Natural Theology -- By: J. Haven, Jr.
BSac 6:24 (Nov 1849) p. 613
If theology is the science of religion, natural theology is the science of natural religion, and should not be confounded therefore with natural religion itself. The question is, not whether in fact there is a God, but how do we know that there is one, what is the evidence that there is one, and how shall that evidence be best drawn out and presented; not whether there is in man an idea and belief of a supreme being, an idea and belief sufficient to control his conduct, nor whence he derives that idea, but simply what is the logical value of it. This palpable distinction between natural religion and natural theology, has not indeed always been kept in view by theological writers, yet is manifestly of importance.
If the definition now given be a correct one, natural theology, regarded as a science, lies evidently at the foundation and constitutes the firm basis of all other theological science. As in religion everything rests upon the conviction in the mind that there is a God, so in theology, in like manner, everything rests upon the certainty, the clear and decisive evidence that there is such a being. This evidence, it is the appropriate work and province of natural theology to set forth and arrange. Till this be done, nothing can be accomplished in theology. The science of revealed religion does not include this, any
BSac 6:24 (Nov 1849) p. 614
more than the superstructure includes the foundation on which it is built. Revelation implies a revealer; it must first be known, then, that there is a being to reveal, before it can be known that anything is revealed. Until natural theology has done its work, all other theology is impossible.
Nor does revelation come in to aid and assist us in this work. Revelation is out of place, cannot be appealed to as authority, until natural theology has first established this primary truth, that besides and beyond man there is a being capable of revealing himself, and eternal truth, to man.
Manifestly, then, it is of the highest importance that a science which lies thus at the foundations of all other theological truth, should be well and thoroughly wrought, and carefully adjusted to its true position. There should be no flaw in the arguments. No part of the work should be slightly done. It should not be left to the enemies of truth to make the first discovery of any existing defect or weakness in the processes of our reasoning. In this matter, the friends of truth have more at stake than its enemies. He who points out a defect, or suggests an improvement, in the method of stating or defending that truth, should be regarded not as a foe but as a friend to the cause.
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