In the days of early orthodoxy (before 1618: prior to the Synod of Dort), Reformed polemics were mostly against Rome – Cardinal Bellarmine (d. 1621) in particular.The Reformed also wrangled with Lutherans to some extent over a fairly limited set of doctrinal issues. And all three (Catholic, Reformed, and Lutheran) opposed what Muller calls the “traditional heterodoxies of Christianity.” But by the time of high orthodoxy (1618-1687: from Dort to the death of Francis Turretin), the Reformed “encountered a wider variety of antagonists.” Muller divides these debates into two categories: ad extra and ad intra.
“The ad extra debates, confrontations between the confessional Reformed and alternative confessional positions – whether Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Remonstrant, or Socinian – occupied the larger portion of the polemic of orthodoxy” (Muller, PRRD, 1:75). The arguments with Roman Catholics and Lutherans became more and more detailed and philosophically involved, but I want briefly to highlight the polemic with the Remonstrants and Socinians.
The Remonstrants were, of course, the followers of James Arminius. They were a highly rationalistic bunch, depending on Cartesian (and later Lockean) thought, and they posed a great danger to Reformation truth. One thing I hope to gain a better knowledge of is how Remonstrant thought infiltrated the Reformed through Federalism. Clearly, Reformed thought became thoroughly covenantal (or federal), but the Reformed orthodox had to root Arminianism out of it. The Socinians were rationalists that rejected (among other things) the doctrines of the Trinity and the two natures of Christ. Both Remonstrants and Socinians are examples of the growing rationalism of the age, against which the Reformed orthodox fought.
The debates ad intra were the “bitter battles among the Reformed.” These ranged from the espousal of Cartesian philosophy to the various teachings
of theologians at the Academy of Saumur to the soteriology of Richard Baxter. Muller notes that “on none of these issues, however, did the Reformed churches rupture into separate confessional bodies or identify a particular theologically defined group as beyond the bounds of the confessions, as had been the case at the Synod of Dort” (ibid., 1:76). Of all these Reformed variations, I have the most familiarity with the various Salmurian teachings, including Amyraldism (or hypothetical universalism) and am happy to discuss them. The most outstanding thing, however, is that “Reformed” is confessionally defined. What’s more, it’s not a narrow confessional definition (as tends to be the case in contemporary debate), but is broad enough to include the Salmurian Triumverate: Moses Amyraut, Louis Cappel and Josue de la Place, at least two of which would be almost certainly be driven out today. We think of the orthodox as unbending and narrow, but overall I think they were a good deal more open-minded than we give them credit for.