Prolegomena to Theology

Prolegomena, or ‘to say beforehand’, treats of introductory and methodological issues relating to theology, such as the definition of theology, its relation to other sciences, our capacity to understand and speak of God, the order and method of treating theological topics, and the relationship between faith and reason, etc.

Some of the fullest, reformed, treatments of prolegomena were written during the 1600’s, especially in Latin (linked below).  For a thorough survey of the development of prolegomena from the Reformation through Reformed scholasticism into the 1700’s, see Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, Prolegomena to Theology  Buy  (Baker, 2003), Part 1, ch. 2, pp. 96-122.  The whole of Part 2 (pp. 149-450) is devoted to the specifics of prolegomena during that period.

** – the fuller and more important treatments



Order of Contents

Treatises in English  67
Theological Encyclopedia
The History Of Prolegomena  25
       Scripture & Tradition  2
Treatises in Latin  35+



Treatises of Prolegomena in English

The Early Church

While formal sections on Prolegomena did not develop till the Middle Ages, yet, as might be expected, Christians before that time often spoke to numerous of the issues in prolegomena.


ed. King & Webster – Holy Scripture: the Ground and Pillar of our Faith, vol. 3: the Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura  Buy  2001  312 pp.

This is a massive collection of excerpts from the early fathers demonstrating the principle of sola scripture in the early church.  It is not claimed that all of them, or all of those quoted, were protestants or consistent with this principle, but it is claimed that they did affirm the things they do in-fact say.


400’s-800’s, 1100’s

McCracken, George – ‘The Nature of Divine Truth’ & ‘God’s Word in Holy Scripture’  in Early Medieval Theology  Buy  (Westminster Press, 1957), pp. 23-284

This anthology includes excerpts from Vincent of Lerins, Gregory the Great, Paschasius Radbertus of Corbie, Ratramnus of Corbie, Alcuin of York, Claudius of Turin and Rupert of Deutz.



Aquinas, Thomas – ‘The Nature and Extent of Sacred Doctrine’, 10 Articles,  being the First Part, Question 1 of the Summa

R. Muller: “[Scott] Oliphint’s disagreement with Aquinas on the issue of the status of truths drawn from the light of nature, namely reason, also represents a departure from the perspective of Calvin, traditional Reformed orthodoxy and, moreover, the Westminster Confession. Oliphint’s claim that Aquinas’s reading has “no basis” in the text of Scripture becomes an indictment of Calvin and the Reformed tradition as well.” – “Reading Aquinas from a Reformed Perspective,” Calvin Theological Journal 53.2 (2018): 270.



Luther, Martin

Piper, John – ‘Luther’s Rules for How to Become a Theologian’  1996  10 paragraphs with quotes from Luther

Luther’s Works, ed. Pelikan & Lehmann (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg, 1957) 55 vols.

‘Preface to Romans’

vol. 31, Career of the Reformer, I
        ‘Disputation Against Scholastic Theology’, pp. 3-16
        ‘Preface to the Complete Edition of a German Theology, 1518’,
               pp. 71-76

vol. 35, Word & Sacrament, I
        ‘A Brief Instruction on What to Look for and Expect in the
               Gospels, 1521′, pp. 113-24
        ‘How Christians Should Regard Moses, 1525’, pp. 155-74
        ‘Prefaces to the Books of the Bible’, pp. 225-412
                ‘Preface to Romans, 1522’, pp. 365-80

Melancthon, Philip

‘Dedicatory Letter’ & ‘Basic Topics of Theology, or Christian Theology in Outline’  in Theological Common Places (Abridged) in Melanchthon and Bucer, pp. 18-22  Buy  in The Library of Christian Classics (Westminster Press)

‘Preface to the Theological Common Places of 1559’  being the appendix in Preus, Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism (Concordia, 1970), pp. 414-9  This was the last edition of Melanchthon’s Common Places.

Melanchthon was a Lutheran (the most important following Luther), but his Common Places was the first ‘systematic theology’ of the Reformation and was largely influential upon later Reformed Orthodoxy.

R. Muller: “…Melancthon notes the necessity of adopting the proper order or arrangement of topics: the author must identify the principle topics (praecipui loci) and, as well, the issues which are unnecessary or detrimental to the edifice as a whole.  With this in mind, the beginning, middle and end of the whole must be identified…  Theology begins by considering God and then creation, next, the fall, and then redemption.  The scripturae series of the Biblical events must be noted–the movement of revelation from sin to redemption, law to promise.  Similarly the ancient creeds provide architectonic models for theological system.” – PRRD, 2nd ed., p. 100

Zwingli, Ulrich – ‘The Word ‘Religion”, ‘Between Whom Religion Subsists’ & ‘God’  in Commentary on True and False Religion, ed. Jackson & Heller  Pre  Buy  (1525; rep. Wipf & Stock, 2015), pp. 54-62

Zwingli contrasts true religion with false religion.  This starting point and emphasis was a significant theme while prolegomena was beginning to take form after the Reformation. 

From the work:  “In 29 chapters Zwingli discusses all of the principal topics of Christian theology.  The result is the most significant dogmatic work which Zwingli ever wrote and the most important systematic statement of Reformed theology before Calvin’s Institutes.”

** Calvin, John – Book 1, ‘Of the Knowledge of God the Creator’, chs. 1-6  of Institutes of the Christian Religion  Buy  1559  trans. Henry Beveridge.

The first line:  “Our wisdom…  consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”  Calvin sets as a lens through his work the duplex cognitio Dei, the ‘two-fold knowledge of God’: the knowledge of God the Creator and the knowledge of God the Redeemer. 

Musculus, Wolfgang – Fol. 1-3 in ch.1, ‘Of God’ & Fol. 452-6, ‘Of the Knowledge of God’  in Common Places of Christian Religion  1563

** Hyperius, Andreas

See an English survey of Hyperius’ important Latin treatise, Of Theology, and the Reason for the Study of Theology in 4 Books (1556/1559)  in Robert Preus, The Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism, vol. 1, A Study of Theological Prolegomena, pp. 82-88  Buy

Preus interprets Hyperius to be a Lutheran, though R. Muller says that Hyperius’ theology of the Lord’s Supper became more popular with the Reformed.

“…a highly significant book by Andrew Hyperius…  The book, by far the most thorough work on the subject to this time [since the Reformation], contains four parts.  Book I deals with the material to be considered by one who first approaches the subject of theology, that is, the material from other disciplines that must be used also in this study.  Book II deals with rules and notations for reading and interpreting Scripture.  Book III treats the criteria for dogmatics.  Book IV speaks of the practical application of doctrine within the church; patrology and church history are considered.” – Preus, p. 82

Bullinger, Henry – ‘Of True Religion’  being pp. 230-3  of Decades, vol. 3, 4th Decade, Sermon 5  d. 1575

Vermigli, Peter Martyr – Common Places  1576/1583

Book 1
       ** Ch. 2, ‘Of the natural knowledge of God by his creatures’
       Ch. 3-5, On various forms of Special Revelation
       Ch. 6, ‘Of the Holy Scriptures, and of the dignity and profit of them,
                   and of the means how to understand them’ 
Book 2
       ** In Ch. 3, ‘Of philosophy, and the comparison thereof, especially
                       moral, with divinity’

Ursinus, Zacharias – ‘General Prolegomena’ & ‘Special Prolegomena’  in Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, pp. 1-17  d. 1583

** Chandieu, Antoine – A Treatise Touching the Word of God Written, Against the Traditions of Men, handled both school-like and divine-like, where also is set down a true method to dispute divinely and school-like  1580/83  173 pp.

Muller: “The early orthodox interest in method, specifically in the issue of an obviously ‘scholastic’ approach to theology, finds its clearest statement in the preface to Antione Chandieu’s De verbo Dei scripto (1580)…  Cahndieu, in short, proposed explicitly a program for Protestant scholasticism.” – PRRD, 2nd ed., p. 112

See also Donald W. Sinnema, ‘Antoine De Chandieu’s Call for a Scholastic Reformed Theology (1580)’, in Later Calvinism: International Perspectives, ed. W. Fred Graham (16th Century Journal Publishers, 1994), pp. 159-190  Buy

** Junius, Francis – A Treatise on True Theology  1594  234 pp.

Muller: “Had Junius written nothing else, True Theology would have assured his place in the minds of his contemporaries.  It provided several generations of Protestant theologians with the first fully developed prolegomena to theology and, in it, a paradigm for understanding the nature of human theology, based on revelation and formulated in the context of human sinfulness.  Junius’s approach was not only much admired but also much borrowed, sometimes verbatim, by numerous of his contemporaries.” – Foreward, p. ix

Polanus, Amandus – Substance of Christian Religion Soundly set forth in two Books, by Definitions and Partitions…  Buy  ToC  translated into English in 1595

This was a precursor to Polanus’s Syntagma (in Latin) below.  Though this work has very little prolegomena in it, the outline of it is very important for the following reason:

Muller: “With Polanus’ Partitiones… virtually all of the scholastic questions concerning theology as a discipline have reappeared [from the Middle Ages], now interpreted through a distinctly Protestant glass.  What is theology?  What are its divisions or parts?  What are its causes and ends?  Is it theoretical or practical?  What are its principia?” – PRRD, 2nd ed., p. 114

For more, see Max Deal, The Meaning and Method of Systematic
Theology in Amandus Polanus  (PhD thesis, Univ. of Edinburgh, 1980)



Perkins, William – Ch. 1, ‘Of the Body of Scripture and Theology’  in A Golden Chain, or the Description of Theology (Univ. of Cambridge, 1600), p. 1

From Ramus earlier, Perkins’ gives as his definition of theology:  “Theology is the science of living blessedly forever.”

Arminius, James  

       vol. 1, Orations, pp. 57-145  1603
              II, ‘The Object of Theology’
              III, ‘The Author and End of Theology’ 
              IV, ‘The Certainty of Sacred Theology’

vol. 2, Private Disputations, pp. 9-19  1610
       I, ‘On Theology’
       II, ‘On the Manner in Which Theology Must be Taught’
       III, ‘On Blessedness, the End of Theology’
       IV, ‘On Religion’
       V, ‘On the Rule of Religion, the Word of God, and the Scriptures
                 in Particular’

Trelcatius – ‘Of the Principles of Sacred Divinity’  1610  5 pp.  from A Brief Institution of the Common Places of Sacred Divinity, pp. 1-11.

Trelcatius, Jr. (1573-1607) was a professor of theology at the University of Leiden, Netherlands and one of the key participants in a number of debates with Jacob Arminius.

Trelcatius focuses on ectypal theology, our pilgrim theology in this state while we are on the way to Heaven, which is the material of our theology.

Parr, Elnathan – ‘A Short and Plain Exhortation to the Study of the Word’  in The Grounds of Divinity Plainly Discovering the Mysteries of Christian Religion, propounded familiarly in diverse questions and answers…  ToC  (London, 1614/15), pp. 1-38

Yates, John – Ch. 1, ‘Of Religion’ & Ch. 2, ‘Of Faith in God’  in A Model of Divinity, Catechistically Composed, wherein is Delivered the Matter and Method of Religion, according to the Creed, Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments  ToC  1622

Downame, John – ‘Of God’ in The Sum of Sacred Diuinity Briefly & Methodically Propounded: more largely & clearly handled and explained  ToC  1625

Synopsis of Pure Theology – Disputation 1, ‘Concerning the Most Sacred Theology’  in vol. 1 (1625; Brill, 2015), pp. 30-47  Buy

Wolleb, Johannes – Ch. 1, ‘The Praecognita of Christian Divinity’  in The Abridgment of Christian Divinity, pp. 1-13  d. 1629  

Voet, Gisbert – ‘The Use of Reason in Matters of Faith’  1636  a disputation, being Appendix 2 to Willem van Asselt et al., Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism, pp. 225-248

Voet: “When we demand the use of reason and logic, we no more turn them into the foundations, principles, and rules of faith than we do our eyes, ears, and tongues without which we can neither learn nor teach our religion, nor defend it against opponents.  For us they are, therefore, means and requirements without which there is no faith or theological knowledge, but they certainly are not principles, norms, rules, and foundations.” – p. 247

Ames, William

Chs. 1-3 of The Marrow of Sacred Divinity, pp. 1-8  1639

** Technometry  Buy  trans. Lee Gibbs (Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1979) 256 pp.

“No contribution of Ames was more important or far-reaching, however, than his formulation of an overarching, general structure of the Ramist-Puritan intellectual system.  This general philosophical framework, which was really an encyclopedic outline summary of all knowledge, Ames called ‘technometry’ (technometria) or ‘technology’ (technologia).  A systematic delineation of the nature and uses of art in general and of each of the individual liberal arts, it provided not only for the integration of theology with all of the other disciplines, but also for a Ramist-Puritan critique of and substitution for traditional Aristotelian-scholastic metaphysics.” – Gibbs, ‘Preface’, p. viii

Stoughton, John

A Form of Wholesome Words, or, An Introduction to the Body of Divinity in Three Sermons on 2 Tim. 1:13  1640

Stoughton (1593-1639) was a reformed English minister.

A Learned Treatise in Three Parts: 1. The Definition, 2. The Distribution of Divinity, 3. The Happiness of Man; as it was scholastically handled  ToC  1640

du Moulin, Pierre – Peter Du Moulin. His Oration in the Praise of Divinity. Wherein is Shown that Heathenish Fables were First Derived from Holy Scripture. Transl. by J.M.  ToC  1640

Du Moulin (1568-1658)

Maccovius, John – Scholastic Discourse  Buy  1644

Maccovius was a supralapsarian Polish theologian.

Ussher, James – ‘Of Christian Religion and the Grounds Thereof’  in Ch. 1, pp. 1-4 of A Body of Divinity (1645) In catechetical form.

Roberts, Francis – p. 1 of A Synopsis of Theology, or Divinity  Buy  1645

Leigh, Edward – ‘Prolegomena’ & Book 1, Ch. 1, ‘Of Divinity in General’  in A System or Body of Divinity  1654  In the Prolegomena Leigh expounds Heb. 6:1 about catechetical teaching. 

Case, Thomas – Sermon 1, ‘Introduction: Methodical Systems of the Special Points of Christian Religion, Useful and Profitable for Ministers and People, 2 Timo. 1:13’  in The Morning Exercise Methodized (1659-60), pp. 1-28  This has been reprinted in the 6 vol. work, Puritan Sermons

** Owen, John – Biblical Theology: the History of Theology from Adam to Christ  Buy  (1661; rep. Soli Deo Gloria, 1994/2009)

The Latin work, of which this is a translation, was originally v. 17 of his works and entitled, The Nature, Rise, Progress and Study of True Theology. 

Rissen, Leonard – ‘Of Theology’  being ch. 1 of A Sum of Didactic and Elenctic Theology, out of ‘Our Theology’, especially out of Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Theology (Bern, 1676; 1690), pp. 1-14

Here is an introduction to the life of Rissen (1636-1700).

** van Mastricht, Peter – Theoretical-Practical Theology, vol. 1: Prolegomena  Buy  1st ed. 1682

      1. The Nature of Theology
           a. The Method of Theology
           b. The Definitum of Theology
           c. The Definition of Theology
      2. Holy Scripture
      3. The Distribution of Theology

** Turretin, Francis – Institutes, vol. 1, 1st Topic, ‘Theology’, pp. 1-54



** De Moor, Bernard – vols. 1-3, ‘Concerning the Word and Definition of Theology’, ‘Concerning the Principium of Theology, or Holy Scripture’ & ‘Concerning Religion’  of Continuous Commentary on John Marck’s Compendium of Christian Theology  Buy  1761-5

De Moor “Vitringa and De Moor served as codifiers and bibliographers of the earlier tradition…  Indeed, De Moor’s efforts did for later Reformed orthodoxy what the massive system of Quenstedt did for Lutheranism in the concluding years of the seventeenth century: the work was so exhaustive and so complete in detail and bibliography that it virtually ended the development of Reformed doctrine in the form of orthodox system.” – Richard Muller, PRRD

Venema, Herman – Institutes of Theology, part 1  trans. Alexander Brown (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1850)  Buy

Venema (1697-1787) was a professor at Franeker.  Muller: “Alterations in the prolegomena of the late orthodox era… a biblicism, seeking support for traditional doctrines in rational argumentation, if only by way of defense against historical-critical readings of the text of Scripture forged allegiances both with the Wolffian philosophy and with a less-systematic rational supernaturalism…  the works of Herman Venema, John Brown of Haddington and, to a greater extent, Jacob Klinkenberg, illustrate the latter.” – PRRD, p. 122

Brown of Haddington, John – Book 1, ‘Of the Regulating Standard of Religion’  in A Compendious View of Natural and Revealed Religion  Buy 1782

Brown is a good example of the changing trend of prolegomena from the 1600’s to the 1700’s.  In the 1600’s, divines commonly started with the being of God and his knowledge of Himself (Archetypal theology) as the ground of all revelation to us (Ectypal theology), how this ectypal theology is distinguished in man’s various estates, and the difference between general and special revelation.  They also discussed what theology is, its methods, how it relates to the other sciences, etc.  In the second half of the 1600’s, divines began to commonly insert sections on natural theology in order to evidence or prove God from nature.

In the 1700’s, it became common to omit much of this and to start, as Brown does, with man’s natural relations according to general revelation, or to seek to prove God from the natural world, and then to proceed to arguing the necessity of special revelation.  This likely was due to the new, rising Enlightenment context, the rise of Deism (which accepted and majored on General Revelation as sufficient) and a de-emphasis on metaphysics.  See Muller’s PRRD for a further description of these changes.



Dick, John

Lectures on Theology, vol. 1  Buy  1834

Ch. 1 – ‘On Theology’
Ch. 2 – ‘The Sources of Theology: Reason’
Ch. 3 – ‘The Sources of Theology: Revelation’

Dick (1764–1833) was a Scottish professor of theology in the Secession tradition.

Chalmers, Thomas – ‘On Systematic Theology’  in Institutes of Theology, vol. 1, Book 2, Ch. 10, pp. 329-360

Bogue, David

Theological Lectures, vol. 1  Buy PoD  1849  These lectures are only in outline form.

Ch. 1, ‘The End and Design of Theology’
Ch. 2, ‘The Sources’
Ch. 3, ‘Dispositions Required for the Study of Theology’

Bogue was a Scot who became a congregationalist in England and wrote the 3 volume, History of the Dissenters.

Woods, Leonard – Lectures 1-8  in Works, vol. 1  1851

Woods (1774–1854) was a Harvard grad, a congregationalist minister and the first professor of Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, USA.  He was an orthodox Calvinist known for his argumentation against Unitarianism.

Wardlaw, Ralph – Chs. 1-3 of Systematic Theology, vol. 1  d. 1853

Wardlaw (1779-1853)

** Hodge, Charles – Ch. 1, ‘On Method’ & Ch. 2, ‘Theology’  in Systematic Theology, vol. 1, pp. 1-33

Hodge, A.A. – Ch. 2, ‘Theology and its Sources’  in Outlines of Theology  Buy PoD  (1860), pp. 37-48

A.A. Hodge was the son of Charles Hodge and followed his father as a professor of systematic theology at Princeton.

Thornwell, James, H. 

Collected Writings, vols. 1  Buy 1871

Lecture 1, ‘Preliminary Observations’
Lecture 4, ‘The Nature and Limits of our Knowledge of God’

Dabney, Robert 

Systematic Theology  Buy  1878

Lecture 1, ‘Preface and Existence of God’
Lecture 4, ‘Divine Attributes’  How many does reason infer?
Lecture 8, ‘Sources of our Thinking’
Lecture 12, ‘The Responsibility and Province of Reason in Religion’

Cunningham, William – Theological Lectures: on subjects connected with Natural Theology, Evidences of Christianity, the Canon and Inspiration of Scripture  Buy  1878  625 pp.

See especially Lectures 2, 3 & 8.  The first 8 lectures were delivered to incoming seminary students as preparatory to their course of study.

Cunningham was a professor in the Free Church of Scotland.  These lectures cover the content of chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession on Scripture.

** van Oosterzee, J.J.

Christian Dogmatics, vol. 1  Buy PoD

Ch. 1, ‘Character of Christian Dogmatics’
Ch. 2, ‘Sources of Christian Dogmatics’
Ch. 3, ‘History of Christian Dogmatics’
Ch. 4, ‘Claims of Christian Dogmatics’

Part 1, ch. 1, ‘Religion’

Oosterzee (1817 – 1882) was an orthodox Dutch professor of systematic theology at the University of Utrecht.

Weidner, Revere Franklin – Introduction to Dogmatic Theology. Based on Luthardt  (1888)

Weidner was a conservative Lutheran.  This work is comparable to Berkhof’s reformed Introduction to Systematic Theology.  Luthardt (1823–1902) was a conservative German, Lutheran professor.  His main work, which this work is based off of, is Kompendium der Dogmatik (1865, 425 pp.).

‘Weidner is one of the greatest systematicians of the nineteenth century. He released several volumes on systematic theology, though died before being able to write on the sacraments and eschatology.’ – Rev. Jordan Cooper

Shedd, William, G.T. – ‘Theological Introduction’ being chs. 1-3 of Dogmatic Theology, vols. 1  Buy  (1888), pp. 3-60

** Bavinck, Herman – Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, ‘Prolegomena’ (Baker, 2003) 621 pp.

Schaff, Philip – Theological Propaedeutic: A General Introduction to the Study of Theology Exegetical, Historical, Systematic and Practical  Buy 1893

Schaff is most well-known for his volumes on the history of the Christian Church and also his Creeds of Christendom.  He was a professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary in New York in the late-1800.  His denomination stemmed from the German Reformed tradition, though he was a particular proponent of the Mercersburg theology (not recommended).  He also had some German/liberal influences.

“…a classic study, still valuable for its survey of the fields and their relationships (as with many of the nineteenth century efforts, its greatest weakness is on the ‘practical’ side);” – R. Muller, Study of Theology, p. 221

Orr, James

The Christian View of God and the World as Centering in the Incarnation  Buy PoD  1893

Here represents one of the first major turns, in English, of the genera of prolegomena changing into a Christian ‘worldview’ model.

Orr was originally in the Free Church of Scotland, though joined with the merger in 1900 into the United Free Church of Scotland.  He became a professor with the latter, and consistent with the trajectory, had some weak (erroneous) points in his theology, the whole of it was mainly sound and conservative.

Ch. 1, ‘Nature and Place of Christian Doctrine: The Doctrine of God’  in Sidelights on Christian Doctrine  Buy (1909), pp. 3-20

Macpherson, John – ‘Introduction’  in Christian Dogmatics  Buy  (1898), pp. 1-96

Macpherson was an eminent professor of the Free Church of Scotland.

Kuyper, Abraham

Lectures on Calvinism   1898  290 pp.

Another example of the popularization of the Christian worldview paradigm entering in and shifting the emphasis of prolegomena.

‘The Antithesis Between Symbolism and Revelation: a Lecture’  1857  22 pp.



Girardeau, John

Discussions of Theological Questions  Buy  1905

‘The Definition of Theology’, pp. 1-44
‘The Distribution or Division of Theology’, pp. 45-72
‘The Ultimate Source, Rule and Judge of Theology: Rationalism & Protestantism’, pp. 73-392

This work significantly interacts with the popular secular philosophies of the 1800’s.

Clark, David – ‘Introduction’  9 pp.  in A Syllabus of Systematic Theology  Buy  1920

David Clark was Gordon Clark’s father.  The book is dedicated to the Princeton scholars A.A. Hodge, Francis Patton and John Cairns, his professors in systematic theology.

** Warfield, B.B.


vol. 1, Revelation and Inspiration
       Ch. 1, ‘The Biblical Idea of Revelation’
       Ch. 2, ‘The Idea of Revelation and Theories of Revelation’

vol. 9, Studies in Theology
       Ch. 3, ‘The Idea of Systematic Theology’
       Ch. 4, ‘The Task and Method of Systematic Theology’

Selected Shorter Writings, vol. 2, ed. Meeter (P&R, 2005), Part 3

Ch. 13 – ‘Theology a Science’
Ch. 15 – ‘The Right of Systematic Theology’
Ch. 17 – ‘Recent Reconstructions of Theology’

Inaugural Address, ‘The Idea of Systematic Theology Considered as a Science’  in Inauguration of the Rev. Benjamin B. Warfield D.D. as Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology (NY: Anson Randolph, 1888)

See also Adam Szabados, ‘Systematic Theology as Science: B.B. Warfield’s Idea of Systematic Theology’

Kirk, Kenneth – The Study of Theology  Buy  1939

“…multi-authored works that offer sound essays on most of the fields of theology;” – R. Muller, Study of Theology, p. 221

Thomas, William Henry – The Principles of Theology; an Introduction to the Thirty-nine Articles  Buy  4th ed. (London: Church Book Room Press, 1951)

Thomas (1861-1924) was a reformed Anglican.  This is a commentary on the 39 Articles. Here is a review by Fred Sanders.

Jenkins, Daniel – The Scope of Theology: A Guide to the Major Disciplines and Current Developments in Theological Study  Buy  1965

“…multi-authored works that offer sound essays on most of the fields of theology;” – R. Muller, Study of Theology, p. 221

Dooyeweerd, Herman – A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, 2 vols., trans. Freeman & Young (1935-36; Paideia Press, 1984)

This massive work, while intensely focused on philosophy, yet has been formative of Christian presuppositionalism and worldviewism.  As it seeks to delineate the relation between philosophy, metaphysics, Christianity, revelation and God, it generally falls under prolegomena.

Lecerf, Auguste – An Introduction to Reformed Dogmatics  Buy  d. 1943  412 pp.

Dr. Lecerf (1872-1943) was a professor in the Protestant Faculty of Theology, University of Paris and was an orthodox calvinist.  See John Murray’s review of this work in Collected Writings, vol. 3, Reviews, pp. 345-9.

Kersten, G.H. – ‘Introduction to Dogmatics’  in Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, pp. xiii-xviii  Buy  d. 1948

Kersten (1882-1948) was a very high calvinist, Dutch-American, reformed theologian.  Though orthodox, the denominarion he helped to lead, the Netherlands Reformed Congregations, has since adopted hyper-calvinistic characteristics.

** Berkhof, Louis – Introduction to Systematic Theology  Buy 

This covers Prolegomena issues such as theological definition and method, and General and Special Revelation.  It was published initially as a separate work and has not always been included in editions of the his systematic theology.

Clark, Gordon Haddon – Karl Barth’s Theological Method (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1963)

This is a sustained and helpful critique of Barth’s theological method.  Barth was the founder of Neo-Orthodoxy.

Murray, John  d. 1974

Collected Writings

vol. 3, Reviews
     2.  ‘John Baillie: Our Knowledge of God’
     17.  ‘August Lecerf: An Introduction to Reformed
     20.  ‘Henry Clarence: Introductory Lectures in Systematic
     28.  ‘Edward A. Dowey, Jr.: The Knowledge of God in Calvin’s

vol. 4
       Part I, Studies in Theology
              1.  ‘Systematic Theology’

Part II, Reviews
       5.  ‘John Christian Wenger: Introduction to Theology. 
            An Interpretation of the Doctrinal Content of Scripture,
            Written to Strengthen a Childlike Faith in Christ

6. Bernard Ramm: ‘Special Revelation and the Word of

Henry, Carl – God, Revelation and Authority, 6 vols.  Buy  1976-83 

Henry was an influential evangelical of the mid-1900’s and professor of theology at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Muller, Richard


‘What is Theology?’  1991  4 pp.

** ‘The Dogmatic Function of St. Thomas’ “Proofs”: A Protestant Appreciation’  in Fides et Historia  24/2 (1992) pp. 15-29

** ‘Aquinas Reconsidered’, pt. 123  on Reformation21  being a review of Scott Oliphint’s book, Thomas Aquinas

“Reading Aquinas from a Reformed Perspective,” Calvin Theological Journal, 53.2 (2018)

‘Scholasticism Protestant and Catholic: Francis Turretin on the Object and Principles of Theology’  1986  12 pp in Church History 55 (1986): 193-205  This can be read for free by opening an account with JSTOR.

‘Giving Direction to Theology: The Scholastic Dimension’ 1985  10 pp in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 28 (1985): 183-93

Review of The Science of Theology, by Evans, McGrath & Galloway, in Consensus: A Canadian Lutheran Journal of Theology, 13,1 (Spring, 1987), pp. 114-15

On Calvin

Review of The Knowledge of God in Calvin’s Theology, expanded ed., by Edward A. Dowey Jr., in Lutheran Quarterly, n.s., 10.2 (1996): 201-202

Duplex cognitio dei” in the Theology of Early Reformed Orthodoxy  1979  12 pp. in Sixteenth Century Journal 10 (1979): 51-61.  The article can be read for free if one opens up a JSTOR account.

The Latin means ‘the two-fold knowledge of God’, referring to Calvin’s phrase and idea that:

“…in the fashioning of the universe as in the general teaching of Scripture the Lord shows himself to be simply the creator.  Then in the face of Christ he shows himself the Redeemer.”

Dialogue with John Frame

”The Study of Theology’ Revisited: A Response to John Frame’  Pay to Read  $5 a month  1994  18 pp.  in Westminster Theological Journal 56 (1994): 409-17

‘Historiography in the Service of Theology and Worship: Toward Dialogue with John Frame’  Pay to Read  $5 a month  1997



The Study of Theology: From Biblical Interpretation to Contemporary Formulation  Buy  Preview  1991  238 pp.  in Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation  vol. 7

For Muller’s massive and excellent, history and exposition of the prolegomena of Reformed Scholasticism, see below under ‘The History of Prolegomena’.

Smith, Morton – Division I, ‘Prolegomena’  in Systematic Theology, vol. 1, pp. 11-96  Buy  1994

Smith was a founding professor of both RTS, Jackson and Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  This set is something of the form of notes that he used for many of his classes on systematics.  His focus is on the Dutch and Southern Presbyterians.

McGrath, Alister – Part II, ‘Source and Methods’  in Christian Theology: an Introduction (Blackwell, 1997), pp. 141-238

McGrath (b. 1953) has been a principal and lecturer at Oxford and a professor of theology at Regent College, Vancouver.  He is in the Anglican tradition.

Reymond, Robert – ‘Introduction’  in A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, pp. xxvi-xxxvi  Buy  1998

Reymond was a professor at Covenant Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary for over 25 years.  Reymond was influenced by Gordon Clark on numerous issues.



Liberal Treatises on Prolegomena

Marsh, Herbert – A Course of Lectures Containing a Description and Systematic Arrangement of the Several Branches of Divinity, Accompanied with an Account, both of the Principal Authors and of the Progress which has been made at Different Periods  (Cambridge, 1809)  790 pp.  This is a complete edition, all 7 parts being bound together.

Marsh (1757-1839) was a bishop in the Church of England.

Schleiermacher, Friedrich – Brief Outline of the Study of Theology, Drawn up to Serve as the Basis of Introductory Lectures  1850  240 pp.

Here are two reviews.

Denny, James – Lecture 1, ‘The Idea of Theology’  in Studies in Theology  Buy  (1894), pp. 1-23

Denny was a professor in systematic theology and the N.T. from 1897-1915 at Glasgow College, Scotland.  He defended orthodoxy from liberalism but was willing to concede that the Bible might contain minor errors.

Cave, Alfred – An Introduction to Theology: its Principles, its Branches, its Results, and its Literature  1896  2nd ed.  630 pp.

Briggs, Charles A. – History of the Study of Theology, vol. 12   1916

Briggs was an American, liberal scholar.  This work encompasses the whole of church history and gives background to the methods that historical theologians employed in studying.

ed. Smith, Gerald et al. – A Guide to the Study of the Christian Religion  1916  770 pp.

“…a classic ‘liberal’ introduction to the theological encyclopedia from the point of view of the study of religion, written by some of the outstanding scholars of its time;” – R. Muller, Study of Theology, 221

Ebeling, Gerhard – The Study of TheologBuy  (Fortress, 1978)

“…the best modern survey of the various fields.” – R. Muller, Study of Theology, p. 221  For a survey and critique of this work, see ibid., pp. 41-45.

Farley, Edward – Theologia: The Fragmentation and Unity of Theological Education  Buy  (Fortress, 1983)

“The seminal contemporary studies of theology, its various disciplines and the problem of the unity of theological study are Edward Farley, Theologia…” – R. Muller, Study of Theology, p. 221  For a survey and critique of this work, see ibid., pp. 45-50.

Pannenberg, Wolfhart – Theology and the Philosophy of Science  Buy  (Westminster, 1976)

“The major study, in our time, of theology as a discipline is surely Wolfhart Pannenberg’s Theology and the Philosophy of Science.”  “A useful introduction to Pannenberg’s theology is his Basic Questions in Theology: Collected Essays, trans. George H. Kehm, 2 vols…” – R. Muller, Study of Theology, p. 50, 222  For a survey and critique of the former work, see ibid., pp. 50-60.



Theological Encyclopedia

On Theological Encyclopedia

Article & Booklet

Patton, Francis L. – ‘Theological Encyclopaedia’  in Princeton Theological Seminary, Biblical and Theological Studies (1912), pp. 1-34

Searle, J. Preston – Theological Encyclopedia: An Outline Sketch  1907  45 pp.

Searle was a professor of systematic theology in the Reformed Church in New Brunswick, Canada.


Larger Books

M’Clintock, John – Lectures by the Late John M’clintock D.D., LL.D., on Theological Encyclopedia and Methodology  1873  210 pp.

M’Clintock is well known for M’Clintock & Strong’s Cyclopedia.  He was an American, Methodist Episcopal professor at Drew Seminary.

Kuyper, Abraham – Encyclopedia of Sacred Theology: Its Principles  1898  720 pp.

This was a major attempt to set theology in relation to the other fields of knowledge in light of Kuyper’s theological and educational program.

“…various issues and aspects of theological method are discussed in Abraham Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology…, a classic reformed study of the meaning of theology and the method of dogmatics;” – R. Muller, Study of Theology, p. 222


Theological Encyclopedias

Rabiger, J.F. – Encyclopaedia of Theology, vol. 1, 2  1884

“The theological disciplines are analyzed and surveyed in such classic works on ‘encyclopedia’ as: J.F. Rabiger, Encyclopaedia of Theology, 2 vols…. a work valuable for its critical analysis of other ‘encyclopedias’ of its day;” – Muller, Study of Theology, p. 221

Hagenbach, Karl – Theological Encyclopaedia and Methodology: on the Basis of Hagenbach  1884  600 pp.  trans. & enl. by George Crooks & John F. Hurst

Hagenbach (1801–1874) was a liberal, Swiss/German historical theology scholar.

“..perhaps the best of the nineteenth century encyclopedias;” – R. Muller, Study of Theology, p. 221

“A comprehensive work on theology which also includes many extensive bibliographies that list about 5,000 books.  Includes index.  Based on the original German work, enlarged by the addition of English and American titles.” – Muether & Kepple

Weidner, Revere Franklin – Theological Encyclopaedia & Methodolgy, vol. 1 (Introduction, Exegetical), 2 (Historical, Systematic, Practical)  1898

Sheldon, Henry C. – Theological Encyclopaedia: a Brief Account of the Organism and Literature of Theology  1911  75 pp.

Sheldon was a long-time professor of systematic theology in Boston University.

On his volume on historical theology: “…is by a Methodist author, who writes with impartiality.” – G.P. Fisher



The History of Prolegomena

Covering the Whole Period

Shedd, William G.T.

A History of Christian Doctrine, vol. 1 (1863), pp. 51-222

Book 1 (History of Philosophical Influences on Theology)
Book 2 (History of Apologetics)

Shedd (1820–1894) was an American, reformed theologian.

“…the ‘special’ or systematic model for examining the history of doctrines.  Examples of this model are the histories by W.G.T. Shedd, Louis Berkhof…  Each of these treatises, particularly Shedd’s, discuss individual doctrines in detail….  The histories appear in a topical order and in the shape of a theological system…

This model… imposes a modern, systematic gird on the subject matter…  Nonetheless, if this method is utilized with a candid recognition of its limitations, it does serve as a useful approach to particular doctrines and a good prologue to the study of systematic theology.” – Bradley & Muller, Church History, 2nd ed., pp. 26-7

Briggs, Charles A. – History of the Study of Theology, vol. 12   1916

Briggs was an American, liberal scholar.  This work encompasses the whole of church history and gives background to the methods that historical theologians employed in studying.


The Early Church

Neander, Augustus

Lectures on the History of Christian Dogmas, vol. 1 1858  Neander (1789–1850) was a liberal German scholar; not all of his summary interpretations are condoned.

       From the Apostles to Constantine
             A. ‘The History of Introductory Dogmas’
                     1. ‘Of Written and Oral Tradition as Normal Sources of
                            Knowledge’, pp. 72-84
                     2. ‘The Relation of Reason to Revelation’, pp. 84-90
                     3. ‘The Doctrine of Inspiration’, pp. 90-98

From Constantine to the 500’s
      A. ‘The History of Introductory Dogmas’, pp. 273-285
              1. ‘On the Sources of Religious Knowledge’
              2. ‘Scripture and Tradition’
              3. ‘The Doctrine of Inspiration’

Hagenbach, K.R.

A Text-Book of the History of Doctrines, vol. 1 (1861)  Hagenbach (1801–1874) was a liberal, Swiss scholar.

From the Apostles to A.D. 284
       ‘Apologetico-Dogmatic Prolegomena’, pp. 75-98

From 254-730
       ‘Apologetic and Normal Doctrines–Prolegomena’, pp. 311-24

Harnack, Adolf

History of Dogma, Harnack (1851–1930) was a liberal, German, Lutheran professor.

    vol. 2, Chs. 4-6, pp. 169-378
    vol. 3, Ch. 1, ‘The Rule of Faith’, pp. 1-118
            Part 2, Ch. 3, ‘Sources of Knowledge’, pp. 191-239
                        Ch. 4, Sect. 1, ‘Proofs of God, Method in Doctrine of
                                                God’, pp. 241-4

Late 300’s – Early 400’s    
     vol. 5, Ch. 1, pp. 5-13
               Ch. 4, pp. 95-100

Sheldon, Henry Clay

History of Christian Doctrine, vol. 1 (1886)  Sheldon was a long-time professor of systematic theology in Boston University.  “…is by a Methodist author, who writes with impartiality.” – G.P. Fisher

Apostles to 320
      Ch. 1, ‘Factors in the Doctrinal Development of the Period’
                 pp. 11-52

       Ch. 1, ‘Factors in the Doctrinal Development of the Period’,
                 pp. 163-86

Berkhof, Louis – ‘Preparatory Doctrinal Development’  in History of Christian Doctrines  Buy  (Banner, 1937/67), pp. 37-82.  This section only examines the Early Church and has more to do with historical concerns related to opposing erroneous views than theoretical issues about theology itself.  Here is a more extended table of contents.  

Berkhof (1873–1957) was Dutch American and was reformed.

Kelly, J.N.D. – Part 1, Ch. 2, ‘Tradition & Scripture’  in Early Christian Doctrines (1958), pp. 29-51


The Middle Ages

Neander, Augustus

Lectures on the History of Christian Dogmas, vol. 2 1858  Neander (1789–1850) was a liberal German scholar; not all of his summary interpretations are condoned.

       From the 500’s-1000’s
               A. ‘The History of Introductory Dogmas’, pp. 433-434
                     ‘The Doctrine of Inspiration’

From 1000’s-1100’s
        A. ‘Introductory Dogma: The Doctrine of Inspiration’,
                pp. 492-4

The 1200’s
        A. ‘The Dogmas which Belong to the Introduction in
              Dogmatics’, pp. 549-559

        A. ‘The History of Introductory Dogmas’, pp. 605-8
              1. ‘Statements Respecting the Essence of Theology’
              2. ‘On Tradition and the Holy Scriptures as Sources of

Hagenbach, K.R.

A Text-Book of the History of Doctrines, vol. 1 (1861)  Hagenbach (1801–1874) was a liberal, Swiss scholar.

From 730-1517
       ‘Apologetico-Dogmatic Prolegomena’, pp. 414-31

Sheldon, Henry Clay

History of Christian Doctrine, vol. 1 (1886)  Sheldon was a long-time professor of systematic theology in Boston University.  “…is by a Methodist author, who writes with impartiality.” – G.P. Fisher

       Ch. 1, ‘Factors in the Doctrinal Development of the Period’,
                  pp. 301-27

Gilson, Etienne Henry – Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages  Buy  1946  114 pp.

Gilson is a Roman Catholic scholar.

Muller, Richard – Ch. 2, sections 1-2, pp. 85-96  of Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, 2nd ed. (Baker, 2003)

“Medieval theology received from the church fathers a great body of highly detailed doctrine, but virtually nothing that could be called a system [of] theology and, certainly, no theological prolegomena.  The received body of patristic teaching was clarified and systematized… to the point that, toward the close of the twelfth century… [they] were able to draw doctrine together into collections of theological statements and definitions, the sententiae.” – p. 85



General Works

Neander, Augustus

Lectures on the History of Christian Dogmas, vol. 2 1858  Neander (1789–1850) was a liberal German scholar; not all of his summary interpretations are condoned.

Since the Reformation
        A. ‘The History of Introductory Dogmas’
              1. ‘The Doctrine of the Sources of Knowledge’,
                     pp. 620-37
               ‘The Doctrine of Inspiration’, pp. 637-42

Hagenbach, K.R.

A Text-Book of the History of Doctrines, vol. 2 (1861)  Hagenbach (1801–1874) was a liberal, Swiss scholar.

From 1517-1720
       ‘The Doctrines Concerning the Sources of Knowledge’,
             pp. 230-50

Sheldon, Henry Clay

History of Christian Doctrine, vol. 2 (1886)  Sheldon was a long-time professor of systematic theology in Boston University.  “…is by a Methodist author, who writes with impartiality.” – G.P. Fisher

        Ch. 1, ‘Factors in the Doctrinal Development of the Period’,
                   pp. 13-83

Hastie, William

Theology as Science and its Present Position and Prospects in the Reformed Church  1899  130 pp.

The Theology of the Reformed Church in its Fundamental Principles  1904  300 pp.

Muller: “Althaus tries to elicit from select doctrinal loci… what he believes to be underlying principles and tendencies, without paying particular attention to what the Protestant scholastics themselves say about their principia… his sense of the use of philosophy and logic for Reformed theology bears little resemblance to the arguments made by the seventeenth-century dogmaticians themselves…  a similar problematic understanding of principia obtains in the studies by Hastie…” – PRRD, 2nd ed., p. 129-30

Lechler, Joan – Renaissance Concepts of the Common Places  (New York: Pageant Press, 1962)

** Muller, Richard – Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, Prolegomena to Theology  Buy

See specifically in the second edition, Part 1, ch. 2, pp. 96-122 for an overview of prolegomena through the whole of the Reformation and Reformed Orthodoxy and Scholasticism.  The whole of Part 2 (pp. 149-450) is devoted to the specifics of prolegomena during that period.

ed. Johnson, William & John Leith – Ch. 1, ‘Concerns and Methods of Theology’  in Reformed Reader: A Sourcebook in Christian Theology: Volume 1: Classical Beginnings, 1519-1799  Buy  (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), pp. 1-48  

This volume is an anthology of choice excerpts (with introductions) on the topic, mostly from the reformers and puritans, though done by a liberal publisher.  Numerous of the selections have not been translated elsewhere.


Specific Topics

Donald W. Sinnema, ‘Antoine De Chandieu’s Call for a Scholastic Reformed Theology (1580)’, in Later Calvinism: International Perspectives, ed. W. Fred Graham (16th Century Journal Publishers, 1994), pp. 159-190  Buy

Max Deal, The Meaning and Method of Systematic Theology in Amandus Polanus  (PhD thesis, Univ. of Edinburgh, 1980)

Burnett, Amy Nelson – ‘The Educational Roots of Reformed Scholasticism:
Dialectic and Scriptural Exegesis in the Sixteenth Century’  in Dutch Review of Church History/Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis
84 (2004), pp. 299-317

van Vliet – The Rise of the Reformed System: the Intellectual Heritage of William Ames  Buy  2013  350 pp.


1700’s to Today

Hagenbach, K.R.

A Text-Book of the History of Doctrines, vol. 2 (1861)  Hagenbach (1801–1874) was a liberal, Swiss scholar.

From 1720-1860
       ‘Prolegomena, Religion, Revelation, Bible & Tradition’, pp. 461-73

Sheldon, Henry Clay

History of Christian Doctrine, vol. 2 (1886)  Sheldon was a long-time professor of systematic theology in Boston University.  “…is by a Methodist author, who writes with impartiality.” – G.P. Fisher

        Ch. 1, ‘Factors in the Doctrinal Development of the Period’,
                   pp. 223-299

ed. Stroup, George – Ch. 1, ‘Concerns and Methods of Theology’ in Reformed Reader: A Sourcebook in Christian Theology: Volume 2: Contemporary Trajectories, 1799 to the Present  Buy  (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993), pp. 1-48

The section in this volume has a few excerpts from conservatives, otherwise, as one might expect, it is largely a collection of modern, liberal ambiguity.  It may be helpful though, in seeing the shift in the historical trend.



 History of the Relation of Scripture & Tradition

Lane, A.N.S. – Scripture, Tradition and Church: An Historical Survey  Vox Evangelica 9 (1975): 37-55

Lane gives a survey of the different trajectories of viewpoint through Church history.


Introduction  37
The Emergence of Scripture & Tradition  38
The Coincidence View  39
The Supplementary View  40
Protestantism: The Ancillary View  42
The Catholic Reformation: The Supplementary View  45  
The Development of Doctrine: The Unfolding View  47
The Present Situation  48

Grass, Tim – ‘Bible, Church and Tradition in the Sixteenth-Century Reformation’  Perichoresis  2/2 (2004)

Grass is of Spurgeon’s College London.



Treatises of Prolegomena in Latin


Agricola, Rudolph – Of the Dialectic Method [De Inventione Dialectica]  1479/1528 ff.  Another edition

Agricola (1443-1485) was a Dutch humanist who was one of the first main promulgators of using ‘common places’ (in many disciplines), which method would be used en masse by the early and later 1500’s reformers and reformed scholastics.

Richard Muller discusses the significance of Agricola’s work in PRRD, vol. 1, pp. 177-8.  Here is a review of the work (in English) by Marc Van Der Poel in Vivarium, Vol. 32, No. 1 (1994), pp. 102-114.  Here is an article on Agricola’s method by Paula Olmos.

Latomus, Bartholomaus – An Epitome of Excerpts from Rudolph Agricola’s Of The Dialectic Method  1517/1558  on GB

This was a popular abridged work of Agricola’s above.



Erasmus, Desiderius – Ratio seu Methodus Compendio perveniendi ad veram theologiam (Basil, 1519)

For an a brief overview of this work, see Preus, Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism (Concordia, 1970), vol. 1, 75-7.

Melanchthon, Philip

‘Preface’ in Theological Common Places  1521

R. Muller: “…the first edition… (1521) includes a preface on the nature of theology.  As one would expect, given the date of the treatise, its preface is highly antagonistic toward philosophy and even toward the more speculative elements of traditional dogmatic system.  As Melanchthon’s Loci developed through successive editions, traditional dogmas reappear and the highly polemical elements of its prologue are removed, giving way to more positive statements concerning the presuppositions and contents of theological system.” – PRRD, 2nd ed., p. 100

‘Preface’ & ‘of God’  in Loci Communes Theologici, pp. 1-21  1562  Table of Contents

‘Preface’  in Loci Communes Theologici (1559)  in Corpus Reformatorum, vol. 21, cols. 603-7  This was the third and last edition.

Muller: “In the locus de Deo, Melanchthon included a series of comments on natural revelation and the use of human reason.  While his earliest comments on reason and philosophy were negative to the point of being bitter, Melanchthon ultimately tempered his views and identified the function of reason with that of Law and the function of revelation with that of the gospel.” – PRRD, 2nd ed., p. 101

Erotematum Dialectices  in Works, ed. Bretschneider (Halis Saxonum, 1846), vol. 13  See especially cols. 573-8 on ‘Method’.

This was the first protestant textbook on philosophy.  For a brief summary overview of it, see Preus, Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism (Concordia, 1970), vol. 1, 77-80.

A Brief Plan for Learning Theology  1530  in Opera, vol. 2, pp. 35-7

Muller: “…in which he discusses a plan for proper Biblical study: the student begins with Romans, proceeds through the Epistles to the Gospels, (concluding with the Gospel of John), and then works through the Old Testament (from Genesis to Deuteronomy followed by the Psalter and the prophets).  This brief essay is hardly a full theological prolegomenon but, as in the various prefaces to the Loci communes, Melanchthon manifests a strong interest in the elicitation of theological topics form the text of Scripture.  The Epistle to the Romans provides a methodus or way through the whole Scripture by setting forth the ‘principal topics of Christian doctrine’: justification, the use of the Law, the distinction of Law and gospel.  From the Gospel of John we learn about the Trinity, creation, the two natures of Christ, original sin, free will, the righteousness of faith, the church, and the office of the keys.”  PRRD, 2 ed., pp. 100-101

‘A Disputation on the Difference Between the Gospel & Philosophy’  in Corpus Reformatorum, vol. 12, cols. 689-91

For an overview of this work in English, see Preus, Theology of Post-Reformation Lutheranism (Concordia, 1970), vol. 1, p. 80.

** Hyperius, Andreas

Of Theology, and the Reason for the Study of Theology  (Basel, 1559; 1582)  756 pp.

Hyperius (1511-1564).  For the significance of this work, see above in the English subsection.

‘Of the Word of God’, pp. 24-38  in A Method of Theology, or the Principal Common Places of the Christian Religion, vol. 1 (Basel, 1567)  For the subsections of this section, see the table of contents.

Danaeus, Lambert

A Manual of Aurelius Augustine to the Romans [Laurentium], or a Sum and the Particular Heads of the Whole Christian Religion  (Geneva, 1575)

‘Of the Method of the Books of Augustine, and of the Reason for How They Develop’  5 pp.
Chs. 1-2, ‘Of Christian Theology and to which Genus this Wisdom is Referred’
Chs. 3-4, ‘Of the Object of Christian Theology (it is the Worship of God) and its Parts’
Chs. 5-9, ‘The Definition of Faith and Hope, and How They Come Together and are Distinguished’

Danaeus (c. 1535 – c. 1590) 

‘Prolegomena’, Chs. 1-5  of The Threefold Commentary of Lambert Danaeus on Peter Lombard’s (Bishop of Paris, who is Entitled the Master of the Sentences) First Book of Sentences, which is of the True God, the One Essence of the Same, Though in Three Persons  (Geneva, 1580)

Ramus, Petrus

Commentary on the Christian Religion  (Frankfurt, 1576; 1594), Book 1, ‘Of the Faith’, pp .1-12

Ch. 1, ‘What Theology Is, and How the Whole Doctrine of Salvation
            is Contained in Sacred Letters’

Ch. 2, ‘Of the Division of Theology and of Faith’

Ramus (1515-1572) was chiefly significant for devising a logic, or method, for organizing subjects, which became very popular for theology amongst the scholastics and puritans, in contradistinction to the earlier Aristotelian method.

Muller: “Ramus is remembered for his influential definition of theology as ‘the doctrine of living well’ before God.  The basic thrust of the definition, though not its precise language, carries over into the thought of [Dudley] Fenner, [William] Perkins, and their followers both in England and on the continent.” – PRRD, 2nd ed., pp. 112-3

Ursinus, Zacharias – Ch. 1, ‘Of Sacred Scripture’  in Theological Places  in Theological Works, vol. 1 (Heidelberg, 1612), pp. 426-447.

Ursinus (1534-1583).

Fenner, Dudley – Book 1, ch. 1, ‘Of Theology’  in Sacred Theology, or Truth which Follows Piety (Geneva, 1586), pp. 1-4

Fenner (c. 1558–1587) was an English puritan divine and was one of the first theologians to use the term “covenant of works” to describe God’s relationship with Adam in the Book of Genesis.

Zanchi, Jerome

‘A Short Preface to Common Places:  Why the First Place is of the Sacred Scriptures’  in Theological Works, vol. 8 (Geneva, 1649), col. 319-452

Muller: “Zanchi’s Praefatiuncula in locos communos must be counted among the first of the early Reformed orthodox attempts at prolegomena.  What is surprising about this work is Zanchi’s unwillingness to proceed in any great detail beyond a preliminary statement concerning the meaning and method of theology affixed to a statement of the doctrine of Scripture–this despite Zanchi’s training in late medieval theology and his certain acquaintance with the prolegomena to medieval systems.” – PRRD, 2nd ed., pp. 110-111

Ch. 1, The Holy Scriptures, the Whole Foundation of the Christian Religion  in The Faith of the Christian Religion (Newstadt, 1588; 1601), pp. 57-65

Aretius, Benedict – A Theological Exercise: A Brief and Clear, Written Out Method  (Morgiis, 1584)  167 pp.

Aretius (1505–1574)

Johannes, Piscator – Ch. 1 – ‘The Knowledge of God’  in Theological Common Places, exposited in brief thoughts, or Aphorisms of Christian Doctrine, the greater part of which are excerpts from the Institutes of Calvin (Herborne, 1589; 1605), pp. 11-13.

Piscator (1546-1625)

Bullinger, Henry – The Rule of Studies, or the Institution of Them, which Studies of Literature Follow, a Small, Golden Book to Approach the Same: the Arrangement of Common Places, Even of Philosophy & Theology  (Wolphius, 1594)  172 pp.



Keckermann, Bartholomaeus

A System of Scriptural Theology Furnished in 3 Books  (2nd ed. Hanau, 1607; 1610)

Book 1, ch. 1, ‘The Nature of Theology’  pp. 1-5

Book 2, ch. 1, ‘The Division of Theology’  pp. 209-215

Keckermann (1572-1608).

Muller: “We ought also to mention here the contribution of Bartholomaus Keckermann to the problem of the relationship of philosophy and theology, an issue significant for the high-orthodox development of prolegomena.  In Keckermann’s view, theology follows out a resolutive method and assumes the usefulness of philosophy as an aid or support.” – PRRD, p. 115-6

** Polanus, Amandus

System of Christian Theology, vol. 1 (Hanau, 1609; 1615), Book 1

“Polanus’ Syntagma, which is profoundly dependent upon Junius’ De vera theologia, marks a watershed in the development of Protestant Orthodoxy…  the Syntagma is surely the most elaborate dogmatic system produced by a Reformed theologian up to that time.” – PRRD, 2nd ed., p. 115

Book 1

Of True Theology

1 – The Designation or Name of Theology, from whence it rises, what it signifies, how many ways it is understood, what and how many ways theology is false and why  1
2 – What Theology is True, what it is and what are its subjects  5

The Kinds of Theology

3 – Archetypal Theology [the ultimate pattern, as God knows it]  9
4 – Ectypal Theology [out of the type, or finite, as men know it]  12
5 – The Highest Good  15
6 – The Happiness of Rational Creatures  52
7 – The Theology of Christ According to his Humanity  62
8 – The Theology of the Blessed [saints in Heaven]  65
9 – The Theology of Pilgrims, or of us, what it is and its rise  67
10 – The Difference of Supernatural and Natural Theology  70
11 – The Necessity of Revealed Theology  72
12 – The Theology of Pilgrims Absolutely Speaking  73
13 – The Theology of Pilgrims that Follows, what it is and of its truth in general  75

Of Scripture and its Authority

14 – The Division[s] of our Theology, and its First Principle  95

Book 2

How Theology is Divided

1 – The Division of Theology  833
2 – The Distribution of the Doctrine and Articles of Faith  844


Scharp, John – Ch. 1, ‘Of Theology, its Name and what it is’  in A Course of Theology, in which all the dogmas and controversies of faith agitated in this generation between us and Papists are handled one by one and the arguments of [Robert] Bellarmine are responded to, vol. 1 (Geneva, 1620)

Sharp (1572-1648), a Scottish minister, resisted Episcopacy and Erastianism in the dark years of the early 1600’s and was banished in 1606 to France, becoming a renowned professor of theology there.  From 1630 to his death in 1648 he was a professor at the University of Edinburgh.

** Alsted, Henry

Part 1, ‘Theological Precognitions’, chs. 1-10  in A Compendium of Theology exhibiting a Method of Sacred Theology in 8 Parts (Hanoviae, 1624), pp. 1-21  For the titles of the chapters, see the table of contents.  This work is different than the similar title below.

Muller: “Alsted’s Methodus… deserves special mention as the most important of the early orthodox systems after Polanus.” – PRRD, p. 116 

‘Introduction’ & Place 1, ‘The Knowledge of God’  in Theological Common Places  (Frankfurt, 1630), pp. 1-7

‘Theological Precognitions’  in A Method of Sacred Theology in 6 Books  (Hanau, 1634), pp. 29-44  This copy is missing large sections.  This work is different from the one above.

Maccovius, Johannes

Disputation 1, ‘Of the Nature of Theology’  in A Volume of Theological Theses by Giving Disputations on Common Places (Franeker, 1639), pp. 2-21

Maccovius (1588-1644)

Ch. 1, ‘Of the Nature of Theology’ & Ch. 2, ‘The Internal Principle of Theology’  in Theological Common Places  (Franeker, 1650; 1658), pp. 1-19.  This is different than the above disputation.

Walaeus, Antonius

All the Works (includes vols. 1 & 2, Leiden, 1643)

‘An Oration on the Right Institution of the Study of Theology’  1619   in vol. 2, p. 299-306

Walaeus (1573-1639)

‘Of Theology’  being Section 1 in An Enchiridion of the Reformed Religion for a Synopsis for Ministerial Candidates  in vol. 1, p. 1 

‘Of Theology’  being Section 1 of Common Places of Sacred Theology  in vol. 1, pp. 114-122

Gomarus, Franciscus – Disputation 1: ‘Of Theology’  in All the Theological Works, Part 3, in vol. 2 (Amsterdam, 1644), pp. 1-4

Gomarus (1563-1641)

** Maresius, Samuel – ‘Of the Nature of Theology and the Principle, which is certainly Scripture’  in A Colloquium of Theology, or, a Brief System of All of Theology in Eighteen Disputations  (2nd ed. Groningen, 1649), pp. 1-12

Maresius (1599-1673)

Chamier, Daniel

A Body of Theology, or Theological Common Places  (Geneva, 1653), pp. 1-9

Ch. 1 – ‘Of the Name of ‘Theology’ and its Genera’
Ch. 2 – ‘In What Manner is the Theology out of Sacred Scripture to
               be Esteemed Revelation?’

Ch. 3 – ‘Of the Subject and End of Theology’
Ch. 4 – ‘Of Heresy’
Ch. 5 – ‘Of the First Principle of Theology, which is God’
Ch. 6 – ‘Of the Other Principle of Theology whereby God will make
               known Theological Mysteries, and the various kinds of

Ch. 7 – ‘Of the Use of Revelation’
Ch. 8 – ‘Of the Author of Revelation’

Chamier (1564–1621)

Alting, J. Henricus

The Scriptural Theology of Heidelberg, vol. 1, containing Didactic and then Elenctic Common Places  (Freistad [= Amsterdam], 1646)

Inaugural Oration, ‘Of the Nature, Rise, Use and Order, or of the Method, of Theological Common Places’  20 pp.

Ch. 1 – ‘Of the Nature of Theology’  pp. 1-6
Ch. 2 – ‘Of the Principle of Theology: Sacred Scripture’  pp. 7-24

A Method of Didactic Theology  (Amsterdam, 1656; 1662), pp. 1-11

Ch. 1 – ‘Of the Nature of Theology’
Ch. 2 – ‘Of the Principle of Theology: Sacred Scripture’

Alting (1583-1644).

** Voet, Gisbert

Exercises and Library for the Student of Theology  (Utrecht, 1644)  The Table of Contents is at the front of this volume.

Select Theological Disputations (Utrecht, 1648-1667)

vol. 1 – #2, ‘Of Scholastic Theology’
vol. 2 – #25-26, ‘Of the Explication of Restrictive Predications and Formulas in Theology’ 

Voet opposed the philosophy of Decartes and the covenant theology of Cocceius.

Spanheim, Frédéric, Sr – Disputations 1-8  in Miscellaneous Theological Disputations, vol. 1 (Geneva, 1652), pp. 1-37

Spanheim, Sr. (1600-1649)

Hottinger, Johann H. – ‘Prolegomena’, Ch. 1, ‘Of Theology’, Ch. 2, ‘Of the Principle of Theology: Sacred Scripture’  in Theological Courses in the Method of Alting, not only by his definitions being propounded and the ordinary places of Scripture confirmed, but by the continuous canons being illustrated…  (Heidelberg, 1660), pp. 1-36 

Hottinger (1620-1677)

** Cocceius, Johannes – Ch. 1, ‘Of Theology and the Method it is to Have’  in A Sum of Theology out of the Scriptures (Geneva, 1665), pp. 1-15

Cocceius  (1603-69)

Hospinian, Rudolph & Johann Hottinger – Of the Form and End of Theology (Tigurum, 1665) 20 pp.  a Disputation

Vogelsang, Reinerus – Exercitation 1, ‘Of Theology’  in Exercises of Theology (Rotterdam, 1668)

Vogelsang (1610-1679)

Rutherford, Samuel – Ch. 1, ‘Of the Scriptures and Fundamental Articles’  in An Examination of Arminianism  (Utrecht, 1668)  See the subsections of this chapter in the table of contents.

Rutherford (1600-1661).  This chapter is included here as a discussion of fundamental and non-fundamental articles of the faith came to be commonly included in prolegomena in the latter half of the 1600’s.  As noticed by the title, it is directly writing in opposition to Arminianism.

** Heidanus, Abraham – ‘Prolegomina’ & Place 1, ‘Of Theology and Sacred Scripture’  in Body of Christian Theology, vol. 1 (Leiden, 1686), pp. 1-52

Heidanus (1597-1678)

** Burman, Francis

A Deliberation on the Study of Theology that I may be Blessed  in A Synopsis of Theology, vol. 2 (Amstelaedami, 1699), pp. 653 ff.

Ch. 1, ‘Of the Preparation to Theological Study’
Ch. 2, ‘Of Theological Study Itself’
Ch. 3, ‘Of the Use and Exercise of Theological Study’

Ch. 2, ‘Of Religion and Theology’  in A Synopsis of Theology, and especially of the Economy of the Covenant of God, from the beginning of ages to the consummation of all things, vol. 1 (Utrecht, 1671), pp. 3-18

Burman (1628-79)

Eszeki, Stephan – Decade 1, ‘Of Theology in its Genera and Sacred Scripture’  in A Diary of Theology, or A Complete Theology in 20 Decades of Aphorisms.. (Claudiopoli, 1675), pp. 1-5

Eszeki (fl.1665-1675) was Hungarian.

Baxter, Richard – Part 1, ch. 1, ‘The Method of Christian Theology’  in A Method of Christian Theology  (London, 1681), pp. 3-27  See the index for the subsections.

Baxter (1615–1691)

Essenius, Andreas – ‘The Nature of Theology’  in A Dogmatic Compendium of Theology (Utrecht, 1685), pp. 1-22

Essenius (1618-1677)

** Marck, Johannes à

A Compendium of Christian Theology, Didactic and Elenctic  (Amsterdam, 1696; 1722)

1 – ‘Of the Name and Definition of Theology’   1
2 – ‘Of the First Principle [Principio] of Theology, or Sola Scriptura’
3 – ‘Religion’   60

Marck (1656-1731).  Bernardus De Moor wrote a commentary on this work, extending each of these chapters to the length of a volume (see our English subsection above).



** Heidegger, Johann Heinrich – Ch. 1, ‘Theology in General’  in A Body of Christian Theology, Exhibiting True Doctrine, which is according to godliness, vol. 1 (Tigur, 1700), pp. 1-21 

Heidegger (1633-1698).

Pictet, Benedict – Ch. 1, ‘Of Theology in General, the Existence of God, and Religion’  in The Marrow of Christian Theology, Instructive and Elenctic (Geneva, 1711), pp. 1-5.  In a dialogue, question and answer format.  This is significantly different than the author’s Christian Theology, which has been translated into English, which starts with natural theology, but not prolegomena as such.

Pictet was the Swiss professor of divinity in Geneva after Turretin.  He was the last to hold the orthodox faith there (though was a transitional figure) before the rise of the Enlightenment.

Rodolph, Johann R.

Christian Theology, Things of the Faith, or Things to be Believed about God and his Ways in the World and Church, under Diverse Temporary Economies  (Bern, 1714

      1. Of the Nature of Theology  1
       2. Of Sacred Scripture  17

Rodolph (1646-1718) was a Swiss professor of theology.

** Vitringa, Sr., Campegius – ‘Prolegomena’  in Doctrina Christinae Religionis, per aphorismos summatim descripta, vol. 1, pp. 1-41  d. 1722  See this section’s subsections in the analysis of the aphorisms.

Vitringa, Sr. (1659-1722) was a professor of Franeker and a Hebraist.  “…Vitringa…  maintained a fairly centrist Reformed position…  Vitringa and De Moor serve as codifiers and bibliographers of the earlier tradition, the former from a federalist, the latter from a nonfederalist perspective.” – R. Muller, PRRD

Beck, Jacob Christoph

Fundamentals of Natural & Revealed Theology  (Basel, 1757)

‘Prolegomena of the Various Methods of Delivering Sacred Theology’  1
Ch. 1, ‘Of Theology in General’  27

‘A General Introduction to the Study of Sacred Theology’ & A Synopsis of Dogmatic Theology: ‘Prolegomena’  in A Synopsis of Universal, Natural & Revealed Theological Institutions, Dogmatic, Polemical & Practical, having been in Use in the Lecture Room:  A Brief Theological Encyclopaedia is Given & Delineated  (Basil, 1765), pp. 1-56 & 57-8.  Here is the table of contents to the General Introduction.

Beck was a professor of theology, history and Old Testament at Basel and was influenced by the philosophical rationalism of Christian Wolff.




Muller, Richard – ‘For Further Reading’  in The Study of Theology: From Biblical Interpretation to Contemporary Formulation  Buy  Preview  (Zondervan, 1991), pp. 221-3

An annotated guide including both older and contemporary material.  Many of the references have been included on this webpage.

St. Andrews University – ‘THST 619 Principles and Methods of Theology: Selected Bibliography’  About 300 entries

St. Andrews in Michigan, USA is a 7th Day Adventist institution.




Related Pages


Biblical Theology

Historical Theology


Bible Background

Textual Criticism





General Revelation

Natural Law

Man – Image of God


Special Revelation

Systematic Theologies

Richard Muller’s Works