Christian Apologetics - Lesson 13

Natural Theology

Discussion of natural theology.

Ronald Nash
Christian Apologetics
Lesson 13
Watching Now
Natural Theology

Natural Theology


I.  What is Natural Theology?


II.  Is Natural Theology Necessary?

A.  Epistemological Reasons

B.  Experiential Reasons


III.  Is Natural Theology Useless?


IV.  Reformed Epistemology and Natural Theology

  • Introduction to Apologetics.

  • Apologetics involves finding evidence and presenting arguments to defend the Christian faith.

  • Two prominent worldviews are Christian theism and naturalism.

  • The law of non-contradiction states that A cannot be B and non-B at the same time and in the same sense.

  • Explanations and responses to different worldviews.

  • If God is good and all powerful, then why does evil exist?

  • Discussion about how the existence of evil is consistent with God's character.

  • Your noetic structure, presuppositions and view of epistemology are important elements in the formation of your worldview.

  • Discussion of deductive presuppositionalism vs. inductive presuppositionalism.

  • Objections to inductive presuppositionalism.

  • Arguments for and against evidentialism.

  • Arguments for and against foundationalism.

  • Discussion of natural theology.

  • There are valid, sound and cogent arguments for the existence of God, but no coercive proofs.

  • Discussion of different arguments for God's existence.

  • One version of the cosmological argument for God's existence emphasizes God as first in time, another emphasizes God as first in importance.

  • A possible world is a way the real world could have been. Modal logic, propositions, state of affairs and eternal entities are some of the considerations when discussing a possible world.

  • Something is logically possible if its description does not include a logical contradiction. The existence of the laws of knowledge refute the system of naturalism.

  • Middle knowledge is a form of knowledge attributed to God by Molina.

  • Miracles are a dividing line and central to Christianity.

  • David Hume's rational arguments against miracles and responses to those arguments.

  • Two miracles central to Christianity are the incarnation and resurrection.

  • The question of whether or not Jesus is the only savior touches on pluralism, inclusivism and exclusivism.

  • Pluralism is the view that all religions have salvific value.

  • Inclusivism is the view that even though the work of Christ is the only means of salvation, it does not follow that explicit knowledge of Christ is necessary in order for a person to be saved.

  • Salvation is totally the work of God and all children who die in infancy are elect of God.

  • Discussion from a biblical perspective of God's character and attributes.

  • Open theists believe that God does not have a perfect knowledge of the future.

  • Divine omnipotence and divine omniscience are two attributes of God.

  • When contemplating life after death, remember, Jesus has been there and come back. Will you commit your life to him or reject him?

These lectures were given at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida during the fall of 2001.


Dr. Ronald Nash
Christian Apologetics
Natural Theology
Lesson Transcript


[00:00:18] The title of Chapter seven is What About Natural Theology? Let me first define natural theology and then I'll make then I'll follow the major points of Chapter seven. Natural theology is in simple form, in simple terms, an attempt to provide arguments for the existence of God without an appeal to Scripture, without an appeal to special Revelation C There's general revelation. There's special revelation. Special revelation would be the Bible. General revelation would be the knowledge of God that is made accessible or available through nature. An important point about natural theology to the greatest degree possible. Whatever that qualifying phrase means, the pursuit of natural theology is a denial. That belief in God is properly basic. If you understand what's going on and reformed epistemology, if you understand that we really aren't required to prove that God exists in order for our faith and God's existence to be rational, natural theology isn't really necessary. Except for some reasons that I'll mention in another minute or two. Okay. So that's what natural theology is. Here's the definition on page 93. Now that little introduction is then followed by two important questions. The first question appears on page 94. Is natural theology necessary? There are some Christian thinkers who give me the impression that they believe that natural theology is necessary in order for our Christian faith to be. Rational. Now, obviously, evidential lists think that way. When Anthony flew, the atheist challenged Alvin, planning the theist in the way that I've already described. Tony, Flu was indeed assuming that natural theology is necessary. On page 94, I give you a quotation from a British theist, an Anglican named E.L. Mass. Gill. He's now deceased, but he he utters this He writes this sentence in what has been a very good and a very influential book titled He Who Is. I remember reading that book during my graduate work at Brown University. He seems to imply that natural theology is necessary. I disagree. Planning A disagrees. Any reformed epistemology will disagree. Now we give you two reasons why natural theology is not necessary. Bottom on page 94. It is not necessary for epistemological reasons. For many years I may be doing I'm going to do what I do right now. I've asked students in this class how many of you came to faith, primarily because of arguments for God's existence that you heard. We got one. You may be the first student I've ever taught who said that. Okay, keep your hand up. But I don't want the rest of you to be influenced. Notice I just told you this is the first student I've ever had who did that. Oh, maybe the. No, maybe you're the second. I think the first one was RC Juniors. RC Sproul son. Okay. RC Sproul, Jr And we can joke about that. Okay. Because if you've got if you have dinner around the table and RC is your father, you better believe the proofs for God's existence are necessary or else he won't let you enter the next Ligonier Conference or something like that. Okay. Anybody else? Now think back. The determinative event and your becoming a Christian believer was some proof for God's existence. Raise your hand. We've had one hand rate. What about the rest of you? Are you not raising your hand because you're not believers? Perhaps we're. We're. That's. We have some Snickers. They're not candy bar, but Snickers. Okay. Why? Because something else played the determinative role for you. And you know what that other thing was? It was some religious experience and of course, part of that religious experience. Shake your head if I'm if I'm wrong in your case. But an important part of that religious experience was hearing the word of God, right. In my case, man, there, there I am. And I've probably said this before, there I was all of a sudden in a humble Baptist church in Parma, Ohio, and it wasn't even a Southern Baptist church, Do you understand? It was just a humble Baptist church where the guy, the preacher, bless his name, James Godly, was preaching from John Chapter three, You must be Born Again. And my jaw dropped open and I said, I've never heard that before. So it is not epistemological necessary because all kinds of people have come to faith in God without an argument or prove playing any. Specific role in that. Now the second. The second reason why natural theology is not necessary would be experiential reasons. This is the top of page 95. But natural theology is also unnecessary for experiential reasons. Most people have come to believe that God exists without arguments. Approves. Planning is only pointing to what most of us already know When he writes, the arguments are proofs are not, in general the source of the believer's confidence in God. Typically, the believer does not believe in God on the basis of arguments. So what is this other contributing factor? It is. It is religious experience. Okay. Well, I now want to move on to that second subject or the next subject. Is natural theology useless? Even if it is not necessary, does it follow that thinking about proofs for God's existence is useless? Of course not. And there are all kinds of reasons. Let me again read from the bottom of page 96. Thus far, it seems there are several good reasons to think that natural theology is not necessary. But it is possible that language about the necessity of natural theology is ambiguous enough for us to take this just a bit more slowly. What if we I'm skipping out of page 97. What if we understand the word necessary in some other sense? I have argued that the presentation of sound course of arguments is not a necessary condition for Christianity being rational. Christians do not have to engage in the activity of doing natural theology, nor do they have to do it successfully. But surely none of this implies that natural theology in this weaker sense is useless. If Christian theism is true, we should expect to find all kinds of evidence, reasons, arguments and other considerations that support it in some way or other. And this is true even for a philosopher like Alvin planning it. If I've mentioned this before, forgive me, but you know, you ought to remember this. And I think I may have mentioned this last week. I was once present at a philosophy conference at Wheaton College in Illinois when planning a read a paper titled Two Dozen or So Proofs for God's Existence. And he did this at a time when everybody present in the audience knew how he was critical of natural theology. And I remember thinking, Good grief, if he gives us two dozen or so proofs for God's existence, we're going to be here for three weeks. Okay. What he actually gave us were 25 arguments for God's existence, and he covered it in about an hour and a half, 90 minutes. It was a very stimulating and exciting evening. Because among other things, the two dozen or so arguments he offered for God's existence are arguments that happen to exist in my arsenal of weapons. You know, they exist in my natural theology toolbox. To pick up an analogy that I gave you last week. Now, one other thing from this chapter, and I think this is very important. This comes under the heading Reformed epistemology and Natural theology. Last week, I said, but I said it quickly and it may have skipped past you too quickly. That in addition to belief forming mechanisms, disposition and triggering conditions that are the source of all human knowledge about whatever we know. We need to recognize that among the many triggering conditions that can link up with. The God given disposition that all human beings have to believe in. God among the triggering conditions can be some of these arguments. Some of these arguments. Okay, so. I just thought that that was important, that we go back and make it clear that even though natural theology is not crucial for someone who understands the pros and cons of reformed epistemology, it still can serve a purpose because some people may not be able to understand natural theology. They may have never been taught it. They may. And it you know, it may just be easier to say to people, aw, shucks, Instead of my taking 3 hours to explain reformed epistemology, let me just give you a couple of arguments and let's see what happens, okay? If the arguments are successful, then maybe you can go the rest of your life and not know anything about reformed epistemology.