Is There A Reformed Objection To Natural Theology? -- By: K. Scott Oliphint

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 74:1 (Spring 2012)
Article: Is There A Reformed Objection To Natural Theology?
Author: K. Scott Oliphint

Is There A Reformed Objection To Natural Theology?

K. Scott Oliphint

K. Scott Oliphint is Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. He reviews Michael Sudduth, The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology. Ashgate Philosophy of Religion Series. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2009. Pp. 250. $99.95, cloth.

In discussing the so-called Reformed objection to natural theology, Michael Sudduth concludes:

So is there a good Reformed project objection to natural theology? No; at least not from among the objections examined in this book. To be sure, there are plausible objections to particular models of natural theology within the tradition. As we have seen, some of these objections converge on the pre-dogmatic model of natural theology. But the project of natural theology, suitably reconstructed on Christian presuppositions and carried out as part of the dialogue of dogmatic theology, is altogether another matter. I cannot see that any of the objections examined in the book provide a good objection to this approach to the project of developing rational arguments for the existence and nature of God. (pp. 227–28)

Sudduth’s book The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology, like so much of theological philosophy today, takes its cue from Alvin Plantinga; the title of the book itself came from an article written by Plantinga.1 Unlike Plantinga, however, Sudduth has included a good bit of material—both historical and theological—in order to bolster his philosophical analysis and critique. For those interested in the question of natural theology and its relationship to Reformed theology and apologetics, this is the book to read. It is unique both in its scope and its depth.

I Analysis

1. Introduction

In order to do justice to Sudduth’s argument, it seems best to work through his argument in some detail, so that we can focus this review on the overall case that Sudduth makes for the legitimacy of the project of natural theology. I will attempt, therefore, to set out the central contours of Sudduth’s case, after which I will offer some of my own reflections, from the perspective of a Covenantal approach to apologetics.

Before getting into the substance of the book, one minor alteration must be broached here, as it will affect the rest of what is said. Typical of philosophy in the analytic tradition are symbolic locutions that are meant to clarify or summarize a given proposition, concept, or point. These can be helpful (and will be used below) and there can be no question that analytic philosophers are quite fond of trotting...

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