Lecture 24

There are two kinds of natural theology. Natural theology done in the light of God’s worr, formulation about God’s creation in light of scripture. Natural theology done by rational processes we can acquire a knowledge that there is a God, a soul, a future life is simply out! There is no place in Reformed thought.

Metaphysics tried to ask these questions by rational analysis of the data of the sensible life. There must be revelation of God! Never be concerned to build on that there is an idea of a supreme god. We start from God who has made himself known, not a god. – it is the God of revelation, Elohim God.

What is the place and task of philosophy? Place and task go together. What place decides the task.

What place can it assume, what is its proper task?

We have looked at Col 2:8 and the church fathers. Philosophy and theology not sharply distinguished. (There are two sense of theology: being true to scripture and living scripturally directed and the specific kind of science.)

Aquinas in the thirteenth century grasped at the cultural phenomenon of Aristotle. He thought God’s spirit was at work in this wisdom and that it could be taken over. Aquinas realised that not all of Aristotle was biblical, eg his view of the immortality of the soul and the eternity of matter, so he lopped them of. He had it as the foundation to which grace and faith could be added. Philosophy was part of the natural life. The body/ soul arrangement Aquinas took over as ‘essential man’. Rational activity exists on its own, it functions autonomously – it was natural, neutral and normal.

Nature isn’t normal, in scripture grace is not a donum superadditum .

Read: Al Wolters’ translation of Veenhof on ‘Nature and grace in Bavinck’.

Grace doesn’t lift up, add to, nature. Grace redeems nature.

In the thirteenth century we see the rise of scientific thinking. In the Greek world there was a practical emphasis.

The Roman Empire collapsed in the fifth and sixth centuries. They said Barbarians to guard their borders. Germanic tribes came. Monasticism arose.

The Germanic tribes’ leaders put their children into the monastic schools. They wanted them to have a good education from what remained of Roman civilisation.

Before this the Christians were living in the empire – they were faced with the question how do we live? This is what faced several centuries of thinkers, eg Augustine and Tertullian.

Students at the monastic schools could read in Latin Augustine’s writings. They used them to learn first Latin, then history, then thinking and then higher thinking.

German children were learning in front of Roman Christian monks in schools, scholia (this is where the word scholasticism comes from). They were going through the pages of the church fathers. A synthesis had already been made. It was made on a life decision: Augustine travelled through the Roman Empire and was proud of it. He became a Christian in his mature years. Accommodation was an immediate life adjustment.

In the sixth century the schools were thinking about it – developing a more scientific attitude. Plato was concerned about the governing of State – the nature of government. The Germanic was more logical. By the thirteenth century philosophy and theology were distinct scientific enterprises – with different fields of investigation. Philosophy was natural, theology supernatural. Philosophy, as a matter of principle, had been withdrawn from the directing influence, the guiding, of the word of God.

Thomists today reject the idea of a Christian philosophy – they agree with the humanists that philosophy is a natural activity.

We can’t accept that philosophy belongs to the natural realm.

In grace/ nature where is the heart? Where is the church, the body of Christ?

Grace/ nature prevents you ever arriving at the integrity of creation order reflecting God’s integrity – and man himself at the heart of this integral creation reflecting his own being reflecting the unity of God, the image of God.

Where is the church (in the NT sense)? In the book of Acts we see a development in ‘church’ – first as people meeting together to share meals and lives, then meeting for worship.

There is no place for the heart or for the body of Christ. They only know of the institutional church. The principle of subsidiarity – the family is a part of the State; local groups are a subset of the life of the State. In the natural life the State is supreme. There are two authorities: Emperor and pope.

We must understand the scripture for our time. Not read back our times into the scriptures.

There is a difference between gift and office. Paul is so clear. Adam was created first – he is the official representative – there is an order in creation. Redemption doesn’t change the order. Woman is to be a helpmeet.

We have to come back to our question – what is the place and task of philosophy?

A story

The later Greek world told a story of an earlier Greek, Pythagoras, which connects his name to the introduction of the words philosophos and philosophia. According to this ancient report Pythagoras refused to speak of himself in the way as was current in the Greek world as sophos.

He was a very wise man and the Greeks called them sophos – he refused why? He said only god is sophos. The implication being that while the gods possess knowledge it is the task of man to seek after, to pursue it, to love it, never to possess it. To be wise means to possess wisdom – men only struggle to find it.

There are dangers in reading later historical incidents into earlier ones – but one can’t help recall stories. It reminds us of an episode in modern times of Lessing (an eighteenth century German) that we hear about in the writings of Sǿren Kirkegaard. In one of his main works Concluding Scientific Postscript Bk 2 Ch 2 § 4. Lessings word are quoted as follows:

If God held all truth enclosed in his right hand, and in his left hand the one and only ever-striving drive for truth, even with the corollary of erring forever and ever, and if he were to say to me: Choose!—I would humbly fall down to him at his left hand and say: Father, give! Pure truth is indeed only for you alone!

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