Re: [ASA]Paley and Pascal

From: george murphy (
Date: Fri Aug 31 2001 - 08:52:00 EDT

  • Next message: Howard J. Van Till: "Re: Is Jesus God? (was: Is Jonah to be taken literally?)" wrote:

    > In a message dated 8/29/01 9:28:48 AM, writes:
    > << But what my question was getting at was something deeper. There
    > seems to be a strong feeling that some kind of natural theology must be
    > true. It is more than just a matter of apologetic method, but almost an
    > element of personal faith commitment. Is this because people were
    > themselves brought to faith in this way and so feel instinctively that
    > such ideas are essential to Christian faith? Or are there other
    > reasons? I could make various guesses but it would be more profitable
    > to hear the views of others. >>
    > George,
    > I'm not well versed in theology or the history of science, but don't we and
    > earlier Christians hold that there are two books by which God reveals
    > himself--the book of nature and scripture? Isn't it is also believed, that
    > neither is complete without the other, that each illumines the other?
    > I have always thought that the answer to all these questions is yes. If I am
    > mistaken I would like to know wherein.
    > It seems to me your position all but negates the book of nature.

            The "two books" metaphor has been used for centuries by both Jews and
    Christians and has for some Christians acquired an almost dogmatic status that it
    doesn't deserve.
            In the first place, speaking of scripture as one of God's two revelations
    tends to obscure the fact that God's revelation is in Christ (including the whole
    history of God's actions connected with Christ), and that scripture is the
    witness to that revelation. "The Word became flesh" refers to Christ, not the
            Second, it's important to be clear on what the "book of nature" is
    supposed to be about. If we want to know about the world, we are to read the
    book of nature - & can read it without any knowledge of God. Whether or not we
    can get any knowledge of God from nature is the real question.
            Third, it's certainly not true to say that scripture is incomplete
    without the book of nature if that means that some knowledge of God from nature
    is needed for salvation. A person can come to saving faith in Christ with no
    "natural knowledge of God" at all.
            Fourth, & most important, we can know something about God from nature
    only when nature is
    placed in the light of revelation - & by that I mean revelation in Christ, not
    some "general revelation," which I think is a misleading term. This has been put
    very well by Nancey Murphy in a response to an argument of Owen Gingerich for a
    rather modest natural theology:

            "Gingerich uses the metaphor of the two books, the Book of Scripture and
    the Book of
            Nature, both pointing to God. However, it seems clear to me, based on
    the considerations
            I have raised here, that these two books ought not to be read
    independently of one another.
            In fact, the Book of Nature ought to be read as a sequel to the Bible.
    As with the sequel to
            a novel, it is important to read the first volume to find out about the

            Or to drop the metaphor, we get our hypothesis of design from
    revelation. Discoveries like
            the fine tuning come along later, and their strength as evidence lies in
    confirming an already-
            existing hypothesis that already has confirmation from other realms of
    experience. Without
            revelation, we would be at a loss to know what we mean by designer in
    such arguments."
                    (In Science and Theology, ed. Murray Rae et al. (Eerdmans,

            In summary, the "book of nature" is definitely of secondary importance as
    far as knowledge of God is concerned. The metaphor of the "two books" should be
    abandoned because it suggests that they are of equal importance. It would be
    better to strengthen Nancey's image a bit and say that the book of nature is an
    appendix to the book of scripture.
            N.B. Downplaying "natural theology" is not the same as ignoring a
    "theology of nature." The latter is an essential part of the doctrine of
    creation and is crucial for all science-theology dialogue, environmental
    theology, &c. But it's not where we get our knowledge of who God is.



    P.S. Yes, I know about Psalm 19. See Romans 10:18 to see how Paul applies this
    supposed reference to the book of nature.

    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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