Re: [asa] Natural theology

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Wed Oct 31 2007 - 12:31:30 EDT

Yes, McGrath's views in this regard have been strongly influenced by Torrance's "completion" of Barth's position on natural theology - as in fact have mine. Barth's position was esentially negative - "Nein!" to natural theology. Torrance argued that what Barth was objecting to was a natural theology independent of revelation, & that it's a quite different matter to develop a natural theology within the context of a specifically Christian theology based upon historical revelation.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Janice Matchett
  Sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 11:42 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Natural theology

  At 11:08 AM 10/31/2007, Terry M. Gray wrote:

    John, Mike,

    The idea of idolatry that George is talking about comes out in the next few verses (21-25) of Romans 1. The sinful human heart takes the revelation of God in nature and worships and serves created things. This is, indeed, the whole context of Romans 1:20-3:20. God is truly revealed in creation, but the human response to that revelation, apart from faith in Christ, is idolatry. "There is no one righteous, not even one." Thus, a "natural theology" apart from Christ and scripture will reflect that sinful condition. To make Romans 1:20 a proof-text for a revelation independent natural theology is to take it out of context. ~ TG

  @ A VERY good way to put it!!! I think that is what Barth would say.

  I can't back what Karl Barth believed because I'm still pretty confused about what he really believed in spite of making a major attempt to pin his beliefs down. I guess I'm not alone because from what I read, many are saying that he is one of the most misunderstood theologians of the modern period. I can see that it is going to take me some time before I will be able to make up my mind about him - if ever. I do agree with him when he said that religion is the enemy of faith. "Religion" is what the group known as Pharisees practiced and equates to "legalism" as far as I'm concerned. Trust in a "personal" God (faith) on the other hand, is what motivated the individual portrayed as the "Good Samaritan".

  From what I understand, McGrath is a great admirer of Torrence, and Torrence was a great admirer / student of Barth. Since I'm a great admirer of McGrath, Barth has the opportunity of carrying some weight with me - but so far - like I said, I haven't been able to determine exactly where he was coming from, therefore I can't say that I would agree with him on bottom line issues. This first link here is pretty interesting:

  Karl Barth (1886-1968)

  The Theology of Karl Barth - Derek Michaud, 2003
  Universally recognized as among a very select few who have profoundly affected all of Christian theology, Karl Barth remains perhaps one of the least understood theologians of the modern period. An extremely voluminous writer, the sheer size of Barth's corpus is intimidating. More significantly, his thought is dialectical and consequently does not proceed in a linear way. Rather, Barth's theology oscillates back and forth from the radical discontinuity between God and creation ("no") and the equally radical love of God for creation ("yes"). ..." [end quote]

   (Zdravko Kujundzija, 1999) Barth, Karl

  "...The main characteristic of Barth's work, known as neoorthodoxy and crisis theology, is on the sinfulness of humanity, God's absolute transcendence, and the human inability to know God except through revelation. The critical nature of his theology came to be known as "dialectical theology," or "the theology of crisis". This initiated a trend toward neoorthodoxy in Protestant theology. The neoorthodoxy of Karl Barth reacted strongly against liberal Protestant neglect of historical revelation. He wanted to lead theology away from the influence of modern religious philosophy, with its emphasis on feeling and humanism, and back to the principles of the Reformation and the teachings of the Bible. He viewed the Bible, however, not as the actual revelation of God but as only the record of that revelation. God's single revelation occurred in Jesus Christ. In short, Barth rejected two main lines of interest in Protestant theology of that time: historical criticism of the Bible and attempt to find justification for religious experience from philosophy and other sources. Barth saw in historical criticism great value on its own level, but it often led Christians to lessen the significance of the testimony of the apostolic community to Jesus as being based on faith and not on history. Theology which uses philosophy is always on the defensive and more anxious to accommodate the Christian faith to others than to pay attention to what the Bible really says.

  Although he changed some of his early positions, he continued to maintain that the task of theology is to unfold the revealed word attested in the Bible, and that there is no place for natural theology or the influence of non-Christian religions. His theology depended on a distinction between the Word (i.e., God's self-revelation as concretely manifested in Christ) and religion. Religion, according to Barth, is human attempt to grasp at God and is opposed to revelation, in which God has come to humans through Christ. "Religion is the enemy of faith." "Religion is human's attempt to enter into communion with God on his own terms."

  [A paper presented at the 1997 Evangelical Theological Society Meeting in San Francisco]
  Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D.All Saints' Presbyterian Church, Lancaster, PA, Pastor
  Veritas Academy, Leola, PA, Instructor in Greek and Logic

  "...Barth exegetically eluded general revelation, theologically suppressed natural theology, and philosophically rejected both. But in the argument of the epistle to the Romans, general revelation forms the basis for the very righteousness of God in the condemnation of all humanity. Due to this, the grace of God is intelligible and the gospel is grounded. The themes of general revelation, special revelation, righteousness, wrath and grace are coherent in the biblical account, though not in Barth. Hence, the title of this paper is arranged in logical form, the premises of a disjunctive syllogism (P or Q, not P, therefore Q). This paper concludes with the negation of the disjunct "Karl Barth's Rejection of Natural Theology." Consequently, the other disjunct remains, "An Exegesis of Romans 1:19-20." The result is a coherent and supportive relationship between reason and revelation. ..." [end quote]

  ~ Janice

    On Oct 30, 2007, at 11:49 PM, wrote:

    It was I who brought up Romans 1:20 in the thread and I have to go with John on this one, George. I see Romans 1:20 as saying that God is reflected in his creation (What has been made). -Mike (Friend of ASA)

      -----Original Message-----
      From: John Walley <>
      To: 'George Murphy' <>;
      Sent: Tue, 30 Oct 2007 11:01 pm
      Subject: RE: [asa] D'Souza vs. Hitchens - Surrending the debate
      epistemologically by subjecting revealed knowledge to science


  Sorry for the delay in the response but I wanted to get back to you on this. I remember your email on 23 October but then as now I am not sure I am in agreement with you on the interpretation of Rom 1:20. That is an interesting perspective but I don't see that as being consistent with the rest of scripture.

  There are many other scriptures that seem to imply this same idolatry" of natural theology. For instance, "The fool has said in his heart there is no God", "The heavens declare the Glory of God" and God reveals His wrath against those "who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" etc., etc.. To me, these all make clear that God's perspective on the default conclusion of natural revelation is that it leads to Him. I don't know where you get this idolatry twist.

  This I would consider valid knowledge and truth and therefore impertinent to surrender that in any debate with atheists. I will concede that this is knowledge from a spiritual source ultimately but as the above scriptures indicate, all the evidence leads to it and the only way to avoid this conclusion is to willfully reject it and live in denial of it. But however, keep in mind that the source of truth or knowledge in no way disqualifies it from being so. For instance, a good example from the ID literature is the discovery of the benzene ring which was the result of a dream.


      -----Original Message-----
      From: George Murphy
      Sent: Sunday, October 28, 2007 4:15 PM
      To: John Walley;
      Subject: Re: [asa] D'Souza vs. Hitchens - Surrending the debate epistemologically by subjecting revealed knowledge to science

      John -

      In a post of 23 October I pointed out some of the problems with the type of appeal to Rom.1:20 that you keep trying to make. In the real world in which all people are sinful, one can speak of "knowledge" of God from creation only in an extremely limited sense since the result of trying to develop such a knowledge from observation of the world alone is inevitable idolatry. That is Paul's whole point in that passage & it's a serious mistake to try to make it into an argument for natural revelation.

      & in fact "the project of natural theology" to which Groothuis refers is simply the project of idolatry. An attempt to base the claim that "there is a God" on observations of nature may be just barely defensible, but any attempt to say who or what God (which is what a "theology" will do) will always produce some false god.

      Again, it's a quite different matter to look at the natural world in the light of God's historical revelation which is centered on Christ & to try to develop a "natural theology" as part of explicitly Christian theology. But that doesn't seem to be what either Groothuis or you are talking about. - Shalom George


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Received on Wed Oct 31 12:34:35 2007

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