Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Reformed Irenicism

“What Is the Best Method for Studying Theology?” (Part 1)

Moving on, then.

Chytraeus next treats the method for studying theology. Again, the answer is long, so I will break it up into parts. The first of the three instrumenta he lists is prayer.

Quae est optima ratio studendi in Theologia?

Tria sunt praecipua instrumenta, (quae Lutherus in praefatione primi Tomi Germanici, ex Psalmo 119, commemorat)1 quibus vera & salutaris doctrinae Christianae cognitio parari potest.

I. PRECATIO ardens & quotidiana, ut Deus ipse nos doceat, & studia nostra Spiritu suo sancto gubernet & adiuvet sicut David precatur: Domine, fac cum servo tuo secundum mistericordiam tuam, & iustificationes tuas doce me. Servus tuus sum ego, da mihi intellectum, ut discam testamonia tua. Vias tuas Domine ostende mihi, & semitas tuas edoce me. Dirige me in veritate tua, & doce me: Nulla enim studia sunt felicia & salutaria, nisi a Deo mentes regantur. Irenaeus: Deum discere nemo potest, nisi Deo docente.

What is the best method for studying theology?

There are three chief tools (which Luther mentions in the preface of his first book in German, taken from Psalm 119) by means of which true and wholesome knowledge of Christian doctrine is able to be acquired.

I. Eager and daily prayer that God himself would teach us, and would govern our studies by his Holy Spirit and would give aid, just as David prays: Lord, deal with your servant according to your mercies, and teach me your statutes. I am your servant; give me understanding, so that I may learn your testimonies. Show your ways to me, Lord, and teach me your paths. Direct me in your truth, and teach me: For no endeavors are fruitful and beneficial, except our minds be guided by God. Irenaeus: No one is able to learn of God, except God teach [him].

  1. There is a textual problem here. Some editions insert the word operum between Tomi and Germanici, i.e., the first German volume of his works (which is what Dinda has). I have also found an instance of printing “Psalm 19” rather than “Psalm 119.” I have not been able to determine what the reference is to, and any help would be greatly appreciated. I though perhaps Luther’s preface to the Theologia Germanica, but that doesn’t seem to be it. The first book Luther himself prepared for publication was an edition, in German, of the seven penitential Psalms with commentary in 1517, based on his earlier lectures on the Psalms. Perhaps Chytraeus is referring to that?

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.