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Natural Theology

This asserts a knowledge of God from the creation outside the bounds of revealed theology in the Bible. Psalm 19; Romans 1:19-21; Acts 14:15-17 and 17:24-29 imply a natural revelation of God available from nature and creation. Usually the question is not whether there exists some form of natural revelation, but rather what theology, if any, can be developed from it. Augustine* asserted that all knowledge of God was revealed. Anselm* developed the ontological argument for God's existence which was essentially a rationalistic argument divorced from revelation. Thomas Aquinas* modified Augustine and others considerably with his Scholastic view of reason and revelation, borrowing heavily from Aristotle.* Between Tertullian* and Aquinas a change had developed, with reason displacing revelation as the starting point of theological discovery.

The Reformers generally emphasized a strong view of special revelation with a natural theology limited by man's fallen condition. David Hume* assaulted the theistic arguments of Aquinas, and since then the debate has shifted back and forth. Karl Barth* and Emil Brunner* carried on a bitter dialogue, with Barth refuting natural theology by stressing special revelation within the context of his Crisis Theology. Brunner countered with a limited natural theology available from creation. Among conservative theologians the trend has been toward a limited natural theology stemming from natural revelation, sufficient to reveal God but insufficient to redeem man, hence the need for special revelation-especially as depraved man has perverted this natural knowledge (cf. Rom. 1). The conservative would also stress a strong view regarding the infallible character of this special revelation.