Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Reformed Irenicism

“What Is the Best Method for Studying Theology?” (Part 6)

Here is the last installment of Chytraeus’ lengthy answer to the question, “What is the best method for studying theology?” Chytraeus recommends a very broad education for the student of theology–what we have here is a good instance of Reformational humanism, the kind of thing that really ought to be recovered for the present. He recommends some subjects one would expect given the question–learned commentaries, the Fathers, ecclesiastical history. These are recommended to show the continuity of Protestant faith with the past and therefore to serve as an encouragement; but he also focuses sharply on conflict in the early church–one must learn what they fought about, and how they decided the important issues.

Then there are subjects that may be a bit more surprising to the modern Protestant reader: canon law and Peter Lombard.

Then there is a whole range of further subjects he commends, encompassing the breadth of the liberal arts: philosophy, rhetoric, ethics, mathematics, science, etc. These are of use, he says, for teaching on strictly theological and biblical subjects, but he also believes they serve as an adornment for the Church–and not only that, they aid in her defense (praesidio). May we recover such a broad vision for the way in which faith and learning can complement one another.

6. Aliorum 1 eruditorum & Patrum commentarii legendi sunt, ut iudiciis & consensu Ecclesiae catholicae nostram fidem confirmemus.

7. Historia totius Ecclesiae & imprimis veterum certaminum & iudiciorum primitivae Ecclesiae, quae Apostolorum temporibus vicinior fuit, cognoscenda est ex Patribus vetustissimis & scriptoribus historiae Ecclesiasticae, & actis consiliorum, ex canonibus Iuris pontificii, Magistro sententiarum, & c.

8. Totius philosophiae, artium dicendi, Ethicae ac politicae, Arithmeticae, Physicae, Astronomiae, Geographiae, & caeterarum artium, quae in Scholis traduntur, cognitio, in explicanda doctrina & libris sacris, magno usui, & alioqui Ecclesiae singulari praesidio & ornamento est.

6. The commentaries of other learned men and of the Fathers ought to be read, in order that we may strengthen our faith by the judgments and agreement of the Catholic church.

7. The history of the whole Church and especially of the ancient conflicts and judgments of the primitive Church, which was closer to the times of the Apostles, must be learned from the most ancient Fathers and writers of ecclesiastical history, and from the acts of councils, from the canons of pontifical law, from the Master of the Sentences, etc.2

8. A knowledge of all philosophy, of the arts of speaking, of ethics and politics, arithmetic, physics, astronomy, geography, and the other arts which are transmitted in the schools, is of great use in the explication of doctrine and the sacred books, and is besides an unparalleled bulwark and adornment for the Church.

  1. The edition I am using in the main, which is fuller in places than the one previously translated into English, reads Aitorum, or, just possibly, Ailorum, though as far as I can tell from the PDF, it is a “t,” not an “l.” In any case, this must be a misprint and is not found in the other editions, which read Aliorum, as I do here.
  2. A reference to Peter Lombard.

By E.J. Hutchinson

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