“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.”
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men… Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”
Order of Contents
History of 12
The Best: John Owen
On the Immortality of the Soul 2
Turretin, Francis – 3rd Topic, ‘The One & Triune God’, 1st Question, ‘Can the Existence of God be irrefutably demonstrated against Atheists? We Affirm.’ in Institutes (1992), pp. 169-177. See an excerpt: ‘Nature Proves the Existence of God’.
Cunningham was a professor in the Free Church of Scotland.
In regard to the whole volume of lectures, Cunningham “had bestowed much care and labor upon their composition and revision, and that he had attached a special value to them as the first-fruits of his professional labors.”
Sudduth, Michael – ‘Revisiting the ‘Reformed Objection’ to Natural Theology’ 2013 26 pp.
Sudduth argues against Alvin Plantinga’s objection to Natural Theology. Regretfully, Sudduth, since writing this article, has converted to polytheistic Hinduism and writes immoral novels as a professor of religion in the pluralistic university environment, though this does not affect the scholarship or helpfulness of this work.
Abstract: “In this paper I seek to lay out the criteria for determining that some doctrine is necessary for protestant orthodoxy. I then apply these criteria to Natural Theology in order to discover if Natural Theology should be considered necessary to orthodoxy, whether it should be rejected as unorthodox, or whether it is an unnecessary doctrine of little importance.”
Abstract: “In this short treatise I will be considering the relationship between Van Til’s Presuppositionalism and Natural Theology, and will attempt to demonstrate that the philosophical foundations of this system force him into a Relativism of Interpretative Schemes, and, consequently, self-contradiction… It seems that if the Presuppositionalist system succumbs to these flaws, then its most difficult objections to the traditional understanding of Natural Theology do not hold. If this is the case, then we may be warranted in engaging in natural theology as traditionally understood.”
Abstract: “Natural Theology has traditionally been defined as that part of philosophy which explores that which man can know about God (his existence, divine nature, etc.) from nature, via his divinely bestowed faculty of reason; and, this, unaided by any divinely inspired written revelation. Defining Natural Theology this way seems to give value to the study of philosophy and encourages the use of philosophy in theology.
Since the early 1900’s, however, many Christian theologians have begun describing Natural Theology as the attempt to prove the truth of the Christian Religion, or worse, as the attempt to replace revealed truths with human ideas. These theologians often go on to claim that the only way that Natural Theology could be valuable, is if we first assume the truth of Christianity. In other words, the universe does not point to the existence of God, unless we first assume a religious position in which some God exists.
Though this approach is, in Christian apologetics, often associated with Cornelius Van Til’s Presuppositionalism; it is also known, to philosophers, as Perspectivalism. Other well-known theologians who seem to have adopted this approach to Natural Theology, include Alister McGrath, Fergus Kerr, and Wolfhart Pannenberg. In their opinion, Natural Theology has no other use than to provide Christians, if it does even this, with some form of existential certitude concerning the truth of Christianity. Natural Theology most certainly does not prove Theism, let alone the truth of the Christian Religion.
In this paper, I will begin with a short exposition of the positions of the contemporary theologians mentioned above. I will then attempt to refute these claims through (1) an historical exposition of the traditional approach to Natural Theology, and (2) a philosophical argument demonstrating the self-defeating nature of these claims.”
Payne, Andrew – ‘Classical Theism and Natural Theology in Early Reformed Doctrines of God’ in ed. David Haines, Without Excuse: Scripture, Reason & Presuppositional Apologetics Buy (Davenant Institute, 2020)
Charleton, Walter – The Darkness of Atheism Dispelled by the Light of Nature (1652)
Charleton (1620-1707) was an Anglican, natural philosopher.
“…the systematic attempt to use detailed natural phenomena to establish God’s existence, wisdom, benevolence, and so forth, becomes a significant philosophical movement in the seventeenth century, especially in Britain (Brooke 1991, 192-225; Harrison 2005). Among the first to appear were The Darkness of Atheism… (1652), by Walter Charleton…” – John Henry in Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theology, pp. 613-4
More, Henry – An Antidote Against Atheism; or, An Appeal to the Natural Faculties of the Mind of Man, whether there be not a God… with an Appendix 2nd ed. (1653; London, 1655)
“…the systematic attempt to use detailed natural phenomena to establish God’s existence, wisdom, benevolence, and so forth, becomes a significant philosophical movement in the seventeenth century, especially in Britain (Brooke 1991, 192-225; Harrison 2005). Among the first to appear were… An Antidote against Atheism (1653) by the Cambridge Platonist, Henry More (1614-87).” – John Henry in Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theology, pp. 613-4
Bentley, Richard – Eight Sermons, preached at the Hon. Robert Boyle’s Lecture, in the year 1692, to which are added Three Sermons on Different Occasions (d. 1742; Clarendon Press, 1809) ToC Including A Confutation of Atheism from the Origin and Frame of the World, a Sermon (London, 1692)
Bentley (1662-1742) was an English classical scholar, critic and theologian. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.
Bentley was the first lecturer for the Boyle Lectures, which began in 1692, founded upon the dying will of Robert Boyle (1627-1691), a Christian, natural philosopher. The main design of the lectureship was to counter atheism through examining the relationship between Christianity and the new natural philosophy then emerging in European society.
Bentley based his natural theology on the physics of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica (1687), which was translated into English as The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1729).
Clarke, Samuel – A Discourse Concerning the Being & Attributes of God, the Obligations of Natural Religion, and the Truth & Certainty of the Christian Revelation, in Answer to Mr. Hobbs, Spinoza… & other Deniers of Natural & Revealed Religion, being Sixteen Sermons… in the years 1704 & 1705, at the Lecture founded by the Honorable Robert Boyle, Esq. 10th ed. (1705; London, 1767)
Clarke (1675–1729) was an English philosopher and Anglican clergyman. He is considered the major British figure in philosophy between John Locke and George Berkeley. Clarke was an Arian who wrote at length on and debated the Trinity, especially with Daniel Waterland, who defended orthodoxy.
Clarke held to Newtonian physics. His Discourse Concerning the Being & Attributes of God set the stage for further British debate which lasted till the middle of the century.
Ray, John – The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation, in Two Parts… with Answers to Some Objections (1714; London, 1735) Sermons
Ray (1627-1707) was a Cambridge professor, Anglican minister and an English naturalist, widely regarded as one of the earliest of the English parson-naturalists. He published important works on botany, zoology, and natural theology. His classification of plants in his Historia Plantarum, which classified plants according to similarities and differences that emerged from observation was an important step towards modern taxonomy. He was among the first to attempt a biological definition for the concept of species.
Astro-Theology, or a Demonstration of the Being & Attributes of God, from a Survey of the Heavens 6th ed. (1715; London, 1731) ToC
Derham (1657-1735) was an Anglican clergyman, natural theologian, natural philosopher and scientist. He produced the earliest, reasonably accurate measurement of the speed of sound.
This work ‘proved to be especially influential’. – John Henry, Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theology, p. 614
Paley, William – Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature (1802; New York, 1879) ToC
Paley (1743-1805) was an Anglican clergyman, Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian. He is best known for his teleological argument for the existence of God, which made use of the watchmaker analogy.
Fisher, George Park – Manual of Natural Theology 1893 125 pp.
Joyce, George Hayward – Principles of Natural Theology 1923 648 pp.
Smith, Gerard – Natural Theology: Metaphysics II (NY: The Macmillan Company, 1951)
“Another textbook style introduction to Natural Theology.” – David Haines
Holloway, Maurice R. – An Introduction to Natural Theology (New York: Appleton Century Crofts, 1959)
“A textbook style introduction to Natural Theology.” – David Haines
Anderson, James F. – Natural Theology: The Metaphysics of God (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1962)
“One of the best of the textbook style introductions to Natural Theology.” – David Haines
Van Steenberghen, Fernand – Hidden God: How do we Know that God Exists Buy (B. Herder Book Co., 1966) 316 pp.
“This author is often seen (and accepts this portrayal, though somewhat bitterly) as a black sheep amongst Thomists. His work on the subject is, however, excellent.” – David Haines
Barr, James – Biblical Faith & Natural Theology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994)
“This is Barr’s Gifford lectures. It is one of the most important analyses of Natural Theology in the Scriptures. Written by a theologian who was trained in the Barthian tradition, and was a Barthian, this work is in constant interaction with the Barthian rejection of Natural Theology.” – David Haines
Brunner, Emil & Karl Barth – Natural Theology (Wipf & Stock, 2002)
“This book contains the 2 article debate that essentially ended the friendship between Emil Brunner and Karl Barth. Karl Barth reacted violently (as violently as an academic author can react in an article) to Emil Brunner’s claim that natural knowledge of God was possible on a certain level. This is essential reading for those who wish to understand Barth’s position on Natural Theology.” – David Haines
McGrath, Alister – The Open Secret: A New Vision for Natural Theology (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2008)
“This, along with McGrath’s more recent book ‘Re-Imagining Nature’, presents McGrath’s attempt to provide a ‘Christian Natural Theology’. McGrath has essentially accepted a Christian form of perspectivism, in which Nature or the natural cosmos are ambivalent to goodness, beauty, or truth. Nature tells us nothing about God unless we first adopt the Christian perspective. Ultimately this would be not only a rejection of the traditional Christian understanding of Natural Theology, but it would make discourse between proponents of different perspectives virtually impossible.” – David Haines
“Michael Sudduth examines three prominent objections to natural theology that have emerged in the Reformed streams of the Protestant theological tradition: objections from the immediacy of our knowledge of God, the noetic effects of sin, and the logic of theistic arguments. Distinguishing between the project of natural theology and particular models of natural theology, Sudduth argues that none of the main Reformed objections is successful as an objection to the project of natural theology itself.”
Regretfully, Sudduth, since writing this dissertation, has converted to polytheistic Hinduism and writes immoral novels as a professor of religion in the pluralistic university environment, though this does not affect the scholarship or helpfulness of this work.
The History of the Doctrine of Natural Theology
“This paper was presented during the Models of God session at Evangelical Theological Society 2019, in San Diego… Our purpose, in this paper, is to show that some unregenerate philosophers have indeed arrived, by reasoning alone and without the aid of special revelation, at some knowledge of the one true God. In pursuing this line of reasoning, we will only consider the views of some major pre-Christian philosophers, thus avoiding the possibility of any Christian influence on the philosophical conception of God… We will conclude by responding to some possible critiques.” – Haines
On the Early Church
Haines, David – ‘Natural Theology in Augustine’
This was a conference presentation.
Pelikan, Jaroslav – Christianity & Classical Culture: The Metamorphosis of Natural Theology in the Christian Encounter with Hellenism (Yale Univ. Press, 1993)
“An analysis of the the approach to Natural Theology which is found in the Greek Cappadocian Fathers.” – David Haines
Kretzmann, Norman – The Metaphysics of Theism: Aquinas’s Natural Theology in Summa Contra Gentiles 1 Buy (1997; repr., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004)
“Though notably influenced by analytical philosophy, this is one of the best commentaries on Aquinas’s Summa Contra Gentiles currently available.” – David Haines
White, Thomas Joseph – Wisdom in the Face of Modernity: A Study in Thomistic Natural Theology (Ave Maria, FL: Sapienta Press, 2009)
“Probably one of the best works I have ever read on Natural Theology. Not perfect, but extremely helpful.” – David Haines
Beauchamp, Maurice – Méthode Thomiste de la Théologie Naturelle (Ann Arbor, MI: Proquest, LLC, 1941) Available for free on PDF.
On the Reformation & Puritan Era
Ch. 6, ‘Natural & Supernatural Theology’ in PRRD (2003), vol. 1, pt. 2, ‘The Reformed Orthodox Theological Prolegomena’
‘Was it Really Viral? Natural Theology in the Early Modern Reformed Tradition’ in ed. Pitassi & Camillocci, Crossing Traditions: Essays on the Reformation and Intellectual History: in Honour of Irena Backus Pre (Brill, 2018), pp. 507-531
Henry, John – 3. ‘Natural Theology’ in ch. 40, ‘Early Modern Theology & Science’ in eds. Lehner, Muller & Roeber, The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theology, 1600-1800 (Oxford, 2016), pp. 613-5
‘Natural Theology in Reformed Orthodoxy’ a chapter in ed. Joseph Minich, Philosophy & the Christian (2018)
Haines has been a professor of philosophy at Veritas Evangelical Seminary.
Abstract: “Our purpose in this article is to provide a clear outline of how some of the most important early reformed theologians, and confessions, articulated their understanding of Natural Theology… we will limit our analysis primarily to John Calvin (1509-1564), Theodore Beza (1519-1605), Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562), Girolamo Zanchi (1516-1590), Franciscus Junius (1545-1602), John Davenant (1572-1641), and Francis Turretin. We will also take note, in passing, of some of the more authoritative Reformed documents and councils, such as the French Confession of faith (1559), the Canons of the Synod of Dort (1618-1619), and the Westminster Confession (1646)…”
“Bullinger (1504-1575), a Swiss reformer, was the successor of Heidrich Zwingli. He was one of the most influential of the earlier reformers… He was educated in the via antiqua [old way], learning from such greats as Aquinas and Scotus. In what follows, I provide quotes from Bullinger on the following subjects: Faith, Nature, Natural Reason, Natural Theology, and Natural Law. The quotes are accompanied only by short comments to help situate them or better understand them.” – Haines
Abstract: “I will, therefore, consider Calvin’s claims about man’s natural knowledge of God under five headings: (1) What Calvin means by “knowledge of God”, (2) The possibility of knowledge of God, (3) The sources of man’s knowledge of God, (4) The content of this knowledge, and (5) the what man does with this knowledge (or, the effect of this knowledge on man).”
“I here consider Francis Turretin’s approach to Natural Theology through an analysis of his response to Five important questions. First of all, what, according to Turretin, Natural Theology is and isn’t (as well as the contents of Natural Theology). Secondly, whether humans (fallen or regenerated) are able to engage in Natural Theology, and how. Thirdly, the relationship between Natural theology and the articles of faith. Fourthly, the uses and limitations of natural theology. Fifthly, the effect of Natural Theology.”
Sudduth, Michael L. – ‘The Prospects for ‘Mediate’ Natural Theology in John Calvin’ Religious Studies, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Mar., 1995), pp. 53-68
Wallace Marshall – Puritans & Natural Theology Buy 2012 205 pp. being his PhD dissertation for Boston College
This excellent work surveys the natural theology of the puritans, which was their undergirding for apologetics.
On the 1800’s
Abstract: “In this article I will be considering, primarily, what Charles Hodge has to say about Natural Theology in his 3 volume, Systematic Theology and and what A. H. Strong has to say about Natural Theology in his Systematic Theology… The title refers to one reformed view, because, though we are considering two different theologians, from two different protestant denominations, working at different schools and at different times, these two reformed theologians hold essentially the same view on Natural Theology. We will consider what they have to say about Theology, the relationship between Natural and Revealed Theology, and the relationship between Reason, man’s knowledge of God, and the doctrine of Total Depravity, among other issues.”
This is a summary of research into Bavinck’s approach to Natural Theology.
Muller, Richard – ‘Kuyper & Bavinck on Natural Theology’ Bavinck Review 10 (2019): 5–35
On the 1900’s
Haines, David – ‘Benjamin B. Warfield on Natural Theology’
This is a summary of research into B. B. Warfield’s approach to Natural Theology.
On the 2000’s
Haines, David – ‘Alister McGrath and Natural Theology’
“In the book The Open Secret: A New Vision for Natural Theology, Alister McGrath sets out to lay the foundations for an entirely new natural theology… “…if nature is to disclose the transcendent, it must be ‘seen’ or ‘read’ in certain specific ways – ways that are not themselves necessarily mandated by nature itself.” He does not wish to embark on a neutral natural theology, but to advance a Christian natural theology – one which, rather than proving the doctrinal claims of Christianity, begins by accepting the doctrinal claims of Christianity, and then goes on to show how the Christian worldview gives the best interpretation of our perceptions of this universe.
The claim that he will seek to validate in his book is summarized briefly as follows: “…A Christian understanding of nature is the intellectual prerequisite for a natural theology which discloses the Christian God.”
In order to understand his revised natural theology we must first understand the need for this revision. What does McGrath perceive as the old natural theology, and what is so wrong with it that we need a new vision? Once we have understood these contentions we will be able to better understand McGrath’s revised version, which will allow us to give it a critical analysis.”
The Divine Right of Church Government… (1646), p. 66
“…a reasonable soul, which to me is a rare and curious book, on which essentially is written by the immediate finger of God that natural Theology that we had in our first creation.”
The Best: John Owen
The Reason of Faith… (Glasgow, 1801), ch. 6, pp. 114-116, 118-120
“1. And in the first place we, may consider that there are three ways whereby we assent unto anything that is proposed unto us as true, and receive it as such.
1. By inbred principles of natural light, and the first rational actings of our minds. This in reason answers instinct in irrational creatures. Hence God complains that his people did neglect and sin against their own natural light, and first dilates of reason, whereas brute creatures would not forsake the conduct of the instinct of their natures, Isa. 1:3. In general, the mind is necessarily determined to an assent unto the proper objects of these principles; it cannot do otherwise. It cannot but assent unto the prime dictates of the light of nature, yea those dictates are nothing but its assent. Its first apprehension of the things which the light of nature embraces, without either express reasonings or further consideration, are this assent. Thus does the mind embrace in itself the general notions of moral good and evil, with the difference between them, however it practically complies not with what they guide unto; Jude ver. 10. And so does it assent unto many principles of reason, as that the whole is greater than the part, without admitting any debate about them.
2. By rational considerations of things externally proposed unto us. Herein the mind exercises its discursive faculty, gathering one thing out of another, and concluding one thing from another. And hereon is it able to assent unto what is proposed unto it in various degrees of certainty, according unto the nature and degree of the evidence it proceeds upon. Hence it has a certain knowledge of some things, of others an opinion or persuasion prevalent against the objections to the contrary, which it knows, and whose force it understands, which may be true or false.
3. By faith. This respects that power of our minds whereby we are able to assent unto anything as true, which we have no first principles concerning, no inbred notions of, nor can from more known principles make unto ourselves any certain rational conclusions concerning them…
And this assent also has not only various degrees, but is also of diverse kinds, according as the testimony is which it arises from, and rests on; as being human if that be human, and divine if that be so also.
According to these distinct faculties and powers of our souls, God is pleased to reveal or make known Himself, his mind or will three ways unto us. For He has implanted no power on our minds, but the principle use and exercise of it are to be with respect unto Himself, and our living unto Him, which is the end of them all. And a neglect of the improvement of them unto this end, is the highest aggravation of sin.
It is an aggravation of sin when men abuse the creatures of God otherwise than He has appointed, or in not using them to his glory; when they take his corn, and wine, and oil, and spend them on their lusts, Hos. 2:8… But the height of impiety consists in the abuse of the faculties and powers of the soul, wherewith we are endowed purposely and immediately for the glorifying of God. Hence proceed unbelief, profaneness, blasphemy, atheism, and the like pollution of the spirit or mind. And these are sins of the highest provocation. For the powers and faculties of our minds being given us only to enable us to live unto God, the diverting of their principal exercise unto other ends, is an act of enmity against Him, and affront unto Him.
He does not reveal Himself by his word unto the principles of natural light, nor unto reason in its exercise. But yet these principles, and reason itself, with all the faculties of our minds, are consequentially affected with that revelation, and are drawn forth into their proper exercise by it…
And concerning these several ways of the communication or revelation of the knowledge of God, it must be always observed that there is a a perfect consonancy in the things revealed by them all. If any thing pretends from the one what is absolutely contradictory unto the other, or our senses as the means of them, it is not to be received.
The foundation of the whole, as of all the actings of our souls, is in the inbred principles of natural light, or first neceflary dictates of our intellectual rational nature. This, so far as it extends, is a rule unto our apprehension in all that follows. Wherefore if any pretend in the exercise of reason, to conclude unto anything concerning the nature, being, or will of God that is directly contradictory unto those principles and dictates, it is no divine revelation unto our reason, but a paralogism [fallacious reasoning] from the defect of reason in its exercise.
This is that which the apostle charges on, and vehemently urges against the heathen philosophers. Inbred notions they had in themselves of the being and eternal power of God; and these were so manifest in them thereby, that they could not but own them. Hereon they set their rational discursive faculty at work in the consideration of God and his being. But herein were they so vain and foolish as to draw conclusions directly contrary unto the first principles of natural light, and the unavoidable notions which they had of the eternal being of God, Rom. 1:21-24. And many upon their pretended rational consideration of the promiscuous event of things in the world, have foolishly concluded that all things had a fortuitous beginning, and have fortuitous events, or such as from a concatenation of antecedent causes are fatally necessary, and are not disposed by an infinitely wise, unerring, holy Providence. And this also is directly contradictory unto the first principles and notions of natural light, whereby it openly proclaims itself not to be an effect of reason in its due exercise, but a mere delusion.
So if any pretend unto revelations by faith which are
contradictory unto the first principles of natural light , or reason in its proper exercise about its proper objects, it is a delusion. On this ground the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation is justly rejected, for it proposes that as a revelation by faith, which is expressly contradictory unto our sense and reason in their proper exercise about their proper objects. And a supposition of the possibility of any such thing, would make the ways whereby God reveals and makes known himself, to cross and interfere one with another; which would leave us no certainty in anything divine or human.
But yet as these means of divine revelation do harmonize and perfectly agree one with the other, so they are not objectively equal, or equally extensive, nor are they co-ordinate, but subordinate unto one another. Wherefore there are many things discernible by reason in its exercise, which do not appear unto the first principles of natural light. So the sober philosophers of old attained unto many true and great conceptions of God, and the excellencies of his nature, above what they arrived unto who either did not or could not cultivate and improve the principles of natural light in the fame manner as they did.
It is therefore folly to pretend that things so made known of God
are not infallibly true and certain, because they are not obvious unto the first conceptions of natural light, without the due exercise of reason, provided they are not contradictory thereunto. And there are many things revealed unto faith that are above and beyond the comprehension of reason, in the best and utmost of its most proper exercise. Such are all the principal mysteries of Christian religion. And it is the height of folly to reject them, as some do, because they are not discernible and comprehensible by reason, seeing they are not contradictory thereunto.
Wherefore these ways of God’s revelation of himself are not equally extensive, or commensurate, but are so subordinate one unto another, that what is wanting unto the one is supplied by the other, unto the accomplishment of the whole and entire end of divine revelation; and the truth of God is the same in them all.”
On the Immortality of the Soul
Flavel, John – ‘The Immortality of the Soul Proved from Scripture & Reason’ from Pneumatologia: A Treatise of the Soul of Man, wherein the Divine Original, Excellent & Immortal Nature of the are Opened… (London, 1698), pp. 81-120
Clarke, Samuel – A Letter to Mr. [Henry] Dodwell: wherein all the Arguments in his Epistolary Discourse Against the Immortality of the Soul are particularly answered, and the Judgment of the Fathers concerning that matter truly represented… (London, 1718)
Clarke (1675–1729) was an English philosopher and Anglican clergyman. He is considered the major British figure in philosophy between John Locke and George Berkeley. Clarke was an Arian who wrote at length on and debated the Trinity, especially with Daniel Waterland, who defended orthodoxy. Clarke held to Newtonian physics.
Grison, M. – Théologie Naturelle ou Théodicée 10th ed. (Paris: Beauchesne et ses Fils, 1959)
“A helpful French, textbook style, introduction to Natural Theology.” – David Haines