Richard Muller (theologian)

Richard A. Muller (born October 12, 1948, in Flushing, New York) is an American historical theologian.


Muller obtained his B.A. in History from Queens College, City University of New York in 1969, his M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary, New York in 1972, and his Ph.D. in Reformation studies from Duke University in 1976. He has taught at Fuller Theological Seminary (1980–1992), has been awarded a Mellon Post-Doctoral Research Grant and has held the Belle van Zuylenleerstoel at Utrecht University (1999). He has served on the editorial boards of Sixteenth Century Journal and Reformation and Renaissance Review. He currently serves as the P. J. Zondervan Professor of Historical Theology and as Senior Fellow of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Muller's research and writing has been largely focused on the reassessment of the development of Protestant thought after the Reformation, with emphasis on the nature and character of Protestant orthodoxy and Reformed scholasticism in the seventeenth century. Muller is one of the historians credited with setting aside the "Calvin against the Calvinists" theory of developing Reformed thought.[1] His argument is that the attempt to define the entire Reformed tradition in terms of the thought of Calvin is a historical error, inasmuch as Calvin was one of several second generation codifiers of the tradition and inasmuch as the tradition itself was, early on, rather diverse and variegated. The "Calvin against the Calvinists" thesis tended to claim in a rather reductionistic way that Calvin was a "christocentric" theologian in contrast to later Reformed thinkers who had developed a radical predestinarian or deterministic metaphysics. By contrast Muller has argued that the later Reformed thinkers did not develop a predestinarian system but instead understood theology in terms of a series of biblically and traditionally based loci or topics. Their thought does differ in places from Calvin's, but the differences are to be explained on the basis of other sources of the Reformed tradition, such as the thought of Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger, Peter Martyr Vermigli, and others, on the basis of alterations in debate and historical context.[2]



  1. See Martin I. Klauber, "Continuity and Discontinuity in Post-Reformation Reformed Theology: an evaluation of the Muller Thesis," in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 33 (1990): 467-475; and W. J. van Asselt, et al., Inleiding in de Gereformeerde Scholastiek, (Zoetermeer: Boekencentrum, 1998): 28, 73-74, 91-92.
  2. Richard A. Muller, "John Calvin and later Calvinism: the identity of the Reformed Tradition," in The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology, edited by David Bagchi and David C. Steinmetz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004): 130-149.

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