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Herman Bavinck – The Cosmological, Teleological, Ontological, and Moral Arguments

10 Apr
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1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

The cosmological argument attempts to deduce the existence of a cause from the demonstrable existence of an effect. This argument has some validity but fails to tell us anything about the character and nature of the cosmic cause. All we have is a self-existent, first, and absolute World-cause. The teleological argument, proceeding from the world’s order and beauty, takes us one step further to an intelligent cause that must be conscious. However, we still do not know whether this means one intelligent Being or several working in harmony. We are still not nearly at a knowledge of the God of Scripture.

The ontological argument, in its various forms, attempts to infer existence from thought. Our common sense recognizes that this argument is not true when it comes to creatures. Nonexistent beings can be conceived. With God matters are slightly different. Though we cannot convincingly demonstrate the reality of God from our ideas about God, it is true that whenever we do think about God we necessarily think of God existing. The benefit of this argument is that human beings are confronted with the choice of either trusting this necessary witness of their consciousness or else despairing of their own consciousness.

The moral argument infers the existence of a supreme and sovereign Lawgiver from moral phenomena such as human conscience, fear of death and judgment, repentance, and reward and punishment. While these phenomena are powerful witness to the enduring moral nature of even fallen humanity, they are less than a proof for the existence of a righteous and holy God. The same is true for the argument that proceeds from the universal reality of religion. This fact bears powerful witness to the existence, revelation, and knowability of God but cannot as such disprove the claim that it reflects a universal pathology of the human mind, a passing fancy or delusion. Finally, arguments based on the purposefulness of history presuppose what they claim to demonstrate. History is susceptible to different interpretations that are, in the final analysis, a matter of faith, not proof. The heart rather than the intellect is the final arbiter.

That must also be our judgment concerning these “proofs” in general. Even the term “proofs” is infelicitous. The cosmological, teleological, and moral testimony to God is not a matter of logical, mathematical proof but belongs to the category of moral and religious truth.

The proofs may augment and strengthen our faith, but they do not serve as its grounds. They are, rather, the consequences, the products of faith’s observation of the world. The proofs do not induce faith, and objections against them do not wreck it. They are, instead, testimonies by which God is able to strengthen already-given faith.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 55-56.

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Herman Bavinck – Where Proofs For God’s Existence Fit In

1 Apr

1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

It is important, however, to make some distinction between implanted and acquired knowledge of God. In the former God’s revelation acts upon human consciousness, creating impressions and intuitions. In the case of the acquired knowledge of God, human beings reflect upon that revelation of God and seek by reasoning and proof to rise above impressions and intuitions to clearer ideas. This is the natural human desire to explain the how and why of our knowledge. This distinction must not be restricted to so-called natural theology in opposition to revealed theology. God reveals himself to us in his handiwork of creation, but even Christian believers depend on Scripture and the illumination of the Holy Spirit to truly know God the Creator. We are indebted to Scripture for both implanted and acquired knowledge.



This insight helps us to consider aright the so-called proofs for God’s existence, neither overestimating nor disdaining them. Christian theology accepts the support given to its convictions about God by pagan philosophy but judges these proofs within the doctrine of faith, not as preambles to it. Christian conviction about what can be known about God apart from special revelation is a valid natural theology. However, when this natural theology stands on its own and in a self-sufficient and rationalistic fashion sets aside the need for special revelation, it is an invalid and impious activity.



~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 54-55.

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Geerhardus Vos – God Alone Possesses Ideal Knowledge

17 Mar

It is also true that we do not have an in-depth and comprehensive knowledge of God. All our knowledge, even with regard to created things, is in part. This is even truer of God. We only know Him insofar as He reveals Himself, that is, has turned His being outwardly for us. God alone possesses ideal knowledge of Himself and of the whole world, since He pervades everything with His omniscience.

~Geerhardus Vos~




Reformed Dogmatics ed. Richard B. Gaffin and Richard de Witt, trans. Annemie Godbehere et al., vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013), 8.

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Geerhardus Vos – Truly “Knowing” God

29 Jan

God’s self-revelation to us was not made for a primarily intellectual purpose. It is not to be overlooked, of course, that the truly pious mind may through an intellectual contemplation of the divine perfections glorify God. This would be just as truly religious as the intensest occupation of the will in the service of God. But it would not be the full-orbed religion at which, as a whole, revelation aims. It is true, the Gospel teaches that to know God is life eternal. But the concept of ‘knowledge’ here is not to be understood in its Hellenic sense, but in the Shemitic sense. According to the former, ‘to know’ means to mirror the reality of a thing in one’s consciousness. The Shemitic and Biblical idea is to have the reality of something practically interwoven with the inner experience of life. Hence ‘to know’ can stand in the Biblical idiom for ‘to love’, ‘to single out in love.’ Because God desires to be known after this fashion, He has caused His revelation to take place in the milieu of the historical life of a people. The circle of revelation is not a school, but a ‘covenant’.

~Geerhardus Vos~

 

 

Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Edinburgh, Scotland; The Banner of Truth Trust; 1975), p. 8.

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John Calvin – The Undoubted Power and Majesty of God’s Word

17 Jan

Let this point therefore stand: that those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture indeed is self-authenticated; hence, it is not right to subject it to proof and reasoning. And the certainty it deserves with us, it attains by the testimony of the Spirit. For even if it wins reverence for itself by its own majesty, it seriously affects us only when it is sealed upon our hearts through the Spirit. Therefore, illumined by his power, we believe neither by our own nor by anyone else’s judgment that Scripture is from God; but above human judgment we affirm with utter certainty (just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself) that it has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men. We seek no proofs, no marks of genuineness upon which our judgment may lean; but we subject our judgment and wit to it as to a thing far beyond any guesswork! This we do, not as persons accustomed to seize upon some unknown thing, which, under closer scrutiny, displeases them, but fully conscious that we hold the unassailable truth! Nor do we do this as those miserable men who habitually bind over their minds to the thralldom of superstition; but we feel that the undoubted power of his divine majesty lives and breathes there. By this power we are drawn and inflamed, knowingly and willingly, to obey him, yet also more vitally and more effectively than by mere human willing or knowing!

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.7.5. p. 80.

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John Calvin – The Secret Testimony Of The Spirit

25 Nov

Credibility of doctrine is not established until we are persuaded beyond doubt that God is its Author. Thus, the highest proof of Scripture derives in general from the fact that God in person speaks in it. The prophets and apostles do not boast either of their keenness or of anything that obtains credit for them as they speak; nor do they dwell upon rational proofs. Rather, they bring forward God’s holy name, that by it the whole world may be brought into obedience to him. Now we ought to see how apparent it is not only by plausible opinion but by clear truth that they do not call upon God’s name heedlessly or falsely. If we desire to provide in the best way for our consciences—that they may not be perpetually beset by the instability of doubt or vacillation, and that they may not also boggle at the smallest quibbles—we ought to seek our conviction in a higher place than human reasons, judgments, or conjectures, that is, in the secret testimony of the Spirit. True, if we wished to proceed by arguments, we might advance many things that would easily prove—if there is any god in heaven—that the law, the prophets, and the gospel come from him. Indeed, ever so learned men, endowed with the highest judgment, rise up in opposition and bring to bear and display all their mental powers in this debate. Yet, unless they become hardened to the point of hopeless impudence, this confession will be wrested from them: that they see manifest signs of God speaking in Scripture. From this it is clear that the teaching of Scripture is from heaven. And a little later we shall see that all the books of Sacred Scripture far surpass all other writings. Yes, if we turn pure eyes and upright senses toward it, the majesty of God will immediately come to view, subdue our bold rejection, and compel us to obey.

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.7.3. p. 78-79.

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John Calvin – Who Gave The Bible Its Authority?

14 Nov

It is utterly vain, then, to pretend that the power of judging Scripture so lies with the church that its certainty depends upon churchly assent. Thus, while the church receives and gives its seal of approval to the Scriptures, it does not thereby render authentic what is otherwise doubtful or controversial. But because the church recognizes Scripture to be the truth of its own God, as a pious duty it unhesitatingly venerates Scripture. As to their question—How can we be assured that this has sprung from God unless we have recourse to the decree of the church?—it is as if someone asked: Whence will we learn to distinguish light from darkness, white from black, sweet from bitter? Indeed, Scripture exhibits fully as clear evidence of its own truth as white and black things do of their color, or sweet and bitter things do of their taste.

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.7.2. p. 76.

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Francis Turretin – God Has Bound Us To The Scriptures

1 Nov

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SECOND QUESTION: THE NECESSITY OF SCRIPTURE
Was it necessary for the word of God to be committed to writing? We affirm.

1. As in the preceding question we have proved the necessity of the word, so in this we treat of the necessity of the Scriptures (or the written word) against the papists. For as they endeavor studiously to weaken the authority of Scripture in order the more easily to establish their unwritten (agraphous) traditions and the supreme tribunal of the pope himself; so, for the same reason, they are accustomed in many ways to impair its necessity in order to prove it useful indeed to to the church, but not necessary. Yea Cardinal Hosius does not hesitate blasphemously to say, “Better would it be for the interests of the church had no Scripture ever existed”; and Valentia, “It would be better had it not been written.”

2. As to the state of the question, keep in mind that the word “Scripture” is used in two senses: either materially, with regard to the doctrine delivered; or formally with regard to the writing and mode of delivery. In the former sense (as we said before), we hold it to be necessary with respect to God. For two thousand years before the time of Moses, he instructed his church by the spoken word alone; so he could (if he wished) have taught in the same manner afterwards, but only hypothetically (on account of the divine will) since God has seen fit for weighty reasons to commit his word to writing. Hence the divine ordination being established, it is made necessary to the church, so that it pertains not only to the well-being (bene esse) of the church, but also to its very existence (esse). Without it the church could not now stand. So God indeed was not bound to the Scriptures, but he has bound us to them.”

3. Therefore the question is not whether the writing of the word was absolutely and simply necessary, but relatively and hypothetically; not for every age, but now in this state of things; nor relatively to the power and liberty of God, but to his wisdom and economy as dealing with man.


~Francis Turretin~




Institutes of Elenctic Theology – Volume 1 (Phillipsburg, NJ; P&R Publishing; 1992) p. 57.

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John Calvin – Scripture’s Authority Arises Not From the Church

26 Oct

A most pernicious error widely prevails that Scripture has only so much weight as is conceded to it by the consent of the church. As if the eternal and inviolable truth of God depended upon the decision of men! For they mock the Holy Spirit when they ask: Who can convince us that these writings came from God? Who can assure us that Scripture has come down whole and intact even to our very day? Who can persuade us to receive one book in reverence but to exclude another, unless the church prescribe a sure rule for all these matters? What reverence is due Scripture and what books ought to be reckoned within its canon depend, they say, upon the determination of the church. Thus these sacrilegious men, wishing to impose an unbridled tyranny under the cover of the church, do not care with what absurdities they ensnare themselves and others, provided they can force this one idea upon the simple-minded: that the church has authority in all things. Yet, if this is so, what will happen to miserable consciences seeking firm assurance of eternal life if all promises of it consist in and depend solely upon the judgment of men? Will they cease to vacillate and tremble when they receive such an answer? Again, to what mockeries of the impious is our faith subjected, into what suspicion has it fallen among all men, if we believe that it has a precarious authority dependent solely upon the good pleasure of men!

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.7.1. p. 75.

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John Calvin – We Must Come to the Word

23 Oct

We must strive onward by this straight path if we seriously aspire to the pure contemplation of God. We must come, I say, to the Word, where God is truly and vividly described to us from his works, while these very works are appraised not by our depraved judgment but by the rule of eternal truth. If we turn aside from the Word, as I have just now said, though we may strive with strenuous haste, yet, since we have got off the track, we shall never reach the goal. For we should so reason that the splendor of the divine countenance, which even the apostle calls “unapproachable” [1 Tim. 6:16], is for us like an inexplicable labyrinth unless we are conducted into it by the thread of the Word; so that it is better to limp along this path than to dash with all speed outside it.

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.6.3. p. 72-73.

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