Three Theological Methods of the Reformation
Scholastic methodology required theologians to approach theological questions through integrating their interpretations with existing commentaries and glosses on the Bible, since these represented the tradition of the church. These glosses and commentaries left the biblical text so encrusted with extra material that it was difficult to get to the meaning of the text itself. Renaissance humanists objected to scholastic methodologies and freed the text from its accumulated apparatus to allow it to speak for itself. Unfortunately, however, the humanists tended to be highly pragmatic and were uninterested in theological questions. As a result, humanist reformers tended to focus on practice, not theology. When the new humanist methods were used to answer traditional theological questions, however, new answers emerged, including the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone. This explains why the French humanist scholar Lefèvre d’Étaples, German theologian Martin Luther, and Swiss humanist priest Huldrych Zwingli all discovered this doctrine independently in the space of less than ten years. This approach is the foundation for modern exegetical methods, and when used consistently will reinforce core evangelical doctrine.