Book of the Month/June 2022

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So I feel like a ten-year-old boy who has found, on the very same day, a perfect throwing rock and also a huge nest of hornets under the eaves of his house. The atmosphere is electric, but the obvious thing to do is to just let fly, and keep the comments closed.

This book was a lot of fun, and greatly needed. The book is Saving Natural Theology from Thomas Aquinas, by Jeffrey Johnson.

Honestly, I am not as concerned about saving the phrase natural theology as I am defending the charge often leveled at us presuppositionalists—that we reject natural revelation and natural law and the common grace that flows out of God’s divine communication in nature.

Jeffrey Johnson, somewhere in there

What Johnson does in this book, very effectively in my view, is show how natural revelation and natural theology can be very different things, and when they are very different, one of them is really bad. But not being one to quibble about words, Johnson is fine with a natural revelation that actually reveals, and if it reveals, he doesn’t much care what you call it. We know that it reveals because it leaves the recipients of said revelation without excuse, as Paul notes in Romans 1. Revelation imposes a moral obligation, which is what it means to prove something. According to Johnson, natural revelation originates with God, is universal, is efficacious, is immediate, is continuous, and is infallible. There is way too much certainty there for the philosophical mind, the kind of mind that likes to nibble on nuance. Johnson argues that nature gives up much more to us than Aquinas thinks. A lot of good food for thought here.

I am myself, very slowly, chipping my way through the Summa, and it should be acknowledged on all hands that Aquinas was a very great genius—although he sometimes gets tangled up in questions that are on a par with whether or not demons can sin in the afternoon. That is often the way with people who cause a lot of trouble. Staggering genius causes most of the world’s problems, so this book was refreshing in its yeah-let’s-not-be-Thomists-guys approach to theological life generally. I heartily concur. While not going so far as Francis Schaeffer, who blamed Thomas for pretty much everything, perhaps to balance out the Catholics who blame Luther for pretty much everything, it is nevertheless heartening to see some presuppositional push-back on the current Thomist jag.

One minor quibble. I was not persuaded by his treatment of the apostle Paul’s appeal to Aratus, and his hymn to Zeus. But we don’t have to talk about that just yet.