Share This Episode
Renewing Your Mind R.C. Sproul Logo

Natural Theology Developed

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 30, 2022 12:01 am

Natural Theology Developed

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 937 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.


April 30, 2022 12:01 am

It is impossible for something to be true in the sphere of science but false in the realm of religion. Today, R.C. Sproul explains how Thomas Aquinas can help Christians understand the harmony between reason and faith.

Get R.C. Sproul's 'Defending Your Faith' 32-Part DVD Series for Your Gift of Any Amount: https://gift.renewingyourmind.org/2114/defending-your-faith

Don't forget to make RenewingYourMind.org your home for daily in-depth Bible study and Christian resources.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
The Masculine Journey
Sam Main
Leading the Way
Michael Youssef
Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul
Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul
Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul
Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

Is the Bible. Our only source of revelation from God. There certain truths that we discover through a study of this world an inquiry into the arena of science that we can learn things by examining the world around us.

That will never learn by reading the Bible bring up the idea that God communicates through me. Some Christians begin to get uncomfortable. It's been a point of disagreement since the time of Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century. Today on Renewing Your Mind on Dorsey's role continues his series on apologetics, and he argues that Thomas had it right. God's revelation in nature is just as truthful as God's revelation in Scripture. Here's RC with more women looking at the concept of natural theology as it relates to general revelations I mentioned when I introduce this section of the course that natural theology though it's taught by Paul in Romans one and was explained in depth by St. Augustine early on, nevertheless tends to be identified almost exclusively with the theology of Thomas Aquinas and many people, particularly among Protestants have an antipathy or an allergy against natural theology as a consequence, as they see it as something inherently and uniquely Roman Catholic and therefore incompatible with Protestantism. My I differ with that view. And I also see that St. Thomas is suffered from severe attacks in the 20th century about his contribution, particularly in a negative vein to the problems that we have in secular philosophy today. I counted Francis Schaeffer is a very close personal friend and we did many things together. He had a tremendous influence on me, and we agreed on just about everything in the world in theology and philosophy. But the one point were we really disagreed was over his assessment of Thomas Aquinas because Dr. Schaefer made the statement repeatedly that there was St. Thomas Aquinas who separated nature and grace. And I want to explain that a little bit today. The idea that Schaefer talked about was the grace or super nature is up here and nature is below it, and in between there is some barrier where the supernatural realm is somehow cut off from the realm of nature and that's why reason and faith are seen as being opposed to one another the natural and the supernatural grace and nature, and so on and my defensive St. Thomas Aquinas is this that the last thing that ever entered Thomas's mind when he was riding his summa is his summa Contra Gentilly's and his son with her. Love you guys great works of theology and apologetics is that the last thing he was trying to do was separate nature and grace. In fact what he was trying to do in his philosophical inquiry and defense of Christianity was to show the ultimate union between nature and grace. And so I think to accuse him of separating them involves a serious misunderstanding of his actual teaching and his motives and in order to understand Thomas. I think we have to ask the fundamental question what problem was Thomas Aquinas trying to solve. In order to answer that question we have to go and examine the historical circumstances in which he labored as a Christian apologist and St. Thomas Aquinas was writing at a time when the greatest threat to the church was the onslaught of the religion of Islam and Muslim theology was being advanced at this time in history.

In the Middle Ages by some powerful and potent Muslim philosophers and these philosophers introduced a philosophy called integral Aristotelianism integral Aristotelianism.

That may sound a little bit technical force.

But when we integrate something we see that it fits in with other thing and so what Avenue arose about the sinners were doing is Arabic philosophers was an attempt to create a synthesis between Muslim theology.

On the one hand, and the philosophy of Aristotle on the other trying to merge Aristotle with this law and hence they were called integral Aristotelians and one of the central cc that they advocated passionately was called the double truths theory. The double truths theory that I'm going to take the time to go over this. Not just because were interested in class historical controversies, but because what Aquinas was wrestling with in his time with the Islamic philosophers is so closely parallel to what we encounter in the world of contemporary thought in our own time. The double truths theory. Simply stated, taught this that something could at the same time be true in philosophy but false in religion or, conversely, could be true in religion but false in philosophy or to put it another way, it could be true in science but false in theology or true in theology, but false in science. Now if I could take that idea and transfer it to our own day we would be like this. We have people in this world who believe in macro evolution who believe that the origin of the human race, and of the universe has come to pass through the gratuitous collision of atoms and that man has emerge from this line.

As a result of a cosmic accident with no definitive purpose in view and is destined to annihilation so that the origin of humanity is in meaninglessness and the destiny of humanity is meaningless now. Christian theism Judaism and Islam all the rest teach that we are the result of the propulsive act of an omniscient, eternal, self existent being that God through his wisdom and power intentionally created human beings in his own image for an eternal purpose that allows two views of the origin and the destiny of human beings. I can imagine could have any greater difference than those two approaches to human significance. Now if we adopted today the double truths theory, it would look like this that as a Christian on Sunday.

I believe in the divine creation of the universe and of the human race that I am made in the image of God and that I have come into being because of his purposeful action.

But then Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday. I believe that I'm a cosmic accident that emerge from the slot, grown-up germ with no significance whatsoever and that I believe both of those just depends on which day of the week I'm living now. The double truths theory of the Islamic philosophers said that you can believe in creation in terms of faith and theology, and at the same time as a scientist deny that affirmation and from whichever perspective you're coming there both true. That's what is meant by double truths.

Even though the two sides are philosophically absolutely antithetical and irreconcilable. Nevertheless there both true, depending on whether you're looking at it scientifically or looking at it from the viewpoint of faith or of religion.

It was against that idea of pure relativism that was threatening Christianity and science in his day that St. Thomas developed his apologetics of natural theology in order to refute the relativism of the double truths theory and what he did in order to address this problem was to distinguish between nature and grace. Or to put it another way to distinguish between reason and faith, between religion and science. Now it's one thing to distinguish between two things. It's quite another to separate. I tell my students in the seminary that one of the most important distinctions. They will ever learn the students of theology is the distinction between a distinction and a separation. As I've said in our radio program many times that if I distinguish between your body and your soul. I brought no harm to you if I separate your body from your soul.

I have killed you so I hope that we see a clear difference between distinguishing and separating now. Aquinas said you can and you must distinguish between nature and grace and what he meant by that distinction between nature and grace. Is this that there are certain things that we can learn from nature that we don't learn from Grace that what he meant. There is that there are certain truths that we discover through a study of this world an inquiry into the arena of science that we can learn things by examining the world around us. That will never learn by reading the Bible.

The Bible doesn't teach us anything about the circulatory system of the human body. The Bible doesn't teach us anything about molecular biology.

Those are things that we discover through a careful examination of the world around us through a study of nature, and that study of nature produces things that we can't learn from the Bible. At the same time there are things that we learn from Grace or from the Scriptures that will never learn in a laboratory. You can study nature, all you want and you'll never come up with God's way of salvation that comes to us from his revelation in sacred Scripture that is a body of knowledge that is found in the Bible that is not found in the scientific laboratory so you see how he's distinguishing here between what you can learn by studying nature by itself, and what you can learn by studying the Bible. Now it's in the third category that so much of the controversy exists.

Aquinas says, in addition to that knowledge that can be garnered through a study of nature, and that which can be learned from the Bible. There is 1/3 category, which he called the articular's mixed us or in simple English. The mixed articles and the mixed articles refer to those truths that can be known or learned either from the Bible or from a study of nature, and chief among those articles that can be known either from a study of nature, or from a study of the Bible is the existence of God.

In other words he's saying you don't have to read the Bible to know that God exists. The why do you think you would say that because he was already a proponent of natural theology. He was saying that the Bible itself teaches us that there's another way to know that God exists mainly through a study of nature and by the same token you can learn of the existence of God. Certainly by opening up the pages of the Bible.

Now, what happens when you open to the first page of the Bible.

The very first sentence in the Bible reads in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Some apologists make a big thing out of that, they said, look at here on the first page of Scripture God is announced.

God is proclaimed. God is virtually passively assume there is no attempt by the author of Genesis to prove the existence of God before he sets forth an expression and revelation of the work of God, but rather it's just assumed that there is a God, because all it is says in the beginning is in the beginning God and some people believe that is the deathblow to apologetics that we shouldn't even be arguing for the existence of God because the Bible doesn't argue the existence of God. The Bible assumes the existence of God. My answer to that as well as St. Thomas's answer to that is, for the Bible to argue the existence of God would be like carrying coals to Newcastle because it's completely unnecessary because the God of the Bible has already before. One word of the Bible was ever written from the day of creation has proven his existence conclusively through nature so that when anybody comes to the Bible and picks up the Bible that tells us a whole lot more about God than we can ever learn through the study of nature are people who come to it already having received the general revelation of God that he gives to us in nature and so does not need for God to prove himself twice as were his already displayed himself to every human being before they're even able read they can read nature. At that point. So I guess in this essay is that the existence of God is demonstrated both by nature and by grace and that these two spheres of inquiry, religion and science so far from being separated and opposed to one another are actually in agreement and following Augustine, Aquinas taught this that all truths is God's truth and all truths meets at the top that if something is true in science that it must also be true in theology and if it's true in theology. It must also be true in science know that we ever see conflict between the scientific community and the church. We've seen it with a vengeance we sought in the Galileo episode, we sought in the Scopes trial in Tennessee and we see this ongoing conflict between so-called scientific inquiry and so-called theological inquiry.

Now, if God reveals himself in nature and in the Scripture, and that the principal textbook of the theologian is the Bible and the principal textbook of the physicist or the astronomer or the biologist is nature, and if God has both of these spheres as his spheres of revelation and of God is a God of truth than there are in an ideal world, there would never be a conflict between science and religion between reason and faith between nature and super nature between nature and grace.

This is the point that Thomas Aquinas was making but Thomas also understood that we don't live in an ideal work.

We have the theologians over here reading the pages of Scripture and making mistakes and understanding with the Scriptures in the 16th century virtually everybody believed in geocentric city that the earth was the center of the solar system, not just the Pope and his Bishops in Rome, but it was a point of face for Martin Luther and John Calvin, who saw Copernicus as an agent of the devil who would undermine the integrity of sacred Scripture, and what Copernicus did was he not only prove that the Ptolemaic system of astronomy was wrong. But he also proved conclusively that the Church's understanding of astronomy at that point was wrong, and there's a clear case where the scientific community corrected the church they didn't correct was the Bible they corrected the churches miss understanding of the Bible and shows the theologians can be wrong when their studying the Scriptures on the other hand, that doesn't mean that every time there's a conflict between the scientific community and the ecclesiastical community that it is the theologian it's raw when the sadness over here start talking about things coming into being out of nothing. He's not only talking bad theology.

Folks, he's talking terrible science because he's talking nonsense and it's about time you need a philosopher and the theologian to say no no no no no don't be be peddling that stuff around here and so the church has to correct the scientists from time to time. Although they get up in arms if you suggested ever to happen again. What Aquinas is saying is you don't have two different spheres, and yet the culture today. So if you want to believe religion that's fine. You go in your house and you go on your cupboard and you say your prayers and singing hymns and if you get some kind of emotional satisfaction of that that's fine but don't call it science, but call it knowledge.

The caller truths you're free to indulge yourself in this subjective experience that you call religion but intelligent people don't acquiesce to that sort of thing that's were Thomas Aquinas stood up to say no, wait just one minute here. If you're going to be rational and scientific. If you're really going to be intelligent. You will be driven to the conclusion compellingly of the existence of God and only a fool would run into his closet and say there is no God. And so he saying that knowledge of the Scriptures, but science itself together proclaimed the same truths and they support one another because God's revelation in nature is just as much. The truth of God as God's revelation in the Scriptures, they are united, distinguished, but United that's why I would say but my dear friend Dr. Schaefer did a disservice by saying that Thomas separated the two.

But culture separates the two. Please delay that at the door of Thomas Aquinas is that's exactly what Thomas Aquinas did not to.

He was trying to show the harmony between reason and faith between science and religion between nature and grace again with the affirmation that all truth is God's truth in all truth meets at the top. That's why Augustine before Aquinas made this challenge to his students.

He told his students they ought to learn as much as they possibly could learn about as many things that they could study because were ever they found truths they were discovering the truth we see in Psalm 19, that the heavens declare the glory of God in Romans chapter 1 tells us that God's attributes are clearly seen through what he is made, it's good to know that this Scripture and the natural world aren't fighting each other. Is it your listening to the Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind and I'm glad you could be with us today. Each week were making our way through Dr. RC Sproul series defending your faith in 32 messages. RC looks at the history of apologetics and helps us defend the historical truth claims of Jesus would like to send you the 11 DVD set of the series when you contact us with your donation of any amount you can reach us by phone at 800-435-4343 or online at Renewing Your Mind.work Renewing Your Mind is just one part of Wagoner ministries we produce, publish and distribute discipleship resources in multiple languages around the world. For example, Dr. scroll series. What did Jesus do, is now available in Hindi language spoken by 600 million people and we do all of this so that more people in more places may be awakened to the holiness of God.

That's why we thank you for your generous donation next Saturday.

Dr. scroll takes a look at an intellectual battle that took place hundreds of years ago.

The ripple effect of that scrimmage can be felt today. Join us next Saturday for a message titled Aquinas versus current here on Renewing Your Mind


Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime