent me. Isaiah 51:4: Doctrine shall proceed from me. The Difference is sought, 1. From its object; which is the true Religion. 2. From its End, which is either subordinate, our eternal salvation; or ultimate, the glory of God. 3. From is Principal efficient cause; which is the Scripture or word of God written. Of these individual parts we shall hereafter discourse, taking them in order. Junius discourses at length concerning them in his treatise de Theologia, in eighteen chapters. III. It is wont to be asked in the Schools: Whether Theology is a Theoretical or Practical discipline? Both opinions have advocates: Whence the question concerning the genus of Theology has arisen, which is not answered in the same way by all: To some it seems to be scientia/science; to others, sapientia/wisdom; to others, prudential/prudence. Let Polanus’ Syntagmate, book I, chapter 12. It does not belong to our purpose to resolve this dispute: and yet we judge one that is a true and sincere Theologian as truly knowing, truly wise, truly prudent. We respond to the prior question: True Theology is Practical, rather than Theoretical, which we demonstrate principally by two arguments. 1. That Scripture, which is the fount of true Theology, exhorts to praxis, rather than theory. Among other passages, let the following be observed: 1 Timothy 1:5, the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned. Hence John so many times inculcates charity in his first epistle. With which those of Paul also align: 1 Corinthians 8:3, is any man love God, he hath been taught by Him; 1 Corinthians 13:2, if I have prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so that I could remove mountain, but have not charity, I am nothing. Let also the following be considered: James 1:22, actually fulfill ye the word, and be not hearers only, deceiving your own selves; and verse 25, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed; Revelation 22:14, blessed are they that keep His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 2. That the end of Theology, to which we are directed through the practical precepts, is the glorification of God, and the eternal salvation, or blessed life, of our souls and bodies: which things are principally practical. To no other end does God in His word instill in us a knowledge of Him, than that we religiously worship Him rightly known: but God is not principally worshipped by the knowledge of the mind, but by the affection of the will. Whence by the theoretical knowledge of the eminent God and of divine things hypocrites or those manifestly impious are made no better or more blessed. Let the opinion of Justin Martyr in his Parænesi ad Græcos: οὐκ ἐν λόγοις, ἀλλ᾽ ἐν ἔργοις τὰ τῆς ἡμετέρας θεοσεβείας πράγματα, not in words, but in works, are the affairs of our godliness. IV. Against the contrary opinion, it is excepted: 1. The object of a practical discipline is τὸ πρακτόν, a thing to be done, which is able to be produced by us. The object of Theology is not τὸ πρακτόν, a thing to be done. Therefore, Theology is not a practical discipline. The minor is proven: Because the object of Theology is God and divine works: which are not able to be produced by us. Response 1: The major is to be distinguished. The object of a practical discipline is τὸ πρακτόν, a thing to be done, either of itself and in its own nature, or in other; which, even if it is distinct from the object, is nevertheless conjoined with it in such a way that because of it the object is known and treated by the discipline. The Minor, taken with this limitation, is not true simply considered: For, as far as God is concerned, even if of Himself and in His own nature He is not πρακτόν τι, something to be done; nevertheless, because He is the first and immutable being simply considered, His glorification, because of which He is set forth in Theology as worthy to be known, is πρακτόν τι, something to be done. Whence Scotus affirms that even those Theological truths, God is triune, the Father begets the Son, the Father and the Son spirate the Spirit, are practical, because those truths virtually include the knowledge of uprightness of love exerting itself towards the three persons of the Deity, with none excluded: Prologo sententiarum, question 4. In the same sense some Theologians say that God is the object of faith, not as He is considered in Himself, but to the extent we rightly live to Him through Him, 1 Timothy 4:10. As far as divine things are concerned, they are either from God alone, like the works of creation, Redemption, etc., or principally from God; and secondarily, in a certain regard, from man also, to the extent that the actions of man concur in them, like faith, justification, sanctification, and the whole worship of God to be presented by man. Divine things of the former sort pertain to πρακτὰ, things to be done, in the same respect as God Himself. Divine things of the latter sort are able to be referred to πρακτὰ, things to be done, which are such in themselves and their own nature. Neither in other human disciplines, practical beyond all controversy, are all the things treated in them of themselves in their own nature πρακτὰ/ practical: as it is evident from the moral, or Ethical, discipline. Hitherto the major premise of the syllogism has been distinguished. 2. Others deny the Minor, together with the proof: For, even if Theology treats of God and divine works only, it does not follow from that, that this is the principal object of Theology: for, practical disciplines have for their object, principally so called, their own end, unto which other things are directed as means. Therefore, Theology treats the knowledge of God and of divine works, not as the ultimate end, but as a means to an end: since we know God to this end, that we might worship and glorify Him. Hitherto the solution to the first exception. 2. Theology treats, not only of Praxis, that is, the worship of God: but also Theory, or the knowledge of God. Therefore, it is not only a practical, but also a theorectical, discipline. Response: The Consequence is denied: because not just any sort of knowledge makes a discipline theoretical, but that only which of itself does not direct toward praxis. But the knowledge of God of itself directs to praxis. 3. Eternal life, which Theology has as its object, consists in the knowledge of God, John 17:3. Therefore, Theology is Theoretical, rather than Practical. The rationale of the Consequence: that knowledge belongs to the intellect, to which Theory is applicable. Response: The Consequence is denied: The proof does not follow; eternal life consists in knowledge, not as an end, but as a means to an end: without which no one attains the end: For, he is not able to glorify God, and to advance his salvation, who does not know God.
THESIS III: The Object of Theology is the true Religion: which is the manner of acknowledging and worshipping God prescribed by God, unto the salvation of man, and the glory of God. To others it is agreeable to make εὐζωΐαν/well-living and εὐδαιμονίαν/eudemonia, as the end of Religion and Theology, the object, the means of obtaining which is Religion itself and Theology.
EXPLANATION: I. Religion gets its name from religando/binding: for God religat/binds man to himself by piety: Whence it appears, that with respect to its origin religion is the bond of piety: Even if to the more exact Grammarians the etymon is more likely from relegendo/re-reading; since Religion is learned by frequent reading and re-reading of the sacred books, Deuteronomy 17:18.
In this place, we take Religion otherwise than it is wont to be taken elsewhere, where it is defined as an observance, whereby we furnish those things that have direct regard to the bestowal of honor upon God, or, a virtue introduced into our souls by God through the Holy Spirit, whereby we, made religious and pious, rightly acknowledge and worship God. For, this is not able properly to be called the object of Theology, but it rests upon the object of Theology, or Religion, as it is contemplated in this place by us. Therefore, we take Religion as the perfect and divine, consigned only in the sacred books, norm of acknowledging and worshipping God; those that, having been illuminated by the Spirit of God, understand this norm, and by their study and labor communicate it to others, either with the living voice, or in writing, are said to deliver Theology. Whence Religion is something divine and infallible; from which it is not lawful for anyone to appeal: but Theology, conceived in the mind by a man, not extraordinarily called, and set forth by him in words or writing, is a human work, not at all of itself placed beyond risk of error, in every way to be brought to Religion as the norm of acknowledging and worshipping God delivered by God Himself. Religion includes articles of faith, which are distinguished by some into catholic and theological: those that are necessary to be known and believed for salvation by all that are to be saved are called Catholic: those that pertain properly to the theological science, and are necessary for Doctors and Professors of theology for the defense of the faith, are called Theological: of whom far more are required, than of their students: see Pareus’ de Synodo Euangelicorum, page 149.
II. Superstition is hostile to Religion. Whence it is called superstition, and how it differs from religion, Cicero teaches in book 2 de natura Deorum, saying, Those that were spending the entire day praying and sacrificing, that their children might be superstites/outliving them, are called superstitious, which term afterwards became more general: but those that diligently retraced and relegerent/re-read, as it were, all things pertaining to the worship of the God were called religious from relegenda/re-reading.
Concerning the etymon of superstition, Lactantius [see footnote 8] dissents from Cicero, in book 4 of Divine Institutes, chapter 28.[see footnote 9]
THESIS IV: The principal Marks, whereby the true religion is generally distinguished from the false, are three: 1. If it directs us and our worship toward the true God. 2. If it teaches the worship revealed by God, and never abrogated. 3. If it is shows an agreeable method, whereby satisfaction might be made to the righteousness of God, and eternal salvation might come to man.
EXPLANATION: *Only the religion of the Christian contains these marks in itself. Ancient Pagan religion taught the worship of false Gods. Today’s Turkish and Jewish religions, even if they boast of the true God, are ignorant of Him: for they do not acknowledge the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Socinians [see footnote 10] and some Arminians contrive a certain common religion, following the ancient Pelagians. An approach to eternal life is opened to no one through a religion of this sort alone.
For they are not to be heard, who contrive a threefold manner of arriving at salvation. One way, for those that lived before the written law, for whom, they suppose, the observation of the law of nature alone was sufficient. Another way, for those that live under the written law; the observation of which they suppose to have been sufficient. A third way, for those that live under the grace of the Gospel. We admit this last one, with the former two rejected.
THESIS V: The proximate End of Christian theology is the eternal salvation of man: the ultimate End is the glory of God, which is especially conspicuous in the salvation of man. EXPLANATION: At this the Scripture also aims, John 20:31, these things are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name: John 17:3, this is eternal life, thaty they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent: Romans 1:16, I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. THESIS VI: The Efficient cause is principal or instrumental. THESIS VII: The principal Efficient is God, by whose revelation the doctrine of salvation and the true religion takes its rise. EXPLANATION: Therefore, in passing on the doctrine of salvation and Christian Theology there is to be no indulgence in human speculations: but the soul is to be directed toward the revelation of God alone. And, as Lawyers are ashamed to speak without the law: so also Theologians, without the word of God.
 Isaiah 51:4: “Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law (תוֹרָה/torah/law/instruction) shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.”  A scientia is a discipline involving a knowledge of conclusions derived by logical demonstration from self-evident principles.  A sapientia is a discipline involving an understanding and explanation (frequently with respect to purpose) of first principles and their conclusions.  A prudentia is a discipline involving a knowledge of universal principles of conduct, informing the practical judgment in particular circumstances.  Amandus Polanus (1561-1610) was a German Reformed theologian, and an important figure in the early development of Reformed Scholasticism. He served as Professor of Old Testament at Basel (1596-1610).  Justin, also known as the Martyr, was one of the great Greek apologists of the second century.  John Duns Scotus (1266-1308), known as the Subtle Doctor, was a Scottish Franciscan theologian and philosopher. He lectured and wrote on Lombard’s Sentences, and is remembered for his highly influential form of philosophical Realism.  Lucius Cælius Firmianus Lactantius (c. 240-c. 320) was a trained rhetorician, who, upon his conversion to Christianity, employed his rhetorical gifts in the defense and explication of the Christian faith. His Divinæ Institutiones is one of the early attempts at a systematic theology.  Lactantius’ Divine Institutes, book 4, chapter 28: “And since these things are so, as we have shown, it is plain that no other hope of life is set before man, except that, laying aside vanities and wretched error, he should know God, and serve God; except he renounce this temporary life, and train himself by the principles of righteousness for the cultivation of true religion. For we are created on this condition, that we pay just and due obedience to God, who created us, that we should know and follow Him alone. We are bound and religati/tied to God by this chain of piety; from which Religio/Religion itself received its name, not, as Cicero explained it, from relegendo/ re-reading, for in his second book Respecting the Nature of the Gods he thus speaks: For not only philosophers, but our ancestors also, separated superstition from religion. For they who spent whole days in prayers and sacrifices, that their children might survive them, were called superstitious. But those that handled again, and, as it were, relegerent/re-read all things relating to the worship of the gods, were called religiosi/religious from religendo/re-reading, as some were called elegantes/elegant from eligendo, choosing out, and diligentes/diligent from deligendo, carefully selecting, and intelligentes/intelligent from intelligendo/understanding. For in all these words there is the same meaning of legendi/reading/selecting which there is in the word religioso/religious: thus it has come to pass, that in the names superstitious and religioso/religious, the one is a term of fault, the other of praise. How senseless this interpretation is, we may know from the matter itself. For, if both religion and superstition are engaged in the worship of the same gods, there is little or rather no difference between them. For what cause will he allege why he should think that to pray once for the health of sons is the part of a religious man, but to do the same ten times is the part of a superstitious man? For if it is an excellent thing to pray once, how much more so to do it more frequently! If it is well to do it at the first hour, then it is well to do it throughout the day. If one victim renders the deity propitious, it is plain that many victims must render him more propitious, because multiplied services oblige rather than offend. For those servants do not appear to us hateful who are assiduous and constant in their attendance, but more beloved. Why then should he be in fault, and receive a name which implies censure, who either loves his children more, or sufficiently honours the gods; and he, on the contrary, be praised, who loves them less? And this argument has weight also from the contrary. For if it is wrong to pray and sacrifice during whole days, then it is wrong to do so once. If it is faulty frequently to wish for the preservation of our children, then he also is superstitious who conceives that wish even rarely. Or why should the name of a fault be derived from that, than which nothing can be wished more honourable, nothing more just? For as to his saying, that they who diligently take in hand again the things relating to the worship of the gods are called religiososr/eligious from their relegendo/re-reading; how is it, then, that they who do this often in a day lose the name of religious men, when it is plain from their very assiduity that they more diligently gather those things by which the gods are worshipped? What, then, is it? Truly religion is the cultivation of the truth, but superstition of that which is false. And it makes the entire difference what you worship, not how you worship, or what prayer you offer. But, because the worshippers of the gods imagine themselves to be religious, though they are superstitious, they are neither able to distinguish religion from superstition, nor to express the meaning of the terms. We have said that the name of religion is derived from the bond of piety, because God has tied man to Himself, and bound him by piety; for we must serve Him as a master, and be obedient to Him as a father. And therefore Lucretius better explained this name, who says that He loosens the knots of superstitions. But they are called superstitious, not who wish their children to survive them, for we all wish this; but either those who reverence the surviving memory of the dead, or those who, surviving their parents, reverenced their images at their houses as household gods. For those who assumed to themselves new rites, that they might honour the dead as gods, whom they supposed to be taken from men and received into heaven, they called superstitious. But those who worshipped the public and ancient gods they named religious. From which Virgil says: —Superstition vain, and ignorant of ancient gods. But since we find that the ancient gods also were consecrated in the same manner after their death, therefore they are superstitious who worship many and false gods. We, on the other hand, are religious, who make our supplications to the one true God.”
 Fausto Paolo Sozzini, or Faustus Socinus (1539-1604), was the father of Socinianism, a rationalistic heresy (denying the Deity of Christ, the satisfaction theory of the atonement, etc.), an aberration of the Reformation.
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