“For philosophy is the offspring of right reason:
and this light of reason is infused into the human mind by God Himself,
according to that remark of Tertullian,
‘Reason is of God.'”
on Col. 2:8, p. 290
Order of Contents
Bullinger, Henry – 5th Decade, Tenth Sermon, ‘Of Certain Institutions of the Church of God, of Schools…’, pp. 479-85 in The Decades of Henry Bullinger ed. Thomas Harding, trans. H. I. 4 vols. (Cambridge: 1849-52), vol. 4
Askew, Egeon – ‘An Apology, of the Use of Fathers, and Secular Learning in Sermons’ in Brotherly Reconcilement: Preached in Oxford for the Union of some, and now published with larger meditations for the unity of all in this Church and Commonwealth (London: 1605), pp. 257-353
Askew was a reformed Anglican.
Davenant, John – on Col. 2:8 in An Exposition of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, vol. 1 (London, 1831), pp. 387-407
van Mastricht, Peter – chs. 1 & 5 of Vindications of the Truth & Authority of Sacred Scripture in Philosophical Matters Against the Dissertations of Dr. Christopher Wittich (Utrecht, 1655) in ch. 4, pp. 67-77 & 84-104 of J.A. Schlebusch, Cartesianism & Reformed Scholastic Theology: A Comparative Study of the Controversy a Master’s thesis (Univ. of the Free State, South Africa, 2013)
Ch. 1 discusses the unity and differences between philosophy and theology, a Christian philosophy, and legitimate and illegitimate principles of accommodation in the language of Scripture.
In ch. 5, van Mastricht examines and vindicates 15 Scriptures that Wittich brought to claim that Scripture uses approving language of people’s false beliefs in, not just natural, but practical, moral and spiritual things.
The Judgment of Non-conformists, of the Interest of Reason, in Matters of Religion… (London, 1676) 21 pp.
Articles of Richard Muller
De Boer, Cecil – ‘Cecil De Boer on Van Tillianism and Idealist Pantheism’ from De Boer, ‘The New Apologetic’, The Calvin Forum, 19, nos. 1-2 (August-September 1953), pp 2-3. Van Til Responded to De Boer in The Defense of the Faith, 4th ed., pp. 284-287.
Duby, Steven J. – ‘In Defense of Christian Philosophy: A Response to Peter Leithart’ (2018) 22 paragraphs
“…it’s possible to articulate Christian doctrine without formally invoking concepts like “essence,” “substance” and so on. Instead of saying, for example, that in the incarnation there is one hypostasis subsisting in two distinct natures, one can say that there is just Jesus and not someone else and that Jesus always remains both truly God and truly human.
However, the fact that the use of the metaphysical language is not absolutely necessary does not mean that the metaphysical resources in question are detached from reality. It does not mean that what they offer us is just a set of coherent rules for saying things – rules that we might either take or leave. On the contrary, the classical metaphysical tradition developed by Christian thinkers like John of Damascus, Thomas Aquinas or the early Reformed theologians and philosophers involves a knowledge of how things are. Indeed, it is fundamentally an exposition of things human beings know to be true prior to engaging in any formal academic work. For example, things do have natures by virtue of which they are similar to other things. There really are substances in which accidents inhere… As we seek ways to express what God is like according to scriptural teaching, we should look to this philosophical tradition, not Kant or Hegel, because it sheds light on reality.”
Abstract: “The claim that I would like to consider in this article is that it is wrong to mix philosophy and theology, or the stronger claim, that a Christian should have nothing to do with philosophy. I propose that the problem springs, primarily, from a faulty understanding of the relationship between faith and reason. In this article we will be attempting to answer the question what place is there, in Christian theology and practice, for Philosophy? We will note, first of all, the relationship between faith and reason, theology and philosophy. Secondly we will consider the ways in which it is permissible to use philosophy in theology, and finally, we will look at some errors that are frequently made when we use philosophy in theology.”
‘The Metaphysics of Scripture’ a chapter in ed. Joseph Minich, Philosophy & the Christian (2018)
Haines has been a professor of philosophy at Veritas Evangelical Seminary.
Abstract: “…not only can philosophy help make sense of our common experience, but the Bible appears to assume a number of important philosophical concepts which, best explained by early Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato, are assumed by most people. This will be shown through a consideration of how the Bible takes for granted an approach to the world which is best described via a number of key Aristotelian concepts, such as, the four causes, act and potency, and the principle of causality… We will conclude with some considerations about the importance of moderate realism for biblical and theological studies.”
Introduction: “We will do this by showing that far from being contrary to the spirit of the Protestant Reformation, the use of the writings and teachings of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, and, indeed, dependence upon these two great thinkers, can be both beneficial and useful for the development and defense of evangelical Protestant theology.
The first step, which we propose to take in this blog post, is to show that the very theologians who began the Protestant Reformation, and who provided it with its enduring form, not only used Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, but, in fact, that their theology was, on many points, dependent on Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle. To do this we will begin by articulating the main premises that an argument of this nature requires. We will then consider, briefly, those facts of history which may support the premises of such an argument. This will be done by pointing out some of the most recent research concerning the relationship between Aquinas, Aristotle, and the early reformers. We will also note the continued Reformed dependency upon Aquinas and Aristotle.”
Daneau, Lambert – The Wonderful Workmanship of the World, wherien is Contained an Excellent Discourse of Christian Natural Philosophy, Concerning the Form, Knowledge & Use of All Thinges Created: Specially Gathered out of the Fountains of Holy Scripture (London, 1578)
Amyraut, Moses – A Treatise Concerning Religions, in Refutation of the Opinion which Accounts All Indifferent. Wherein is Also Evinced the Necessity of a Particular Revelation and the Verity & Preeminence of the Christian Religion (London: 1660)
Gale (1628–1678) was a reformed, dissenting, English Independent minister.
ed. J. Ambrosio – The Question of Christian Philosophy Today (Fordham Univ. Press, 1999)
Moroney, S.K. – The Noetic Effects of Sin. A Historical and Contemporary Exploration of How Sin Affects Our Thinking (Oxford: Lexington, 2000)
Moreland, J.P. & W.L. Craig – Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity, 2003)
Feser, Edward – Aristotle’s Revenge: The Metaphysical Foundations of Physical and Biological Science Buy (2019) 515 pp.
“Actuality and potentiality, substantial form and prime matter, efficient causality and teleology are among the fundamental concepts of Aristotelian philosophy of nature. Aristotle’s Revenge argues that these concepts are not only compatible with modern science, but are implicitly presupposed by modern science.” – Blurb
Reformed Dogmatics (Baker), vol. 1, p. 607
“Though Christian dogma cannot be explained in terms of Greek philosophy, it also did not come into being apart from it. There is as yet no dogma and theology, strictly speaking, in Scripture. As long as revelation itself was still in progress, it could not become the object of scientific reflection. Inspiration had to be complete before reflection could begin.
To speak of “Mosaic”, “Pauline”, or the “Bible’s” theology and dogmatics therefore, is not advisable; the word theology, for that matter, does not occur in Scripture and has only gradually acquired its present meaning.
Theology first arose in the Christian community after the naïveté of childhood lay behind it and the adult thinking mind had awakened. Gradually a need arose to think through the ideas of revelation, to link it with other knowledge and to defend it against various forms of attack. For this purpose people needed philosophy. Scientific theology was born with its help. This did not, however, happen accidentally. The church was not the victim of deception. In the formation and development of the dogmas, the church fathers made generous use of philosophy. They did that, however, in the full awareness of and with clear insight into the dangers connected with that enterprise; they were conscious of the grounds on which they did it with express recognition of the word of the apostles as the only rule of faith and conduct. For that reason also they did not utilize the whole of Greek philosophy but made a choice; they only utilized the philosophy that was most suited to help them think through and defend the truth of God. They went to work eclectically and did not take over any single philosophical system, be it either from Plato or from Aristotle, but with the aid of Greek philosophy produced a Christian philosophy of their own.
Furthermore, they only used that philosophy as a means. Just as Hagar was the servant of Sarah, as the treasures of Egypt were employed by the Israelites for the adornment of the tabernacle, as the wise men from the East placed their gifts at the feed of the child in Bethlehem, so, in the opinion of the church fathers, philosophy was the servant of theology.
From everything it is clearly evident that the use of philosophy in theology was based, not on a mistake, but on firm and clear conviction. The church fathers knew what they were doing. Mind you, this does not rule out the possibility that at some points the influence of philosophy was too strong. But in that connection we must make a distinction between the theology of the fathers and the dogmas of the church. The church was at all times alert against the misuse of philosophy; it not only rejected Gnosticism but also condemned Origenism. And up until now no one has succeeded in explaining the dogmas materially in terms of philosophy; however often this has been attempted, in the end the scriptural character of orthodoxy has been vindicated.
Initially the Reformation assumed a hostile posture toward scholasticism and philosophy. But it soon changed its mind. Because it was not, nor wanted to be, a sect, it could not do without theology. Even Luther and Melanchton, therefore, already resumed the use of philosophy and recognized its usefulness. Calvin assumed this high position from the start, saw in philosophy an “outstanding gift of God”, and was followed in this assessment by all Reformed theologians.
The question here is not whether theology should make use of a specific philosophical system. Christian theology has never taken over any philosophical system without criticism and given it the stamp of approval. Neither Plato’s nor Aristotle’s philosophy has been held to be the true one by any theologian. That theologians nevertheless preferred these two philosophical systems was due to the fact that these systems best lent themselves to the development and defense of the truth. Present also was the idea that the Greeks and Romans had been accorded a special calling and gift for the life of culture. Still to this day, in fact, our whole civilization is built upon that of Greece and Rome.”
Dictionaries of Philosophy
ed. Audi, Robert – The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (1995) 910 pp.
Wuellner, Bernard – Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy Buy (Loreto Publications, 2013) 1,600 entries
Awe, Susan C. – ‘Phiolosophy: General Works’ in ARBA Guide to Subject Encyclopedias & Dictionaries (Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1997), pp. 291-92
Encyclopedias of Philosophy
Biographical Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Doubleday, 1965) 290 pp.
The Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy & Religion: Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Zen… eds. Schuhmacher & Woerner (Boston: Shambhala, 1989) 490 pp.
The Concise Encyclopedia of Western Philosophy & Philosophers ed. Urmson & Ree (1991) 350 pp.
Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Routledge, 2000) 1,070 pp.
Encyclopedia of Classical Philosophy (Routledge, 2013) 625 pp.
By ‘Classical’ is meant the philosophy and philosophers of Greek and Roman antiquity, from roughly 600 BC to AD 600.
Routledge Encyclopedia Of Philosophy 10 vols in 1 (Routledge, 1998) 9,160 pp.
“Depth and breadth of coverage, clarity of presentation, impressive bibliographies, excellent use of cross references, and an extensive index combine to make this an impressive reference work. The contributors have addressed both current and past scholarship on world philosophy and religion and have produced a worthy successor to Macmillan’s 1967 Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” – American Library Association
Awe, Susan C. – ‘Phiolosophy: General Works’ in ARBA Guide to Subject Encyclopedias & Dictionaries (Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1997), pp. 291-92
Which Philosophy Should be Used?
The Divine Triunity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
“I subscribe to that of Clemens Alexandrinus: We ought not to swear allegiance to any sect of philosophers, whether Stoics, Epicures, Platonists, or Peripatetiques, but we must select and embrace whatsoever is true and faithfully delivered concerning God by any sect; and the Truth selected out of all sects is not vain philosophy, but Natural Divinity.”
Institutes (P&R), vol. 1, 1st Topic, Q. 13, ‘Is there any use of Philosophy in Theology? We Affirm’, pp. 45-56
“But the errors of philosophers are not the dictates of philosophy, any more than the mistakes of artificers are to be imputed to the art itself.
‘Philosophy,’ says Clement of Alexandria, ‘is not to be called Stoic, nor Platonic, nor Epicurean, nor Aristotelian, but whatever has been properly spoken by these sects–this, gathered into one whole, is to be called philosophy’ (Stromata 1.7 [ANF 2:308; PG 8.731]).”
Outlines of Theology 2nd ed., enlarged (Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1878), ch. 3, ‘The Sources of Theology’, pp. 63-4
“15. What is Philosophy, and what is its relation to theology ?
Philosophy, in its wide sense, embraces all human knowledge, acquired through the use of man’s natural faculties, and consists of that knowledge interpreted and systematized by the reason. Science is more specific, relating to some special department of knowledge thoroughly reduced to system… Philosophy is presupposed, therefore, in science as the first and most general knowledge. It inquires into the soul and the laws of thought, into intuition and ultimate truth, into substance and real being, into absolute cause, the ultimate nature of force and will, into conscience and duty. As to its relations to theology it will be observed —
1st. The first principles of a true philosophy are presupposed in all theology, natural and revealed.
2d. The Holy Scriptures, although not designed primarily to teach philosophy, yet necessarily presuppose and involve the fundamental principles of a true philosophy. Not the inferences of these principles drawn out into a system, but the principles themselves, as to substance and cause, as to conscience and right, etc.
4th. The devout believer, however, who is assured that the Bible is the very word of God, can never allow his philosophy, derived from human sources, to dominate his interpretation of the Bible, but will seek with a docile spirit and with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, to bring his own philosophy into perfect harmony with that which is implicitly contained in the Word. He will, by all means, seek to realize a philosophy which proves itself to be the genuine and natural handmaid of the religion which the Word reveals.”
On the Use of Reason
On Scripture as the Principle of Knowing Theology & Not Reason
Selectarum Disputationum Theologicarum Pars Prima (Utrecht: Apud Joannem Waesberge, 1658), pp. 3-4 & 7 as quoted in Johannes Hoornbeeck, ch. 1, ‘On Theology’ in Institutions of Theology Set in Order from the Best Authors (1658) tr. Charles Johnson
“We say that no human reason is the principle by which (or through which), or from which (or why) we believe, either the foundation or the law or the norm of the things that are to be believed, from the dictates of which we judge. And therefore, not just anything that is not grasped by the light of nature or human reason from its prior and more salient principles, either for a more precise definition, or for a demonstration, or both; such as the Trinity, original sin, and Christ the God-man, and his atonement, is to be judged false in matters of faith.
But on the contrary, our faith is resolved, as is indicated by what is to be believed in the Holy Scripture, and as is indicated by the act of believing in the illumination of the Holy Spirit.”
“Therefore, our doctrine is that in elenctic theology, or in the refutation of falsehood, e.g. Purgatory, indulgences, etc, discourse and consequences are to be employed. And if it is the case that a resolute adversary denies them, then the proving of consequences is also to be employed, not only from the Holy Bible, but also from the axioms and principles of the light of nature, known either naturally or technically, from Philosophy and Logic, so that the suitable connection of the middle term with the major term is apparent. The truth of doctrines, rather, or of middle terms, and the connection of the middle term with the minor, is to be demonstrated either from the express words, or equivalent ones, or the good consequence, of Scripture alone (except if the doctrines belong to natural theology, which are proven from Scripture primarily, and also from the light of nature secondarily).”
Appendix 2, ‘The Use of Reason In Matters of Faith’, p. 12 in Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism ed. Joel R. Beeke & Jay T. Collier, trans. Albert Gootjes (Reformation Heritage Books, 2011)
“When we demand the use of reason and logic, we no more turn them into the foundations, principles, and rules of faith than we do our eyes, ears, and tongues without which we can neither learn nor teach our religion, nor defend it against opponents. For us they are, therefore, means and requirements without which there is no faith or theological knowledge, but they are certainly not principles, norms, rules, and foundations.”
From ch. 1, ‘On Theology’ in Institutions of Theology Set in Order from the Best Authors (1658) tr. Charles Johnson
“13. Reason is employed on both sides, as an instrument, not a judge or norm. So that neither are they to be listened to who defer to it more than is fair in theological matters, and demand the things of faith from its scales, who are the Socinians; nor those who pointlessly begrudge its use in theological argumentation and forming consequences, which the Verronian Papists do, and some Lutherans.”
Richard Muller on Turretin
Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics
“Turretin never begins with the natural or rational and then builds his theology upon it, even though his system is intentionally polemical or apologetical rather than positive or didactic; he unfailingly sets his rational arguments second in order to his biblical and theological foundations in order to show that reason serves the theological point. The system is, therefore, rational but not rationalist; reason does not compete with Scripture for the title principium cognoscendi. What is more, Turretin’s “rational” arguments frequently rest on theological and biblical assumptions.”
Quotes on the Legitimate Use of Reason
Synopsis Purioris Theologiae. (Leiden: Apud Johannem & Danielem Elsevier, 1652), p. 8 as quoted in ch. 1, ‘On Theology’ in Institutions of Theology Set in Order from the Best Authors (1658) tr. Charles Johnson
“Theology is not only intelligible and meaningful, but also discursive. For it employs many arguments for the convincing of opponents, and from its principles, prior, and indemonstrable in themselves, it either draws out conclusions for proving the truth, or solutions for refuting the fallacious objections of sophists. Mt. 22:32-33; 1 Cor. 15:20-22.”
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 pro-
posed 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.”
Outlines of Theology 2nd ed., enlarged (Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1878), ch. 3, ‘The Sources of Theology’, p. 62
“14. What is the legitimate office of reason in the sphere of religion?
1st. Reason is the primary revelation God has made to man, necessarily presupposed in every subsequent revelation of whatever kind.
2d. Hence Reason, including the moral and emotional nature, and experience, must be the organ by means of which alone all subsequent revelations can be apprehended and received. A revelation addressed to the irrational would be as inconsequent as light to the blind. This is the usus organicus [organic use] of reason.
3d. Hence no subsequent revelation can contradict reason acting legitimately within its own sphere. For then (1) God would contradict Himself, and (2) faith would be impossible. To believe is to assent to a thing as true, but to see that it contradicts reason, is to see that it is not true.”
Quote on the Illegitimate Use of Philosophy & Reason
Canons of Dort (1618/19), Article 4
“There is, to be sure, a certain light of nature remaining in man after the fall, by virtue of which he retains some notions about God, natural things, and the difference between what is moral and immoral… But this light of nature is far from enabling man to come to a saving knowledge of God and conversion to Him – so far, in fact, that man does not use it rightly even in matters of nature and society. Instead, in various ways he completely distorts this light, whatever its precise character, and suppresses it in unrighteousness.”
Quote on the History of the Illegitimate Use of Philosophy & Reason
J.A. Schlebusch, Cartesianism & Reformed Scholastic Theology: A Comparative Study of the Controversy a Master’s thesis (Univ. of the Free State, South Africa, 2013), p. 30
“Cartesianism’s breakthrough in the Netherlands was partially due to the great concentration of Cartesians at Leiden, the most influential university in the republic at the time. Adriaan Heereboord (1614-1659), an influential teacher there at the time, pleaded for the freedom and independence of philosophy from theology, a freedom he justified by the principle that philosophy should be subject to reason alone.
Despite fighting for Cartesianism, Heereboord never made any statements regarding the implications of Cartesian philosophy for Bible interpretation. This was, however, to be the major issue facing the Dutch Cartesians of the seventeenth century, such as himself, Christoph Wittich and Abraham Heidanus (1597-1678) (Frijhoff 2004:306-309).”
Wilson, John – The Scripture’s Genuine Interpreter Asserted [which is Scripture, not Reason], or, A Discourse Concerning the Right Interpretation of Scripture, wherein a late Exercitation entitled, Philosophia S. Scripturæ Interpres, is examined, & the Protestant doctrine in that point vindicated… to which is added an Appendix Concerning Internal Illumination & other operations of the Holy Spirit upon the soul of man, justifying the doctrine of Protestants & the Practice of serious Christians Against the Charge of Ethusiasm & other unjust criminations… (London, 1678)
Turretin, Francis – Institutes (P&R), vol. 1, 1st Topic, ‘Theology’, ‘The Genus of Theology’
Q. 8, ‘Is Human Reason the Principle and Rule by which the Doctrines of the Christian Religion and Theology (which are the objects of Faith) ought to be Measured? We Deny Against the Socinians.’ 23-28
Q. 9, ‘Does any Judgment Belong to Reason in Matters of Faith? Or is there no use at all for it?’ 28-32
Q. 10, ‘May the Judgment of Contradiction be Allowed to Human Reason in Matters of Faith? We Affirm.’ 32-34
Q. 11, ‘Is there any use of the Testimony of the Senses in Mysteries of Faith, or Ought it to be entirely Rejected? We Affirm the Former & Deny the Latter.’ 34-37
Q. 12, ‘Are the Doctrines of Faith and Practice to be Proved Only by the Express Word of God? May they not also be Legitimately Proved by Consequences Drawn from Scripture? We Affirm the Latter.’ 37-44
Q. 13, ‘Is there any Use of Philosophy in Theology? We Affirm.’ 44-48
Disputation appended to Introduction to Reformed Scholasticism
Witsius, Herman – An Essay on the Use & Abuse of Reason in Matters of Religion tr. John Carter (Norwich, 1795) 31 pp.
On the 1500’s
Haines, David – ‘Heinrich Bullinger on Natural Reason, Theology & Law’
“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
Mallinson, Jeffrey – Faith, Reason & Revelation in Theodore Beza, 1519-1605 (Oxford, 2003), pp. 207-35
On the 1600’s – 1700’s
Sytsma, David – ch. 3, ‘Reason & Philosophy’ in Richard Baxter & the Mechanical Philosophers (Oxford, 2017), pp. 71-104
Goudriaan, Aza – ch. 1, ‘Holy Scripture, Human Reason & Natural Theology’ in Reformed Orthodoxy and Philosophy, 1625-1750 : Gisbertus Voetius, Petrus Van Mastricht, and Anthonius
Driessen Pre (Boston: Brill, 2006), pp. 29-84
On the 1600’s
Woo, B. Hoon – ‘The Understanding of Gisbertus Voetius & René Descartes on the Relationship of Faith & Reason, & Theology & Philosophy’ in Westminster Theological Journal 75, no. 1 (2013): pp. 45–63
Rehnmann, S. – ‘Alleged Rationalism. Francis Turretin on Reason,’ CTJ 37 (2002), pp. 255–269
On the 1800’s-1900’s
Reason & Faith at Early Princeton: Piety & the Knowledge of God (Palgrave, 2014)
Anderson has been a professor of religion and philosophy at Arizona State University.
Reason & Worldviews: Warfield, Kuyper, Van Til & Plantinga on the Clarity of General Revelation & Function of Apologetics (University Press of America, 2008) 152 pp.
Benjamin B. Warfield & Right Reason: The Clarity of General Revelation & Function of Apologetics (University Press of America, 2005)
Voet, Gisbert – 1. ‘On Human Reason in the Things of Faith’ in Select Theological Disputations (Utrecht: Waesberg, 1648), vol. 1, pp. 1-12
Heidegger, Johann H.
sections 5-8 in Locus 1, ‘On Theology in General’ in A Marrow of the Marrow of Christian Theology, in Favor & in Use in Tyron (Zurich, 1697), pp. 2-4
sections 15-23, ‘Of the Use of Reason in Theology’ in The Marrow of Christian Theology: an Introductory Epitome of the Body of Theology (Zurich, 1713), pp. 6-10
Malacrida, Elisaeo – The Fourth of the Theological Dissertations, on Right Reason, Whether it is Sufficient to the Understanding of the Genuine Sense of Sacred Scripture? Then, the Specific Topic, Whether it is Sufficient for the Minister, for Deriving Sound Doctrine? (Bern, 1713)
Malacrida (1658-1719) was a reformed professor of Greek, ethics and theology at Bern.
English Popish Ceremonies (1637), 2nd pt., ch. 9, p. 44
“The Dr. holds him upon kneeling in receiving the sacramental elements, and denies that it is scandalous or any way inductive to spiritual ruin. But (if he will) he may consider that the ruder sort who can not distinguish betwixt worshipping the bread and worshipping before the bread, nor discern how to make Christ the passive object of that worship and the bread the active, and how to worship Christ in the Bread, and make the worship relative from the bread to Christ; are by his example induced to bread-worship, when they perceive bowing down before the consecrated bread in the very same form and fashion wherein Papists are seen to worship it, but can not conceive the nice distinctions which he and his companions use to purge their kneeling in that act from idolatry.
As for others who have more knowledge, they are also induced to ruin, being animated by his example to do that which their consciences do condemn.”
Institutes (P&R), vol. 1, 1st Topic, Q. 13, ‘Is there any use of Philosophy in Theology? We Affirm’, section 6, pp. 45-56
“VI. Many abuses can also be reckoned up:
(3) When philosophy assumes to itself the office of a master, in articles of faith, not content with that of a servant (as was done by the [Medieval, Romanist] Scholastics who places Aristotle upon the throne; and by the Socinians who would not admit the doctrines of the Trinity, of the incarnation, etc. because they did not seem to be in accordance with the principles of philosophy).
(4) When more new distinctions and phrases than necessary are introduced from philosophy into theology under which (oftentimes) new and dangerous errors lie concealed.”
Peter van Mastricht
Theoretical-Practical Theology (RHB), vol. 6, Church History, bk. 8 (Latin, p. 1,027); see also RHB, vol. 1, p. 85.
“Also together with the heresies you will not inappropriately count scholastic theology, or that philosophical theology that vitiated orthodox theology no less than any heresy.”
Corbet, John – ‘Of Certainty & Infallibility’ in The Remains of the Reverend & Learned Mr. John Corbet… (London: Parkhurst, 1684), pp. 77-100
Corbet (1620-1680) was an English, congregationalist puritan, friends with Richard Baxter.
De Moor, Bernard – Continuous Commentary, ch. 3
Universal doubt as a starting point for theology was a novel tenet of Cartesianism. They also limited what can be known to clear and distinct perception, and used this to eliminate much traditional theology.
‘Biblical Interpretation & Natural Knowledge: A Key to Solving the Protestant Problem’ in Reforming the Catholic Tradition: The Whole Word for the Whole Church ed. Joseph Minich (Davenant Press, 2019)
“The purpose of this paper is to explain Descartes’ views on Metaphysics. It is my thesis that one of the ways in which he influenced not only modern philosophy, but the way in which we do philosophy even today, is by turning metaphysical inquiry into an epistemological enterprise. That is to say, he made the critique of knowledge necessary prior to any consideration of existence, and what may or may not have it… I will attempt to show that Descartes’ view of Metaphysics, in spite of the fact that he used familiar scholastic metaphysical terminology, actually turned Metaphysics into what is today termed Epistemology. Descartes, not Kant, was the first to perform a true critique of knowledge, and to make that critique a necessary preliminary to all questions about what exists outside our minds.”
Johnson, Charles – ‘The Confused Nature of Van Til’s Epistemology’ 2020 24 paragraphs
This clear, helpful, documented and persuasive article examines the first chapter in Van Til’s A Survey of Christian Epistemology. Johnson proves and concludes that:
“…Van Til fails to communicate clearly, and at times clearly equivocates, regarding three points at the heart of his system of philosophy: [1.] whether man must know everything to know anything, [2.] whether knowledge is true if it corresponds to God’s knowledge, or on the contrary, [it is] only [true] if he consciously refers it to God, [3.] and whether this referring to God is [to] be sufficient, or whether one must be regenerate and possessing a saving faith of God in order to possess ‘true knowledge’.”
On the Reformed History of Epistemology
Sytsma, David – ‘Herman Bavinck’s Thomistic Epistemology: the Argument & Sources of his Principia of Science [in his Reformed Dogmatics]’ in Five Studies in the Thought of Herman Bavinck, ed. John Bolt (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellon, 2011), pp. 1-56
Abstract: “Bavinck draws heavily on Aquinas’s treatment of the powers of the soul as he argues for a realist via media in contrast to modern trends of rationalism and empiricism.”
Sutanto, Nathaniel Gray – God & Knowledge: Herman Bavinck’s Theological Epistemology in T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology Buy (T&T Clark, 2021)
Amazon: “…what he considered to be the two most important aspects of epistemology: the character of the sciences and the correspondence between subjects and objects. Writing at the heels of the European debates in the 19th and 20th century concerning theology’s place in the academy, and rooted in historic Christian teachings…
This volume explores archival material and peripheral works translated for the first time in English. The author re-reads several key concepts, ranging from Organicism to the Absolute, and relates Bavinck’s work to Thomas Aquinas, Eduard von Hartmann, and other thinkers.”
Voet, Gisbert – Select Theological Disputations (Utrecht: Waesberg, 1648)
vol. 1, #8. ‘The New Jesuit Skepticism about the Principles of the Christian Faith’, pp. 106-114
On the Body-Spirit Relationship
Shaffer, Jerome – ‘Mind-Body Problem’ in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy ed. Paul Edwards (Macmillan, 1967), vol. 5, pp. 336-46
Jackson, Frank & Georges Rey – ‘Mind, Philosophy of’ in Routledge Encyclopedia Of Philosophy 10 vols in 1 (Routledge, 1998), pp. 5,521-5,525
Aquinas, Thomas – Contra Gentiles, Bk. 2
* Feser, Edward – ‘Hylemorphic Dualism’ in ch. 4, ‘Psychology’ in Aquinas: a Beginner’s Guide (OneWorld, 2010), pp. 138-47
“…to take a simple bodily action as an example, the intellect and will constitute the formal-cum-final cause of the action, of which the firing of the neurons, flexing of the muscles, and so on are the material-cum-efficient causes. That it is a bodily action is due to its matter and the way the bodily parts interact; that it is a bodily action with a certain specific end in view (rather than an involuntary reflex or an unconscious robotic movement) is due to its form and final cause.
There are not (as there are for the Cartesian dualist) two substances with events going on in each that are somehow mysteriously correlated. There is one substance and one set of events having both formal and material, and final- and efficient-causal components.” – pp. 141-42
On the 1600’s – 1700’s
Goudriaan, Aza – ch. 4, ‘The Human Being: His Soul & Body, Special Status & Conscience’ in Reformed Orthodoxy & Philosophy, 1625–1750: Gisbertus Voetius, Petrus Van Mastricht & Anthonius Driessen Buy (Brill, 2006) See especially pp. 252-59 on Driessen.
If body and spirit form one substance, as matter and form respectively, per the Aristotelian/Thomist hylemorphist view of Voet and Mastricht, there is little difficulty in conceiving that the spirit can affect the body. If however, per Descartes, the body and soul are two different substances of a completely different kind, then the issue of how the two can interact at all becomes pressing.
Driessen was very much influenced by the growing Cartesianism of the day. Upon such a paradigm, three main views could be conceived as to how the body and soul related: (1) Physical Influence; (2) Occasional Causes; (3) Pre-Established Harmony. Driessen argued for the first option. Goudriaan explains and surveys them all.
On the 1600’s
Sutton, John – ‘Soul & Body in Seventeenth-Century British Philosophy’ in ed. Peter Anstey, The Oxford Handbook of Seventeenth-Century British Philosophy (Oxford UP, 2013), pp. 285-307
Garber, D. & Wilson – ‘Mind-Body Problems’ in eds. D. Garber & M. Ayers, The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy, I (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998), pp. 838–867
Bahnsen, Greg – ‘The Mind/Body Problem In Biblical Perspective’ (Covenant Media Foundation, 1972) 10 pp.
Bahnsen espouses “substantival monism, a material body which is special for reason of its capabilities (not its added substantival ingredient).” (p. 2)
This is largely in contrast to substance dualism, where the spirit and body are each their own substances, which are joined (as in the Platonic and Cartesian traditions). Substantival monism means that the spirit and body together form one substance.
Technically Artistotelianism holds to substantival monism, as the spirit (or form) and body (or matter) make up one substance. However there are significant differences between Aristotelianism and Bahnsen’s view, which has certain, significant similarities to a view of materialism where what may be mental and immaterial about man is fundamentally dependent (or supervenient) on his material nature. Mind appears to be a function or feature of the body for Bahnsen:
Bahnsen: “Properly understood, language referring to ‘mind’ is actually speaking (not of an immaterial substance) of certain kinds of intelligent behavior. ‘mind’ is related adjectivally and adverbially, not substantively, to body. Man is neither a ghost nor a machine; rather he is a complex psycho-physical organism capable of a peculiar and complete sort of behavior called ‘intelligence’ (and I would add, morality).” (p. 10)
Bahnsen’s similarity to, dependence on and synthesis with certain aspects of modern philosophies respecting methodology, epistemology and metaphysics (or the lack thereof) on this subject is evident (which his bibliography confirms; especially Wittgenstein, p. 9). Bahnsen states as the advantages of his view:
“…while my alternative does not render human nature any less mysterious than the official dogma, it has the
two-fold advantage of more properly locating the mystery and alleviating unnecessary philosophical problems which are set forth against the dual substance view in this day.”
Yet Bahnsen is seriously weak on death and the intermediate state (if his view can even adequately explain these things, which it is not clear it can):
“…death can be seen as the loss of ‘life-breath’ (=”spirit”; e.g. Ps. 104:29), and the dead can be affirmed to still have self-conscious life by being called ‘spirit’ (though very infrequently in scripture to be sure), but nowhere does scripture imply that man is a dual substance which divides as he dies (unless you read the Bible through Cartesian glasses).” (p. 12)
“Man is a personal body created in God’s image. The Bible makes quite clear that man’s hope is in resurrection of the body, not release from the body (John 2:19-22; Lk. 24:40; Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor; 15:3-4, 44, 48-49; 2 Cor. 5:1-5; Isa. 26:19; 66:22-23; Dan. 12:2). Moreover, it is embodied existence which is the criterion of future judgment (2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 9:27). We may not know all the answers with respect to the intermediate state…”
The reformed orthodox, drawing on the Aristotelian philosophy of the Medievals, do a much better job carefully delineating how death is unnatural to the constitution of man, and yet how the human spirit may exist as incomplete apart from the body. Bahnsen is not recommended on this subject; the reformed orthodox are.
Feser, Edward – ‘Inventing the mind-body problem’ in ch. 5, ‘Descent of the Modernists’ in The Last Superstition: a Refutation of the New Atheism (South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine’s Press, 2008), pp. 184-199
Feser is a Romanist, Neo-Thomist professor of philosophy.
Feser is a Romanist, Neo-Thomist.
Order of Quotes
Commentary on Zech. 12:1
“Nor is it yet a small matter when he adds, that God had formed the spirit of man; for we know that we live; the body of itself would be without any strength or motion, were it not endued with life; and the soul which animates the body is invisible…
By saying “in the midst of him”, he means, that the spirit dwells within; for the body, we allow, is as it were its tabernacle.”
H. Zanchius his Confession of Christian Religion… (Cambridge, 1599), ‘Observations of the same Zanchius upon his Own Confession’, pp. 289-90 The context in point 7 is Zanchi arguing the validity of the extra Calvinisticum, that they person, or hypostasis of the Son exists outside of the human flesh according to his divinity. In point 8 it is the denial of the real communication of properties, via the Person, of the natures (contra the Lutherans).
“7. …Indeed the soul (as is aforesaid) is wholly hypostasis to the head, giving life to it and sustaining it: but where? not in every part of the body, but only in that where the head itself is: and out of the head [the soul] is also wholly hypostasis to the feet, sustaining them too: not where the head is, but where the feet themselves are. Is then the union which the soul has with the head dissolued because out of the head it is wholly also in the feet?
8. Finally, that all things which have been spoken of this personal union [of Christ in two natures], may more plainly be declared, I add these also:
The soul is hypostasis to the eyes: to what eyes? such as they are: namely instruments used for sight, not for hearing: on the other side, to the ears, for hearing, not for seeing. So the Word was hypostasis to the human nature, not to destroy death, which was a property of the Word: but to suffer death, which was a property of the flesh.”
“…as the soul of man is said to be in the head or heart, so conceive of God’s being in Heaven. The soul (we know) animates the whole body of man, and by the presence of it in every member communicates life to the whole: yet by way of preeminency and excellency it is said to be in the head or heart of man, because in these two parts of man, and from thence she exercises her cheifest functions, and derives her cheifest influence.”
An Exposition of the Symbol or Creed of the Apostles… (Cambridge, 1595), p. 150
“…as in the like case the soul of man is wholly in the head and wholly in the feet, yea wholly in every part: and yet the soul cannot be said to use reason in the feet or in any other part, but only in the head.”
Peter van Mastricht
Theoretical-Practical Theology (RHB), vol. 3, bk. 4, ch. 3, ‘Actual Sin’, sections 24
“XXIV. It is asked, fifth, whether infants before all use of reason are subject to actual sin…
The Reformed, although they acknowledge that original corruption is actually present in infants, from which by nature they are prone to all actual sins, and moreover bear in themselves the seeds of the same, nonetheless deny that they are properly subject to any actual sin…
Nevertheless they object:… (2) That the human mind consists in actual thought, which can not only be congruent with divine law, but also repugnant to it. I respond: (1) That the human mind is a thinking substance which, with organs adequately disposed, can think, we do not doubt, just as it is a reasoning substance, not because it is always reasoning in actuality, but because it can reason, with necessary things put in place.”
William G.T. Shedd
Dogmatic Theology (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1888), vol. 2, ch. 2, ‘Man’s Primitive State’, p. 100
“Spiritual substance is distinguished from matter by the characteristic of self-motion, or motion ab intra [from inside]. Matter must be moved from without, by another material substance impinging upon it. But mind moves from within. Its motion is not from external impact, but is self-motion.
Adam was created a spirit. The instant, therefore, that he was created, he had all the characteristics that distinguish spirit from matter. One of these, and one of the most important, is self-motion. But self-motion is self-determination, and self-determination is inclination. The Scripture asserts that Adam was created a ‘living soul.’ Life implies motion; and the motion in this case was not mechanical or material, but the motion of mind. Thus in creating a rational spirit, God creates a self -moving essence, and this is a self-determining will.”
Sytsma, David – ‘A Bibliography of Early Modern Reformed Theology on Reason & Philosophy (ca. 1520-1750)’ (2019) 20 pp. The first 8 pp. are Primary Sources, then follow Secondary Sources.
“The sources below are primarily (1) theological evaluations of the nature and use of reason, or (2) theologians writing directly on philosophy. I have generally avoided the inclusion of primary sources on philosophy by Reformed philosophers.” – Sytsma