Rationality and Scripture

by John M. Frame

Associate Prof, of Apologetics and Systematic Theology Westminster Theological Seminary in California


[This paper was originally published in Hendrik Hart, Johan Van Der Hoeven, and Nicholas Wolterstorff, ed., Rationality in the Calvinian Tradition (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1983), 293-317. This material is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. Please contact the publisher for permission to copy, distribute or reprint. It appears here by permission of the publisher.]


We all take the Bible to be the Word of God inscripturated. Consequently, the Bible presents Christian philosophers with the supreme standard for all of human life. Is our understanding of Scripture in faith a rule for human analysis? In what sense do the canons of inference hold for our understanding of the Bible? If our intercourse with Scripture involves more than propositions and intellectual operations, how can this “more” be defined and what is its importance relative to propositions and intellectual operations? Given the traditional view of the autonomy of reason, is our confession of Scripture as the Word of God compatible with our views of the nature of inference?

The organizers of our conference on Rationality in the Calvinian Tradition formulated the above paragraph as a stimulus to our thinking concerning the relationship of Scripture to rationality. As such I have found it excellent, and I shall try to respond to all of its questions in this paper, though not necessarily in the order presented. The first two sentences of the paragraph are evidently presented as convictions to be pre­supposed, not argued, and I gladly accept them as such.

The paper will deal, first, with the rule of Scripture over the Christian life as a whole. I shall then seek to show, at least in broad terms, how this rule applies specifically to our use of reason, concluding with a discussion of how reason, so understood, functions in our interpretation of Scripture itself. Obviously, these discussions are interdependent: for as I seek to interpret Scripture’s teachings at the beginning of the paper, I will be presupposing the hermeneutical points made at the end, as well as the epistemological points made in the middle, and, naturally, the middle and end also presuppose the beginning. Such circularity is common in theology and philosophy, and I know of no way to avoid it. God’s truth is an organism.


I. Scripture as Our Rule of Faith and Life

I think it is important for us to recognize that reasoning is one of many human activities, one of many aspects of human life. Scripture therefore governs our reasoning, first of all, as it governs life as a whole. We ought, therefore, to give some attention to the way in which Scripture is intended by God to rule human life in general. I shall assume, here, with the “stimulus paragraph,” that “the Bible is the Word of God inscripturated” and thus is “the supreme standard for all of human life.” But some reflection is needed as to how Scripture functions as “supreme standard.”

A. Scripture and the Organism of Revelation

First, although Scripture is the Word of God, it is not the whole of God’s revelation to us. It has often been pointed out (especially, in recent years, by thinkers oriented to the cosmonomic idea philosophy)1 that in Scrip­ture, “word of God” applies not only to spoken and written revelation, but also to that divine speech that created2 and directs3 the world, and to Jesus Christ himself4 as the supreme self-expression of the Father. Thus, God makes himself known to us, not only through the Bible, but through everything in creation.5 We ourselves, made in God’s “image,”6 constitute an especially important form of God’s self-disclosure.7

God never intended that any of these forms of revelation should function without the others. From the very beginning of Adam’s existence, he was con­fronted by a world that revealed God, a spoken word that defined his nature and task,8 and his own nature as God’s image. Clearly, God intended Adam to interpret the world and himself consistently with the spoken revelation: Adam was to accept his status as the image of God and to regard the world as properly subject to his godly dominion. Thus the spoken word was to determine Adam’s interpretation of the revelation of God in creation. But, on the other hand, Adam’s knowledge of the creation surely also influenced his understanding of and response to God’s spoken words. It is hard to Imagine Adam understanding the spoken revelation of Gen. 1:28-30 without some understanding of the world independent of that particular revelation. For him to understand that word of God, he had to understand the language in which it was spoken; he had to have some idea what it meant to “be fruitful and multiply,” to “replenish and subdue;” he had to know what the “earth” was. Possibly some of that information might have been given to him by additional verbal revelations, but to assume this would be gratuitous. Surely such procedure does not occur today, at least, when the need for it would seem to be identical. And it is in any case impossible to teach anyone language through words alone; the words must be tied to the world about which they speak.9 Further, it is also the case that Adam could not obey the command of Gen. 1:28-30 without some additional knowledge of himself and the world. How, after all, does one go about “subduing the earth?” Surely his is a technological feat of enormous complexity, requiring a careful study both of the earth and of one’s own capacities. Such study was essential if Adam and his descendants were to learn concretely and specifically what it meant to replenish and subdue the earth. And surely we must ask: if we understand God’s word only in general terms and not in its specific requirements, can we claim to understand it at all?

The same situation exists today. To understand and apply Scripture, we must know something about the world and about ourselves. Understanding Scripture s never merely a matter of memorizing words and locations of verses. A parrot- or a computer- could be taught to do that. The Jews of Jesus’ day had a good rote-knowledge of Scripture; but Jesus accuses them of ignorance of the word of God, since they failed to see the relationships between the old covenant documents and the crucial redemptive events of their own time.10  To understand Scripture is to understand its bearing on our lives, upon our world. But, if this is so, then we cannot claim to understand Scripture unless we also understand things other than Scripture. Not even theology may restrict its attention to Scripture alone; for theology aims, not to reproduce the Bible, but to put Scripture into different words, words designed to communicate its truth into a new context. Theology seeks to answer people’s questions about the Bible, to meet people’s needs from the Bible. As such, it must understand those needs, those questions, that present context into which the truth must be spoken.11

Thus, revelation is an organism. Revelation in Scripture, world and self presuppose and supplement one another; one cannot understand one of them without reference to the others. However, we may not stop with such observations. From what I have said so far, the distinctive role of Scripture within this organism is not apparent. Until now, I have communicated no sense of the prominence of Scripture in the believer’s life. Indeed, at this point, it may seem as though. Scripture is just one of a number of sources for revelation to be considered on an equal basis; so that when apparent conflicts arise, e.g. between my under­standing of Scripture and my understanding of the natural world, I might, with, equal sense of responsibility before God,-go either way. Such an attitude, however, would scarcely do justice to the sharp distinctions in Scripture itself between the word of God on the one hand and the word of man on the other. On such a view, what practical distinction could be drawn between the word of God and my own wisdom, imagination, reasoning? Why wouldn’t Abraham have had the option of acting on the evidence of his eyes rather than of the promise (Rom. 4:18-21)?

The question, then, of Scripture’s distinctive role within the “organism” must be faced. I suggest that Scripture is distinctive in at least three ways.

1. Subject Matter: Scripture is distinctive, first of all, in that it is a story that would not otherwise be available to us, the story of Jesus Christ and how he saved his people from their sins. The purpose of Scripture, then, is not to give us miscellaneous Information on all sorts of subjects. It has a specific focus, a direction. It is directed toward a particular human need, the need of redemption, rather than other needs, such as the need fora cancer cure or the need for an adequate theory of geologic strata. This focus is reflected in the style of Scripture: it is written, generally, in the language of everyday life, rather than in the technical style of scientists and philosophers.

Much has been written by reformed authors in recent years concerning this focus (“scopus”) of Scripture.12  Essentially the same point has been made in various different terminologies: that Scripture is a “book of faith,”13 that it “confessionally qualified,”14 that it is “Christologically theocentric.”15 In itself, the point is neither new16  nor controversial. Controversy does arise, however, concerning certain conclusions which have been drawn from this principle. Jack B. Rogers, for instance, takes issue with Van Til’s statement that “the Bible has much to say about the universe,” giving as his sole argument the redemptive focus of Scripture.17 Quite a large logical jump here. The focus on redemption proves that Scripture does not say anything much about the universe?  Why? Does Christ have nothing to do with the universe? Does redemption? Even if redemption has nothing to do with the universe, does a “focus” on such redemption exclude incidental reference to things in the universe? The universe, you know, is a big place, and the Bible is a big book. It’s a bit hard to conceive of the latter, avoiding the former to the extent that Rogers conceives. Similarly, A. DeGraaff reflects on the soteriological focus of Scripture and, again from that fact alone, concludes

…that the references to God’s creating do not answer our scientific, biological or geological questions, just as little as the Bible answers the questions of the historian or the anthropologist. The Bible is just not that kind of a book.18

Again, it sounds as though redemption takes place somewhere other than in the world. DeGraaff writes as though it were perfectly obvious that a focus on redemption excludes anything of interest to the sciences. And Dooyeweerd tells us that since Scripture deals with concepts of faith, it can have no interest in the chronological relations among the days of creation.19

The question of scopus is, of course, a serious one, not to be ridiculed. But it ought to be plain that arguments on the issue need to be constructed with more care than has been common to this point. We need particularly to take into account (a) that the gospel message is a message about events which took place in time-space history- the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and the filling of the church with the Spirit. These events are crucial to any account of history, “scientific” or otherwise.20  And also: (b)that the gospel message is a message of cosmic importance about the creation,fall and redemption, not only of man, but of all things,21 and that it makes a demand upon all areas of human life22 including, of course, his science. And: (c) If Scripture is “the Word of God written” (stimulus-paragraph), then surely what God teaches us therein must be accepted, not only in its central thrust, but also in its obiter dicta. It is blasphemous for us to tell God that we will honor only what we regard as the “main drift” of his words.

Having said all of this, Istill would not expect to find in Ezekiel predictions of the invention of the airplane, or in Proverbs a formula for con­verting mass into energy. But I do expect to find in Scripture those religious assumptions about the cosmos which Christians ought to hold and with which they ought to bring their scientific theories into conformity.23  And, especially in regard to Scriptural teachings about creation, miracle, and resurrection, I would not be at all surprised to find in Scripture some detailed factual assertions which would conflict with someassertions of some scientists. On specific questions (e.g., whether Gen. 5 contradicts the common scientific view of the antiquity of mankind), I know of no a priori theological or philosophical principle by which an answer can be found by way of deduction from the scopus_ of Scripture as a whole. Rather, the passage in question must be studied individually to determine its own particular scopus, that scopus being consis­tent, to be sure, with what II Tim. 3:l6f and other passages say about the purpose of Scripture as a whole. The fact that Scripture has a redemptive focus gives us a rough-and-ready guide, a general rule, as to what we should expect to find in Scripture; but it does not answer all detailed questions about Scripture’s contents: it does not make exegesis unnecessary; it does not immunize us against the power of God’s word to surprise.24

Thus it will be understood that for purposes of this paper, the chief importance of scopus is not that it limits the subjects which Scripture may  address, although it does set some rough limits of this sort. Rather, the importance of scopus is that it gives Scripture a centrality for all thought and life. Since Scripture contains the message of redemption, we must have continual recourse to it in all areas of life. As sinners saved by grace, strug­gling with the remnants of sin in all our thinking and living, we must hunger and thirst constantly for the written word of God, seeking in it the means by which God wishes to sanctify each area of life. First in importance for every part of life must be the implications of the biblical message. And since it is in Scripture, not nature in general, that this saving message is to be found, this principle necessarily gives to Scripture a certain primacy within the total organism of revelation. It is Scripture that shows us how to use the other revelation obediently, how to repent of sin in our use of creation. Scripture must be allowed to correct that thinking which is based on natural revelation. But how can Scripture have such primacy without destroying the organic character of revelation? How can Scripture correct our understanding of creation when, as we mentioned earlier, creation also often helps us to correct our understanding of Scripture? Be patient; I must first move on to other aspects of Scripture’s “distinctive role” within the organism.

2. Soteric Function: Scripture not only contains a distinctive subject-matter; it also has a distinctive kind of power. As the apostle says, the gospel, the message of Scripture, is “the power of God unto salvation.”25 In Scripture we not only find the information needed to reform, to sanctify our lives; we also find there the ability to do so; for the Holy Spirit of God works in and with the word, and he works in saving power.26  Thus we have an additional motive to return again and again to Scripture. It is there that we find the strength to change, to reform our ideas and life-decisions in obedience to God. The words of Scripture and the Spirit therein work together (not, of course, independently); thus by the Spirit’s work, the words “captivate” us, “grip” us.27 We find them memorable, penetrating, profoundly true. We find that we cannot avoid taking them into account.

It is often pointed out that the soteric “grip” of Scripture upon us is not to be equated with theoretical insight.28 It is a “heart-knowledge.”29  Indeed, the regenerating and sanctifying power of the word operates on children as well as adults, upon ordinary people as much as scholars. That much truth, at least, may be found in the assertion that this knowledge of God is “beyond…scientific problems”30 and “not a question of theoretical reflection.”30 Further, it is right to point out that the product of this saving power is knowledge of God,not a mere knowledge of miscellaneous facts, theological or otherwise. Such observations, however, ought more often to be balanced by the following consider­ations: (a) The power of the Spirit energizes all of Scripture, for all of Scripture is God’s redemptive message, God’s gospel.31  The Spirit drives home to God’s people, therefore, all of Scripture’s implications, its applications for our lives.32 As observed earlier, our responsibility to Scripture is not merely to its “general drift,” but to its full range of meaning – “every word that comes out of the mouth of God;” “all Scripture.”33 Thus the implications of Scripture for theoretical work come under the empowering, illuminating ministry of the Spirit, although the work of the Spirit is certainly not limited to that, (b) Therefore, though every Christian is in the “grip” of the word, not every Christian has experienced illumination with respect to the same Scriptural contents. A theologian may be convicted toy the Spirit as to the relevance of Rom. 6 to the doctrine of sanctification, while his ten-year-old son may have no idea even as to what the questions are. To summarize: the scopus of the Spirit’s work in and with Scripture is as broad as the scopus of Scripture itself (see I, A, 1}.

So, as we return to the question of the place of Scripture in the organism of revelation, we find that the importance of the Spirit’s work does not lie in any limitation of the scopus of Scripture in addition to those limits noted earlier. Rather, the soteric function of Scripture is important in that it shows us how Scripture can have a primacy among the other forms of revelation, even while being in some ways dependent upon them. We must have continual recourse to Scripture, not only that we might be rightly informed of God’s truth, but so that we may gain power to reform our ways of thinking and living. Scripture rightly understood (with the inevitable help of general revelation!) can cut through our falsehood in a way that nothing else (even general revelation seen in the light of Scripture) can.

3. Covenantal Status: Scripture is also distinctive in that it is the constitution of the covenant between ourselves and God. Suzerainty covenants in the ancient near east were governed by written documents. The document was authored by the “great king” and laid down as law before the “vassal king,” the lesser king who became, by covenant, the servant of the great king. Kline34 argues persuasively that written divine revelation should be viewed as falling under that genre; that Scripture is a “covenant document.” As such, it is by Scripture, by the covenant document, that our faithfulness to the covenant is to be tested. To disobey the document is to disobey the covenant, and vice versa. When God, through the prophets, conducts his “covenant lawsuit” against Israel, it is the treaty, the covenant document, which serves as the standard of judgment. Thus the document has a special status: it is placed in the ark of the covenant, the holiest place in Israel. It is to be read publicly, to be taught to children, to govern all areas of community life.

Fundamental to the covenantal status of Scripture is its divine author­ship. The covenant document, we recall, was authored by the great king himself, written in the first person. The same pattern is found in the Decalogue which is, according to Kline, the first covenant document in Israel. So strongly does Scripture emphasize the divine authorship of the Decalogue that it is said to be “written by the finger of God.”35

Whatever we may think of the details of Kline’s argument, it certainly presents a useful model of Scriptural revelation emphasizing concerns which Reformed theology has always had – with the divine authorship of Scripture and with its unique office as the “supreme standard of faith and life” (stimulus-paragraph). Nature does not have this kind of status. Although created and directed by God, it does not consist of words divinely authored. (Nature is governed by God’s word, but it is not the word.) And nature is not our cove­nant document; Scripture is.

All our thought and life, therefore, must be tested by Scripture. Although general revelation aids us in interpreting Scripture, once we are assured of Scripture’s teaching that assurance ought to take precedence over any opinions gained from any other source.

Thus the fact that general revelation helps us interpret Scripture, indeed that it often moves us to correct our interpretations of Scripture, does not make the two forms of revelation equivalent in function. To put the matter mewhat schematically: (a) Scripture does not correct general revelation, nor vice-versa; the two are equally authoritative, equally true, (b) Scripture does often correct our interpretation of general revelation, but the reverse is also true. All of our interpretations are subordinate to every form of divine revelation, (c) But there is also an important asymmetry: We must believe Scripture even when it appears to contradict information available from other sources. We are not to accept information apparently derived from other sources that seem to us to contradict Scripture. Or, toput it more concisely: what we interpret as the teaching of Scripture must prevail, in event of conflict, over what we interpret as the teaching of general revelation. I am, of course, talking about settled interpretations; certainly information derived from general relation can correct our interpretation of Scripture, as I have said earlier. But once we are convinced that Scripture teaches x, we must believe it, even if general revelation appears to teach not-x. This formulation is only an itempt to systematize the teaching of Romans 4 regarding the faith of Abraham. So far as Abraham could tell, the data of natural revelation (his great age, the condition of Sarah) rendered the divine promise impossible. Yet he believed le promise and was commended for his faith.

If, therefore, we try to maintain (a) and (b) without (c), we can make no meaningful distinction between walking by faith, and walking by sight. Without (c), Scripture and general revelation are equivalent in function, and Scripture is in no unique sense the covenant document of the people of God. No distinction, then, becomes possible between the word of God and the opinions of men, so far as their practical authority isconcerned.

Therefore, when we formulate the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, it is important to say that it contains all of the divine norms to which principle (c) applies. This is not to say that Scripture contains all truth or all of God’s revelation; it does not.6   It is to say that only Scripture stands in this particular relation to our decisions.

The first point, then, as to how Scripture rules human life in general, is that it functions interdependently with other forms of God’s revelation, but with a primacy among them necessitated by the nature of God’s redemptive covenant with his people.


B. Scripture and Sanctification

We noted earlier (I,A,2) that one aspect of Scripture’s rule over us is its role as a locus of soteric power: we go to Scripture, not only to gain infor­mation concerning God’s will, but also to receive strength to obey. But there is also another, seemingly opposite fact that must be noted about the relation between Scripture and sanctification: not only is Scripture necessary to our sanctification, but sanctification is necessary for a right use of Scripture. For a person to “prove what is the will of God,” he needs not only the intellec­tual ability to relate the biblical message to his situation (I, above); he also needs to offer his body as living sacrifice, to be transformed by the renewing of his mind37 to live as a child of light38 to love in a way that abounds in knowledge.39   According to Heb. 5:11-34, the deeper truths of Scripture (in context, the Melchizedek priesthood) are available only to the spiritually mature “who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”40 To properly apply Scripture, then, requires not only intellectual capacities, but moral and spiritual maturity as well. There is an inevitable circularity here: we go to Scripture in order to become more obedient; and as we become more obed­ient we come to understand Scripture better. How do we break into this circle? We don’t; we enter the circle by the grace of regeneration, by the power of the Holy Spirit.41


C. The Richness of Scripture’s Pedagogy 

We have discussed the rule of Scripture in relation to other forms of revelation and in relationship to our growth in grace. At this point, we shall focus more sharply upon the language of Scripture to learn something of the methods by which God in Scripture instructs his people.

There has, I think, often been a tendency among us, both as theologians and as simple believers, to think of Scripture as containing only one type of language. We tend sometimes to read the Bible as if it consisted exclusively of prepositional truths, bits of true information. (And yet we are not consistent: when in a different mood, we tend to read Scripture as a collection of ethical commands!) We know, of course, that Scripture does not consist only of one kind of language; but the usual goals of Bible study [(a.) ascertaining doctrinal truths, (b.) finding ethical principles] often lead us to read as if Scripture were all of one or two sorts. And our tendency to see theology exclusively as an academic or “theoretical” discipline has certainly not helped matters in this respect.42

In fact, of course, the variety of language in Scripture is rich, indeed. Its grammatical moods include not only indicative and imperative, but also significant interrogatives43 and exclamations.44  Our God teaches us not only by informing, but also (“Socratically”)by asking penetrating questions and by shouting us out of our complacency. The “illocutionary” and “perlocutionary” functions45 of biblical language are manifold: asserting, commanding, but also questioning, expressing, promising,46  praising, cursing, lamenting, confessing,instructing, edifying, comforting, amusing, convicting. The literary genres, too; historical narrative, law, prophecy, poetry, proverb, romance, letter, apocalypse. And many more specific things could be said under the category of Formgeschichte. And we should note also what David Kelsey says about the many different ways in which Scripture may function in a theological argument.47

To speak of Scripture, therefore, as “propositional revelation” is misleading, although against the mystical concepts of revelation prevalent in our day it is important to stress that Scripture does have some propositional content.48  And, since we must consult the whole Bible in determining the propositional content of God’s revelation, it is legitimate to say that all of Scripture is propositional in that it all has a propositional function; it all serves to inform us. But we should remember that the same can be said of the imperative, interrogative and exclamatory functions: all Scripture binds our conduct, questions us, awakens us. All Scripture is a hymn of praise to our great God and Savior; all Scripture is the faithful response of redeemed sinners. All is law; all is prophecy; all is wisdom. Thus, though all Scripture is propositional in a sense, Scripture is far more than propositional.49 50

It will be important for evangelical theologians in the future to work out a concept of Scriptural authority that does justice to this variety in biblical pedagogy. Too often our formulations make it sound as if acceptance of Scriptural authority simply amounts to believing a certain set of propositions taught by Scripture. It is important for us to consider how, not only the prop­ositional function, but also the other functions of Scripture serve as “authority” for us. For instance, what does it mean to say that a poem, a Psalm let us say, is authoritative? Certainly not merely that we should accept whatever prepositional teaching can be extracted from an analysis of it. Somehow, there is a difference between an authoritative poem (a canonical poem), and other poems. Surely the authoritative poems are to become the songs of our hearts, are to rule our inner life in some peculiar way. Much more work needs to be done on this kind of ques­tion.


II. Scripture as a Rule for Human Reasoning

To avoid trespassing on ground to be covered by other papers in this series (and to avoid getting beyond my depth!), let me define “reason” in a simple, quasi-dictionary fashion: “A person’s capacity for forming judgments, conclusions, inferences.” “Reasoning,” then, will be the process of forming those judgments, conclusions, inferences. So understood, reasoning is a part of life, and therefore we have been talking about it implicitly all along in this paper. What remains is to make explicit the applications of the preceding generalities to the specific topic of human reason.

The word “reason,” defined as above, does not appear in English trans­lations of Scripture (any more than does the word “Trinity” or phrases like “personal God” or “Christian labor union”). Yet it is evident that Scripture addresses the subject. First, as we have argued, Scripture addresses, redemptively, all of human life, and reason is part of that.51  Second, Scripture has much to say about human qualities and activities which presuppose and involve the ability to reason: wisdom, teaching, discernment, etc.52 Third, Scripture commands actions which involve making judgments, conclusions, inferences: obeying, understanding the word, loving others as Jesus loved us, etc.53  Fourth, Scrip­ture itself contains any number of judgments, conclusions, and inferences that it calls us to accept.54  To accept these is in itself a rational activity, a forming of a judgment, conclusion, inference. To say these things is not to say that Scripture is primarily concerned with reasoning or that the “rationality” of Scripture is its most important quality. Scripture is not “qualified by the analytical aspect,” to use Dooyeweerdian language.55  But it is concerned with human reasoning, as it is concerned with everything we do before God. Let me summarize some of the important applications of Scripture to the rational enter­prise under two headings: first, the status, and, second, the practice, of human reasoning.


A. The Status of Reason 

1. Its Importance

(a) Reasoning pervades human life. The forming of judgments, conclusions and inferences is not limited to academic or theoretical activities.56  It does not occur only when we are composing syllogisms; nor is it limited to “thinking,” if by thinking we mean puzzling ourselves about some problem or other. We often form judgments, etc. unconsciously or subconsciously. A woman sees a military officer coming toward her front door with a solemn expression on his face: she concludes immediately that he has brought bad news about her soldier husband. This is reasoning, drawing a conclusion by inference from data; it may very well be excellent reasoning; but there is no period of inward dialogue, no making of a syllogism. A football quarterback sees a tell-tale movement in the defensive backfield: he moves instinctively to avoid the defensive play which he knows is coming. This too is reasoning. He has formed a conclusion by infer­ence. But there is nothing academic about it; it is more like a reflex mechanism, but a mechanism inwrought by much training and study of the game. Such a one we call an “intelligent” quarterback; but such intelligence is different from the intelligence one hears in a lecture hall.57  Reasoning, therefore, is some­thing that everyone does, in every area of life. It is certainly not limited to those who have studied logic or epistemology. Those disciplines only seek to map some of the conditions which distinguish good from bad reasoning.58  Reasoning is so pervasive, because it is involved every time we respond voluntarily to a situation in our experience. Thus, inevitably, our response to Scripture involves reasoning. When I seek to obey Scripture, e.g. by showing more love to Christian brothers and sisters in my church, I do this because (consciously or not) I have reached the conclusion that such activity is a proper application of Scripture. (Scripture does not tell me specifically to love Mr. Jones; my obligation to love Mr. Jones is a conclusion based on inference.59)

(b) Scripture demands a rational response60.  Since any voluntary response to Scripture involves reasoning (good or bad), we must say that Scripture requires a rational response; the alternative is to claim that Scripture requires no voluntary response at all. Furthermore, since Scripture demands a proper response, we conclude that it requires of us, not only reasoning, but good reasoning. Reasoning is a crucial aspect of our responsibility before God. God cares that we make the right judgments, conclusions, inferences; he cares about this because he cares about ourobedience. Reason has its limitations and its dangers , as we shall see; and from those dangers some have concluded that it is some­how impious to apply human reason to the things of God.61  Surely our use of reason must be responsible, subject to God’s lordship. But to deny altogether the legitimacy of reasoning from Scriptural data is to deny the legitimacy of obedience, for it is to deny the application of Scripture to the world in which we seek to obey the Lord. Irrationalism is not pious; it is ungodly, Satanic. God commands us to apply his word to our world;59 and in doing so, he commands us to reason and reason well . That is the basic point: that reasoning is part of obedience. In addition, it is also worth noting that Scripture contains a great many arguments, reasonings, which it expects us to appreciate. But it is not only these that demand a rational response; it is the whole Scripture. Thus the position of the Westminster Confession of Faith, I, vl, which finds the “whole counsel of God,” not only in the express statements of Scripture, but also in what may be deduced from Scripture by “good and necessary consequence,” is ines­capable. Our obligation before God consists, not of the bare words of Scripture, but of the bearing, the application which these words have upon our decisions.

If anyone objects that this principle exalts human wisdom (e.g. humanly formulated laws of logic) to the status of divine revelation, I would repeat what I said earlier,62  that every obedient response to Scripture involves a knowledge of creation and of self as well as a knowledge of Scripture. This fact does not erase the “primacy” of Scripture.63 Scripture retains the prerogative to judge any system of logic that we use to interpret it. But we must face the fact that whenever we use the Bible, some human reasoning is involved.

2. Its Limitations

Since reasoning is part of life, part of our total responsibility before God, it is never something “neutral.” As a part of human life, reasoning is something that we can do’ in a godly or an ungodly way, obediently or disobediently, competently or incompetently. Such sciences as logic, mathematics and epistemology may usefully be classified as “ethical” sciences;64 for they seek to help us determine what we ought (ethical “ought”) to believe, granted certain data or certain other beliefs. But we must also say that, not only the conclusions, but also the premisses, the presuppositions, the starting points of these sciences are subject to ethical- ultimately religious- evaluation.

The idea that human reason, or at least the “laws of logic,” are a neutral, even infallible basis for human decision-making is an idea that dies hard. Doubt­less it will be discussed and criticized often in this series of papers. Here, however, it would be wise to remind ourselves briefly of various specific limits on the ultimacy, the powers and the reliability of reason in general and logic in particular: (a) The law of non-contradiction is only “necessary” to those who acknowledge a practical (“ethical”) necessity to think logically.65  (b) Logic presupposes that those using it are able to agree on the nature of and criteria for truth and falsity; but these concepts are controversial, and religiously so. The agreement to say that “p may not be both true and false in the same respect and at the same time” is a formal (and thus in an important sense meaningless) agreement unless there is agreement on the meaning of “true” and “false.” (c) The disciplines of mathematics and logic, far from consisting of truisms, are riddled with controversy.66  (d) No one has succeeded In justifying induction from within the discipline of logic; yet all non-deductive reasoning presupposes it.67 (e) We do not know all the “laws of logic;” in fact our systems fail to account for many everyday forms of inference (such as the examples above under II,A,1,(a)).68  (f) The discovery of one fact apparently contrary to one’s belief, or even an apparent contradiction within that belief, does not serve to refute it. When faced with such a challengeone may simply treat it as a “problem” to be worked out within one’s already-existing system of thought. One cannot specify in precise terms how much unresolved discrepancy will, or ought to, cause someone to reject a belief; the point at which “refutation” occurs will depend greatly upon practical, personal- even religious- factors.69 And generally such discrepancy will produce modifications in one’s position rather than abandonment of it. (g) The conclusion of a syllogism is true only if its premises are true; thus, logical rigor in itself never guarantees truth. And our knowledge of the truth of premisses is always conditioned by our fallibility.70  (h) The principle of non-contradiction states that “A is A and not non-A at the same time and in thesame respect;” thus it is limited in its application to aspects of reality which are unchanging.71 (i) Logical syllogisms generally require some restatement of an argument, some translation from ordinary language into the technical language of logic. There are acknowledged discrepancies which enter here: the logical “if then” (material implication) e.g. is generally not equiv­alent to the use of “if-then” in ordinary language. Thus an otherwise adequate argument may fail by inadequately translating the ordinary language which it purports to test.

Thus it is evident that we do not find in human reason alone, even in logic, an infallible criterion of truth that might compete with Scripture as our ultimate covenant rule. Scripture, indeed, must be seen to rule over our reasoning as over every other aspect of life.


B. The Practice of Reason

How does Scripture rule our reasoning? As it rules all of life. Let us refer back to the principles discussed under (I) above:

1. The Organism of Revelation: We get the premisses of our argument, as well as the principles of reasoning, by a godly, obedient correlation between Scripture, the world and ourselves, with Scripture having “covenantal primacy.” The triad “Scripture, world and self” corresponds roughly, not perfectly, to the epistemological triad, “law, object and subject.”72  The correlation is imperfect, because, as we have seen, we discover laws (of thought and life) by correlating Scripture, world and self; and we learn of objects and subjects similarly. Indeed, every item of experience functions in all three ways, as law, object and subject: everything has a law-function, since any such item may be involved in an application of Scripture to a situation (God expects us to take account of, and thus to be governed by, all that is,-to the extent that this is possible for us); everything has an object-function, since everything (in experience, again) is a possible object of knowledge; and everything in experience has a subject-function, because it is my_ experience, part of my inner life. Items of experience, then, can be seen from what I would call “normative, situational and existential perspectives.” But no item functions in only one or two perspectives; each functions in all three.73   Without normativity, an item cannot be understood; without objectivity, it cannot be real; without subjectivity, it cannot be known.

This triadic scheme illumines some ways In which epistemologists have tried to justify the holding of a belief: (a) by showing that that belief follows from a sound application of the laws governing reasoning, (b) by showing that the belief “corresponds to reality” (often conceived in empirical terms), (c) by showing that the belief is subjectively satisfactory, that it leaves one at peace, with no further inclination to question. Some have attempted to reduce two of these to the third: (a) It can be argued that law is fundamental, since “corres­pondence” and “satisfaction” presuppose criteria for correspondence and satis­faction, (b) It can be argued that correspondence is fundamental, since “law” and “satisfaction” are suitable criteria only to the extent that they are grounded in reality. (c) It can be argued that satisfaction is primary, since we acknowledgeonly those “laws” and alleged “correspondences” that leave us satisfied. But if we assume the teaching of Scripture and of Calvin concerning the interdependence between our knowledge of God’s law, the creation and our­selves, we do not need to elevate any of the three perspectives above the others. Since God has established all three and established them in a coherent, wise order, we can start with any perspective, as long as we do not neglect the principles emphasized by the others. We can justify our beliefs by reference to God’s laws for thought, as long as we recognize that these must be applied to the creation and to ourselves. We can justify our beliefs by reference to the objectivity of creation, as long as we accept God’s criteria for objectivity and recognize the problematics of approaching that objective world through a fallible subjectivity. And we can justify our beliefs subjectively, as long as we recognize God’s criteria for legitimate subjective satisfaction and the fact that we are not alone in God’s world.

Thus our reasoning, as all of life, is founded on the full richness of God’s organic revelation: law, object and subject interpenetrate and interpret one another. But we should also note that here, as in the rest of life, Scrip­ture is primary. From one point of view. Scripture is a rather small “item.” From the normative perspective, it is only part of the “organism of revelation” by which we determine our obligations. From the situational perspective, it is only one part of creation. Prom the existential perspective, it is only one item of our subjective experience. Yet it is, in each case, the definitive part. As I said earlier, our settled beliefs about Scripture’s teaching (however influenced those beliefs may be by extra-Scriptural knowledge) must prevail, in the event of conflict, over beliefs drawn from any other source. As this is the case in all of life, it is the case in the area of reasoning. And so when Scrip­ture teaches that human reasoning is subject to God’s law, that it is subject to the fallibilities of sin and finitude, that God and his plan are incom­prehensible, then it is to be believed. Scripture is not a textbook of logic any more than it is a textbook of biology or geology; but what it says about logic and reasoning in general must be respected.

2. Sanctification: The subjective basis of reasoning (“existential perspective,” above) underscores the important fact that one cannot reason or understand unless he has the capacity to do so. One cannot see unless he has “eyes to see.” One cannot, therefore, make adequate use of the organism of revelation unless he is subjectively qualified by virtue of regeneration and sanctification. And growth in sanctification leads to a more adequate use of revelation. What of the unregenerate? Are they unable to reason at all? Scripture speaks of them both as “knowing God”74  and as “not knowing God”.75 To distinguish adequately between their “knowledge” and their “ignorance” would take up too much space here. Their knowledge, at least, is an ironic, paradoxical sort of knowledge-in-ignorance which exists only by virtue of God’s common grace, which restrains the effects of sin. We are, however, considering reason as it ought to operate, i.e. regenerately.

I should, however, address the question: are the most sanctified people always the best reasoners? No. (a) For sanctification is not the only factor bearing upon reason. A person’s intelligence, his access to data, his education and training, his experience in reasoning, all these play a role as well, (b) For sanctification bears on all areas of human life, not only reasoning. And it affects these areas of life sometimes unevenly: a person may show his holiness by helping the poor, while not being as faithful in other areas of life. Yet sanctification can be an epistemological advantage: for it opens our eyes to relate our experience to God.

3. Richness of Pedagogy: Scripture teaches us about reason by describing (at least implicitly the importance, limits and practice of reason (above), by providing examples of godly reasoning to govern our thought, but also in many other ways. Remember the examples of “informal logic” cited earlier (II,A,l,a): the woman observing the soldier, the quarterback observing the defensive players. In Scripture, God wants us not only to draw conclusions from arguments, from prepositional teaching; he wants us to respond rationally to poems, to parables, to the events described in the narratives. And he wants us to recognize the multiplicity of uses to which Scripture can (rationally) be put. This point is of hermeneutical importance. The allegory of Hagar and Sarah (Gal. 4:21-31) is baffling if we believe the Old Testament story is written only to inform us of a significant event. But no: God also gave us that story as an illustration of New Testament truth; that too is a legitimate use of Scripture., a use by which people can be taught, by which their understanding can be illumined.

The richness of Scripture’s pedagogy also implies that to apprehend what Scripture teaches we need all our faculties: not only logical skills, but imagination, emotional empathy with the text, the will to obey, etc. We need these faculties if we are to respond rightly (and therefore “rationally”) to all the richness of Scripture.76


III. Reasoning About Scripture

Having discussed some points about Scripture and about reasoning, I now will state a few conclusions of a “hermeneutical” sort, concerning the role of reason in the use of Scripture. Much of this has been said already, but it ought to be stated here so that all the questions in the “stimulus-paragraph” will be explicitly addressed if not adequately answered. The outline will parallel than in II.

First, there can be no question but that reason has a legitimate application to Scripture. To say that there is something wrong about drawing inferences from Scripture is to deny that Scripture can be used, that it can be applied to our situations, that it can be obeyed. Obedience always involves (consciously or unconsciously) a rational correlation between the words of Scripture and some present human decision.

Stillwe must remember that human reason is limitedfallible. We do make mistakes, in our use of Scripture as well as in everything else. And in one sense, the limits of reasoning are especially evident when we seek to apply it to Scripture: for God is incomprehensible; his thoughts are not our thoughts; his understanding is unsearchable.77  I assume that the papers on the subject “Thinking About God” will consider the problems involved here, so I will say little more. We should recognize however that historically theologians have found it difficult to speak of God without at least “apparent contradiction.” My own conclusion (argued more fully elsewhere78) is that we must simply “hang loose” to our current standards of what is logical or rational; that we must, in reasoning about God, be especially sensitive to the limitations of our logic, opening ourselves even more than usual to catch the practical “informal logic” of Scripture’s teachings. When our logical deductions lead to more and more flagrant “apparent contradictions,” when they lead us to deny things that are plainly taught in Scripture, then we should “back off,” acknowledge an unresolved “problem,”79 and direct our thinking elsewhere until we get a new insight. But such problems must never lead us to abandon (if such were even possible) the use of logic altogether in the appropriation of Scripture. To abandon logic is to abandon our responsibility before God.

We gain a rational understanding of Scripture in the same way we gain a rational understanding of anything else: by correlating Scripture, world and self (and thus law, object and subject), by receiving from the Holy Spirit the grace to understand, by recognizing the richness of Scriptural pedagogy and the corresponding richness of the response demanded (a response of the whole person, involving all his capacities).80   Scripture has the primacy even here, even in its own interpretation (Scriptura ipsius interpres). But this primacy is not threatened by the use of reason if our reasoning is carried out in a godly way.



1 Note, e.g., Olthuis, J. and Zylstra, B., “Confessing Christ in Education,” International Reformed Bulletin 42 (Summer, 1970), 4lf; Zylstra,B., “Thy Word Our Life,” International Reformed Bulletin 49-50 (Spring/Summer, 1972), 57-68. On p. 68 Zylstra says that “A number of leaders in the orthodox protestant community have lately insisted that the Scriptures are the Word of God, only and exclusively.” If this means that these leaders deny the existence of the other forms of divine speech we have noted, then I am at a loss as to what leaders Zylstra is referring to.

2 Ps. 33:6 (cf. Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, etc.), John 1:1-3, II Pet. 3:5.

3 Ps. 119:89-92, 147:15-18, 148:8.

4 John 1:1-14, I John 1:1, Rev. 19:13.

5 Ps. 19:Iff, Rom. 1:l8ff. Note also that the Bible does not exhaust even the total of oral and written revelation God has given to men. There were prophecies, words of Jesus, probably even Pauline epistles, which in God’s providence did not find their way into the canon of Scripture. Since, however, I believe that oral and written revelation (with the status of covenant law) has ceased, I would maintain that Scripture contains all the revelation of that type available to us. So, for simplicity, I will speak as though “Scripture” is equivalent to “oral and written revelation.”

6 Gen. l:26f,

7 The assertions of this paragraph have always been central to Reformed (or “Calvinian,” if you will) theology. Calvin, more than any of the other reformers, was impressed by the stamp of God upon the whole creation, and with man as a reflection of God’s glory. Note the remarkable first pages of the Institutes where he correlates the knowledge of God with self-knowledge, and then (contrary to what we might expect from a Calvinist) tells us he doesn’t know which comes first.

8 Gen. 1:28-30; see also 2:l6f, 19.

9 If one does not know, e.g. English, it will not help him to define one English word by means of synonyms or definitions in English. The teacher must, at some point, speak a language which the student knows. You cannot learn a language (through verbal teaching, at least) unless you already know one. So I assume that God did not teach language to Adam merely by speaking to him. There must have been some other means. Thus when Adam received the verbal revelation, he understood it partly in reference to what he already knew.

10 Matt. 22:29-32, John 5:39f; cf. Luke 24:25.

11 For more considerations as to why general and special revelation presuppose and supplement one another, see Van Til, C., “Nature and Scripture,”‘ in Stonehouse N., and Woolley, P., eds., The Infallible Word(Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1946), 255-293.

12 Important in this development has been Berkouwer, G., Holy Scripture (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1975). Cf. also the study committee report, “The Nature and Extent of Biblical Authority” (Grand RapidsBoard of Publications of the Christian Reformed church, 1972).

13 Dooyeweerd, H., In the Twilight of Western Thought (Nutley, N.J., Craig Press, 1968), 132-156.

14 Spykman, G., “A Confessional Hermeneutic,” RES Theological Bulletin I, 3 (Dec., 1973), 9.

15 Klooster, P., “Toward a Reformed Hermeneutic,” RES Theological Bulletin II, 1 (May1974), 5.

16 In response to the charge that such theologians as the Hodges and B.B. Warfield neglected this truth, N. Shepherd (in an unpublished lecture, “The Nature of Biblical Authority”) cites Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible (Phila., Presbyterian and Reformed, 1948), 161: “If the ‘inspiration’ by which Scripture is produced renders it trustworthy and authoritative, it renders it trustworthy and authoritative only that it may the better serve to make men wise unto salvation.” Cf. also C. Van Til’s response to Jack B. Rogers in Geehan, E., ed., Jerusalem andAthens (Nutley, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971), 165-171.

17 Rogers, J., “Van Til and Warfield on Scripture in the Westminster Confession,” in Geehan, E., ed., op_. cit., l62f.

18 De Graaff, A., and Seerveld, C., Understanding the Scriptures (Toronto, AACS, 1968), 12. Earlier in the paragraph, however, he says that “the creation story serves as the religious basis and directive for the Christian biologist’s and geologist’s theorizing.” Thus, apparently, Scripture does, after all, answer biological and geological questions, namely questions about the religious basis of those disciplines. Possibly De Graaff is working with some highly precise concept of a “biological or geological question;” but, if so, why does he not tell us about it?

19 Dooyeweerd, H., op. cit., l49ff.

20 Shepherd, op. cit.; Packer, J., Beyond the Battle for the Bible (Westchester, 111., Cornerstone Books, 1980), 54f.

21 cf., e.g., Gen. 3:17ff, Rom. 8:18-22, Col. 1:19.

22 I Cor. 10:31, Rom. 14:23, Col. 3:17, 24; cf. our stimulus-paragraph. Note also Van Til, C., in Geehan, E., ed., op. cit., l65ff (vs. Rogers), Shepherd, N., “Bible, Church and Proclamation” “(response to Prof. J.A. Heyns), International Reformed Bulletin 54 (Summer, 1973), 60f.

23 De Graaff seems to recognize this (above, note 18), but I cannot regard this recognition as consistent with his later statement that Scripture answers no scientific questions. For one thing, I see no reason to say that questions about the religious direction of a science are not “scientific.” Furthermore, if this religious direction exists, then surely it influences in some way the specific assertions of that science. Thus if one challenges that religious direction, one simultaneously challenges some of the specific assertions of the science in question. Thus if Scripture answers the question about religious direction, it answers at least some specific questions as well.

24 The same must be said about statements to the effect that Scripture is a “naive” or “pre-theoretical” book as opposed to a “theoretical” book. I have criticized the common naive/theoretical distinction as taught by the cosmonomic philosophy in my pamphlet, “The Amsterdam Philosophy” (Phillipsburg, N.J., Harmony Press, 1972), 6-14. I find the distinction unclearly defined,; its persuasiveness built upon vivid but unexplained metaphors. I find no justification for the apparent denial of any continuum between the “naive” category and the “theoretical,” especially since each seems able to include elements of the other. I see no basis for saying that naive thinking is somehow beyond the scope of philosophical or scientific criticism or that theoretical thought must be strictly limited to the cosmos. Thus, I do not find it helpful to discuss Scripture in terms of such a dichotomy. Certainly Scripture is generally written in the language of ordinary life as opposed to that of the academic world. But there are large diversities of language within Scripture itself (e.g. between the Psalms and Romans). I don’t, again, expect to find E=MC2 in the Bible: the connection of that with redemption is remote, and don’t think Scripture gets to be that theoretical. But to say that “Scripture speaks the language of ordinary life” gives me, again, only a rough, general guide to Scripture’s contents. It gives me no a priori basis for excluding any exegetical possibilities.

25 Rom. 1:16; cf. II Tim. 3:15, John 6:63, etc.

26 I Thess. 1:5. For more discussion of this point, see I, B, below.

27 The metaphors of “gripping,” etc. introduce a helpful vividness into our formulations. We must be careful, though, that we do not regard the power of the word as a kind of “blind force” which influences us apart from the linguistic meanings of Scriptural words and sentences. “Being gripped” by the word must involve a conviction as to its truth- and a desire to obey.

28 Dooyeweerd, op. clt., 115, 120, 125.

29 Klooster, P., op. cit., 4.

30 Dooyeweerd, op. cit., 125.

31 II Tim. 3:l6f.

32 For the correlation between meaning, implication and application, recall what was said above, second and third paragraphs of section I,A.

33 Matt. 4:4, II Tim. 3:16; emphasis mine, of course.

34 Kline, M., The Structure of Biblical Authority (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1972).

35 Ex. 31:18; cf. 24:12.

36 I would say that the doctrine entails that every human obligation is an application of Scripture. Else no distinction could be made between divine doctrine and “commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9, Col. 2:22}. This does not mean, however, that our duty is exhausted by the specific, explicit injunctions of Scripture. As we have seen, application involves both. Scriptural and extra-Scriptural premisses since it seeks to relate- Scripture to our situations.

37  Cf. Rom. 12:lf.

38 Cf. Eph. 5:8.

39 Cf. Phil. l:9f.

40 Heb. 5:14.

41 Hence another good reason for saying that “heart-knowledge” of God transcends theoretical problems (Dooyeweerd, op. cit., 120, 125). But none of this implies that theoretical knowledge of Scripture is irrelevant to, or unhelpful for, becoming obedient.

42 My own (radical) suggestion is that we define theology simply as “the application of Scripture to all of life.” Broad as this notion may be, I think it is virtually equivalent to the didache, didaskalia of the Pastoral ilstles.

43 Cf. Gen. 3:9, John 21:15, Rom. 6:1, 15, 7:1, 7, 13, etc.

44 Cf. Rom. 6:2 – me genoito!

45 For this terminology, see Austin J., How To Do Things With Words (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1962).

46 Austin (above, note 45) argues that a promise is not the same as an assertion. An assertion may predict that something will happen in the future, but a promise commits the speaker to accomplish what is promised.

47 Kelsey, D., The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology (Phila., Fortress, 1975). My review of the book appears in the Westminster Theological Journal 39.2 (Spring, 1977), 328-353.

48 Dooyeweerd rightly emphasizes the variety of content communicable in language (in Geehan, E., op_. cit., 84f). But I fail to understand why he finds it necessary to deny the existence in Scripture of “conceptual thought-contents.” Or does he have some technical definition of “conceptual” which he has failed to are with the uninitiated reader? Clearly, in the usual sense, Scripture is ite full of “conceptual thought-contents.”

49 The suzerainty-treaty pattern (above, I,A,3) illuminates this unity in diversity. Kline (op. cit.) shows how the covenant structure necessarily includes history, law, curse, blessing, administrative regulation. If Scripture is a covenant of this sort, we should expect such many-facetedness. Note also the Westminster Confession of Faith, XVI, ii, which stresses the different kinds of language in Scripture and the consequent variety in the human response solicited by it.

50 The other major criticism of “propositional revelation” in our circles is found, e.g. in Zylstra, op. cit., 67. There, Zylstra argues against “rationalistic prositionalism” (emphasis his) which holds, he says, that Scripture contains “verbal statements that are true in and of themselves.” As often, Zylstra’s language is a bit too obscure to do his point justice. (One wants to know: is “Washington is the capital of the U.S.” such a statement? If not, what is? Are there any? If the Washington statement is the type of thing Zylstra is speaking of, what prevents statements of this kind from being in the Bible?) The discussion is clarified somewhat when Zylstra quotes from Zuidema, who argues against “prying off a text from the whole.” Apparently, “rationalistic propositionalism” is the view that biblical sentences can be adequately inter­preted with no regard to their context. Well, perhaps there is some danger of this among us; the reader can judge for himself.

51 Cf. the discussion of scopus above, I,A,1.

52 These qualities are not merely rational; they involve elements other than reason; but they do involve reason.

53 See II,A, below.

54 Thus, in a sense, we are called to “think God’s thoughts after him.” Why Dooyeweerd objects to this idea is utterly beyond me. See Geehan, op. cit., 84.

55 I get the impression that when someone says, e.g., that Scripture is “rational,” those trained in the cosmonomic, philosophy immediately assume that he is asserting what they would call an “analytic qualification” to Scripture. This is the only assumption by which I can make any sense at all out of Dooyeweerd’s and Knudsen’s articles in Geehan, ed., op. cit, or out of John Vander Stelt’s Philosophy and Scripture. But if so, then the cosmonomic thinkers are guilty of enormous and culpable misunderstanding. No one except a Dooyeweerdian would ever dream of using a mere adjective to express a _”modal qualification.” In fact, no one but a Dooyeweerdian would believe that there are such things as modal qualifications. It is totally without justification for cosmonomists to read their own idiosyncratic technical meanings into the words of people who obviously hadn’t the slightest intent of using them that way.

56 Cf. Spier, J., An Introduction to Christian Philosophy (Phila., Presbyterian and Reformed, 1954), 71ff.

57 One could argue that a lecture-hall type of intelligence presupposes the ability intelligently to react to stimuli.

58 Some, not all. See below, II,A,2,e.

59 We saw earlier (I.A) how every application of Scripture, every act of obedience, involves some extra-scriptural knowledge.

60 Again, the response is “rational,” but not “merely rational” or “primarily rational.”

61 It is interesting that Van Til, criticized in cosmonomic circles for being something of a rationalist, is also applauded in other circles for being opposed to the use of reason in religious matters. See my review of White, W., Van Til-Defender of the Faith (New York, Nelson, 1979),Westminster Theological Journal XLII, 1 (Pall, 1979), 198-203. But neither rationalism nor fideism is to be applauded. We must seek to avoid both through a careful and biblical delineation of the powers and limits of reason. And for that task Van Til’s writings are immensely helpful.

62 Above, I,A.

63 Above, I,A,3.

64 Of course, this is not the only helpful or legitimate way to classify them.

65 Cf. Holmes, A., All Truth is God’s Truth. (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1977), 87f.

66 Ibid., 92. Cf. Poythress, V., “A Biblical View of Mathematics,” in North, G., ed., Foundations of Christian Scholarship (Vallecito, CA., Ross House, 1976), 159-188. See also his treatment of logic in Philosophy, Science and the Sovereignty of God (Nutley, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976), 199-205.

67 Cf. Wolterstorff, N., Reason Within the Bounds of Religion (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1976), 34-36.

68 Cf. Ryle. G., “Formal and Informal Logic,” in his Dilemmas (Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1954), 111-129.

69 Cf. Kuhn, T., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1970).

70 Holmes, op. cit., 90f.

71 Ibid., 89f.

72 Spier, op. cit., 125ff. His argument that knowing involves not only subject and object, but also law, I find cogent and important. Cf. my previous comments on knowing as an ethico-religious response to revelation.

73 Thus we are saved from various philosophical dilemmas, such as the tendency in secular philosophy either to absorb all reality into the self or to lose the self altogether in a quest for “objectivity.”

74 Rom. 1:21.

75 II Thess. 1:8.

76 “Emotion” and “intellect” are mutually dependent, e.g. If I had no emotional reactions to the issues about which I am writing, it is unlikely that I would form any opinions, or even think the project worth spending tine on.

77 Cf. Isa. 55:8, Ron. 11:33.

78 Cf. my “The Problem of Theological Paradox” in North, G., ed., op. cit., 295-330. Also published as a pamphlet, irVan Til, the Theologian,” (Phillipsburg, N.J., Pilgrim, 1976).

79 Cf. above, II,A,2,f, An apparent contradiction does not always render a doctrinal formulation useless. It is useful to note the “informal logic” by which the biblical writers use doctrines (like divine sovereignty and human responsibility) which often seem contradictory to us. We may seek to employ,e.g., the doctrine of divine sovereignty, in contexts similar to those in which the biblical writers used it, without necessarily being able to reconcile it with human responsibility. A contextually limited use may be a possible answer (either temporarily or permanently) in such cases.

80 Note above under 11,3,3 for a hermeneutical application of this point.



Sign up to receive new posts via e-mail