Some Pros and Cons of
The following are quoted excerpts from the
section, entitled “Natural Theology.”
The traditional rationalistic arguments for the existence of God
will not hold water. Their
logic is suspect and they fail to bring us to the God of
Christian faith (Ed—as presented in the 66 books of the
We saw this (misrepresentation in) … Anselm and Aquinas …
Descartes and Kant … John Robinson and Paul Tillich.
But this, in the opinion of the writer is no great loss.
It brings no honor to God to resort to dubious arguments
in his defense! Nor
does it help the faith of the believer to be propped up by such
proofs which are drawn outside the Christian revelation.
Natural theology (in medieval philosophy) opened the door to all
kinds of speculation which had the effect of obscuring the
Instead of opening up man’s mind to the challenge of the
Christian revelation, it has proved a perennial temptation to
fashion God in the image of man.
the other hand, writers like the early Barth fall into the
opposite error when they insist that man has no knowledge at all
of God apart from the Gospel.
It would seem to be both the common experience of men and
also the testimony of several important strands of Scripture
(Psalm 19:1; Acts 14:17; Romans 1:19ff, 32; 2:12-16) that men
have an awareness of God regardless of whether they respond or
not. This awareness
may be dim (and certainly not saving—Ed)…. This general
awareness of God gains added points when we reflect on the
question whether we really believe that this universe that we
live in with all its apparent evidence of design is purely the
product of accidental chance or whether it points to some sort
of connection with a rational mind….
But this does not seem
to add up to anything capable of being called a theology except
in the most rudimentary sense.
Natural theology is a blind alley…. it seems legitimate on
the basis of both common experience and the witness of the
biblical writers to speak of a revelation in nature and a
natural awareness of God.
And these deserve due attention in preaching,
apologetics, and the philosophy of religion.
The Christian faith …. suggests explanations for phenomena which
are otherwise inexplicable.
It makes sense of what at first seemed senseless.
It gives a wholeness to life which is missing in other
views. This is so
whether we look at the universe in general or at personal
experience of life.
On atheistic, humanistic premises, the whole universe is the
product of blind chance.
All human values are accidental and arbitrary.
If this is so, life is what Macbeth said it was, ‘a tale
told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’
The universe in general and human life in
particular make real sense only on Christian (Ed-Biblical)
premises. (This) …
is not natural theology in the accepted sense of the term.
The key to meaning is not derived simply from reflecting
on phenomena. The
latter is more like a jig-saw puzzle with vital pieces missing,
or perhaps one so complex that the pieces just do not make sense
without the aid of a picture from outside.
By beginning with himself and his rationalism, man just
cannot make sense of it as a whole.
To say this is not to say that the Bible
Clearly, it does not.
It does not pretend to do the job of the scientist for
him. It does not
say everything there is to know about God himself.
But it does provide the key which gives coherence to life
as a whole. To
argue in this way is not to relapse into the discredited
God-of-the-gaps arguments of old-fashioned apologetics…. The
arguments here are on a different plane.
It concerns the presuppositions of naturalistic
itself scientific explanation gives an account of particular
phenomena…. The Christian belief that God created all things
outside of himself is a presupposition of Christian thought
about life generally.
All too often in the past, it has been assumed that the
philosophy of the Christian religion was synonymous with natural
doubt this was partly due to the fact that those Christians who
were interested in philosophy tended to be devotees of some
established brand of secular philosophy or advocates of the
methods of natural theology.
But in fact this is not the only option.
There remains the possibility that the philosophy of the
Christian religion should be worked out on the basis of the
Christian revelation and the Christian’s experience of God.
This is not an attempt to turn the Christian
message into esoteric philosophy…. Philosophy is not everybody’s
cup of tea…. Nevertheless, because the Christian faith lays
claims to a type of knowledge and asserts that certain events in
the past are decisive for humanity, Christianity inevitably
raises philosophical questions.
In so far as the
phenomenon of the gospel raises philosophical issues, it is this
which should provide the subject-matter for the philosophy of
the Christian religion….
Christian gospel (the entirety of the Bible and its deduced
propositions) must henceforth stand or fall—from the
philosophical point of view—by itself…. In the future
Christian philosophers must be prepared to vindicate
Christianity by a more thorough investigation of the Christian
revelation, or quit the field altogether.
Philosophy and the
Christian Faith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press,
1968), 271-276. This book is highly recommended, as one of
the few Christian philosophers are truly Biblical.