Online archive opens the Reformers’ works at U.S. seminary

Chief eye-openers included successfully tracking down rare Reformed theologians’ manuscripts once thought lost, Religion News Service reports.

Another revelation: 16th-18th century theologians and philosophers were brutally honest about their doctrinal positions and emotions, including the well-known Reformer John Calvin, who pushed the boundaries of good taste in a sermon about rowdy adolescents.

“We’ve got things coming out of the woodwork that (were) lost for centuries,” said Todd Rester, a doctoral student who served on the project’s six-member editorial board.

Google Books, the Internet Archive, and digital libraries in Europe and North America already had the documents scanned and online, Rester said. Calvin’s seminary site makes tracking down these original writings easier by bringing them all under one online roof.

Working under the direction of Richard Muller, professor of historical theology at the seminary, the site required two years of work to complete and features a finding list of research libraries, scholarly initiatives, and other sources. The bibliography is organized alphabetically by authors’ names, which take users to digital versions of their works.

The site is not only an archive of Reformers’ works but also those who influenced them.  There are links to Reformed, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Anabaptist, Arminian-Remonstrant and Socinian-Unitarian thinkers, as well as secondary sources.

The site is intended for scholars, students, and the inquisitive, who previously were unable to travel to university libraries in Europe, or were unwilling to wait six months to check out a book.

Documents once thought to have vanished include a profession of faith from John Calvin’s successor, Theodore Beza.

There is a link to manuscripts arguing against allowing pianos and pipe organs in Reformed church services because they were considered too ostentatious.

And there’s a sermon by John Calvin, who compares unruly teens to “little turds,” Rester said.

The site raises the research bar for students who once were able to get away with writing academic papers based primarily on local sources, said Jordan Ballor, a member of the project’s editorial board and a doctoral student in moral theology.

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