Is Natural Theology Biblical? -- By: Stephen R. Spencer

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 09:1 (Spring 1988)
Article: Is Natural Theology Biblical?
Author: Stephen R. Spencer


Is Natural Theology Biblical?

Stephen R. Spencer

Biblical data on Gods self-disclosure through his creation clearly confirms the validity of natural revelation. Some apologists, however, advocate a natural theology that is derived from natural revelation. They argue that the unconverted can be introduced to God through natural theology.

The arguments for natural theology, however, are without biblical support. Natural theology is not a corollary of natural revelation, there are no examples of it in Scripture, and there is no biblical warrant for it, whether revelational, anthropological, or apologetic.

The long-running debate over apologetic method between evidentialism and presuppositionalism (particularly of the Van Tilian variety) involves a wide range of issues. Out of that broad spectrum of dispute, it is sometimes difficult to demarcate precisely the dividing line between the two sides. It is even more difficult to find the source of that line of division. The issue of natural theology, however, should be recognized as the watershed of these two apologetic methods.1

Defining Natural Theology

Though natural theology has been variously defined,2 two basic definitions are noteworthy. First, natural theology denotes the development of an entire theological system without reference to revelation. This sense seems equivalent to natural religion, of which deism is a classic example. No known evangelical espouses this type of natural

theology, and several explicitly reject it while espousing another type.3

The second meaning of natural theology differs significantly from the first meaning. Some propose that natural theology is the establishment of the existence and to some degree the character of God without recourse to revelation. A recent reference work in philosophy defines it as “the attempt to prove the existence of God, and sometimes human immortality too, from premises provided by observation of the ordinary course of nature.”4 The article goes on to distinguish this from revealed theology which concerns itself with “the contents and implications” of God’s revelation of Himself. Similarly, a recent theological dictionary states that natural theology is “traditionally that knowledge about God and the divine order which man’s reason can acquire without the aid of revelation.”5 The article attributes to this position the distinction between natural and reve...

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