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The Bernardine Tradition


You may know Bernard of Clairvaux as the author of “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee,” and perhaps a few other hymns. What you might not know is the extent of his influence as a theologian. Steve Lawson writes,

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Bernard’s theological works closely hold to the truths of sovereign grace in salvation. This is not surprising, as his theology followed a strict Augustinian line. Because of this theological affinity and Bernard’s far-reaching influence, many scholars have contended that the Augustinian tradition, after the middle of the twelfth century, might more accurately be called the Bernardine tradition.

For this reason, Bernard’s teaching was deeply appreciated by Luther and Calvin. Luther called Bernard “the greatest doctor of the church.” Calvin quoted Bernard in his Institutes of the Christian Religion more frequently than any previous nonbiblical author except Augustine, citing his works to support the doctrines of the bondage of the will, divine grace, justification by faith, and predestination. So immersed was Calvin in Bernard’s writings that “the French genius of Geneva may well have written his greatest works feeling the presence of the French genius of Clairvaux peering over his shoulder.” The Protestant Reformers merely brought to fruition that which Bernard had set out to accomplish in his own day.

—Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 325.



Posted 2018·09·24 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Augustine · Bernard of Clairvaux · Church History · Steve Lawson

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