Between Reformed Scholasticism and Pan-Protestantism: Jean-Alphonse Turretin (1671-1737) and Enlightened Orthodoxy at the Academy of Geneva
The enlightened orthodoxy of Jean-Alphonse Turretin, professor of theology at the Academy of Geneva, represents an important development in the Reformed theology of Geneva. His career reflected the views of an entire generation of Reformed scholars who attempted to reconcile orthodox Calvinism with the growth of rationalism.
Jean-Alphonse Turretin began his career as professor of church history at the Academy of Geneva in 1696, was appointed rector there in 1701, and also professor of theology in 1705. He resigned from the post of rector due to ill health in 1711. From such influential positions, he opposed the traditional Reformed emphasis on tightly defined creeds and the intricacies of the doctrine of predestination. He developed a new "enlightened" form of theology that kept the basic elements of orthodoxy which agreed with the dictates of reason.
Turretin's enlightened orthodoxy was virtually a complete break with Reformed scholasticism. He elevated reason as the main arbiter in religious affairs and advocated the reduction of the fundamentals of the faith to those doctrines strictly necessary for salvation. By reducing the scope of theological discourse, enlightened orthodoxy served as a basis for a pan-Protestant union in which all objectionable doctrines could be virtually ignored. Any discussion of the decrees of God concerning election or reprobation were no longer relevant. Arguments over the nature of Christ's presence in the Eucharist were also beside the point. Furthermore, the doctrine of biblical accommodation provided a basis for squaring the more objectionable parts of the Old Testament with reason and the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount. Scripture could, therefore, be authoritative without being inerrant.
Klauber shows that Turretin's views on the subject of religious authority were not all that revolutionary. They were the natural outgrowth of the direction that the liberal party at the academy had set well before he enrolled at the academy. The new scientific culture of Cartesianism penetrated only gradually into the academy and did not immediately replace the Aristotelian framework of the scholastics. Only by the early eighteenth century were the methodologies of scientific experiments and mathematics accepted as integral parts of the academic curriculum.
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