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The Principia and Revelation: A Reflection of Revelation as External and Internal*

Ryan A. Brandt

*Presented at the Southeast Meeting of the Evangelical Philosophy Society, March 27, 2015.  Used with author's permission.*

Revelation is a central concept in Christianity. It is indispensable to the idea of God, the very presumption of the biblical narrative, and the epistemological starting point for any faithful Christian philosophy. In other words, speaking about God in any way implies some kind of revelation. Revelation thus stands at the center of a whole host of Christian convictions that stem from the reality and authority of God.

This paper shall explore general and special revelation through the traditional philosophical delineations of the principia cognoscendi.[i] The word, principia (sing. principium), is the Latin rendering of the Hebrew tyviare (“beginning”) or Greek, avrch,, (“beginning”), a term that Aristotle used to denote the primary source, ground, or cause of all being (principia essendi) or knowledge (principia cognoscendi). In English, therefore, the term is best translated as “foundations,” but it also carries a range of meaning that the words, “foundations” and, worse yet, “principles,” cannot maintain. For clarity’s sake, therefore, the paper will continue to use the original, principia, rather than translate it.

As such, the principia cognoscendi (externum and internum) traditionally denote the foundations of knowledge (whether external or internal) and may apply to two spheres: the general sciences and theology.[ii] The former discusses general revelation as it bears a more natural and universal character, whereas the latter portrays special revelation and bears a spiritual and particular character. The paper shall argue that both the general sciences (i.e., general revelation) and theology (i.e., special revelation) include external and internal dimensions. In other words, they each include (1) an external or objective reality to be known and (2) the internal or subjective ability to know it.[iii] The paper shall accomplish this argument, first, by surveying the external and internal principia cognoscendi of the general sciences, and, second, by exploring the corresponding principia of theology. The paper shall conclude by summarizing the principia cognoscendi of science and theology, and paralleling them to general revelation and special revelation, respectively.

The Principia Cognoscendi Externum and Internum of the General Sciences (General Revelation)

The general sciences[iv] naturally include both a principium externum and internum within their system. The present section shall explore the twofold principia and then relate their epistemological implications to general revelation.

First, the created world is the principium cognoscendi externum.[v] Namely, there is an external foundation of knowledge for the general sciences, a foundation that lays outside of the human. The triune God created all things. Jesus Christ, the Logos, for example, is before all things, and all things continue to exist jointly through him (John 1:3; Col 1:15-17). The created world thus reveals God and is the basis (i.e., material source or cause) for all natural knowledge in the general sciences. The principium is thus the external means by which all general knowledge flows from God to man, from the archetype to the ectype. It includes all things that are existent in space-time, such as the physical universe, its dimensionality, its energy, laws, and general order.

Second, the human mind or cognition is the principium cognoscendi internum.[vi] The external principium of creation is incomplete without a precise way to receive, understand, and appropriate it.[vii] Indeed, it is the selfsame triune God who created the universe (externum), who also, through his Word and Spirit, created and sustains our capacity and ability to understand it (internum). Louis Berkhof asserts it well: “The same Logos that reveals the wisdom of God in the world is also the true light” of the world, the one which, according to the Apostle John, “gives light to everyone” (John 1:9).[viii] It is this Logos, through the Spirit, that is the impetus for human understanding of all things, especially “general, necessary, and eternal” (i.e., scientific) ideas.[ix] Humans may think only insomuch as God sustains. Accordingly,” Kuyper continues, “all science is only the application to the cosmos of powers of investigation and thought created within us.”[x] Therefore, corresponding to the external principium as the material cause, the internal principium is the instrumental cause of knowledge.

In the end, therefore, the principia cognoscendi of the general sciences include external and internal dimensions. As the Hungarian scientist and polymath, Michael Polanyi, rightly highlights, knowing anything includes two reciprocal poles: an (1) internal pole wherein (a) the tacit assertion, (b) scientific hunch, (c) judgment of reality, (d) claim of truth, and (e) striving to reach the solution are found; and a respective (2) external pole wherein (a) the content of that which is asserted testable by experience, (b) validated hunch, (c) contacting reality, (d) truth itself, (e) and reaching the solution are found.[xi] Knowledge thus includes, Polanyi recapitulates, the “content” itself and the “personal indwelling” of content.[xii] In this sense, the English philosopher and psychologist, Herbert Spencer, long ago described life as “the continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations.”[xiii] Indeed, all of human life is based upon the reciprocal relation of these elements. Where Spencer failed to integrate the elements, Christian theology succeeds: God created the (internal) minds of humans in such a way that their sense perceptions and mental operations are sufficiently adapted to the world; he also created the (external) world so that it is stable, reliable, and orderly.[xiv] The study of the general sciences thus must incorporate both realities.

The principia of the general sciences accordingly implicate one important idea for the paper: knowledge is a continual and supernatural result of the (revelation of the) triune God. Because creation is given by and dependent upon God, our knowledge of creation (that is, all things) is dependent upon God. As K. Scott Oliphint righty deduces, “This dependence requires not just an acknowledgement so that we can tip our theological hat to God and then go our merry way in pursuit of truth . . . but [rather] it invites us to see the knowledge situation as dependent” upon the whole corpus of the triune God’s revelatory activity.[xv] Namely, as the Father was planning and commanding, the Son was executing and performing, and the Spirit was sustaining and increasing.[xvi] The Spirit particularly, as he fills and animates all things, is the epistemic means of enabling and empowering people to think, understand, and comprehend.[xvii] Because even the unbelieving scientist is Spirit-gifted to recognize—each according to that given him—various features of the world, therefore, it is logical that science includes a twofold principia, one which in fact parallels our heretofore argued understanding of revelation. Just as revelation contains an external general principia in creation, so also do the general sciences; as revelation contains an internal general principia in human reason, so also do the sciences.[xviii] Knowledge is the result of the proper correlating of the external (creation) and the internal (mind) so that the two correspond.[xix]

The Principia Cognoscendi Externum and Internum of Theology (Special Revelation)

Theology also logically includes both a principium externum and internum within its system or prolegomena. These shall be explored in order; then the chapter shall draw out implications of the principia for theology and the general sciences.

First, the principium externum of theology is Holy Scripture itself. Theology needs this external principium because, within creation itself, the infinite and transcendent God must necessarily remain inaccessible to finite and (more importantly) sinful creatures. The purpose or function of the principium is obvious: to describe, assess, and evaluate God and the world correctly. As Calvin recognizes, “[I]t appears that if men were taught only by nature, then they would hold to nothing certain or solid or clear-cut, but would be so tied to confused principles as to worship an unknown God.”[xx] Namely, while God consistently reveals himself in the creation, the noetic devastation of the fall left that disclosure misunderstood and misappropriated. In order to complete his plan of revelation—to ensure true and proper knowledge of himself—, therefore, God continued to reveal himself through the words of prophets and, eventually, through their writings in Scripture. As the primary source and material cause of science is creation itself, so also the primary source and material cause of theology is Scripture.[xxi]

The principium internum of theology, second, is the regeneration of the Spirit that leads to faith and the illumination of the Spirit that leads to true perception of Scripture.[xxii] Theology needs this internal principle because, on account of active and destructive sin, humans are not receptive to the gospel—and the whole of theology—until they are unveiled by the Spirit. For, while Scripture is misunderstood and misrepresented by unbelieving eyes, it was required for God to open these eyes to believe. Irenaeus compares such divine grace to the dew and the rain, both of which make the fields fruitful.[xxiii] Augustine summarizes, “Unless you have believed, you will not understand.”[xxiv] Therefore, writes Berkhof, this internal principium “brings the knowledge of God into man, which is after all the aim of all theology and of the whole self-revelation of God.”[xxv] Just as human rationality (created and sustained by the Spirit) is that which apprehends the external world; so also the Spirit’s illumination unto faith leads to the correct apprehension of the Scripture (and the world); just as human reason is impaired and maimed by sin, therefore, the Holy Spirit is the internal principium that restores and illumines rationality. Alister McGrath says it well: “The task of the Holy Spirit is to lead into God’s truth; without the Spirit, truth remains elusive.”[xxvi]

Accordingly, the principia cognoscendi of theology implicate two important realities for this paper. First, while the unbelieving person can know many things about the world, only the believer may apprehend those Spirit-given realities. On the one hand, many of the greatest geniuses—whether Plato, Mozart, or Einstein—were, by all indications, without the Spirit-guided reading of Scripture; yet they manufactured, respectively, some of the greatest philosophical edifices, the most beautiful and elegant symphonies, and the most synthesized and creative scientific hypotheses. However, because of sin and the corresponding absence and distortion of the principia of theology (i.e., Word and Spirit), they were left blind to other, unperceived spiritual realities.

The believer, on the other hand, may apprehend those realities that only the Spirit can impart. This work of the Spirit does not add new information beyond Scripture or the natural world; it also does not change humanity’s sense perception or reason; and, furthermore, it is not a platonic upward movement of surreal contemplation.[xxvii] Rather, the action rectifies or resurrects human cognition. Namely, following Kuyper, Geerhardus Vos contends, “Redemption [via regeneration] in a supernatural way restores to fallen man also the normalcy and efficiency of his cognition of God in the sphere of nature.”[xxviii] To put it simply, the epistemic problems are sin and rebellion from God; the epistemic solutions are renewing the person (regeneration) and enlightening the mind (illumination).[xxix] This organic work of the Spirit obviously applies to the biblical text, where, as Kevin Vanhoozer suggests, the Spirit (1) convicts us that the Bible is divinely authoritative, (2) impresses its truth onto our minds, and (3) sanctifies us so that we truly read the text instead of preferring our own interpretations.[xxx] The epistemic spiritual work also applies to general revelation in creation, for it is a divine work wherein the Spirit privately enables ordinary cognition so that believers can think in terms of God as they gaze at the world.[xxxi] In other words, the existence of the principia cognoscendi of theology implicate that regenerated people perceive Scripture and the world differently.

In this sense, second, the theological principia result in a person’s shift in worldview. While it is true that the believing and unbelieving person evidently see the same things as they gaze upon the cosmos, the difference herein is not material but rather formal. Namely, as believers are affected by special revelation (by Word and Spirit), they perceive the world in a different way.[xxxii] The difference, as Esther L. Meek asserts, is that the believer has the formal Spirit-given instructions for viewing the world: just as a person must acquire and trust the directions to Magic Eye 3-D pictures to open up the reality of the particulars (her example), so also the believer possesses and trusts God’s instructions about the world to unlock the reality of the world.[xxxiii] Following Meek’s mentor, Michael Polanyi, one might say that, just as knowledge in the general sciences requires “indwelling” the particulars of the subsidiary awareness to experience knowledge, so also knowledge in theology—and all subjects—ultimately requires the Holy Spirit’s epistemic “indwelling” to illuminate the mind’s perception.[xxxiv] With practice, as John Macquarrie explains, this person perceives “an extra dimension” in a situation, so that he or she knows what God is doing.[xxxv] For example, while an unbeliever may accurately perceive a cedar branch blowing in the wind, only the believer (through the twofold principia) is able to apprehend that, in this case among others, God “creates the wind” that moves the branch (Amos 4:13). This idea explains why John Calvin urges his readers to learn to see every feature of creation as God’s clothes, for the features of the world move only insomuch as he acts.[xxxvi]

Alvin Plantinga summarizes the discussion well: because the Spirit’s internal instigation resurrects our fallen noetic capacities, the believer may perceive God in creation and thereby conclude that God created and sustains the world (among other gospel realities).[xxxvii] The theological principia, therefore, provide believers with a new paradigm for the person of God and the nature of life so that believers are enabled to think and live differently. The principia result in a worldview shift. 

Summary: The Principia Cognoscendi and Revelation

This paper heretofore has correlated revelation with the principia cognoscendi of the sciences (i.e., general revelation) and theology (i.e., special revelation), and thus it argued that divine revelation or the principia ought to be expressed in its external and internal dimensions (see Figure 2).[xxxviii]

Figure 1


The Principia within their Spheres




General Sciences






Holy Scripture



Holy Spirit/Faith


On the one hand, the principia cognoscendi of science include external creation and the internal mind. These twofold principia are generalized and available to all people—to more or less degrees. Unbelievers do not share regeneration (and thus faith) as the internal principium, but they do have cognition. As the paper has also asserted, it is helpful to view both of these, creation and mind, as derivative of the Holy Spirit, lest one forgets that both are supernaturally given and governed.

On the other hand, the theological principia basically reduce to Scripture and illumination. By these principia, the person is enlightened, able to apprehend salvific knowledge, and thereby perceive the spiritual connections between such knowledge. In other words, after the internal principium of the Spirit regenerates and illumines, people perceive and accept the gospel (which they heretofore rejected) and thus understand and apply those gospel realities to the world around them. This new insight does not include more information than is disclosed in Scripture or the natural world; rather, the action rectifies or resurrects human cognition.

In summation, both science and theology include a principium cognoscenti externum and a principium cognoscenti internum, the former of which refers to the material cause and the latter of which corresponds to the instrumental cause of the subject. These two principia, forever united, Word and Spirit, are the basis of science and theology and the means of understanding the full doctrine of revelation. The Word basically corresponds to the external principium, because it is the objective source or material cause of knowledge in science (creation) and theology (Scripture). The Spirit corresponds to the internal principium, for it is the subjective source or instrumental cause of knowledge in science (reason) and theology (illumination). In other words, following the articulations of Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure, the eminent Roman Catholic theologian, René Latourelle, summarizes, “There is the combined activity of the external announcing and the interior attraction.”[xxxix] Accordingly, Kuyper’s conclusion regarding the necessity of both dimensions in the principia is pertinent:

From the finite no conclusion can be drawn to the infinite, neither can a Divine reality be known from external or internal phenomena, unless that God reveals Himself in my consciousness to my ego; reveals Himself as God; and thereby moves and impels me to see in these finite phenomena a brightness of His glory.[xl]

Conclusion: The Principium Essendi, Unity, and Revelation

The former discussions left unaided may lead to the wrong impression that the two coterminous dimensions of revelation/principia (cognoscendi) are unrelated or otherwise detached from one another. Nothing could be farther from the case. While the former section elaborated the epistemological substructures (principia cognoscendi) of revelation, it remains to discuss the ontological groundwork, that is, the principium essendi. This section will argue that the triune God is the principium essendi and likewise holds the two principia cognoscendi together in his one organic act of revelation.

The principium essendi is the fundamental source, ground, or cause from which being, existence, and knowledge proceeds. The principium thus refers to the triune God himself, the fountain of all things.[xli] Therefore, as Francis Turretin reminds his readers, “The question properly is not of principles (principiis), but of things principiated (principiatis).”[xlii] In other words, the purpose of the principia is not to abstract knowledge or revelation down to its most fundamental components (i.e., external or internal); rather, the purpose is to “set your mind on things above,” that is, God in Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 3:2, 2:3). Indeed, it is God who principiates (i.e., makes foundational) the rest of knowledge through his being and works. And thus, it is God who is the principium essendi.

As the principium essendi, the triune God speaks in one, united communicative act. God is Trinity and, in some sense, he is also Speaker, Speech, and its Spokenness.[xliii] Borrowing terminology from Speech Act Theory, God is likewise Locution, Illocution, and Perlocution.[xliv] He speaks a locution (by the Father), and his speech carries an objective, concrete meaning or illocution (by the Son as Logos), and this speech is ultimately and effectively received and appropriated as a perlocution (by the Spirit). In the same way that one cannot separate the intended meaning of a statement (illocution) from its intended result (perlocution), one cannot abstract the principium cognoscendi externum of the Word from the corresponding principium cognoscendi internum of the Spirit. The twofold principia cognoscendi consists of two sides to the one coin of the principium essendi. This idea accounts for why Irenaeus distinguishes the triune communicative act as God’s singular accomplishment by his two personified hands, the Word and Spirit.[xlv] It also accounts for why numerous theologians assert that revelation includes both components. The triune God organically unites his revelation. Just as there is one triune God, so also there is one triune communicative act.

Therefore, linking this discussion back to a theology of revelation, one can say that revelation, as its source is within God (essendi), corresponds to both the principium cognoscendi externum and the principium cognoscendi internum. On the one hand, the principium cognoscendi externum is the external speaking itself. God speaks locutions, and by these locutions, he intends the illocutionary force. These truly and properly reveal God in the external sense (e.g., Scripture and creation). On the other hand, the principium cognoscendi internum is the internal appropriation. Language has not yet fulfilled its intention until the listener actually internally hears and responds to the external word. This result occurs through the Word’s perlocutionary power, which is the Holy Spirit and its corresponding human result in faith. The external-internal distinction thus helps to incorporate both dimensions of revelation. As Vanhoozer writes, “The Son is the form and content of the divine discourse, the Spirit its energy and persuasive efficacy.”[xlvi] Revelation likewise may be understood as the external act of God’s self-disclosure and the internal perception that actually results from such divine action. Both are inexorably tied and cannot be separated. The Word without the Spirit is empty; the Spirit without the Word is blind.

When both poles of revelation are present, revelation is a powerful force. As the author of Hebrews assures, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). The Scriptures alone do not accomplish this robust result, as if mere words salvifically reveal to sinful human hearts apart from the illumination of the Spirit. As John Webster perceptively observes, “Reading Scripture is inescapably bound to regeneration.”[xlvii] Nor, however, does the Spirit affect this result apart from the Bible. Rather, revelation is external words with internal import. Revelation may be compared to an illumined sentence from which we move forward and backward to attain a better understanding of the whole.[xlviii] Extending the metaphor, revelation includes a revealed meaning (locution) through its intended (illocutionary) force that then affects the feelings, thoughts, and actions (perlocutions) of the speaker/listener. Namely, it is when the external revelation (i.e., the Bible) is read and the internal revelation (i.e., the Spirit) regenerates and illumines the reader’s mind and heart—or understanding and will—that the reader can say that the Bible is not a mere book and that the Spirit is in him or her. It is at this point that revelation fully and finally does its job in bringing the Word of God “out there” (external) to the Word of God “in here” (internal).[xlix] This consequence is, in fact, merely an implication of a truly Reformed theology. 

In this sense, revelation is multidimensional. It is an organic act of God whereby he personally confronts the whole individual—his or her mind, heart, and will. Revelation is internal and external communication. It entails communication of propositional truth via the revelations of Christ, the Bible, and creation, so that revelation indeed includes an external component. It also entails an internal component, where Christ encounters the individual by the Spirit. As John Webster again summarizes, “Revelation is thus not simply the bridging of a noetic divide (though it includes that), but is reconciliation, salvation, and therefore fellowship.”[l] Because revelation has both an external and internal component, it can be articulated in words and propositions but it is also a redeeming experience of divine encounter.[li] Revelation therefore manifests itself through God’s Word—creation and Scripture—and by his Spirit—in regeneration and illumination. It thus encompasses all the self-presentation and self-communication of the triune God to humans, both externally and internally, from creation through redemption unto eternity.

[i]While it may be objected that the terminology of principia is outdated and/or modern, this kind of objection does not stand. The conception of the principia, whether explicitly or implicitly, is at the basis of any subject of study. In doing theology, for example, the Christian person is forced to make a decision to begin with revelation (cognoscendi) or God (essendi); likewise, he or she must choose to begin either with the work of Christ (cognoscendi) or the person of Christ (essendi) in their Christologies. The person is required, in other words, to make decisions concerning ultimate principles or foundations of his or her own theological or philosophical systems. Naturally, a person must undergird his thought before he elaborates, lest his argument be open to objections. This is the purpose of the principia. It simply refers to the foundation of being (principia essendi), that is, God; or the foundation of knowledge (principia cognoscendi), that is, revelation. Whatever terms one uses to argue this point does not matter. The fact is that these arguments are necessary, whether one is a coherentist, (modified) foundationalist, or pragmatist; whether one is a rationalist, empiricist, or realist.

[ii]For discussions of the definition of principia, see Aristotle, Metaphysics, trans. E. W. Webster et al., in vol. 8 of Great Books of the Western World, ed. Robert Maynard Hutchins (Chicago: William Benton, 1952), Book I; for a more theological description, see Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 1:207-208; or Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 1:93.

                 The nature of the principia in relation to Christian theology is aptly summarized by Muller: “When the question of principia is considered casually, we again raise the question of an essential or external foundation since theology obviously is not self-caused. In addition to this external ground, all disciplines also have their own inward or internal basis, a principium belonging to that discipline itself” (Muller, PRRD, 1:440; see 440ff.). For the development of the principia in Alexander of Hales, Bonaventure, and Thomas Aquinas, see Muller, PRRD, 1:90-92; 437-440; for the Reformed background, see Ibid., 121-132, cf. 29, 39, where Muller attributes to Charles Hodge, Louis Berkhof, and others an orthodox or classical variety of the Reformed principia. As Muller concludes, the principia—and the prolegomena, of which the principia are part—“arguably provides the best point of entry into the theology of the late sixteenth and seventeeth centuries” (Ibid., 43). The terminology of principia, while most explicitly used within the Reformation and Post-Reformation eras, thus have strong precursors in the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus, along with the theology of Augustine and Bonaventure. While the external/internal distinction within the principia and revelation is a classically Reformed distinction, other traditions use the principia in complementary ways. For a Roman Catholic perspective on these issues, and on issues of foundations and prolegomena in theology in general, see Thomas G. Guarino, Foundations of Systematic Theology: Theology for the Twenty-First Century (New York: T & T Clark, 2005). In fact, René Latourelle rightly argues that the Catholic tradition in fact supports the external and internal distinction in revelation (Latourelle, Theology of Revelation, 377-387). For an Anglican perspective of the principia of theology through the lens of the Thirty-Nine Articles, see W. H. Griffith Thomas, The Principles of Theology: An Introduction to the Thirty-Nine Articles (New York: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1930). For a Lutheran perspective, see Carl E. Braaten, Principles of Lutheran Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983) or Heinrich Schmid, The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3rd ed., trans. Charles A. Hay and Henry E. Jacobs (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1899). For a natural theology perspective on the principia, see George Hayward Joyce, Principles of Natural Theology, 3rd ed. (New York: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1934).

                 The principia can also refer to more narrow realities; for example, they can refer to the specific principia of Christian theology as inspired Scripture (principia theologiae specialis), or they may denote mathematical principles undergirding reality (i.e., principia mathematica). For the former, see Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, 355-356, cf. 341-563 (who also can speak of the principia in terms of general and special [cf. 348-405]). For the latter, see John Craige, a friend of Isaac Newton, in John Craige, Theologiae Christianae Principia Mathematica (London: House, 1699); cf. Richard Nash, John Craige’s Mathematical Principles of Christian Theology (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991). 

                 As Turretin asserts in the Reformed context, “The principle [of theology] is both external (the word of God which embraces the law and the gospel—the former setting forth the things to be done, the latter those to be known and believed, hence called the ‘mystery of godliness’ and ‘the word of life’) and internal (the Spirit who is a Spirit of truth and sanctification, of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, Is. 11:2)” (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., 3 vols. [Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1992], 1:7.6). (Turretin asserts this twofold truth in the context of establishing that theology is both theoretical and practical, or rather, “theoretico-practical” [cf. Ibid., 1:7.1-15].) Muller also explains that, by the two principia of theology, external and internal, Turretin means that there are two “foundations,” for “theology obviously is not self-caused” (Muller, PRRD, 1:440, cf. 430-450; cf. 2:202-205).

[iii]While not the inspiration for this dissertation, Louis Berkhof argues similarly that, just as theology contains a principium cognoscendi externum and internum, so also do the “non-theological sciences,” namely philosophy (i.e., epistemology) (cf. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 1:93-97).

[iv]The term, “general sciences,” here intends to include all the physical or natural sciences (e.g., physics, chemistry, biology, etc.), the social sciences (e.g., anthropology, psychology, sociology, etc.), as well as the formal sciences (e.g., mathematics, logic, philosophy, etc.). In other words, the term is meant to encompass any study of natural, social, human, or mental reality. As he develops his Principles, Kuyper likewise uses the term to denote both the “hard sciences” as well as the “soft sciences” (Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, 122).

[v]“God’s beautiful creation, replete with divine wisdom, is the principium cognoscendi externum of all non-theological sciences” (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 1:94).

[vi]Namely, if the special internal principles is the illumined mind, then the general internal principle is the unilluminated mind itself, that is, the mind of the natural person. While one should also include the human conscience as the internal correlate (following the biblical data before), the mind is the more generalized form. Namely, while the mind is the (material) source of human cognition, the conscience is the source of morality, a source that no doubt finds its greater foundation within the human mind. Indeed, theologians have long attested that the mind of the human is a revelation of God, for it is the highest material expression of rationality in the universe. This is why John Calvin correlated the internal sensus divinitatis (“sense of divinity”) with an innate and general preconception of divine knowledge in all human persons (he writes, “There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity. This we take to be beyond controversy. To prevent anyone from taking refuge in the pretense of ignorance, God himself has implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty” [Calvin, Institutes, 1:3.1; cf. 1:3.2-3; Edward Adams, “Calvin’s View of Natural Knowledge of God,” IJST 3 [2001]: 280-292). This is also why Augustine, in large measure, found the highest revelation of God as triune within his consciousness or mind, playing with themes such as intellect, memory, knowledge, and love to display the reality of the Trinity (Augustine, On The Holy Trinity, trans. Arthur West Haddan, in vol. 3 of A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983], books 9-12). Indeed, it would be odd to understand anything other than the mind as being the internal receptacle of revelation, for it is person’s cognition that, among other things, is restored so that they believe (regeneration) and know (illumination) spiritual realities.

[vii]As Kuyper and Hodge have rightly noted, knowledge in the general sciences thus includes a threefold relation: the subject of science (the scientist and his/her cognitive capacity), the object of science (the universe), and the law(s) governing science (the scientific laws). See Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, 257; cf. Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1:9-10. In other words, revelation and knowledge both include the subject, object, and subject-object relation within their definitions (cf. Harriet A. Harris, “A Diamond in the Dark,” in Religion, Pluralism, and Public Life: Abraham Kuyper’s Legacy for the Twenty-First Century, ed. Luis E. Lugo [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000], 128). 

[viii]Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 1:95. For Kuyper’s explanation of the relationship between the natural world and consciousness, see Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, 355-368. God’s epistemic work here is Trinitarian. In the same way that the Logos enables all knowledge, so also the Spirit is the source and agent of all life in humanity and the world (cf. Gen 1:2; Ps 33:6; 104:30; 139:7; Job 26:13; 33:4), especially the intellectual, ethical, and spiritual life (Job 32:8; Isa 11:2).

[ix]Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 1:95. Justin Martyr is one of the earliest theologians to argue this idea (see his Second Apology, Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, and the Discourse to the Greeks, in ANF, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, vol. 1 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956], 188-272). However, he had a tendency to abstract an unbeliever’s knowledge (through the Logos) from the salvific implications of the Logos. As such, his theology tended to be too optimistic about people’s knowledge of even spiritual matters. (See especially his comments paralleling Moses and Plato [idem, First Apology, 182].) The Dutch Reformed tradition, while rightly returning to foundation of knowledge in the Christ as Logos, also correctly distinguished the “sphere sovereignty” of natural knowledge and saving knowledge (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 1:95; cf. Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953], 112).

[x]Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, 92; cf. idem, Principles of Sacred Theology, 83, 92.

[xi]Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), esp. 15, 17, 48, 69-131; cf. Stefania Ruzsits Jha, Reconsidering Michael Polanyi’s Philosophy (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002), 68, cf. 51-69; Jerry H. Gill, The Tacit Mode: Michael Polanyi’s Postmodern Philosophy (Albany, NY: State University of New York, 2000), 51-55. Stefania Ruzsits Jha also argues for a neo-Polanyian development wherein active empathy (humane passion) and heuristic striving (intellectual passion) are added to the internal pole of knowing (Jha, Reconsidering Michael Polanyi’s Philosophy, 202). For a shorter summary, see idem, The Tacit Dimension (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966). Polanyi’s work has even been correlated with John Calvin and Albert Einstein (see Iain Paul, Knowledge of God: Calvin, Einstein, and Polanyi (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic, 1987). 

[xii]Michael Polanyi, Knowledge and Being, ed. Marjorie Grene (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969), 148. Indwelling describes an innate epistemic process whereby, as we direct our attention on a focal object by way of our subsidiary awareness, we interioriorize and integrate the object and thereby perceive the greater dimension. For the most direct explanation of indwelling, see Andrew T. Grosso, Personal Being: Polanyi, Ontology, and Christian Theology (New York: Peter Lang, 2007), 24-27. Jerry Gill admirably summarizes Polanyi: “[Polanyi’s model] construes reality as structured according to a hierarchy of dimensions that interpenetrate and mediate one another in a vectorial pattern by means of boundary conditions and rules. The richer, more comprehensive dimensions are mediated in and through the lesser, without being explainable in terms of them” (Gill, The Tacit Mode, 37). Gill thus explains epistemic indwelling: it is “the process of immersing oneself in the particulars of subsidiary awareness by means of embodied activity until these particulars come together as a meaningful whole in an ‘integrative act’” (Ibid., 52). Indeed, one cannot recognize a mood on a person’s face or a species of rock simply through an explanation of external variables. This fact, he explains, is proof that knowing is external as well as internal (Michael Polanyi, “The Logic of Tacit Inference,” in Knowing and Being: Essays by Michael Polanyi, ed. Marjorie Grene [London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969], 156).

[xiii]Herbert Spencer, Principles of Psychology (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1855), §120.

[xiv]In other words, the unbelieving person can understand many things from creation. The atomic physicist can know, understand, and assess an atom’s behavior (in relation to mass, acceleration, and velocity), properties (its quark components, various spins and charges), and cosmic history (where and when that atom was at t1, t2, and so on). The artist can glimpse Albert Bierstadt’s sublime landscapes or Louis Le Vau’s majestic architecture and perceive the inherent symmetry and beauty. The stoic cosmologist can gaze upon the exceeding grandeur, harmony, and improbability of the universe and postulate a divine, rational principle that transcends it. In other words, and perhaps obviously, the natural person can see the world on its own terms.

[xv]K. Scott Oliphint, God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 130. Oliphint specifically implicates that knowledge is dependent upon “God” himself; this author simply added “the triune God” to his remarks.

[xvi]This language alludes to Irenaeus’s Trinitarian structure (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, trans. Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe [Buffalo: Christian Literature, 1885 [On-line], accessed 20 September 2010, available from; Internet, ed. Kevin Knight, 2:30.9; 3:24.2; 4:20.1; 4:38.3). For an excellent discussion that places the essence and function of truth within the larger domain of the triune God, see Bruce D. Marshall, Trinity and Truth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

[xvii]As Calvin writes, God “fills, moves, and quickens all things by the power of the same Spirit, and does so according to the character that he bestowed upon each kind by the law of creation” (Calvin, Institutes, 2:2.16). Calvin argues that even the “natural capacities” of man are in fact supernatural. He calls this “the seed of the knowledge of God” (Ibid., 1:5.15). Or, he calls it “some sort of divinity,” a “seed” that cannot be “uprooted” (Ibid., 1:4.4). As he continues, however, “this seed is so corrupted that by itself it produces only the worst fruits” (Ibid.). Therefore, while all people have access to the data of the created world, and many even have Scripture itself; every person knows something only as the Holy Spirit allows it. As Calvin often and incessantly (though not exclusively) speaks positively and vividly of the “admirable light of truth shining in secular writers:” he writes, “Those men whom Scripture calls ‘natural men’ were, indeed, sharp and penetrating in their investigation of inferior things. Let us, accordingly, learn by their example how many gifts the Lord left to human nature even after it was despoiled of its true good” (Ibid., 2:2.15). Because God bestowed so many gifts upon human nature, therefore, the whole enquiry of human study—even “by the work and ministry of the ungodly”—are gratifying and essential. So much so, that “if we neglect God’s gift freely offered in these arts, we ought to suffer just punishment for our sloths” (Ibid., 2:2.16, cf. 2:2.15). As heretofore mentioned, Bavinck also speaks of all knowledge of “nature and history” that we apply in business, commerce, industry, arts, and sciences as a result of the revelation of God: “For all these elements of culture exist only because God has implanted in his creation thoughts and forces that human beings gradually learn to understand under his guidance” (Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 1:341).

                 In this sense, all knowledge and revelation is supernatural. Bavinck argues this idea cogently (see idem, Reformed Dogmatics, 1:307-312). Abraham Kuyper rightly asserts that, even though sin powerfully distorts the human person and mind, God, through his general grace, allows us to understand the world in large measure. He contends that God’s “[r]evelation . . . does not cease with sin; nothing can annihilate the omnipresence of God, not even sin; nor can man’s dependence as image upon the archetype be destroyed, neither can the mystical contact of the infinite and the finite in the human soul be abolished” (Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, 276). There is, in fact, no supernatural/natural distinction within knowledge or revelation (Ibid., 1:355-361). And yet, this distinction remains alive among some Christian theologians today (see, for example, Alister McGrath, who distinguishes between the knowledge of God that is “naturally” available and only “revealed” [cf. Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 4th ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), 153-172]). Given the framework argued in this thesis, it is difficult to establish some knowledge of God that is purely “natural” and other knowledge that is “revealed.” The distinction breaks down when one considers, as Calvin and Bavinck argue, that all knowledge, no matter what the content, is ultimately supernatural as it is derived and enabled by God.

[xviii]Bavinck concludes, “But if that is the case, if in virtue of its nature religion has its own external principle of knowledge (principium cognoscendi externum), then there also has to correspond to it a unique internal principle of knowledge (principium cognoscendi internum). Just as the eye answers to light, the ear to sound, the logos (reason) within us to the logos (rationality) outside of us, so there has to be in human beings a subjective organ that answers to the objective revelation of God” (Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 1:505). He continues, “Eventually, all philosophers of religion are finally and willy-nilly brought to the recognition that human beings are by nature religious beings, that they are akin to God, and his image” (Ibid.; cf. Ibid., 1:233). See also Ibid., 207-233, 501-507; Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, 67, 260.

[xix]In this context, it may be helpful to note the parallel between knowledge and revelation. Indeed, science and theology—or rather, knowledge and revelation—are closely associated and contemporaneous in the Christian worldview. Anything classified as knowledge in any subject of study is a by-product of God’s own self-revelation—whether explicitly known or not, whether general or special, whether external or internal. Namely, as the dissertation has asserted, just as God has created the world (and all that is in it), so also creation (and all that is in it) reveals God. “Thus the whole world is an embodiment of the thoughts of God” (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 1:94; cf. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 1:301-322). In short, there is no knowledge without God’s revelation. “God conveyed this knowledge to man by employing the Logos, the Word, as the agent of creation” (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 1:94). Therefore, Berkhof continues, “Instead of ‘the world as God’s creation’ we might also say ‘God’s revelation in nature” (Ibid.). The logic necessarily follows: knowledge and revelation are not mutually opposed, but rather (all) knowledge itself is based upon revelation. One can know a scientific truth only insomuch as he or she bases such an observation or theory upon God’s self-revelation, specifically, the revelation of God in his creation (his laws, order, governance, and harmony).

                 Indeed, just as revelation assumes three aspects—one who reveals himself, the one to whom he reveals himself, and the possibility and actuality of the relation between these two—so also science contains three elements—the subject of science (the scientist), the object of science (the universe), and the law(s) governing science (the scientific laws) (Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, 257; cf. Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1:9-10). As the question of revelation (as external and internal) raises the question of knowledge, therefore, so also it forces us to speak of knowledge as external and internal. To say it simply: because revelation and knowledge are two siblings in one family under the organic unity of God, just as revelation must consider the external and internal components, so also must knowledge. An insightful commentary on this point is made by John Macquarrie, who argues that revelation necessarily expresses itself in “calculative” thinking (following Heidegger) as well as “existential” thinking (probably following Barth), so that, just as revelation contains two dimensions, so knowledge must also (John Macquarrie, Principles of Christian Theology, 2nd ed. [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1977], 90-96). Given the different assumptions of Macquarrie, of course, he implicates something beyond the argument of this dissertation.

[xx]Calvin, Institutes, 1:5.12.

[xxi]While overstated, Bonaventure is helpful: “Thus, theology is the only perfect science, for it begins at the very beginning, which is the First Principle [God], and continues to the very end, which is the everlasting reward; it proceeds from the summit, which is God Most High, the Creator of all things, and reaches even to the abyss, which is the torment of hell” (Bonaventure, Breviloquium, trans. and ed. Dominic V. Monti, vol. 9, Works of St. Bonaventure [Saint Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2005], 28). In other words, as he parallels science and theology, Bonaventure suggests that theology is the only complete science as it contains the correct perception of the world and the gospel itself. 

[xxii]One could connect the internal principium cognoscendi to the regenerating and illuminating work of the Spirit, on the one hand, or its human result, faith, on the other (for the former, see Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 1:207; for the latter, see Rom 10:17; Gal 3:3, 5; Heb 11:1, 3; cf. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 1:97). This inward principle may also be biblically identified as spiritual rebirth (John 3:3, 5), purity of heart (Matt 5:8), doing the will of God (John 7:17), or the anointing of the Spirit (1 John 2:20). The question is simply a matter of terminology and emphasis. Nevertheless, for the sake of perceiving the unity of the Triune God in all his activity, this chapter will consider the work of the Holy Spirit the internal dimension.

[xxiii]Irenaeus, Against Heresies, in vol. 1 of ANF (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 3:17.2.3.

Augustine, On The Holy Trinity, trans. Arthur West Haddan, in vol. 3 of A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 15.2; cf. idem, Confessions of Saint Augustine, trans. Edward B. Pusey, in vol. 1 of A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 13.1. He previously defines faith simply: “what is believing unless it is to agree to that which is said is true” (idem, On the Trinity, 13.1).

[xxv]Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 1:97. 

[xxvi]McGrath, Christian Theology, 241.

[xxvii]For the latter, see Plato: as he suggests, the person “has the ability to uplift the best part of the soul toward the contemplation of the best in things that are in the real world.” Plato’s words here apply to his conception of recollection (anamnesis) or the dialectic (cf. Plato, Republic, in vol. 6 of Plato, trans. Chris Emlyn-Jones and William Preddy, LCL [Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2013], 532C-D, cf. 531D-534D). For a modern proponent of religious contemplation towards knowledge, see John Hick, Who or What is God?: And Other Investigations (New York: Seabury, 2009), esp. 14-30.

[xxviii]Vos, Biblical Theology, 20, cf. 69. As he helpfully suggests, the Spirit’s internal redemption does not only affect our perception of general revelation, but also special revelation (Ibid., 20-22). For example, as Kuyper argues, regeneration (or, as he prefers, palingenesis) restrains the noetic effects of sin and produces the newfound ability to see the universe as it really is (i.e., illumination) (Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, 299). He writes, “Here we affirm that in every domain palingenesis revivifies the original man as ‘a creature of God,’ and for no single moment abandons what was given in the nature of man” (Ibid.). In other words, the Holy Spirit, “by illumination, enables the human consciousness to take up into itself the substance of the Scriptures,” leads us to “ever richer insights into its content,” and imparts “personal application of the Word” that is “intended and indispensable for them” (Ibid., 402). Following Kuyper’s basic trajectory, Geerhardus Vos likewise argues, “The main correction, however, of the natural knowledge of God cannot come from within nature itself: it must be supplied by the supernaturalism of redemption” (Vos, Biblical Theology, 20). For an excellent discussion of this idea, see Schumacher, Divine Illumination, 62-64. For further discussion of the work of the Spirit in relationship to hermeneutics, see David Chang-Nyon Kim, “The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Interpretation of the Word of God” (Ph.D. diss., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2012). For a Roman Catholic appraisal of regeneration (i.e., justification=regeneration) that drives towards epistemological implications of the doctrine, see Eleonore Stump, Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 162-169.

[xxix]As Kuyper contends, the problem is twofold: namely, a formal one whereby the disorder of the sinner must be neutralized, and a material one, where the knowledge of God must be extended to include the knowledge of God’s relation to the (now) sinner (Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, 275). This problem is augmented by palingenesis (or regeneration) and illumination, on the one hand, and special revelation, on the other. For the former, see Ibid., 150ff., 280-281, 288-289, 298, 327, 345, 361, 402, 415, 508, 554; for the latter, see Ibid., 275, 327, 361. This is why Dirk van Keulen argues that Kuyper’s theological epistemology consists of three aspects: special revelation, regeneration, and illumination (cf. Dirk van Keulen, “The Internal Tension in Kuyper’s Doctrine of Organic Inspiration of Scripture,” in Kuyper Reconsidered: Aspects of his Life and Work, ed. Cornelis van der Kooi and Jan de Bruijn [Amsterdam: VU Uitgeverij, 1999], 124).

[xxx]Kevin Vanhoozer, Is there Meaning in this Text? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 413-414; idem, First Theology: God, Scripture, and Hermeneutics (Downers Grove: IVP, 2002), 233-234. See also the previous discussion in this chapter (“Internal Reality of Revelation”).

[xxxi]As D. A. Carson asserts, “What the Spirit accomplishes in us is more than application of truth already grasped. Paul’s point is that truly grasping the truth of the cross and being transformed cannot be separated—and both are utterly dependent on the work of the Spirit” (D. A. Carson, The Cross and the Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003], 65). “In other words, there has not only been an objective, public act of divine disclosure in the crucifixion of God’s own Son, but there must also be a private work of God, by his Spirit, in the mind and heart of the individual” (Carson, The Cross and the Christian Ministry, 52). As he rightly suggests, human cognition needs to be restored to its proper function (Ibid., 53-55), so that we can overcome our self-centeredness and see clearly (Ibid., 55, 65-66). Therefore, “those without the Spirit are so dead that it is folly to think that arguments can bring them to faith” (Ibid., 45, cf. 52). David Chang-Nyon Kim summary is pertinent: Carson can speak of God’s “work of revealing the hiddenness of the gospel (external revelation) and renewing believers’ sinful heart and mind (internal revelation) so that he may understand the gospel” (Kim, “The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Interpretation of the Word of God,” 56). For a similar view to Carson’s, see Erickson, Christian Theology, 247-256.

[xxxii]Alfred North Whitehead compares revelation (i.e., the theological principia) to a “special occasion” in the life of a person that provides the central clue for interpreting the other occasions (Alfred North Whitehead, Religion in the Making [New York: Macmillan, 1926], 32). Or, more notably, H. Richard Niebuhr contends that revelation is like a “luminous sentence” amidst a complex argument, “from which we can go forward and backward and so attain some understanding of the whole” (H. Richard Niebuhr, The Meaning of Revelation [New York: Macmillan, 1941], 61, cf. 93). In other words, revelation is a “paradigm shift” that results in the person’s once distorted picture coming clearer as a result of the Word and Spirit. (The term, “paradigm shift,” is borrowed from Thomas Kuhn’s historical analysis of scientific theory [cf. idem, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970); see also Ian Hacking, ed., Scientific Revolutions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981)].) As a paradigm shift, Daniel Migliore continues, it “is an event that shakes us to the core” (Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding, 21; cf. Exod 3:1-21; Isa 6:1-8; Gal 1:12). Namely, revelation consists not merely of more information, but rather, “when God is revealed, everything is seen in a new light” (Ibid., 22). The special principia result in shift in worldview.

[xxxiii]Esther Lightcap Meek, Longing to Know: The Philosophy of Knowledge for Ordinary People (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2003), 46-50, 141-145. Meek summarizes, “Human knowing . . . involves actively struggling to rely on a collection of as yet unrelated particulars to achieve a focus on a coherent pattern or whole. It is a skilled coping with the world through achieving a coherence, an integrated pattern, a making sense of things, that opens the world to us” (Ibid., 56). Knowing thus involves three dimensions: the clues, the struggle, and the focus (Ibid.). As such, “The act of knowing actively involves the human agent” within it (Ibid., 58). Meek is particularly reliant on the heretofore explained tacit knowledge theory of Michael Polanyi (cf. Ibid., 9-10).

[xxxiv]Polanyi, Knowledge and Being, 148.

[xxxv]John Macquarrie, Principles of Christian Theology (London: SCM, 1966), 80. While Macquarrie is not in the same theological camp as this dissertation, his words in this instance accurately reflect much of the Reformed tradition. Calvin, for instance, notes that the rainbow “is merely a refraction of the rays of the sun on the opposite clouds” and have no material “efficacy in restraining the waters” as God promised Noah. Nevertheless, he continues, it remains true that God instituted the rainbow as a sign so that “whenever we behold it, we read this promise of God in it, that he would never more destroy the earth with a flood.” Therefore, he writes, if any man might ridicule our simplicity of faith, contending for the scientific nature of such clouds, we can “smile on his stupidity in not acknowledging God as the Lord and Governor of nature, who uses all the elements according to his will for the promotion of his own glory” (idem, Institutes, 4:14.18). In a similar way, creation reveals God, but only to the extent that he has chosen. In other words, “Without faith there is no perception of revelation” (Morris, I Believe in Revelation, 37).

[xxxvi]“It is as if he said: Therefore the Lord began to show himself in the visible splendor of his apparel, ever since in the creation of the universe he brought forth those insignia whereby he shows his glory to us, whenever and wherever we cast our gaze” (Calvin, Institutes, 1:5.1).

[xxxvii]Specifically, Plantinga creatively asserts that the believer, after being illuminated, may perceive God in (1) creation and (2) Scripture and thereby rationally conclude that God (1) created and sustains the world and (2) spoke Scripture as his word. Christianity, he continues, epistemically includes these two “basic beliefs” (among others), that is, beliefs that are basic “in the sense that [they are] not accepted on the evidential basis of other propositions” (idem, Warranted Christian Belief [New York: Oxford University Press, 2000], 175, cf. 180). In other words, following John Calvin’s sensus divinitatis along with the inward testimony, these beliefs may immediately be formed in the mind given the fact that they are “produced by cognitive faculties or processes that are working properly, in an appropriate epistemic environment . . . according to a design plan that is aimed at truth [and] successfully aimed at truth” (Ibid., 256, cf. 180, 190, 259, 262). The internal testimony of the Spirit, summarizes Randal Rauser, is a “doxastic process that is designed to produce beliefs about God that could not otherwise be gained given our fallen noetic faculties” so that such knowledge (i.e., the gospel and its implications towards the world) through the Spirit is, following Calvin, “revealed to our minds and sealed in our hearts” (Randal Rauser, Theology in Search of Foundations [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009], 246). Therefore, because God reveals himself in this internal capacity, believers possess a rational justification or warrant for their knowledge. Notably, while Plantinga is generally a faithful (if sometimes anachronistic) interpreter of Calvin, there are two pertinent areas where the two differ: Plantinga attributes to Calvin an interest in rational justification and his account of self-authentication is different than Calvin’s (cf. Paul Helm, John Calvin’s Ideas [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004], 267).

[xxxviii]The Reformers, for instance, could not speak of knowledge or revelation accept as they correlate with both the Word (creation) and Spirit (illumination) (see Chapter 4, “Reformation and Post-Reformation Eras”).

[xxxix]Latourelle, Theology of Revelation, 383. He thus argues for the “twofold dimension of the Word of God” (Ibid.). Namely, “Its efficacy as external word is joined by a particular efficacy which comes from the divine activity penetrating the very heart of all of the activity of our intellect and will, predisposing us for the response of faith” (Ibid., 385).

[xl]Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, 343. As he argues, this kind of truth would apply even if humanity had not sinned. Therefore, “neither observation nor reasoning” would be enough; rather, one needs a direct, personal revelation from God (Ibid.). See also Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, 1:207, 497; Morris, I Believe in Revelation, 70-71, 122.

[xli]As Scripture says, the fear of the Lord is the principle (tyviare, i.e., beginning, foundation) of wisdom (Ps 111:10) or of knowledge (Prov 1:7); or rather, Jesus Christ is the principle (avrch,, i.e., beginning, foundation) of creation (Col 1:18; Rev 3:14). Therefore, the source or cause of all things is the triune God himself. See also Bonaventure, Breviloquium, 27: theology “deals principally with the First Principle—God, three in one. . . .” Some theologians in the early church argued that God the Father is technically the principium essendi. Augustine, for example, asserted that the Father is “the principle of the whole divinity” (lit. principium totius divinitatis, Augustine, On the Trinity, 4:20) which means, in other words, the principle of being or existence of the Godhead. However, it is more helpful, following John Calvin, to view each person of the Trinity as autotheos, and thus, the Trinity as a whole is the principium (Calvin, Institutes, 1:13.25, 29; cf. B. B. Warfield, Calvin and Augustine [Phillipsburg: P & R, 1980], 283-284).

[xlii]Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 2:15.33.

[xliii]The language here echoes Barth’s Revealer, Revelation, and Revealedness (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, ed. G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance [Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1961], 1.1.361).

[xliv]Namely, language includes a “locutionary act” (the basic meaning and reference of a statement), an “illocutionary force” (the semantic cogency that the speaker intends to accomplish in the locution), and a “perlocutionary force” (the statement considered by its effect upon its recipient). These three are delineations from J. L. Austin, the founder of this theory, who wanted technical terms to explain the content, intent, and result of language (cf. J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words, ed. J. O. Urmson and Marina Sbisà, 2nd ed. [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975], 1-164). Vanhoozer has also correlated Speech Act Theory with the three persons of the Trinity in a similar manner (cf. Vanhoozer, First Theology, 227-8).

[xlv]Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1:22.1; 2:30.9; 5:1.3; cf. James Beaven, An Account of the Life and Writings of S. Irenaeus: Bishop of Lyons and Martyr (London: J. G. F. & J. Rivington, 1841), 88, 89; John Behr, Asceticism and Anthropology in Irenaeus and Clement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 38; John Lawson, The Biblical Theology of Saint Irenaeus (London: Epworth, 1948), 125.

[xlvi]Vanhoozer, Remythologizing Theology, 366. Therefore, the internal principium corresponds to the Spirit’s interior working in the Testimonium et Illuminatio Internum Spiritus Sancti (“Testimony and Illumination of the Spirit”). Vanhoozer also acknowledges this without using the same language (Ibid.). He says, “What finally makes the call effectual is its content—the story of Jesus—as ministered by the Spirit.” (Ibid., 374). This is the difference between “externally authoritative” and “internally persuasive” discourse (Ibid., 365).

[xlvii]Webster, Holy Scripture, 89. This is why A. W. Tozer is so severely critical of those who believe that “if you learn the text you’ve got the truth,” for they “see no beyond and no mystic depth, no mysterious heights, nothing supernatural or divine. . . . They have the text and the code and the creed, and to them that is the truth” (A. W. Tozer, “Revelation is Not Enough,” Presbyterian Journal 28:41 [Feb 1970]: 7-8).

[xlviii]Cf. Niebuhr, The Meaning of Revelation, 61, cf. 93.

[xlix]This does not mean, however, that objective revelation (i.e. the Bible) without subjective revelation is not revelation at all (cf. Barth, Brunner, Niebuhr, Bloesch, and Webster). The mistake of these proponents is that they improperly assume that the ontology of revelation necessarily includes its function, and thus when the function of the Scriptures is unfulfilled—that is, the purpose to bring people to saving faith—they wrongly assume that revelation is not present (see for example Webster, Holy Scripture, 14, 16). It is better to say that both are revelations regardless of the fulfillment of the purpose.

[l]Webster, Holy Scripture, 16.

[li]In this sense, one may take issue when Webster declares that “revelation is not to be thought of as the communication of arcane information or hidden truths” (Ibid., 14). Depending upon what he means by “arcane” and “hidden,” one wonders how revelation can exist without information and truth. In this sense, Webster is misguided to suggest that revelation is simply “God’s own proper reality” (Ibid.). 


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