Sunday, January 13, 2019

2018 Books

* Here's my list of books from 2018.  

Top Three

1.  Love Thy Body by Nancy Pearcey.

2.  Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology by J. P. Moreland.

3.  Why Is There Evil in the World (and So Much of It)? by Greg Welty.

And the Rest... (order read during the year)

* Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female by Ashley McGuire.

* God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew T. Walker.

* Theology of My Life: A Theological and Apologetic Memoir by John Frame.

* When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment by Ryan T. Anderson.

* God: Three in One by E. Calvin Beisner. 

* Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views by Robert A. J. Gagnon and Dan O. Via.

* Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life by Colin Duriez. 

* From Trials to Triumphs: The Voice of Habakkuk to the Suffering African Christian by Faustin Ntamushobora.

* John Calvin by T. H. L. Parker.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Why Science Needs God: Analyzing the Religion and Science Conflict

* The following was posted on The Christian Post.  The version below is slightly larger--I had to cut a few sections to fit the word-count constraints--and has endnotes with all the bibliographic references.

Why Science Needs God: Analyzing the Religion and Science Conflict

As our culture becomes more secularized it has become fashionable to see “science” as the engine of this secularization.  As science advances, religion must retreat—so the theory goes.  This viewpoint draws much of its continuing inspiration from two books in the late nineteenth century.  John William Draper wrote History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science in 1874 and Andrew Dickson White penned A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in 1896.  Both books came to exemplify what became known as the “warfare thesis” in the history of the relationship between science and religion.  Contemporary historians recognize that the “warfare thesis” is much too simplistic and that Draper and White’s arguments are not well supported. 

“Today historians of science generally no longer favor a conflict model.  Colin Russell, formerly the president of Christians in Science, criticized the conflict model noting that, ‘Draper takes such liberty with history, perpetuating legends as fact that he is rightly avoided today in serious historical study.  The same is nearly as true of White, though his prominent apparatus of prolific footnotes may create a misleading impression of meticulous scholarship’ (Russell 2000, 15).”[1]

Although the “warfare thesis” has suffered at the hands of historians who recognize a more interactive approach, the view continues to find expression in our culture.  Since this is the case it may serve us well to consider more fully another way of challenging this thesis. 

Naturalism: Definition and Challenges

For many the pursuit of science is thought to require a belief in naturalism.[2]  Naturalism can be defined in various ways but atheistic philosopher Kai Nielson captures the main core of naturalism in the following manner:

“Naturalism denies that there are any spiritual or supernatural realities transcendent to the world or at least we have no good ground for believing that there could be such realities… It is the view that anything that exists is ultimately composed of physical components.”[3]

Naturalism, as a worldview, is not without its own philosophical difficulties.  In its denial of any supernatural reality and its affirmation of the merely physical naturalism has difficulty accounting for objective morality and ultimate meaning in life.[4]  For those who are more convinced of objective moral realism and ultimate meaning in life these items become reason to reject naturalism.  However, some naturalists are simply willing to jettison objective morality and meaning as a necessary consequence of their belief in naturalism.  The late William Provine of Cornell never tired of speaking of this reality.  He argued, “Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exist; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent.”[5]  Philosophers Tamler Sommers and Alex Rosenberg come to the same conclusions:

“Darwinism thus puts the capstone on a process which since Newton’s time has driven teleology to the explanatory sidelines. In short it has made Darwinians into metaphysical Nihilists denying that there is any meaning or purpose to the universe its contents and its cosmic history. But in making Darwinians into metaphysical nihilists, the solvent algorithm [random variation acted on by natural selection--rjk] should have made them into ethical nihilists too. For intrinsic values and obligations make sense only against the background of purposes, goals, and ends which are not merely instrumental.”[6]

If the reasoning of these thinkers is to be accepted then it seems as if a naturalistic pursuit of science leads to the loss of both morality and meaning—at least in any objective sense.  But what if naturalism entails the loss of something more?  What if naturalism leads to the undermining of the scientific enterprise itself?

Proverbs 21.22 elegantly states, “A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.”  Those who would scale the walls of the secular city must bring down the stronghold of science in which they trust.  This is done by showing that on the basis of the naturalistic worldview science is problematic.  In short, naturalism cannot account for science itself. 

Naturalism, Science, and Scientism

In attempting to show the incompatibility of naturalism and science there are two related issues to consider.  Since naturalism’s approach to science seems to entail a version of “scientism,” the first thesis to consider is that scientism is fundamentally irrational.  Second, it can be shown that science itself rests upon philosophical commitments that do not comport well with naturalism.

In his book Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology, J. P. Moreland articulates and, then, critiques two versions of scientism. 

Strong Scientism: “Strong scientism claims that some proposition is true and/or rational to believe if and only if it is a well-established scientific proposition—that is, if and only if it is a well-established scientific proposition that, in turn depends on its having been successfully formed, tested, and used according to appropriate scientific methodology.  There are no truths apart from scientific truths, and even if there were, there would be no reason whatever to believe them.”

Weak Scientism: “Advocates of weak scientism allow for truths apart from science and even grant that they have some minimal, positive rationality status without the support of science.  But those advocates still hold that science is the most authoritative sector of human learning.  Every other intellectual activity is inferior to science.  Further, there are virtually no limits to science.  There is no field into which scientific research cannot shed light.  To the degree that some issue outside science can be given scientific support or can be reduced to science, to that degree the issue becomes rationally acceptable.”[7]

It is not hard to find scientists and philosophers who operate with some version of scientism.  Consider this short litany of quotations as illustrative of scientism:

“The great questions—‘Who are we?’ ‘Where did we come from?’ Why are we here?’—can be answered only, if ever, in the light of scientifically based evolutionary thought.”    —E. O. Wilson

“A Darwinian fundamentalist is one who recognizes that either you shun Darwinian evolution altogether, or you turn the traditional universe upside down and you accept that mind, meaning, and purpose are not the cause but the fairly recent effects of the mechanistic mill of Darwinian algorithms.  Many have tried to find a compromise position [but]… [i]t cannot be done.”  —Daniel Dennett

“We seem to be reaching a point at which science can wrest morality from the hands of the philosophers.”[8]    —Frans de Waal

“’You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.  As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased it: ‘You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.’”[9]   --Francis Crick

All the above are examples of philosophical commitments masquerading as empirical science.  As J. Daryl Charles notes, “Seemingly at work here are distinctly metaphysical—over against strictly physical or material—assumptions, which, nevertheless, are touted as science.”[10]  Charles goes on to conclude:

“[O]ne is justified, I think, in questioning whether individuals in the hard sciences, where theories and hypotheses are measured and tested on the basis of empirical evidence, should be making moral-philosophical and metaethical claims.  Is this really science?  What is particularly questionable is to extrapolate from the physical realm and make authoritative metaphysical pronouncements about material and nonmaterial reality and to do so in the name of science.”[11]

So when Charles asks, “Is this really science?” the answer is “no.”  This is scientism—and scientism has some very big problems.

Problems with Scientism

Strong scientism can be briefly summarized in this way: Only scientific assertions can be true and known.  But this overly stringent conception of scientism is actually self-contradictory.  The claim of strong scientism is not open to scientific verification or falsification.  It is a philosophical claim; not an empirical, scientific claim.  As J. P. Moreland argues,

“The irony is that strong scientism is a philosophical statement expressing an epistemological viewpoint about science; it is not a statement of science, like ‘water is H2O’ or ‘cats are mammals.’  Strong scientism is a philosophical assertion that claims that philosophical assertions are neither true nor can be known; only scientific assertions can be true and known.”[12]

Strong scientism is, in more technical language, “self-referentially incoherent” and cannot possibly be true.[13]

Weak scientism fares no better.  Advocates of weak scientism assume that science is “the most authoritative sector of human learning.”[14]  But this is to implicitly deny the intellectual integrity of other fields of knowledge.  Moreland succinctly states the objection:

“In sum, the first problem with weak (and strong) scientism is that it diminishes the intellectual authority of other important fields, especially biblical studies and theology.  This is not because the arguments are better, but simply because it is assumed that science by definition has more plausibility and inherent authority.”[15]

In chapter seven of Scientism and Secularism—“The Availability of Nonscientific Knowledge”—Moreland examines three areas in which one is rationally justified in affirming propositions without scientific support.  These three areas are: (1) the rational certainty of the laws of logic and mathematics, (2) the greater epistemic authority for knowledge one’s own conscious states, and (3) the greater epistemic weight of self-evident moral claims.[16]  Indeed, according to Moreland, these areas are actually more certain as knowledge claims than scientific ones.  Moreland is, thus, able to conclude, “These points individually, but especially collectively, show that the claims of scientism are simply false.”[17]

Thus, both strong and weak scientism fail.  Furthermore, both versions fail to properly note that the scientific endeavor rests upon philosophical assumptions and that the conclusions of science can only be as certain as those assumptions.  In fact, the philosophical assumptions needed for science do not fit well within a naturalistic framework but, rather, make more sense in a theistic context.

The Presuppositions of Science and Worldview Analysis

Consider just a few of the philosophical presuppositions upon which science relies.  Moreland offers the following list of presuppositions that are utilized by scientists to undergird the scientific methodology.[18]

(1) The existence of the external world.

(2) The orderly nature of the external world and its knowability.

(3) The uniformity of nature and induction.

(4) The laws of logic, epistemology, and truth.

(5) The reliability of the senses and the mind.

(6) The adequacy of language to describe the world.

(7) The applicability of mathematics and the existence of numbers.

(8) The existence of values.

In reference to the last item (the existence of values) Moreland breaks this category down into moral values (one ought to record and report data honestly), rational values (one ought to prefer a theory that is simpler, more empirically accurate, more predictively successful, and has a wider scope of explanation) and aesthetic values (one ought to prefer theories and equations that are more beautiful and elegant).

In light of these fundamental philosophical presuppositions needed by science the question becomes, “Which worldview best makes sense of these presuppositions?”  In other words, can naturalism provide the preconditions needed to account for these philosophical presuppositions or does a theistic worldview provide a better answer?  Moreland argues that theism with its transcendent God provides a better explanatory context. 

“The nature of the assumptions of science do not prove the existence of a God very much like the God of the Bible, but in my view, they provide reasons for preferring theism over scientistic naturalism.  The assumptions are at home in a theistic worldview; they fit quite naturally.  If God is himself a rational being, then it stands to reason that he would create a rational, orderly universe.  If he created us, then it naturally follows that he would give us the proper faculties to know and appreciate the inner workings of his world by ‘thinking his thoughts after him.’  The existence of objective values makes far more sense if there is an objective Lawgiver than if there is not.

“If we begin with ‘In the beginning there was the Logos,’ then we have reasonable explanations for these assumptions.  But if we begin with “In the beginning were the particles (or plasma, strings, etc.),’ it is hard to see how these assumptions could have obtained.”[19]

It is, therefore, argued that science rests upon philosophical assumptions and those assumptions fit more adequately in a theistic context rather than a naturalistic system.  Looking specifically at a few of the presuppositions listed above may help elucidate the argument.

Three Specific Philosophical Presuppositions

Space constraints rule out an exhaustive analysis but a few details can be spell out regarding three of the presuppositions listed above.  Consider (2) “The orderly nature of the external world and its knowability.”  It is helpful to distinguish two types of order.  One is the order of objects and the other is the order of processes and patterns.  A classic example of the order of objects is the human eye.  The order and design is manifest in the object.  This kind of order is important and modern examples, like the bacterial flagellum, play an important part in the current debates about evolution.  It is, however, the other kind of order—the order of processes and patterns—which is at issue here.  Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne refers to this type of order when he writes the following:

“The orderliness of the universe to which I draw attention here is its conformity to formula, to simple formulable, scientific laws.  The orderliness of the universe in this respect is a very striking fact about it.  The universe might naturally have been chaotic, but it is not—it is very orderly.”[20]

This “formulable orderliness” exists across space and time.  Arizona State University astrophysicist Paul Davies further describes this reality:

“There exists a deep and elegant underlying mathematical unity that links everything together in an abstract conceptual scheme.  There is thus an underlying rational order of which the fall of an apple is but one example.  We could never get at that type of deep mathematical unity other than by using science, and it’s an astonishing thing that we can get at it at all because it seems to have no survival value.”[21]

Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland asks, “So, how do we explain the existence and nature of these laws?  Where did they come from?”

“There are two major options here: (1) take them as unexplainable, brute entities, or (2) provide a theistic explanation.  For many thinkers, myself included, the ‘unexplainable-brute-entity’ option is not a good one.  Since the actual brute entity might not have existed, we naturally seek an explanation as to why the contingent entity exists instead of not existing.  And the fundamental laws of nature are contingent realities—after all, it is easy to conceive of worlds that have different fundamental laws of nature.  So why does our world contain certain fundamental laws instead of others.”[22]

Thus, presupposition (2)—““The orderly nature of the external world and its knowability”—better fits a theistic context.

Consider, also, presupposition (5) from above: “The reliability of the senses and the mind.”  Evolutionary psychologists Leda Cosmides and John Tooby give a naturalistic explanation of the brain as a physical system:

“The brain is a physical system whose operation is governed solely by the laws of chemistry and physics.  What does this mean?  It means that all of your thoughts and hopes and dreams and feelings are produced by chemical reactions going on in your head.”[23]

But if Cosmides and Tooby are correct about all of our thoughts being merely the result of chemical reactions then a number of questions clamor for answer: “Why should we trust these thoughts to be true?  What is about these chemical reactions that guarantees truth?”  Naturalistic evolutionary theory states that the products of evolution are better able to reproduce over time but there is no reason to think that this mindless process should fit humans for the acquisition of truth.  Moreland penetrates to the core of the issue:

“If mind emerged from matter without the direction of a superior Intelligence, two problems arise immediately.  First, why should we trust the deliverances of the mind as being rational or true, especially in the mind’s more theoretical activities?    Second, if thinking involves having abstract entities (propositions, laws of logic, and the like) instanced in one’s mind, then it seems to be incredibly unlikely that a property which emerged from matter in a struggle for survival would be the sort of thing that could have thoughts in the first place.  Why this emergent property would be such that it could contain abstract entities would be a mystery.”[24]

Again, the existence of the reliability of the senses and the mind fits better within a theistic context that has “the direction of a superior Intelligence” that both creates and correlates the human mind for the acquisition of knowledge.

Lastly, consider presupposition (8): “The existence of values.”  Naturalism has problems explaining the existence of values and objective morality.  Paul Copan summarizes the issue when he writes:

“How do we move from a universe that originates from no prior matter into a universe of valueless matter and energy, eventually arriving at moral values, including human rights, human dignity, and moral obligation?  It is hard to see how the naturalist could bridge this chasm.  Matter just does not have moral properties, let alone mental ones.”[25]

In light of naturalism’s failure to properly ground moral value Copan concludes:

A moral universe and human dignity are best explained in the context of a morally excellent, worship-worthy Being as their metaphysical foundation, as opposed to nontheistic alternatives, and naturalism in particular. If objective moral values and human dignity and rights are a reality (and there is very good reason to think they are), then it is extremely likely that some intrinsically valuable Being and Creator exists.” [26]

The presupposition of moral value fits better within a theistic worldview rather than in the worldview of naturalism.

Science Needs God!

Although science is seen by many to be antithetical to belief in God, in actuality it is the existence of God that best provides the philosophical context for the presuppositions needed for science to flourish.  Naturalism as a philosophical worldview cannot adequately account for fundamental features needed for the scientific endeavor to succeed.  As one scales the secular city and critically probes the foundations of science it becomes apparent that naturalism’s scientism is flawed and the worldview cannot sustain itself in its use of science.  Ultimately, science itself needs God to make sense of itself.

·      This piece is a development of a presentation at Glendale Community College (AZ) and their annual “God & Truth” series entitled Is There Meaning in the World? Religion or Secular Humanism: That Is the Question?

--Richard Klaus is a graduate of Phoenix Seminary and is currently the Ratio Christi Chapter Director for the campus of Glendale Community College (AZ).  He blogs at White Rose Review.

     [1] Jonathan McLatchie “Conflict Thesis” in Dictionary of Christianity and Science, eds. Paul Copan, Tremper Longman III, Christopher L. Reese, and Michael G. Strauss (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2017), 106.
     [2] See, for example, Iris Fry, “Is Science Metaphysically Neutral?” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 43 (2012), 665-673.  Fry writes of how “naturalistic metaphysical presuppositions are active in science.” (p. 671) She concludes her essay with these words,” Currently it is the role of historically and philosophically enlightened evolutionary naturalists to defend and promote the naturalistic-evolutionary worldview.” (p. 672)
     [3] Quoted in Stewart Goetz and Charles Taliaferro, Naturalism (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2008), 9.  James Sire’s The Universe Next Door—5th ed. (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 2009) has a chapter—chapter four: “The Silence of Finite Space: Naturalism”—which contains a good discussion of philosophical naturalism. 
     [4] I have addressed both the issue of morality and meaning in two public talks.  For the notes to these addresses see: Richard Klaus, “’What’s Your Problem?’ How Euthyphro Challenges Us All” God & Truth V (October 24, 2017)—online: and Richard Klaus, “Metaphysics and the Meaning of Life: How the Kingdom of God Changes Everything!” God & Truth IV (October 18, 2016)—online:
     [5] Quoted in Casey Luskin, “Darwin’s Poisoned Tree: Atheistic Advocacy and the Constitutionality of Teaching Evolution in Public Schools” Trinity Law Review 21.1 (Fall, 2015), 166.
     [6] Tamler Sommers and Alex Rosenberg, “Darwin’s Nihilistic Idea: Evolution and the Meaninglessness of Life” Biology and Philosophy 18(5); November, 2003, 653.
     [7] J. P. Moreland, “Scientism” in Dictionary of Christianity and Science, eds. Paul Copan, Tremper Longman III, Christopher L. Reese, and Michael G. Strauss (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2017), 621.  Variants of these definitions can be found in Moreland’s Scientism and Secularism (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2018), 29-30.
     [8] The above are all quoted in J. Daryl Charles, “Blame It on My Criminal Brain: Materialism, Metaphysics, and the Human Moral Instinct” Philosophia Christi (vol. 15, no. 1, 2013), 67-68.
     [9] Quoted in Casey Luskin, “Darwin’s Poisoned Tree: Atheistic Advocacy and the Constitutionality of Teaching Evolution in Public Schools” Trinity Law Review 21.1 (Fall, 2015), 162.  Luskin is quoting Crick’s The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul (1988).
     [10] J. Daryl Charles, “Blame It on My Criminal Brain: Materialism, Metaphysics, and the Human Moral Instinct” Philosophia Christi (vol. 15, no. 1, 2013), 67.
     [11] J. Daryl Charles, “Blame It on My Criminal Brain: Materialism, Metaphysics, and the Human Moral Instinct” Philosophia Christi (vol. 15, no. 1, 2013), 69.
     [12] J. P. Moreland, Scientism and Secularism (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2018), 52.
     [13] J. P. Moreland, Scientism and Secularism (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2018), 49-51.
     [14] J. P. Moreland, “Scientism” in Dictionary of Christianity and Science, eds. Paul Copan, Tremper Longman III, Christopher L. Reese, and Michael G. Strauss (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2017), 621.
     [15] J. P. Moreland, Scientism and Secularism (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2018), 73.
     [16] J. P. Moreland, Scientism and Secularism (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2018), 84.
     [17] J. P. Moreland, Scientism and Secularism (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2018), 84.
     [18] The following list of presuppositions is drawn from J. P. Moreland’s Christianity and the Nature of Science (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1989), 108-133 and Scientism and Secularism (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2018), 57-69.
     [19] J. P. Moreland, Scientism and Secularism (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2018), 75.
     [20] Richard Swinburne, The Existence of God (Clarendon Press, 1979), 136.
     [21] Paul Davies, Are We Alone? Philosophical Implications of the Discovery of Extraterrestrial Life (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1995), 124.
     [22] J. P. Moreland, Scientism and Secularism (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2018), 141.
     [23] Quoted in J. P. Moreland, “Intelligent Design and Evolutionary Psychology as Research Programs: A Comparison of Their Most Plausible Specifications” in Intelligent Design: William A. Dembski and Michael Ruse in Dialogue (Fortress, 2007), 131.
     [24] J. P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1987), 97.
     [25] Paul Copan, “God, Naturalism, and the Foundations of Morality” in Robert Stewart (ed.), The Future of Atheism: Alister McGrath and Daniel Dennett in Dialogue (Fortress, 2008), 155
     [26] Paul Copan, “God, Naturalism, and the Foundations of Morality” in Robert Stewart (ed.), The Future of Atheism: Alister McGrath and Daniel Dennett in Dialogue (Fortress, 2008), 142.

Monday, January 7, 2019

John Calvin Journal--Part 1

* Some men in our church are reading through John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion over the course of the year using this reading schedule.  I plan to keep a journal on various readings.

John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion
Journal 2019

January 7, 2019

“John Calvin to the Reader”

·      Calvin mentions his desire to “carry out this task for God’s church.” (p. 3)  Deep theology is for the church—her edification; not merely for those who love abstractions.

o   “God has filled my mind with zeal to spread his Kingdom and to further the public good… I have had no other purpose than to benefit the church by maintaining the pure doctrine of godliness.” (p. 4)

§  Deep theology promotes pure doctrine of godliness.  Good doctrine promotes godliness.  There ought to be good fruit in the lives of the saints because of the doctrines they imbibe.

·      Another purpose of the Institutes is to train candidates for ministry.

o   “Moreover, it has been my purpose in this labor to prepare and instruct candidates in sacred theology for the reading of the divine Word, in order that they may be able both to have easy access to it and to advance in it without stumbling.” (p. 4)

·      Calvin speaks of the commentaries he is to publish.  These commentaries will be succinct without lengthy doctrinal discussions because he has put forth the sum of the theological discussions in the Institutes.  He speaks of the “godly reader” as approaching “Scripture armed with the knowledge of the present work, as a necessary tool.” (p. 5)

o   As will be seen below, this does not make the Institutes a higher authority than Scripture.

“Subject Matter of Present Work”

·      On the relationship of Institutes to Scripture

o   “Although Holy Scripture contains a perfect doctrine, to which one can add nothing, since in it our Lord has meant to display the infinite treasures of his wisdom, yet a person who has not much practice in it has good reason to look for it in, in order not to wander hither and thither, but to hold to a sure path, that he may always be pressing toward the end to which the Holy Spirit calls him.” (p. 6)

o   This is to help “simple folk” understand “the sum of what of what God meant to teach us in his Word.” (p. 6)

o   “It is very necessary to help in this way those who desire to be instructed in the doctrine of salvation.” (p. 7)

o   “Nevertheless, I can at least promise that it can be a key to open a way for all children of God into a good and right understanding of Holy Scripture.” (p. 7)

o   “Thus, I exhort all those who have reverence for the Lord’s Word, to read it, and to impress it diligently upon their memory, if they wish to have, first, a sum of Christian doctrine, and, secondly, a way to benefit greatly from reading the Old as well as the New Testament… Above all, I must urge him to have recourse to Scripture in order to weigh the testimonies that I adduce from it.” (p. 8)

§  This last sentence shows Calvin’s understanding of the authority of the Word.  The reader is called to look to Scripture to “weigh” what Calvin claims to “adduce from it.”  He is not setting himself as a Protestant Pope or his writings as the ultimate authority.  He believes he is faithfully reflecting the teaching of Scripture and is looking to Scripture as the ultimate authority since it is the very Word of God.

Prefatory Address to King Francis I of France

·      Note that it is addressed to the King of France.  Calvin is seeking to gain a hearing for the evangelical cause and to answer charges of his Roman Catholic opponents who are attempting to lead King Francis to further attack the evangelicals and their message.

o   We are reminded of the historical interplay of the State and Church in this time.

·      “My purpose was solely to transmit certain rudiments by which those who are touched with any zeal for religion might be shaped to true godliness.  And I undertook this labor especially for our French countrymen, very many of whom I knew to be hungering and thirsting for Christ; but I saw very few who had been duly imbued with even a slight knowledge of him.  This book witnesses that this was my intention, adapted as it is to a simple and, you may say, elementary form of teaching.” (p. 9)

o   Again, for the church.

o   “Simple… elementary form of teaching.”

·      The King is urged not to “close your ears” to the defense Calvin is offering. (p. 11)

·      “Indeed, this consideration makes a true king: to recognize himself a minister of God in governing his kingdom.  Now, that king who in ruling over his realm does not serve God’s glory exercises not kingly rule but brigandage.  Furthermore, his is deceived who looks for enduring prosperity in his kingdom when it is not ruled by God’s scepter, that is, his Holy Word…” (p. 12)

o   The king as a “minister of God in governing his kingdom.” 

o   The king is to be ruled by God’s “scepter”—his Holy Word.

·      “But our doctrine must tower unvanquished above all the glory and above all the might of the world, for it is not of us, but of the living God and his Christ whom the Father has appointed King to ‘rule from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the ends of the earth’ [Ps. 72:8; 72:7 Vg.].” (p. 12)

o   King Francis is reminded that there is another King above him who is to rule over the entirety of the world (Psalm 72).

o   Psalm 72 is utilized to speak of Christ’s kingship.

·      “Besides, what is better and closer to faith than to feel assured that God will be a propitious Father where Christ is recognized as a brother and propitiator?  Than confidently to look for all happy and prosperous things from Him whose unspeakable love toward us went so far that ‘he… did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all’ [Rom. 8:32]?  Than to repose in certain expectation of salvation and eternal life, when we meditate upon Christ, given by the Father, in whom such treasures are hidden?  Here they seize upon us, and cry out that such certainty of trust is not free from arrogance and presumption.  But as we ought to presume nothing of ourselves, so ought we to presume all things of God; nor are we stripped of vainglory for any other reason than to learn to glory in the Lord [cf. 2 Cor. 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:31; Jer. 9:23-24].”  (p. 13)

o   Here is a concentrated outward-looking gaze upon what God has done in Christ—the gospel!  The focus is on him—his love, his propitiation.

o   Calvin’s opponents find this certainty of faith to arrogant and presumptuous.  Calvin’s answer is that we look to nothing in ourselves but we “presume all things of God.”  What God has revealed of his love in Christ can be relied upon to the uttermost. 

·      Calvin delineates the kind of charges brought against the evangelical faith and the Reformers.

1.     “They call it ‘new’ and ‘recent birth.’”

a.     It might be new to RCC but it is the ancient gospel!

b.     “Now when it is restored to us by God’s goodness, its claim to antiquity ought to be admitted at least by right of recovery.” (p. 16)

2.     “They reproach it as ‘doubtful and uncertain.’”

a.     We seal its certainty with our blood—martyrs.

3.     “They ask what miracles have confirmed it.”

a.     The ancient gospel was confirmed by the miracles of that time.  We don’t need new miracles to confirm our doctrine.

b.     Since miracles are seals of the gospel then we ought to find the real gospel when new alleged miracles are happening.  Since the Reformers don’t’ find the real gospel in RCC their miracles are suspect.

c.      Satan has his miracles as well.

d.     “Well, we are not entirely lacking in miracles, and these very certain and not subject to mockery.” (p. 17)

4.     “They inquire whether it is right for it to prevail against the agreement of so many holy fathers and against most ancient custom.”

a.     “If the contest were to be determined by patristic authority, the tide of victory—to put it very modestly—would turn to our side.” (p. 18)

b.     Calvin points to church fathers who affirmed things very specifically in contradiction to RCC’s teaching

                                                                          i.     Eating meat on Friday
                                                                         ii.     No images of Christ or saints in church buildings
                                                                       iii.     Eucharist—no transubstantiation
                                                                       iv.     Eucharist—both bread and cup to be taken (RCC denied cup to laity)
                                                                         v.     Clear witness of Scripture needed to decide “obscure” matter
                                                                       vi.     Marriage should not be forbidden to ministers
                                                                      vii.     Clarity of Scripture over “speculative theology”
                                                                    viii.     “But my discourse would overflow its proper limit if I chose to review how wantonly they reject the yoke of the fathers, whose obedient children they wish to seem.” (pp. 22-23)

5.     “They urge us to acknowledge that:

a.     it is schismatic because it wages war against the church,

b.     or, that that the church was lifeless during the many centuries in which so such thing was heard.” 

·      Note: this is an attempted dilemma.  Either your doctrine is schismatic—which is sinful separation from the church or there was no church—which is against Christ’s word to build his church.

                                                                          i.     “Our controversy turns on these hinges: first, they contend that the form of the church is always apparent and observable.  Secondly, they set this form in the see of the Roman Church and its hierarchy.  We, on the contrary, affirm that the church can exist without any visible appearance, and that its appearance is not contained within that outward magnificence which they foolishly admire.  Rather, it has quite another mark: namely, the pure preaching of God’s Word and the lawful administration of the sacraments.” (pp. 24-25)

1.     Note: Did Calvin over speak here?  Can the church exist without any visible appearance?

                                                                         ii.     Calvin appeals to times in the Bible when the people of God but a small remnant (1 Kings 22.12; Jeremiah 18.18).  Interesting to see how for Calvin there is an organic connection between the Church in the New Testament and the Old Testament.  He writes, “the church was on the side of Micaiah.” (p. 26)

6.     “Finally, they say that there is no need of many arguments, for one can judge by its fruits what it is, seeing that it has engendered such a heap of sects, so many seditious tumults, such great licentiousness.”  (p. 15)

a.     Appeal, again, is made to both OT and NT examples of godly men causing division because they stood for truth—Elijah, Jesus, and Apostles.

b.     “What were the apostles to do here?  Ought they not to have dissembled for a time, or, rather, laid aside that gospel and deserted it because they saw that it was the seedbed of so many quarrels, the source of so many dangers, the occasion of so many scandals?” (p. 29)