Monday, December 30, 2013

God's Two Books and History

In discussions regarding origins, it is often asserted that God reveals truth through two books: His Word ("special revelation") and His works ("general revelation" or "nature"). Since God is the infallible author of both, they cannot contradict each other.
Hence, the argument goes, any apparent contradiction must be due to our misinterpretation of either Scripture (due to fallible hermeneutics) or nature (due to fallible scientific theories). Generally, in this approach, it is Scripture that ends up being re-interpreted.


In support of two-book thinking, Reformed scholars often refer to the Belgic Confession (1567), which asserts:
"We know Him by two means:
First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most beautiful book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are so many letters leading us to see clearly the invisible things of God, namely, His eternal power and deity, as the apostle Paul says (Rom.1:20). All which things are sufficient to convict men and leave them without excuse.
Second, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word, as far as is necessary for us in this life, to His glory and our salvation."                 
 (BC, Art.2)
Some comments are in order:

1. The Limited Message Revealed Through Nature
Note that this article concerns only the knowledge of God.  The book of nature is specifically said to lead man to clearly see the knowledge of God's eternal power and deity. Yet, God reveals Himself more clearly and fully in Scripture.

2. Nature is a Picture Book
Although nature is said to be a book, it is a special type of a book. Usually books consist of words, arranged into sentences conveying the thoughts of the author. Many of these sentences may be propositions, statements about reality that may be true or false.  Nature, however, unlike the Bible, is not a book containing propositional truth. Rather, it is a picture book, where the letters are creatures. Hence, the term "inerrancy" does not apply to this book: creatures are not true or false, they simply exist.

3. Nature's Message is Obvious
The message of the book of nature is so immediate and clear that nobody can plead ignorance of God. There is no need of special knowledge of science, theology, philosophy, or logical argumentation. But how can pictures of visible creatures teach us of the invisible things of God? According to Reformed thinking, Adam's creation in the image of God included "true and wholesome knowledge of his Creator and of all spiritual things" (Canons of Dort 3-4, Art.1). After the Fall, man still retains sufficient innate notions about God to render himself inexcusable before God (CD 3-4, Art.4; BC Art.14). This innate sense (the so-called sensus deitatis or sensus divinitis) enables man to clearly discern God's glory in the book of nature.

4. Applications to History
What about knowledge of created things? It is undeniable that fallen man can acquire much useful practical knowledge from nature. For example, the descendents of Cain invented tents, musical instruments and metal tools (Gen.4). This is non-controversial. After all, the Bible tells us very little about practical matters concerning operation science and technology. That is not its concern.

At issue is what the two books teach us about history. The Bible is very much concerned with history; the gospel is rooted in the historicity of creation, Adam and his fall, the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ, etc. In particular, the Bible consistently takes Gen.1-11 to be reliable history.

Nature is also closely connected to history. It has existed since before Adam. Hence the book of nature covers all of history. The difficulty is that the only pages that modern man can see are those pertaining to circa 2000 AD. Those pages in themselves tell us nothing about Biblical history, which concerns the pages of the book of nature covering history up to 100 AD. There can thus be no direct conflict between Biblical history, and what we can currently see of the book of nature.

Mainstream (naturalist) historical science (e.g., archaeology, cosmology, geology, etc.) tries to reconstruct earlier pages of the book of nature by extrapolating from the current page. This requires various assumptions about the uniformity of nature, the completeness of our scientific knowledge about natural processes, the absence of past supernatural events, and so on.

Any discrepancy between this scientific reconstruction of history and Biblical history can always be attributed to some deficiency in the scientific assumptions. For example, the Bible asserts:
...scoffers will come in the last days...they will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For...all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation". For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by that same word the heavens and the earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment...(2 Peter 3:2-7)
Nature is entirely subject to God, who can modify its normal operation--and has done so-- whenever He pleases. This undermines the assumption that the ancient past can be accurately reconstructed using scientific models based on presently observed data.

5. The Bible versus Worldly Knowledge
How should we relate Biblical and human knowledge in general?

The Reformed confessions place no bounds on Scriptural knowledge. The Belgic Confession affirms that the Bible is the Word of God (Art. 3) and, hence, inerrant and fully authoritative (“believing without doubt all things contained in them (Scriptures),” (Art. 5). Similarly, the Heidelberg Catechism asserts: "What is true faith? True faith is a sure knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in His Word" (Question & Answer 21).

This is contrasted with the limitations of human knowledge:
"We may not consider any writings of men...as of equal value with the divine Scriptures...for all men are of themselves liars....We therefore reject with all our heart whatever does not agree with this infallible rule" (BC, Art.7).
The Canons of Dort do refer to "common grace (which for the Arminians is the light of nature)" (CD, 3-4, Rejection of Errors, Par.5), but in a negative way. Fallen man is left with "some light of nature, whereby he retains some notions about God, about natural things. But so far is he from arriving at the saving knowledge of God and true conversion through this light of nature that he does not even use it properly in natural and civil matters. Rather, whatever this light may be, man wholly pollutes it in various ways and suppresses it by his wickedness" (CD 3-4, Art.4).

Conclusion
In sum, the Reformed Confessions (i.e., the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort) stress the antithesis between Scriptural truth and the distortions of human knowledge. The book of nature clearly leads all men to see God's power and divinity. However, sinful man so suppresses this light of nature that he denies God. Fallen man distorts even his knowledge of natural things. Therefore, although we can learn much from the book of nature, all human knowledge must always be judged by the higher authority of God's written Word. Hence, we should trust God's written Word in whatever it teaches about history, and adjust scientific speculations about the past accordingly.

*****

21 comments:

  1. Dr. Byl:

    All the best to you in this new year.

    I appreciate the way you titled this piece: God's Two Books.

    I also appreciate how you distinguish so clearly between this book of nature and all the propositions by men about this book. It seems all too easy in our day and age to equate the two, as if what scientists say is all infallible because they get it directly from nature. In the meantime, Sola Scriptura is deemed impossible because religious things are all subjective. The result is that the book of nature trumps the Bible. I think you pointed this out very well.

    Wishing you God's blessings for 2014

    JohnV

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    1. Hello John

      Thanks for your comments and well wishes. May the Lord grant you a blessed Anno Domini 2014.

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  2. Dr. Byl,
    Echoing JohnV's well wishes for you this new year! I think part of the confusion comes when we don't recognize the "as a...", or "like a..." simile for nature and book. Your illustration of nature "as a" picture book is apt, but there is really only one "book" by definition I believe, and there is more to man being held accountable to God and without excuse than what he sees or smells or hears or touches or savors "out there" beyond himself. You touched on this in reference to the innate sensus deitatis within man and what man knows about his own constitution. These also hold him accountable.

    Not trying to be nitpicky here, your blog is one I think of first when I go online now with my limited time constraints now, but perhaps the Reformed use of 'revelations' is still better suited than 'books', i.e. general and specific revelation, and not Bacon's two books. I think this is where men like Hugh Ross and the folks at BioLogos have slipped into heterodoxy, equating nature to a book and raising it to a level equal with the only true "book" of Scripture. Your thoughts?

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  3. Hi Steve:

    First, may God bless you in this new year, 2014. We now look forward to the second Christmas. So perhaps we can say, “2014, CE”: “2014, Come Emmanuel”. But it is still 2014 AD until then. ;<)

    I would not apologize for using the “book” analogy. It is a most apt analogy, I believe.

    True propositions are far fewer than modern culture believes. Or they are far more. Modern culture either thinks that evolution is true by sheer weight of acceptance, as are most if not all conclusions from scientists: so it accepts as true far more than it should. Or it is saying that there is no such thing as truth because the highest truth that man knows of, namely scientific truth, is still open to correction: so it doesn’t even accept God’s Word as true, and so accepts far less than it should.

    In other words, real truth comes from scientists and not the Bible, and scientists are still learning the truth; so there is no such thing a truth, yet. And no one notices the equivocation? No one notices that the bottom line is that this says absolutely nothing?

    I think that this is the source of the confusion. We give too much credence to scientists’ conclusions, as if these too are science. We too easily swallow the world’s monolithic consensus that the only real source of truth is science, even while at the same time swallowing the notion that there is no such thing as truth, yet. We too often don’t realize that we have merely equivocated the Bible out of the picture. Even though we have this Word directly from God, yet we put more trust in men; and then we don’t trust men either. All this only because we haven’t been careful with our understanding of things! (I include myself because I also fall too easily into these traps, and see them only in hindsight.)

    That’s what’s going on, it seems to me. People are equivocating the Bible out one picture at a time and only see it afterwards. And we often fail to see that these people are really just slipping in other pictures than the one nature, the “book” itself, is really showing us.

    We still have only two sources from which to form true propositions: nature, and God’s Word. So it is still appropriate to call both of these “books”, or resources for teaching. We just have to be careful and discerning about things that are falsely called knowledge.

    JohnV

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  4. Hi JohnV,
    Great to hear from you again! I always appreciate your comments and the several emails we have shared together John. I think to use the term 'book' for both nature and Scripture is inaccurate by the sheer definition of the word 'book'. It is the imprecise use of language, in my opinion, elevating the one and diminishing the other. If we want to use simile, and describe nature, and in particular God's general revelation "like a..." book, or "as a...." book, this at least uses precise language to show that it is a simile, and not equating the two by the same term, and it also shows by differentiation between the two the superiority over nature that Scripture claims for itself.

    I really think this is why we have the confusion we do today. Nature does not carry propositional truth like a book does (Scripture), nor can it lead to an understanding of our sin problem, the history that brought us to this point, and the need for a savior in Christ. All I'm trying to suggest I think, is that we might want to stop calling nature a 'book', or at least being very careful to differentiate in discussions that two unlike things are being compared in simile when referring to nature. In essence, there is really only one "book" breathed out by God, self-attesting and self-authenticating. It is this very fact that makes it stand in the magisterial position over nature and any interpretation of it by man.

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    1. Steve:

      As always, a pleasure exchanging thoughts with you.

      I think that BC art. ii, as it is written, is the most important article of faith that we have in opposition to the efforts to re-interpret the Bible. There is no getting around its' witness. Attempts to do so tend to misrepresent what it really says.

      Our confessions, whether the TFU or the WS, never draw attention to themselves but always point to the self-revealing Bible as our sole authority. By having and holding them we do not deny Sola Scriptura. The words have been carefully chosen so as not to add to Scripture nor to take anything away from it; and at the same time be simple and straight-forward.

      I won't believe that anyone reading article ii will be left confused by the witness of the article that nature is "a book", that this is an analogy. I believe that wrong notions come from the false ideas coming from people who hold positions of authority but obfuscate the summary teaching which is in the article. They do this in an intellectual environment that has shifted the paradigms of thought. The hard line between objectivity and subjectivity used to be between observation and conclusion; it now stands between science and religion.

      That, it seems to me, is what leaves people confused, and not the article itself. People want to put the hard line between the book of God and the book of nature, when the line has always been, and always will be, between truth and fallen man's thoughts. The line is not between nature and God, but between God, His Word & His creation, and the things fallen man says about them.

      These are my thoughts.
      JohnV

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  5. Hello Steve

    Thanks for your comments. You raise some very interesting points.

    I grant that nature is a book only in a metaphorical sense. But this does not detract from its epistemic importance.

    The Belgic Confession does not use the word "nature" but "the creation, preservation, and government of the universe", which really encompasses all of history. Like a book, the universe is spoken into being (Gen.1) by the Word (John 1). Nature/history, although non-propositional, stands over Scripture in the sense that the historical teachings--and prophecies--of Scripture are true only to the extent that they conform to the reality of Nature/history.

    We must be careful not to equate nature/history with science. That science starts with observations of nature is not a problem. However, it must be stressed that science has observed only very recent history--only a few pages of the book of nature/history. The problem is that, in trying to reconstruct ancient history, mainstream science places more weight on scientific extrapolation (i.e., forensic speculation using models based on currently accepted "laws") than on the historical accuracy of Scripture, which, as Divinely inspired, should have the same value as undoubted eye-witness testimony.

    In science, as in law, trustworthy eye-witness testimony always trumps forensic evidence. Observational data form the bedrock of science: data rule theories. Good scientific theories should not be contradicted by reliable data.

    Unregenerate man, by rejecting God's Word and the historical truths they contain, naturally ends up with a correspondingly faulty view of historical science.

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  6. Hi Dr. Byl,
    Thanks for your comments. I'm in agreement that nature carries epistemic importance, but I'm not sure I agree that nature stands over Scripture in "any" sense. Am I hearing you correctly? Are you saying that Scripture does not stand in the magisterial and instead, that nature stands in the magisterial? Or am I not understanding a crucial difference in any of the Reformed creeds? Are you sure you are saying that the historical teachings of Scripture "are true" "only" to the extent that they conform to nature? I think there must be a crucial piece I'm missing here, or I'm reading way more into what you're saying than I should.

    Let me explore this with you if I could. Would God's Word be true even if it didn't conform to nature? In other words, would the axiom that 'God's Word is true, His prophecies are true, His teachings are true, because and only because it comes from the mind and mouth of God' be true or not true? That they conform to reality is by definition a given because they come from God. If this axiom is true, then nothing, including nature, would countenance that. If false, then haven't we fallen out of bounds with orthodoxy? Haven't we then fallen into the idealist philosophies of men like A.E. Taylor?

    I welcome your thoughts.
    Blessings!

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    1. Hi Steve

      We should distinguish between:
      (1) God's Plan (an idea completely known only to God),
      (2) the actual implementation of God's Plan (concrete reality throughout history), and
      (3) what God has revealed about Himself and His Plan in the Bible (a book conveying propositional truth).

      God being Who He is, all these will be consistent.

      We should also distinguish between:
      (4) the small slice of history (2) that someone personally experiences (eye-witness testimony) and
      (5) scientific speculations trying to extend (4) to (2).

      What I am getting at is that a proposition about history is "true" if and only if it corresponds to actual history. Actual history is the standard that measures whether propositions about history are true or false. We believe that Christ has been raised; if he was not actually raised then our faith is futile (1 Cor.15:12-17).

      Our belief that the Bible is God's true Word can be substantiated by what we see of history. Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29). 

      The Belgic Confession (Art.5) affirms that we believe without doubt all things contained in the Scriptures partly because "even the blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are being fulfilled". The truth of Scripture is here confirmed by appealing to the eye-witness testimony of current history.

      The Biblical test for prophets was to see if their predictions were actually observed to happen (Deut.18:21-22). Belief in Jesus' resurrection was grounded in the disciples' actual experiences (John 2:22). Paul backs up his claim of Christ's resurrection by appealing to eye-witnesses (1 Cor. 15:5-8); John based his teachings on what he had personally seen and heard (1 John 1:1-5). Various Biblical events are recorded to show that Scripture is fulfilled (e.g., Matt.26:56).

      Note also Paul's contrast, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully..." (1 Cor.13:12). A contrast between the partial knowledge we now have, through the Bible, and the full knowledge in the future when we shall personally experience God face-to-face.

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    2. Thank you Dr. Byl for your gracious comments. I've read through your reply, but would like to read it again to make sure I understand it better and then reply if I might. I am also going back to your original post and rereading it and then tying it in with your other comments. At this point, I don't think I am in disagreement with any of it, except to say that what I started out saying, that I think we may have gone off the rails a bit when we co-opted Bacon's analogy of two books, using the phrase 'two books of God', or 'the book of nature', whereas the BC and the other Reformed creeds make clear that God reveals Himself by two "means": general and special. And that when they speak of general revelation 'as a' book, they use it in just that way, a simile.

      Now, in terms of what the two "means" teach us about history, I am of the recent conclusion that as believers we should again be careful concerning the phrase 'historical science', and bring it back to what it is and has always been, just 'history'. John K. Reed of the Creation Research Society, (if you haven't read him, I highly recommend all of his work in this area pertaining to geology and the geologic column) says this is a mixed-question, that multiple disciplines are brought to bear in the study of history, but that it should not be referred to as historical science with it's connotative link to naturalism, and specifically the naturalistic worldview which is in direct antithesis to Christianity and the Christian worldview.

      At any rate, I'll leave off now, always thanking and praising God for your work and blogs like yours upholding the orthodox view of creation in six days, a worldwide cataclysmic judgment of God at the time of Noah in the great Flood, and God's providence in both his mediate and immediate work of upholding the creation He has made.

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    3. Dr. Byl:

      It seems to me that Steve's concern is about what qualifies from nature's witness of God as "good and necessary inference" for interpreting God's Word.

      I don't think you are suggesting that the book of nature trumps the Book of propositions; but rather you are asserting there is no such conflict between them which would require one trumping the other. The point, it seems to me, is that both trump man's fallen intellectual capabilities. Therefore the question: what qualifies as "good and necessary inference" for use in interpreting God's Word?

      I suppose that the same question applies to science: what qualifies as good and necessary inference to establish what may be called 'knowledge'? I think that you and I are in agreement that consensus, even monolithic consensus, does not qualify. In other words, "theory" is not 'knowledge'.

      John

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    4. Hi JohnV,
      I'm not sure that's my concern brother, i.e, what qualifies from nature's witness of God as good and necessary inference for interpreting God's Word. General revelation and special revelation are separate, yet both coming from God. They each have distinctive purposes, they work together and are both part of God's revelation to man, yet I don't go to nature and see what qualifies as good inference and then go to God's Word to see if it matches up. Is that what you're saying, or am I misunderstanding you?

      Each man or woman starts with himself in the interpretative effort for knowledge. Following Van Til, it is the Christian system and only the Christian system which accounts for this being the proper place to start.

      General revelation can only lead him/her so far and by it every person is held accountable for the knowledge of God. In other words, every person 'knows' God and yet suppresses that knowledge in rebellion and unrighteousness.

      Special revelation is needed to bring man into a saving knowledge of God, and Christ as his/her sacrifice and substitute for his sin problem.

      I think Dr. Byl clearly brings all this out in his post above, so I'm not saying anything he hasn't already stated, I think.

      What threw me was the introduction and dialog about 'history'. History is not nature, nor is it general revelation, although we may speak of history as the progression of God's created order(animate and inanimate) in time, through and by His immediate and mediate works, since He initiated and started it all "in the beginning".

      Nature or general revelation shows historical time progression in many of it's entities. Yet, we all agree, that to read this correctly and interpret it correctly we must go to special revelation, i.e., the Scriptures to understand it the way God wants us to understand it.

      Am I confusing things up here, or are we making progress :)

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    5. Steve:

      Does history belong to General Revelation or to Special Revelation? Or is it proper to call it any revelation at all?

      I believe that to understand what a history of anything means to us today we need the Bible, to be sure. But to understand what that history is we need general revelation. History implies subjection to change, and thus applies specifically to the creation.

      There is a difference, it seems to me, between what really happened, the real history, and any man’s version and/or “interpretation” of it. No version, no interpretation, changes what actually happened.

      What really happened, that’s the history, and not the version or interpretation.

      What I was asking Dr. Byl about was the ability to discern the real from the made-up, for both what the Bible says and what real history says. We can say that: a) we know that Gen. 1 is history; or b) we do not know whether Gen. 1 is history; or c) we know that Gen. 1 is not history. There is no evidence for c); we might be ignorant of facts and settle for b); or we can study both revelations and be convicted of a).

      What is not logically possible, if I read Dr. Byl correctly, is that if we study both revelations truly that we then come up with c). Yet that is exactly what theistic evolutionists are saying when they equate, put on the same level, man’s account of beginnings with God’s account of beginnings, as if both are “interpretations”: that they know that Gen 1 is not history.

      At the bottom of things, I think that’s where your concern about the relationship of the two revelations comes in: how much the two are in univocal accord.

      But I was not trying to restate your concern for you. I was trying to extend the points that were made toward a clearer understanding of things, using your questions as a “jumping off” point. I’m sorry, my brother, if it sounded like I was restating things on your behalf. Please accept my apologies. I should have entered my post at the end, and not in the reply.

      JohnV

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    6. Hi JohnV,
      History is not general revelation, nor is it special revelation. I think we need to define our terms better. Special revelation in the form of the Scriptures contains history, gives history, and it is an 'accurate' history because it comes from God's mind and mouth (2 Tim.3:16).

      General revelation as I think the Reformers stated based on Scripture is God's created order of animate and inanimate objects(nature) and man's knowledge of his own constitution and thought processes as he looks inward at himself. So both outward looking and inward looking man is without excuse for not recognizing and acknowledging the existence of God (Rom. 1).

      History is neither of those two things and yet both contain historical events. It is how man interprets those historical events that I think is the crux of Dr. Byl's post.

      We know that since the Fall, man has not been able to interpret nature aright. His reason is fallen (noetic effect of sin) along with his moral compass. He now needs special revelation in all its aspects to interpret what he sees outwardly and inwardly.

      The two revelations are a unit, both come from God, and are absolutely necessary for man. It is however, just as the Westminster divines stated in WCF 1.1, that general revelation is insufficient to give that knowledge of God and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation. This also means a true interpretation of the historical events that have happened within God's created order in the past. It is also why as Reformed we speak of the 'insufficiency' of general revelation, and the 'necessity' of special revelation.

      I hope we're not talking past each other brother, I sometimes feel we may be, and I apologize for that. Perhaps someone else reading our posts can turn the spotlight on?

      Thanks again for your continued dialog!

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    7. Steve:

      I think you’re right that we seem to be talking about two different things. When you say that the Bible “gives” us history, then I know that we’re not talking about exactly the same thing. The Bible doesn’t “give” us history, it tells us history; the actual history has already happened, and the Bible tells us about it.

      You’re right, of course, we can call the telling of a past event a “history”. That is a normal use of the word. But it is only a history in so far as it is a telling of the actual history, and in so far that it is true to the actual history. But it is not the history itself, and it is not a history if it is not a true account. The actual event is what I was talking about.

      My point was that in our time far too many people are calling evolution ‘science’, as if they may call the monolithic consensus about evolution ‘knowledge’ (where the word ‘science’ comes from), a history of the world. What I am asserting is that it is falsely called ‘knowledge’, it is pretentiously called ‘knowledge’, it is almost universally accepted as ‘knowledge’: but it is not knowledge. I don’t have to go so far as to say that evolution is false; it is enough to know that it is called ‘knowledge’, and treated as if it really is ‘knowledge’, but it really is not knowledge. It is not one of God’s Books; it is not General Revelation.

      JohnV

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    8. Hi JohnV,
      "The Bible doesn’t “give” us history, it tells us history; the actual history has already happened, and the Bible tells us about it."

      Semantics I think John, substitute "tells" for "gives", I think we're both saying the same thing.

      And how do you know the "actual account" if it is not in the "telling"?

      "My point was that in our time far too many people are calling evolution ‘science’"
      Agreed!

      "What I am asserting is that it is falsely called ‘knowledge’, it is pretentiously called ‘knowledge’"...
      Agreed!

      "it is enough to know that it is called ‘knowledge’, and treated as if it really is ‘knowledge’, but it really is not knowledge. It is not one of God’s Books; it is not General Revelation."
      Agreed!

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    9. Steve:

      Please forgive me for stating the obvious, and for forcing the observation.

      But I think that we can now agree that history belongs to General Revelation, even if some of it is in the Bible. The actual event happened in space and time, and shows God’s governance and preservation of His creation and His people, whether it has been recorded in the Bible or in our history books.

      The Bible utilized GR in more places than in the history of salvation. It is by G R that we know that Jesus is not a 2-8 X 6-8 slab of mahogany or oak when He says He is a door. The Bible is written in the context of the created norm. I take that to be what Dr. Byl meant when he said the Bible is under GR; it takes nothing away from the Bible being the better explanation of the how and the why of historical events.

      JohnV

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    10. JohnV,
      I'm a bit confused by the wording in your last post, brother. But I grow tired of the back and forth. Thanks again and blessings.

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  7. Hi JohnV,
    Thanks again for your comment. BC article II says "as a", but you left that out in your last reply to me, 3rd paragraph. I think this is a crucial difference with precise language, and thanks be to God that the Belgic Confession states it this way. We've become so accustomed to the wording "the book of nature", that we ourselves are failing to point out and draw attention to the simile. This is where I am concerned I suppose, and is thus my point. Maybe I'm belaboring it too much brothers :)

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    1. Steve:
      In editing my response before posting it I guess I cut that part out. My first post, though, begins with agreeing that it is an analogy. In other words, "as a book", and not "is a book". Sorry about that.

      My point was to stress that in our time people want to draw the line between God's two revelations of Himself, instead of between "true truth", as Schaeffer put it, and fallen man's fallible conclusions.

      And I wanted to stress the fact that man can write true propositions if he is very, very careful not to add to or subtract from true observation of either God's Word or His creation.

      After all, we have our confessions as proof that he can: they are completely and humbly subject to Scripture, and yet are not Scripture; we can confidently say that they truly summarize the Bible, and yet they are not the Bible; they never draw attention to themselves, and yet hold believers together in one faith; they are men's writings, and therefore subject to correction, and yet represent the bond of faith that holds churches together. They have been very little revised (and then only because of circumstance, not doctrine) while Newton's laws are all but a thing of the past.

      I'm not sure I understand your point. I think Dr. Byl is better able to answer you than I am. I'll leave it to you two to discuss this issue. All I ask is that no line be drawn between God's two revelations: they must stand together.

      JohnV

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    2. JohnV,
      Yes, in agreement. Both God's revelations, general and special must stand together. No line is drawn except that Scripture in the magisterial and general in the ministerial. As Van Til would point out, echoing Calvin I think, general revelation can only condemn man, while special revelation saves him.

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