“If God is Good, Why is There Suffering and Evil?”

Special thanks to Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church for making these video resources by Dr. Scott Oliphint available for free on YouTube.

Thanks to the people running the Westminster Theological Seminary facebook page for the announcement.

We are blessed to live in a period of time in history where sharing of information is so fast, easy, and simple.  I graduated from high school a couple of years before Windows 95 released, and my family could not afford a computer pre-Windows (IBM anyone?). I bought my first computer (a used one) around 1997-98. I cannot remember if we had internet access right away, I do know when we did, we had a 56k dial up modem. Fast forward about 14 years…

My first  (and only) son was born in December of last year, and he will grow up not knowing what it was like before all the high tech gadgets and technology. Even after all these years, I am still amazed sometimes how far technology has come along in a short time,  especially having grown up without a computer or the internet.

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The Theology of C.S. Lewis by Cornelius Van Til

The Theology of C. S. Lewis

by Dr. Cornelius Van Til

The following is an unpublished manuscript, made available thanks to Eric Sigward and his work on “The Works of Cornelius Van Til” for (LOGOS) Libronix Software

In his book Reflection on the Psalms Lewis says: “In some of the Psalms the spirit of hatred … strikes us in the face like heat from a furnace mouth. In others the same spirit ceases to be frightful only by becoming (to a modern mind) almost comic in its naivete.”  Again he says: “One way of dealing with these terrible or (dare we say?) contemptible Psalms is simply to leave them alone. But unfortunately the bad parts will not ‘come away clean’; they may, as we have noticed, be intertwined with the most exquisite things.” 2

“We all find hatred in ourselves. We see this same hatred in the psalm-writers: only they express it in its ‘wild’ or natural condition.”

Once more Lewis asserts: “It is monstrously simple-minded to read these cursings in the Psalms with no feeling except of horror at the uncharity of its poets. They are indeed devilish.”

The Theologians

Now let us visit the theologians: “There were in the eighteenth century terrible theologians who held that ‘God did not command certain things are right because they are right, but certain things are right because God commanded them.’ To make the position perfectly clear, one of them even said that though God has, as it happens, commanded us to love Him and one another, He might equally well have commanded us to hate Him and one another, and hatred would then have been right. It was apparently a mere toss-up which He decided on.”

If we seek Lewis’ standard for evaluating what a man may or may not hold to be true and right, we may read: “We must believe in the validity of rational thought, and we must not believe in anything inconsistent with its validity.”

However, we also hear that: “Our business is with historical possibility.” And further: “the sin, both of men and of angels, was rendered possible by the fact that God gave them free will; thus surrendering a portion of his omnipotence … because He saw that from a world of free creatures, even though they fell, He could work out … a deeper happiness and fuller splendour than any other world of automata would admit.”

 

Mere Christianity

Lewis propounds his own views in, among other places, his book Mere Christianity. According to Lewis, we must all start with a Law of Right or Wrong: “This rule of Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature.” Says Lewis: “Let us sum up what we have reached so far.… In the case of stones and trees and things of that sort, what we call the Laws of Nature may not be anything but a way of speaking.… But in the case of Man, we saw that this will not do. The Law of Human Nature, or Right and Wrong, must be something above and beyond the actual facts … a law which we did not invent and which we ought to obey.”

How far have we come now? “We have not yet got as far as a God of any actual religion, much less the God of that particular religion called Christianity. We have only got as far as a Somebody or Something behind the Moral Law. We are not taking anything from the Bible or the Churches, we are trying to find out what we can find out about this Somebody on our own steam.”

“Christians believe that an evil power has made himself for the present the Prince of this world. Is this state of affairs in accordance with God’s will or not? If it is, He is a strange God, you will say, and if it is not, how can anything happen contrary to the will of a being with absolute power?”

“Well, any mother can solve this puzzle. At bed-time she says to Johnny and Mary: ‘I’m not going to make you tidy the schoolroom every night. You’ve got to learn to keep it tidy on your own.’ Then she goes up one night and finds the Teddy bear and the ink and the French Grammar all lying in the grate. That is against her will. She would prefer her children to be tidy. But on the other hand, it is her will which had left her children free to be untidy.… It is probably the same in the universe. God created things which had free will.… If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. A free will is what has make evil possible. Why then did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata—a world of creatures that worked like machines—would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs … is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in the ecstasy and delight compared to which love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.”

“When we have understood about free will, we shall see how silly it is to ask, as somebody once asked me: ‘Why did God make a Creature of such rotten stuff that went wrong?’ ”

But why bother about such stuff and nonsense? Ask rather about the central message of Christianity.

“The central message of Christian belief,” says Lewis, “has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how He did this are another matter. A good many theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work. I will tell you what I think it is like. All sensible people will tell you that if you are tired and hungry a meal will do you good.… My own Church—the Church of England—does not lay down any one of them as the right one. The Church of Rome goes a bit further but I think they will all agree that the thing itself is infinitely more important than any explanations that theologians have produced.”

And what, pray, is this “thing itself”? Lewis does not inform us, except to say that we are not to believe what Scripture says about it.

I find in Lewis no awareness of my need to accept the substitutionary atonement for my sins on the cross. Where is, “Christ and him crucified”? Where is “Christ and his resurrection”? Where is the natural man, “dead through trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1)? Jesus tells Nicodemus: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said unto you, ‘You must be born again.’ ” (Jn 3:7–8)

Does Lewis teach what the Apostle John teaches in the sixth chapter of his Gospel? “Truly, truly I say to you … who so eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (Jn 6:53–55).

How would Lewis react to these words of Jesus: “And they will go into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Mt 25:46)?

Again, where does Lewis acknowledge Malachi 1.2: “ ‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘How hast thou loved us?’ ‘Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ says the Lord. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob and I have hated Esau …’ ” (Mal 1:2)

How does Lewis interpret the words of Peter spoken at Pentecost: “ … this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite counsel and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23).

Must not Lewis list Paul with the horrible theologians and Psalmists when the Apostle says:

As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me thus?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Rom 9:13–24)

According to Lewis all depends on man’s free will; according to Paul all depends on God’s mercy.

Reflections on The Psalms DT. 4 L585

1. The case for Christianity 14M. 1 L5856

2. Beyond Personality 1D. 1 L585

3. Cu. Behavior QA. L585

Reflections on the Psalms (New York, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1958

 

The Position Of Roman Catholicism

On the question discussed in this chapter, Roman Catholicism takes a position half way between that of Christianity and that of paganism. The notion of human consciousness set forth in the works of Thomas Aquinas is worked out, to a great extent, by the form matter scheme of Aristotle. In consequence a large measure of autonomy is assigned to the human consciousness as over against the consciousness of God. This is true in the field of knowledge and it is no less true in the field of ethics.

In the field of ethics this means that even in paradise, before the fall, man is not thought of as being receptively constructive in his attitude toward God. In order to maintain man’s autonomy—or as Thomas thinks, his very manhood as a self-conscious and responsible being—man must, from one point of view at least, be wholly independent of the counsel of God. This is implied in the so-called “freewill” idea. Thomas cannot think of man as responsible and free if all his actions have their ultimate and final reference point exclusively in God and his will. Thus there is no really scriptural idea of authority in Romanism.

It follows that Rome has too high a notion of the moral consciousness of fallen man. According to Thomas, fallen man is not very dissimilar from Adam in paradise. He says that while the sinner needs grace for more things than did Adam, he does not need grace more.  Putting the matter somewhat differently Thomas says, “And thus in the state of perfect nature man needs a gratuitous strength superadded to natural strength for one reason, viz., in order to do and wish supernatural good: but for two reasons, in the state of corrupt nature, viz., in order to be healed, and furthermore in order to carry out works of supernatural virtue, which are meritorious. Beyond this, in both states man needs the Divine help, that he may be moved to act well.” 7  In any case, for Thomas the ethical problem for man is as much one of finitude as it is one of ethical obedience. Man is naturally finite. As such he tends naturally to evil. He needs grace because he is a creature even though he is not a sinner. Hence God really owes grace to man at least to some extent. And man does not become totally depraved when he does not make such use of the grace given him as to keep himself from sin entirely. For in any case the act of his free will puts him naturally in grave danger. Fallen man is therefore only partly guilty and only partly to blame. He retains much of the same ethical power that man had in paradise. Ethical ability is virtually said to be implied in metaphysical ability or free will.

It follows still further that even the regenerate consciousness need not and cannot subject itself fully to Scripture. Thomas is unable to do justice to Paul’s assertion that whatever is not of faith is sin. His entire discussion of the cardinal virtues and their relation to the theological virtues proves this point. He distinguishes sharply between them. “Now the object of the theological virtues is God Himself, Who is the last end of all, as surpassing the knowledge of our reason. On the other hand, the object of the intellectual and moral virtues is something comprehensible to human reason. Wherefore the theological virtues are specifically distinct from the moral and intellectual virtues.”  In respect to the things that are said to be knowable by reason apart from supernatural revelation the Christian acts, and should act, from what amounts to the same motive as the non-Christian. Faith is not required for a Christian to act virtuously in the natural relationships of life. Or if the theological virtues do have some influence over the daily activities of the Christian, this influence is of an accidental and subsidiary nature.

All in all it is clear that Rome cannot ask its adherents to submit its moral consciousness to Scripture in any thorough way. And accordingly Rome cannot challenge the non-Christian position, such as that set forth by Newman Smyth, in any thorough way.

A position similar to that of Rome is frequently maintained by evangelical Protestants. As a recent illustration we mention the case of C. S. Lewis.

Like Rome, Lewis, in the first place, confuses things metaphysical and ethical. In his book Beyond Personality, he discusses the nature of the divine Trinity. To show the practical significance of the doctrine of the Trinity he says: “The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or (putting it the other way round) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in that dance.”  The purpose of Christianity is to lift the Bios or natural life of man up into Zoe, the uncreated life.  The incarnation is one example of how this may be done. In Him there is “one man in whom the created life, derived from his mother, allowed itself to be completely and perfectly turned into the begotten life.” Then he adds: “Now what is the difference which He has made to the whole human mass? It is just this; that the business of becoming a son of God, of being turned from a created thing into a begotten thing, of passing over from the temporary biological life into timeless Spiritual life, has been done for us.” 11

All this is similar in import to the position of Aquinas which stresses the idea that man is, through grace, to participate in the divine nature.

It is a foregone conclusion that the ethical problem cannot be fairly put on such a basis. Perhaps the most fundamental difference between all forms of non-Christian ethics and Christian ethics lies in the fact that, according to the former, it is man’s finitude as such that causes his ethical strife, while according to the latter it is not finitude as such but created man’s disobedience of God that causes all the trouble. C. S. Lewis does not signalize this difference clearly. Lewis does not call men back with clarion voice to the obedience of the God of the Bible. He asks men to “dress up as Christ” in order that while they have the Christ ideal before them, and see how far they are from realizing it, Christ, who is then at their side, may turn them “into the same kind of thing as Himself,” injecting “His kind of life and thought, His Zoe” into them.

Lewis argues that “a recovery of the old sense of sin is essential to Christianity.”  Why does he then encourage men to hold that man is embroiled in a metaphysical tension over which not even God has any control? Lewis says that men are not likely to recover the old sense of sin because they do not penetrate to the motives behind moral actions.  But how shall men ever be challenged to look inside themselves and find that all that is not of faith is sin if they are encouraged to think that without the light of Scripture and without the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit they can, at least in the natural sphere, do what is right? Can men really practice the “cardinal virtues” of prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude in the way that they should, even though they have no faith? No Protestant ought to admit such a possibility.

Lewis seeks objective standards in ethics, in literature, and in life everywhere. But he holds that objectivity may be found in many places. He speaks of a general objectivity that is common between Christians and non-Christians, and argues as though it is mostly or almost exclusively in modern times that men have forsaken it. Speaking of this general objectivity he says: “This conception in all its forms, Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Christian, and Oriental alike, I shall henceforth refer to for brevity simply as ‘the Tao.’ Some of the accounts of it which I have quoted will seem, perhaps, to many of you merely quaint or even magical. But what is common to them all is something we cannot neglect. It is the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are.”  But surely this general objectivity is common to Christians and non-Christians in a formal sense only. To say that there is or must be an objective standard is not the same as to say what that standard is. And it is the what that is all important. Granted that non-Christians who hold to some sort of something somewhere above man are better than non-Christians who hold to nothing whatsoever above man, it remains true that in the main issue the non-Christian objectivists are no less subjective than are the non-Christian subjectivists. There is but one alternative that is basic; it is that between those who obey the God and Christ of Scripture and those who seek to please themselves. Only those who believe in God through Christ seek to obey God; only they have the true principle in ethics. One can only rejoice in the fact that Lewis is heard the world around, but one can only grieve over the fact that he so largely follows the method of Thomas Aquinas in calling men back to the gospel. The “gospel according to St. Lewis” as well as the “gospel according to St. Thomas” is too much of a compromise with the ideas of the natural man to constitute a clear challenge in our day.” –

From Chapter 3 of Christian Theistic Ethics

A Collection of Articles by Greg Bahnsen

One of my overall objectives for this blog/site is to bring together under one roof, as many Van Tillian resources as possible. With that said, this short post  is long overdue (my how time slips by, I’ve had CMF bookmarked for nine or ten years now lol).

For the record, it appears that Covenant Media Foundation owns the rights to the wealth of articles in the following link: GREG BAHNSEN ARTICLES

The articles address many different topics including: Apologetics, Authority, Autonomy, Christian Ethics, Critiques of Evidentialism and Classical Apologetics, Epistemology, Presuppositionalism, The Problem of Evil, Theology, Inerrancy, and Limited Atonement.

Fortunately the articles can be saved and copied, and converted into other formats such as pdf, epub, and mobi.

From all of my searching Covenant Media Foundation  appears to have the most comprehensive collection of articles by Dr. Bahnsen on the web, if not a nearly complete monopoly on everything Greg Bahnsen. I hope one day, CMF will be a little more generous with at least a select portion of their wealth of resources. In the meantime, Christians lacking financially will have to settle for the free articles, a handful of mp3’s, and the select few YouTube offerings.

Common Grace and the Gospel by Cornelius Van Til

COMMON GRACE AND THE GOSPEL.
by Cornelius Van Til

Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1972. 233 pp.

This is a fairly complete collection of Van Til’s writings on common grace and its relation to Christian apologetics.

Contents:
Author’s Note and Preface

Part 1     [1941.E, 1945.D, 1946.F, 1947.C, 1954.D]
1.     The Christian Philosophy of History
2.     Abraham Kuyper’s Doctrine of Common Grace
3.     Common Grace in Debate

Part 2
4.     Particularism and Common Grace      [1951.I, 1952.A]
5.     Common Grace and Witness-Bearing      [1954.E, 1956.M]
6.     A Letter on Common Grace (Masselink)      [1953.G, 1955.L]
7.     A Reply to Criticism     [1966.Ga]
8.     Reformed Dogmatics of Herman Hoeksema     [1968.A]
9.     Terminal Considerations (New)

From the introduction…

“The subject of Common Grace was originally of interest to the present writer because it seemed to him to have basic significance for the subject of Christian Apologetics. Any one holding to the Reformed faith is constantly required to explain how he can do justice to the “universalism” of the gospel as presented in Scripture. How can he hold to election, especially “double election,” without doing violence to the “whosoever will” aspect of biblical teaching? How can he hold to “total depravity” and yet find a “point of contact” for the gospel among men in general?

There is no way of discussing these problems adequately except by way of setting forth the entire “philosophy of history” as the Reformed confessions teach it. When the Reformed view of the philosophy of history is set forth on a frankly biblical basis it appears that the questions pertaining to “human responsibility” and to “the point of contact” find their “solution” in the Reformed faith and nowhere else.

But then, to say this is not to say that the “solution” offered on these questions is a “systematic” one, in the sense that it is logically penetrable by the intellect of man. The biblical “system of truth” is not a “deductive system.” The various teachings of Scripture are not related to one another in the way that syllogisms of a series are related. The “system of truth” of Scripture presupposes the existence of the internally, eternally, self-coherent, triune God who reveals Himself to man with unqualified authority.

On the surface, and by the sound of words, all this might seem to indicate a neo-orthodox approach to the question of God and His relation to man. The opposite is the case. The neo-orthodox view of the relation of God to man is based on the idea that since man cannot have a “systematic,” i.e., purely rationalist knowledge of God, he must, in purely irrationalist fashion, fall back on the notion that any “systematic” interpretation of God’s “revelation” is nothing more than a “pointer” toward something of which man knows nothing. That is to say, the neo-orthodox view of God’s relation to man is based on the modern, particularly the post-Kantian, philosophical notion of truth as being nothing but a limiting concept. Man is surrounded by an ultimate void and he must direct the “flashlight” of his intellect into impenetrable mist. It is over against this post-Kantian view of the “limiting concept” that the writer speaks of a Christian limiting concept. This enables him, he thinks, to set off a truly biblical concept of mystery based on the God of Scripture, who is light and in whom is no darkness at all, from the non-Christian, in particular from the modern philosophical, concept of mystery. In the former case there is an intelligible, though not an exhaustive, intellectually penetrable basis for human experience. In the latter case man has no intelligible basis for his experience and, what is worse, insults the Christ who came to bring him light and life.

This is the point of view that binds the several chapters of this book together. So far from being a system of philosophical determinism that stultifies human knowledge and responsibility, the Reformed faith, being unreservedly based on biblical exegesis, is alone able to deliver to men the unadulterated joy of the gospel as it is in the Christ of the Scriptures.”

Evil And Theodicy by Cornelius Van Til

About:
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Evil and Theodicy.”
1923.A
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Handwritten, two bound notebooks. [Van Til Papers, WTS Archives]
This paper dealing with the problem of evil, dated March 31, 1923, won the middler year contest for the A. A. Hodge prize in systematic theology and was presented to C. W. Hodge, Jr.
Part 1-“Philosophy” (95 pp.)
Part 2-“Theology” (87 pp.)
 
“Anything short of referring the justification of the existence of evil to the character of God and His purpose to glorify Himself and to His sovereign will to accomplish this by means of creation and sin is unsatisfactory. Anything short of this is illogical and unbiblical. With the election to eternal life it is not sufficient to say that it reveals God’s mercy, for he elected angels to eternal life without manifestation of mercy. To man God’s election is mercy only because then He would have to be merciful to all. His Sovereign Will has seen fit to discriminate and that without any reference to human merit. Our minds are baffled and we can rest only in the concept”
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Download the complete PDF here:
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The following is one chapter from the work entitled:
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Calvin and the Reformation

As compared with Scholasticism, it is remarkable how far Calvin adopted practically without change the scholastic view of the faculties of the soul as above discussed. Aquinas and Calvin alike avoid extreme rationalism with its corollary idealism, and extreme empiricism with its corollary materialism. Both maintain the independence of the intellect in its sphere, but nevertheless cling to the formula “nihil est in intellectu quod non prius est at in sensu.” This is no small parallelism. Realism is the only strait by which to escape from stranding on the cliff of Platonic idealism, on the one side, and modern positivism leading to materialism, on the other side. On this question, then, Calvin stands foursquare on the scholastic tablelands and opposes the nominalism of the mystics. He upholds the primacy of the intellect and combats the “mystic ways.”

As to the nature of the human soul, then, scholasticism and Calvinism have the only sound basis upon which to build any adequate conception of evil. But here the Scholastics wander off on a tangent and Calvin must for the rest seek his way alone. When it comes to the question of the noetic influence of sin, Calvin parts once for all from Scholasticism. He has been called pre-eminently the theologian of the Holy Spirit. And here seems to lie the key to the difference between Calvin and scholasticism. Thus far they have traveled together; now they part. Guided by his doctrine of the Holy Spirit, Calvin journeys a new, less perilous way, a way less beset by the snares of human reason and false mysticism.

Calvin had an intensely deep realization of the wretchedness of sinful man. The heinousness and hideousness of sin he did not underrate. He clearly apprehended his utter helplessness. “Saved by grace” reverberated as a constant echo through the compartments of his soul, when once he found his Saviour. Now his logical mind could not help trace this sense of restoration back to its inception, the predestination of a sovereign God. So here we have the givens. Calvin, possessed of a legal training, as to psychology a realist, bowing in the dust before an incensed God, finding restoration in the blood of the cross, now studying in the scriptures, finds no cause for changing his psychological views. He knows that his adoption of the Saviour is due to a supernatural working upon his consciousness. With the scriptures in his hands he concludes that this must be the working of the Holy Spirit.

Briefly sketched, this doctrine according to Dr. Warfield, who paraphrases and explains Calvin’s first book of the Institutes in his “Calvin’s Doctrine of the Knowledge of God,” 3 is as follows. On account of sin, man finds himself in a miserable ruin. To be rescued from this he must truly know self and God. Man as unfallen, by the very implication of his nature would have known God, the sphere of his excellence. But for man as fallen, Calvin seems to say that the strongest force compelling him to look upwards to God above him streams from his sense of sin filling him with a fearful looking forward to judgment. Calvin holds that all men have an ineradicable sensus deitatis and this not only as a bare perception of God but as something producing reaction to this knowledge in thinking, feeling, and willing. This native endowment may consequently also be called the semen religionis. For what we call religion is just the reaction of the human soul of what we perceive God to be. Knowledge of God and religion then, are universal. This knowledge is not, however, a competent knowledge of God. In the state of purity this knowledge would show only love and trust. But in sinful man this knowledge produces a reaction of fear and hatred until the grace of God intervenes with a message of mercy.

In addition to this innate knowledge comes the revelation of God in nature and providence. This revelation is clear, universal, and convincing in itself. But sin has altered the condition of man’s soul, so that he is unable truly to know God in nature and accordingly incapable of giving the proper reactions in his soul. However convincing, then, the ontological, teleological, and other proofs of the existence of God may be in themselves, to which Scholasticism hung with such tenacity, they cannot serve to effect the true knowledge of God in sinful man because his mind is not normal. “Were man in his normal state he could not under this double revelation internal and external fail to know God as God would wish to be known.” 4 But sinful man is incapable of reading God’s revelation in nature aright and his instinctive knowledge of God, embedded in his very constitution, is dulled and almost obliterated. The natural knowledge of God is therefore bankrupt.

What is needed now is a special supernatural revelation objectively, on the one hand, and a special supernatural illumination subjectively, on the other hand. This needed revelation is found in the scriptures. It is a special revelation documented for the universal use of man. It serves as spectacles to enable those of dulled spiritual sight to see God. Of course the scriptures do more than this. They not only reveal the God of nature more brightly to sin-darkened eyes; they reveal also the God of grace. Scripture then provides the objective side of the cure Calvin finds to be provided by God. But man needs not only light; he also needs the power of sight. This spiritual sight is the result of the testimonium Spiritus Sancti.

What does Calvin understand by this testimonium Spiritus Sancti? It is that operation of the Holy Spirit on man’s consciousness which restores to him his true sense of God. The abnormality of man’s consciousness produced by sin is removed and man is made normal in principle so that he can again recognize the divine revelation, thus gain the true knowledge of God, and produce appropriate reactions of soul in the form of religion.

The change in man effected by the Holy Spirit we generally speak of as faith. But what is this faith but an experience of an act of God? Behind faith must lie the truth, the will, the act of God. In other words faith is the fruit of election. “Faith,” according to Calvin, “renews the whole man in his being and consciousness, in soul and body, in all his relations and activities.” 5

We see then that faith restores man’s consciousness in principle to normal, rendering man perceptive and receptive of divine revelation in scripture. Scripture is there manifesting its divinity objectively by its style of speech, its contents, etc., just as plainly as snow reveals itself as white, and now through faith man’s spiritual sight is restored so that he can again see the divinity revealed in Scripture, as easily as his natural eye perceives the whiteness of snow.

Calvin conceives of the action of the Spirit, then, as coalescing with consciousness. Faith is not a new faculty of the soul but it must be brought about before man’s faculties can again function normally. It is not an immediate revelation of supernatural truth, as the mystics conceived of it. “To attribute to the Holy Spirit renewed or continued revelations would be derogatory to the Word which is His inspired product.” 6 Neither does Calvin conceive of it as in the nature of a blind conviction, as has been often alleged by the followers of the so-called “free attitude toward Scriptures.” These people claim that upon Calvin’s theory of faith one can reject as unauthoritative any part of scripture which does not immediately commend itself to the religious judgment as divine. This cannot justly be inferred. In the French and Belgic Confessions, so largely influenced, it would seem, as though the nature of faith is spoken of as a blind conviction, it says that we accept the canon of scripture not so much because the Church says so but because of its immediate commendation of divinity. Dr. Warfield explains this as being due to the fact that the term “canon” is used not only quantitatively but also qualitatively as meaning divine. As such, he claims it is used in the confessions.

Calvin, then, conceives of faith not as a blind conviction but as a grounded conviction formed in men’s spirits by the Holy Spirit, “by an act which rather terminates immediately on the faculties, enabling and efficiently persuading them to reach a conviction on grounds presented to them rather than producing the conviction itself apart from the grounds.” 7 These grounds presented to them are the indicia of divinity spoken of before. Now as to the action of these indicia in conjunction with the Spirit, Calvin does not appear to speak expressly. “He sometimes even appears to speak of them rather as if they lay side by side with the testimony of the Holy Spirit, than acted along with it as co-factors in the production of the supreme effect.” 8 “Nevertheless, there are not lacking convincing hints that there was lying in his mind all the time the implicit understanding that it is through these indicia of the divinity of scripture that the soul, under the operation of the testimony of the Spirit, reaches its sound faith in the Scriptures.” 9 He has withheld from more explicitly stating this only by the warmth of his zeal for the necessity of the testimony of the Spirit which has led him to a constant contrasting of this divine with these human testimonies.

I have dwelt on this question of the indicia rather at length because upon the question of their value and time of employment Scholasticism and Calvin give radically different answers. It was largely because Calvin thus led to a better epistemology and noetics that he was able to give direction to the course of later Reformed thought and thus lead to a much clearer understanding of the problem now before us. With Scholasticism, the indicia have value for the natural reason, so that they can prove to unregenerated man the divinity of Scripture. The indicia and supernatural grace each do their bit in producing faith. Not so with Calvin. The Spirit must operate first before the indicia have any value, or at most they have value in conjunction with the working of the Spirit.

But once the supernatural revelation in Scripture is again accepted by man as divine, his reason is restored to its normal place, at least in principle. Reason, man’s intellect, now assumes its original functions besides those made necessary through sin. But with Calvin it is the reason of a regenerated consciousness, with Scholasticism the reason of natural man.

Calvin thinks it the duty of this regenerated consciousness to assimilate the revelation of God and give it expression according to the nobility of human reason. He rejects speculative Mysticism as a theory of knowledge, of direct individual revelation. He adopted the normal psychology of Scholasticism but differed with it as to the time when reason has any function to perform and what function it has to perform. With Scholasticism, natural reason can furnish proofs of God’s existence, can produce motives of credibility, can furnish constant apologetic, while grace is needed only to know the Essence of God. With Calvin, natural reason can of itself do nothing, but the reason of the regenerated consciousness has a glorious mission, the mission to digest, assimilate, and reproduce the revelation of God.

Calvin’s theology, then, is Augustinianism made more explicit especially through his doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Calvin and Augustine hold to the same root principle. Man is sinful to the core. Mankind is absolutely incapable of knowing the truth. Intellect and will are alike deflected and turned away from God, hence, when restored by the Spirit, its deep, submissive, receptive attitude towards the Scriptures. Both maintain equally strong that God in his infinite mercy has predestined some to eternal life and left others to their sin. Both defend that this is beyond our comprehension; we can only marvel that God has seen fit to redeem any at all out of the mire of sin.

Here we have then a thorough theory of evil, as deep as it can be conceived of. Here also, God is made His own theodicy; it is His inscrutable will in which man is to rest. God’s own implicit love and righteousness is His theodicy, and if this were not enough His free grace will add thereto. But back of all the deepest theodicy lies the mystery of His will and being before which we humbly bow and keep silent.

Calvin worked this out more fully than Augustine because of his doctrine of the Holy Spirit and of Common grace, so that justice could be done to the human faculties as well as to the corrosive influence of sin. Scholasticism deserves the credit that it changed the fight to epistemological fields, but just because it conceived of evil as not having penetrated thoroughly to the human cognitive faculties, it could not have a firm theodicy. Over against this, Calvin’s testimonium Spiritus Sancti is placed. Mysticism, afraid of intellectualisation, sought to find a new individualistic via cognitionis apart from the ordinary faculties of man. Against this, Calvin’s doctrine of Common Grace maintained that the essence of man is not affected by sin, that man’s faculties of intellect and will can be restored to normal, that in fact only through these faculties can man ever truly know God. We cannot but marvel at the genius of Calvin that enabled him to steer clear of the extremes of Scholasticism and mysticism, and to give the evangelical principle such clear expression that for generations after him men have been guided on the right path when using his compass.

Calvin was the theologian par excellence of the Reformation. In him alone the ideas inherent in evangelicalism received logical expression. But the ideas of Scholasticism and Mysticism maintained themselves in the Catholic system and in much of Protestantism. Even within the bosom of the Calvinistic churches there was a departure from the road marked out by Calvin.

As for Roman Catholicism, its position is that of Aquinas as before reviewed. His doctrine was virtually accepted as the church doctrine at the Council of Trent. The original righteousness of man was a donum superadditum to man’s nature, so that with the fall, man did not lose God’s image but only this donum superadditum. 1 Originally God created man soul and body. These were naturally in conflict except when original righteousness was added by God to preserve their harmony. With the entrance of sin, then, man is restored to this original position of disharmony between soul and body. The question of evil is in this manner directly referred to God for creating this good and evil. It is only a refined Manechaeism, of an original evil substance, and fits in remarkably well with the refined form of Semi-Pelagianism of Thomas Aquinas. “The conflict between the flesh and the spirit is normal and original and therefore not sinful.” 2 And man by his natural reason can attain to some knowledge of absolute truth. In immediate connection with this is the sacerdotalism of Rome, which externalizes evil and makes its destruction possible by the mechanical action of the sacrament upon the mere intellectual assent of the recipient. Sin thus becomes not something in the core of man’s heart that needs to be immediately uprooted by the Holy Spirit and a new life implanted. This is especially clear from the Romish doctrine of second causes. God is presented as desiring the salvation of all, but putting the work of its accomplishment entirely into the hands of the Church which must administer salvation through the sacraments. “As this system of second causes has not been instituted with a view to the conveying of the sacraments to particular men or to the withholding of them from particular men, but belongs to his general provision for the government of the world, the actual distribution of the grace of God through the Church and the sacraments lies outside the government of his gracious will.” 3 Salvation therefore depends upon the working of these second causes; if one is lost, it is not God’s fault. This is the best theodicy that Rome can furnish. It is at the expense on the one hand of the biblical conception of God’s omnipotence and direct work in the redemption of man and, on the other hand, at the expense of the biblical conception of natural man as well as that of the penetrating influence of sin. If we maintain that God allowed these second causes thus to function, it does not release Him of responsibility and if these second causes are independent of Him then He is no longer God.


3 B. B. Warfield, Calvin and the Reformation (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1909), p. 139.

4 Ibid., p. 140.

5 Ibid., p. 112.

6 Ibid., p. 85.

7 Ibid., p. 174.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid., p. 183.

1 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology 2:103.

2 Ibid., p. 106.

3 Warfield, The Plan of Salvation (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1918), p. 68.