Muller on Natural Theology

The development, in rationalist systems of the eighteenth century, of a truly foundational natural theology represents a basic alteration of perspective and a loss, not an outgrowth or further refinement, of the orthodox system.

We must object strenuously, therefore, to the all-too-frequent and utterly erroneous claim that orthodox or scholastic Protestant theology generally viewed natural revelation and the natural theology drawn from it as a foundation on which supernatural revelation and a supernatural theology can build.

—Richard Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 1:309.

Leave a comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Hermonta Godwin

4 years ago

That is unfortunate; for if one does not think that one can build on natural revelation as the foundation for special revelation, then I dont see how one can avoid fideism.

Nate

4 years ago

Depends, I think, on what you mean by ‘foundation’. Since it is impossible to only have special revelation and no general revelation (to whom would special be revealed? what would it reveal? to what end?), there must be a close relationship between them, some kind of coordination. What cannot be the case is that natural theology operates soundly independent of special revelation and then may (or may not) in some way participate in a join theologizing with revealed theology. That cannot happen if the principia of natural and revealed theology are distinct, which they must be if we are saying that NT may operate soundly independent of special.

Hermonta Godwin

4 years ago

I don’t deny a close relationship, I simply deny that the relationship is symmetric. Special Revelation is dependent on natural revelation in a way that the natural revelation is not dependent on Special Revelation.

Bruce Sanders

4 years ago

The statement, “What cannot be the case is that natural theology operates soundly independent of special revelation” is incorrect.

The evolution of Assyrian, Babylonian, and Egyptian religions led to Greek and Roman religions (lets call these “natural revelation / theology”), and it was in the religious context of the latter two that Paul differentiated “special revelation / theology.” The Bible is our record of those events and worldview, and showed a close relationship between natural and special revelations / theologies.

Natural revelation / theology however has now moved on, becoming scientific revelation (some would say theology), explaining the origin, sustaining and anticipated end of the cosmos and occupants without the need of god.

Conclusion: natural revelation / theology (science) does indeed operate soundly independent of special revelation. To oppose this conclusion is to admit that geneticists manipulate god in the lab when creating new life forms out of inanimate atoms.

Nate

4 years ago

Thanks, Bruce. We may be talking past eachother. When I say ‘natural theology’, I have in mind theology (talking about ‘god’) by the unregenerate. When I say that it cannot proceed soundly independent of special revelation, what I mean is only that only theology based on Scripture, its principia being Spirit and Scripture, is ‘sound’ or doxological and true. Some people argue that when other gods are talked about, thought of, or worshiped, sometimes the true God is referred to but incorrectly, and sometimes a false god (a fictional ‘god’ or an object of experience) is referred to and wrongly called ‘god’. I understand the statement you object to as merely an affirmation of Reformed theological principia. Do you see it differently?

I would also distinguish between revelation and theology thus: revelation is something God does, and theology is the creature’s response.

Bruce Sanders

4 years ago

Nate:

Thanks for your reply.

Context is important in our discussion, so lets build a picture: Let’s imagine Reformed theology as a circle, and in VTian fashion we start with the presupposition of the triune God and move around this circle of theological truth using Scripture, Spirit and ensuing conclusions. This process builds a body of knowledge, as discussed during many CTC podcasts … when statements are made. If all statements are consistent / faithful to the above context, the listener can understand the truth claim being proposed with a high degree of clarity.

I have been slowly going through CTC archives, listening to podcasts and reading subsequently submitted comments, and have found occasions when the visitor dogmatically made uncontested statements, but later in the replies (sometimes months later) Camden or another writes, “but no one on the panel agreed.” Such statements shatter my presupposition about paragraph one above, and I now therefore write in, sometimes with an opposing view (the best way to motivate a response).

Now that you have limited your statement, “What cannot be the case is that natural theology operates soundly independent of special revelation” to a Reformed circle context, I agree.

reformed-forum-logo-white400

Contact Info

Reformed Forum
115 Commerce Dr.
Suite E
Grayslake, IL 60030

+1 847.986.6140
mail@reformedforum.org

Copyright © 2019 Reformed Forum