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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Penal Substitution & Natural theology

Some would like to attack some of the philosophical uassage of a few ancient christians. But the truth is, the finger can be pointed in both directons.

As seen from "Theopedia"

Some argue that it is based on Natural Theology

Some argue that it is based on Natural Theology
J.I. Packer cautions that Penal Substitution was formulated during a period when "Protestant exegesis of Scripture was colored by an uncriticized and indeed unrecognized natural theology of law. . . drawn from the world of contemporary legal and political thought" [2]. Natural theology refers to knowledge of God drawn from our world around us (in this case from their own judicial concepts) as opposed to knowledge of God contained in the revelation of Scripture. Although Packer demurs basing Penal Substitution on the Natural theology of law and limiting the concept to retributive language, he nevertheless argues for the "substantial rightness of the Reformed view of the atonement."

According to Theopedia "Natural Theology" is:

"Natural theology is the branch of philosophy and theology which attempts to either prove God's existence, define God's attributes, or derive correct doctrine based solely from human reason and/or observations of the natural world. This endevour is distinct from other theological methods in that it excludes the assistance of special revelation. Thomas Aquinas is the most famous classical proponent of natural theology.
Others throughout
church history have rejected natural theology. Most in the Calvinist and Reformed tradition reject natural theology as having no foundational validity because the doctrine of Sola Scriptura leaves no source apart from Scripture from which to derive an accurate understanding of God, man, morality, justice, etc. Furthermore, it is rejected on the basis that mankind is so bound by sin that they can "know" nothing of God except that which is revealed to them. Neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth, one of the most influential Protestant theologians of the 20th century, sought to demonstrate that God can only be known through special revelation. Both he and Paul Tillich debated over this issue, Tillich arguing that revelation never runs counter to reason.
Supporters of natural theology, such as
Paul Tillich and Aquinas (among others), have argued that the existence of God can be known through reason. Many "proofs" for the existence of God have been created, however, theologians have often rejected these proofs on the basis that they do not end up with the Christian God of the Bible."

According to the Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, it says:

"Naturalism, natural theology. Naturalism sometimes refers to a form of *atheism and materialism that maintains that the "natural" universe (composed of energy and matter and based on natural laws) is the sum total of reality, thereby negating human freedom, absolute values and, ultimately *existential meaning. As an ethical theory naturalism suggests that ethical judgements arise out of or are based in the universe itself or "the way things naturally are." Natural theology maintains that humans can attain particular knowledge about God through human reason by observing the created order as one locus of divine *revelation." [1]

Alot of christians made use of philosophy, so the finger pointing goes both ways.

A prime example of classical Reformed protestants making use of "natural law" is found in Stephen J. Grabill's book "Rediscovering the Natural Law in Reformed Theological Ethics".


[1] page 82, by Stanley J. Greenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, in the book "Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms" Inter Varsity Press 1999


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